||Civil Strife in Central Africa
Rwanda Perhaps the most terrible human rights disaster of 1994 was the genocidal slaughter of more than 500,000 Tutsi and their Hutu supporters at the hands of Hutu extremists in Rwanda. This followed a suspicious plane crash that killed the presidents of both Rwanda and Burundi. More than 2 million refugees fled to neighboring countries, including Congo and Uganda. The United Nations and other international relief agencies have strained coping with the mass exodus and continuing ethnic and political violence in the region. Left: Refugees fleeing in July 1994 to Zaire (now Congo) from the civil war in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Since civil war broke out in Rwanda
in October 1990 and escalated following the death of the country's president, there has
been concern about the safety of gorillas in the Virunga Mountains. In 1994, Western
researchers were evacuated and local game wardens and antipoaching staff in the park fled
the area. The biggest threat to gorillas came not from civil fighting, but from the
intrusion of thousands of refugees traveling through the mountains to camps in Congo.
Furthermore, the relocation of refugee camps near conservation areas placed great demands
on the local ecosystem. Nearby encampments of refugees gather fuelwood within preserve
boundaries for cooking or selling. Increased poaching and trapping strain the habitats
even more severely. Providing water, sanitation, and solid waste disposal near park
boundaries in remote locations is a major problem resulting from the continuing civil
strife in the region. Above right: Main refugee camp near Goma, Congo. Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Left: 20,000 to 30,000 people enter
the rainforest daily to get wood. Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
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