It is with great sadness that the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) in Virunga National Park confirms the death of Ranger MUTAZIMIZA KANYARUCHINYA Etienne following an attack carried out on the evening of Saturday, November 20.
The attack, led by around one hundred heavily armed individuals, took place near the village of Bukima, within the mountain gorilla sector of Mikeno, in the Rutshuru Territory.
Chief Brigadier Kanyaruchinya , 48, joined ICCN in 1995. He leaves behind a wife and four children. No other rangers present at the time of the attack were injured.
Preliminary investigations suggest that those responsible are members of the former rebel group M23 who are currently active along the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. A couple of weeks ago, these same individuals attacked an ICCN patrol post from which they launched attacks on the towns of Jomba and Bunagana. The counteroffensive of the Congolese army put an end to these attacks, though a large number of soldiers died during these operations.
ICCN strongly condemns this latest crime. ICCN Rangers are law enforcement officers responsible for protecting conservation areas. They do not have military status and their action does not fall under the laws of armed conflict. Their mandate is to ensure the protection of Congolese natural heritage which, in the case of Virunga National Park, is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This assault underscores the dedication of Virunga’s Rangers who continue to risk their lives to protect Virunga National Park and the communities that surround it. The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature will spare no effort to bring to justice, in accordance with the law, the perpetrators of this assault. In keeping with its mandate, it will also maintain its efforts to restore peace and security in and around Congo’s national parks. Specifically, the Parks Authority will continue its work to protect Congo’s mountain gorillas and other exceptional species.
Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the family, friends and loved ones of Ranger Kanyaruchinya during this difficult time.