Archive for November 27, 2011
Spectacular Sight in a Dangerous Place
As you may have heard, Nyamulagira volcano in Africa’s Virunga National Park errupted on Nov. 7. It’s putting on a spectacular show and the embattled park on the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo is hoping tourists — bringing much-needed cash — will visit the region, which is also home to the endangered Mountain Gorilla.
This ranger (named Romeo) stands guard with AK-47 assault rifle as Mount Nyamulagira erupts in the distance. Park administrators are inviting tourists on an overnight trek to view the volcanic activity. The park rangers, who normally guard the gorillas from poachers, are now providing security for visitors in one of the most dangerous places on earth — the eastern Congo region, which has been plagued by war, genocide, crime, corruption and mass migration for decades.
Another erruption is expected Monday (Nov. 28) when the DRC is scheduled to have presidential and parliamentary elections. There are 11 candidates for the presidency (although incumbent Joseph Kabila is expected to win) and thousands of candidates vying for a spot in the 500-seat parliament. Violence has marked the run-up to the elections. But the eastern Congo has been the scene of horrendous violence in recent years as rebels, insurgents, militia groups and the armies of at least three neighboring countries have fought over the area. A civil war that ended in 2002 left several million dead in the mineral-rich DRC, which nonetheless has been classified the least developed country in the world by the United Nations, according to The Economist.
Seventeen soldiers were killed in the park in 2011 and more than 140 in the past decade, according to the BBC. But there have been no incidents involving tourists, who are only taken to the southern tip of the park, close to the town of Goma, which became the center of a refugee crisis during the genocide in neighboring Rwanda during the 1990s.
Established in 1925 as the first national park in Africa, Virunga, with its vast wildlife and geographical diversity, was declared a World Heritage Site by the U.N. in 1979.
On Nov. 12, five days after the volcano began erupting, warden Emmanuel de Merode, Tourism Director Cai Tjeenk Willink and volcanologist Dario Tedesco hiked to the eruption site and set up a camp for a new overnight tourist trek to take some pictures, — including the one above.