The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (FDLR) of being responsible for the massacre of a dozen Rangers in Virunga Park at the end of April.
Major General Maurice Aguru Mamba, commander of the Corps for the Protection of National Parks and Related Natural Reserves said this according to the results of a “preliminary investigation.”
But the Rwandan rebels active in DR Congo’s volatile east have denied killing 12 rangers and five others at Africa’s oldest national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and rather blamed Rwandan government troops.
Friday’s attack was one of the deadliest in the world-famous Virunga National Park — home to mountain gorillas and several other species. There have been no claims of responsibility.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, said it “unconditionally condemned this cowardly attack,” adding that it had “nothing to do with these events.”
Virunga’s management had said it had “precise indications” that the FDLR was behind the attack near the park headquarters, north of the eastern city of Goma.
The park, established in 1925, is spread over 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 square miles) over the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
The FDLR said in a statement late Monday that “the area of Rutshuru (the site of the attack) is under the control of Rwandan soldiers.”
“The FDLR underscores that this attack by the soldiers of (Rwandan President Paul) Kagame is the latest in a long list of crimes,” it said.
Kagame on Monday denied persistant rumours that Rwandan soldiers had infiltrated into eastern DRC to fight the FDLR, whose leaders were involved in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide that killed about 800,000 people — mainly Tutsis.
“The government of DRC knows that there is not a single soldier in eastern DRC. Take it from me that there is no single RDF soldier in that part of the world,” he said in Kigali.
A total of 176 of Virunga’s rangers have been killed in the last 20 years.
Visits to the park have been suspended since March 19 for at least 30 days in DR Congo’s bid to halt the new coronavirus pandemic.
The park banned visitors between May 2018 to the start of last year after two British tourists were kidnapped there. They were later released unharmed.