n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - Binding neighbouring nations through shared assets : can job opportunities and tourism stifle conflict? : Africa-wide - informed opinions : interviews with experts

Volume 2013, Issue 02
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The November 2012 capture of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), by the rebel M23 army caused an international outcry. It also proved to be a harrowing time for the executive and staff governing the tri-nation initiative, the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC). The Virunga Mountains are a chain of volcanoes stretching from Uganda through Rwanda to the DRC. Ironically, when the collaboration was first mooted at the start of 2004 it was seen as a means to create a game park-cum-economic zone as a way out of the region's perennial warfare. Established by the governments of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, the GVTC was mandated2 to create a game park that straddles all three of these troubled central African nations as an economic buffer zone, in a bid to re-establish security and prosperity in the region. Idealism, rather than naiveté (there is a difference), has motivated the GVTC project, in the belief that it will ultimately trump outlaws who seek land grabs and power in the region. The GVTC was mandated to secure spectacular terrain that teems with extraordinary flora and fauna in the contiguous countries of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Additionally, its directive has been to co-opt the support of local populations that will benefit from tourism revenues, new infrastructure and incoming investment that is intended to replace marauding bands of warriors.

The interview that follows was not easy to obtain. While Nganga was trading his views with ACMM, communication was interrupted by developments on the ground - the incursion of M23 troops into the GVTC - and the imperative of Nganga and the GVTC authorities to ensure the safety of their staff. The interview was conducted under extremely trying circumstances. As events unfolded at the end of 2012, there was an almost universal opprobrium levelled against the despoilers of the region's peace by locals, as well as the international community, for a permanent solution to central Africa's instability. M23 rebels departed Goma in late November 2012, though the region remained insecure as 2012 made way for 2013. The importance of the ideals and economic merits of the trans-frontier economic and ecological zone seemed underscored by the militant incursion.

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