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VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK, DRC MILITA ATTACK AND UN REQUESTED 7-DAY CEASEFIRE IN SUDAN

May 18-24, 2023 | Issue 15 - CENTCOM/AFRICOM TEAM

Kyle Dillon, Christine Saddy, Pike Wipperfurth, Utsav Yadav

Evan Beachler, Editor; Álvaro Picón, Senior Editor


Rangers at Virunga National Park[1]


Date: May 19, 2023

Location: Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

Parties involved: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Mai Mai militia; Colonel Alain Kiwewa Mitela; Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) eco-guards; DRC National Park Rangers; tourists

The event: On Thursday, suspected Mai Mai militia killed four people and injured six in a convoy near Virunga National Park in eastern DRC. The ICCN escorted the convoy, which included park rangers and technicians assigned to develop projects in the nearby territory of Lubero. Virunga Park, which spans the DRC and Rwanda border, hosts dozens of community militias called Mai Mai, who use the park as a base of operations.[2] In February, the ICCN warned of a resurgence of attacks by Mai Mai militants after they attacked a ranger position in Virunga, killing one and injuring two individuals.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The Mai Mai militia very likely conducted this ambush to secure their territory from outsiders and protect their base of operations. The militia likely saw development agencies and their projects threatening their control over local villages, populations, and natural resources. Given the location of the ambush, the Mai Mai were likely protecting some natural resource extraction operations, such as poaching or mining conflict minerals, including tantalum, tin, and gold.

  • Tourism will very likely suffer from increased violence in Virunga National Park. The Mai Mai militias’ overwhelming presence will almost certainly discourage tourists from traveling because the militias outnumber park rangers. Mai Mai militias could very likely prevent tourism by kidnapping tourists and holding them for ransom. The kidnapping of tourists will likely become a growing, lucrative business for Mai Mai militias.


Date: May 22, 2023

Location: Sudan

Parties involved: Sudan; Sudanese paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF); Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF); Sudanese civilians; SAF General Abdel Fattah Burhan; RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo; UN envoy for Sudan Volker Perthes; US; Saudi Arabia; Russia

The event: The UN has requested Burhan and Dagalo to follow the seven-day ceasefire that started Monday night. Since April 15, Sudan has been experiencing a violent power struggle between the two leaders. This temporary truce is necessary for humanitarian aid to reach the intended populations and for civilians to leave the violence safely. Unlike previous ceasefires, the US and Saudi Arabia brokered the current deal with representatives from both sides of the conflict. According to estimates, this conflict resulted in more than 700 deaths and displaced over 1 million individuals.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The US will likely use this ceasefire to maintain relations with Saudi Arabia and increase US influence in Africa. If this temporary peace deal is successful, there is a roughly even chance that other African countries will be incentivized to rely on the US and Saudi Arabia for conflict resolution. The US and Saudi Arabia will very likely remain involved in this conflict until the level of violence diminishes even if this temporary peace deal does not have the desired lasting implications.

  • International recognition of this conflict, with the inclusion of the US and Saudi Arabia in peace negotiations, will almost certainly add significance to this event. There is a roughly even chance that this temporary peace will hold because of the presence of these global actors, rather than remaining a localized conflict. There remains a likely chance that the combatants will use this temporary period to pursue military advantage, as they have violated all previous ceasefires, but fear of international repercussions may prevent this.

 

[2] DRC: 4 dead in militia attack near Virunga Park, AfricaNews, May 2023, https://www.africanews.com/2023/05/19/drc-4-dead-in-militia-attack-near-virunga-park/

[3] Four Killed in East Congo Ambush Near Gorilla Park, VOA, May 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/four-killed-in-east-congo-ambush-near-gorilla-park-/7099546.html

[4] UN urges Sudan’s warring parties to honor 7-day cease-fire that began Monday night, AP, May 2023, https://apnews.com/article/sudan-war-ceasefire-ethnic-fighting-a476f53fc55a395ab9c3db9b4438c4d6

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