A n endangered gorilla subspecies is being pushed towards extinction as mineral miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC hunt it for bushmeat. Concerns have now been raised that the global technology supply chain may be accelerating its demise. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society WCS , its numbers have fallen 77 per cent in the last two decades, with fewer than 4, now remaining.
The mines are usually controlled by armed rebels who work where government forces struggle to reach. A gold miner working in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. If killed, the absence of a dominant male can cause the group to splinter, putting it at risk of attacks from other males and predators such as leopards. The WCS is calling on partner organisations and governments to introduce stronger boundaries around protected areas, better-tackle illegal mining, disarm militia groups and find alternative sources of income for local people who depend on the mines.
Consumer electronics firms are also being lobbied to only purchase from mines that are bushmeat as well as conflict free. The WCS said the success was an encouraging sign and proof that increased investment could save the gorillas. Grauer's gorillas, which can weigh up to pounds, are closely related to the better-known mountain gorilla. As they live mostly on the ground and in relatively large groups, they can be easily tracked and hunted for bushmeat, Plumptre explained. But for those hunting them, there's little option.
However, the WCS has seen a steady rise since The mines are small and incredibly remote and with no nearby villages or other sources of food, hunting for bushmeat has become increasingly common. The mines are mainly producing columbite-tantalite, also known as tantalite or coltan, a mineral used in almost every kind of electronic device. The most commonly-mined conflict minerals in the area make up the 3TG group: tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold ore. Such minerals are often linked exclusively to the technology sector, but their use is widespread. She added that great strides had been made to ensure the global supply chain was conflict free, offering some hope to those striving to save the local gorilla population from hungry miners.
Companies that use such minerals must also be more willing to act on emerging or previously unknown threats to their due diligence processes, Peyser added. Despite the heat, he's wearing a red balaclava. We are in his village of Luemba - a clearing in the 20, square mile Ituri Forest. Amuzati refuses to tell his story unless he's paid. The story, as I've heard it, is that he watched a group of rebel soldiers cook and eat his family in "They even sprinkled salt on the flesh as they ate, as if cannibalism was all very natural to them," he said at the time.
His account - and the sensation it caused - helped to mobilise the international community. The United Nations Security Council denounced the "cannibal rebels" and sent a peacekeeping force.
Congo rebels are eating pygmies, UN says | World news | The Guardian
The uneasy peace across much of the country after five years of civil war is largely a myth. This corner of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo DRC has had no functioning government since the Congo became independent in The only real law is an AK In the autumn of , two of the rebel groups began a campaign of looting, rape, and murder throughout the Ituri forest. The soldiers fanned out for miles and burned everything in their wake.
As a reward, they were promised four days of unbridled looting and rape, including the rape of children. Soldiers even wore T-shirts emblazoned with the operation's name, "Effacer le Tableau" clean the slate. The pygmies fled the Ituri forest for the first time in history. Amuzati and his clan have only recently returned. Amuzati backs down. His story is free, he says, but not photographs. Apparently, another photographer made Amuzati pose for hours with his bow and arrow as an army of fire ants marched over his body.
In this patch of Ituri, deforestation has driven most of the animals out of the pygmies' reach. They barter with farmers for food.
Pygmies are excellent hunters but haven't yet learned the value of meat. They'll trade 10 gazelles for one T-shirt. Amuzati watched as his mother, Mutandi, his younger sister, Salam, his older brother, Mangbulu, and his nephew, 5- or 6-year-old Zipoa, were dismembered by rebel soldiers. Amuzati says he never saw anyone eaten, although he's certain that's what happened after he ran off into the jungle. Every time his story is repeated he says, it gets more lurid.
For pygmies, who occupy the lowest rung on DRC's social scale, Amuzati has become a hero. Thanks to his newfound fame, he was flown to the capital Kinshasa to meet President Joseph Kabila. He loved the city; people outnumbered trees. He fell in with a group of prostitutes he calls his girlfriends. Thanks to the war, deforestation, and visitors like me, the pygmy's nomadic days are over.
It occurs to me that, like everyone else in the forest, Amuzati and his clansmen might want guns to protect themselves. Amuzati looks aghast when I suggest this. Instead, Amuzati demands new shirts, shorts and shoes. I ask the other pygmies if they care as much about clothes. Their chief, Kabila, no relation to the President says: "By the next generation, the pygmies who don't wear clothes will be gone. How, I ask Amuzati, did his story reach the world?
A Catholic bishop named Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku, he says. I go to meet the Bishop in the town of Butembo. He is a squat and sombre man who has grown both wary and weary of the press.
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For him, interviews are a devil's bargain. He trades his story in return for mediaattention for his waning human rights campaign. Since , he has been loudly decrying rebel groups waging war in DRC. Recently, under a peace deal with the government, the rebels have been taking government posts. Despite their newfound legitimacy, the bishop continues to accuse them of cannibalism.
But when they started feeding them to the prisoners - that was something new. Because of his refusal to back down, he's made enemies among DRC's warlords. Impunity is the order of the day, killing a meddlesome bishop would be nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly the rebels were headed his way, , civilians, including pygmies, fled south. When the hordes of displaced and traumatised people arrivedin the bishop's town, they warned him of the impending fury.
But there was little he could do.
So he turned to the international press. As his story caught the world's attention, the other atrocities associated with "Effacer le Tableau" - most notably charges of mass rape - largely escaped the media's notice. As the bishop's charges of cannibalism exploded in the international press, the United Nations sent a team to investigate. The rebels retreated for a time, the power of the word seemed to halt the war. But not for long. To the north, surrounding the town of Bunia, charges of cannibalism have been added to the long list of atrocities between two ethnic groups: the Hema and the Lendu.
The war between them is rooted in tribal divisions created by the Belgians. When the colonialists left in the Sixties, the region's now , Hema typically tall, Nilotic herders, akin to Rwanda's Tutsis took over their plantations. But the land had historically belonged to the roughly , Lendu farmers stereotypically, shorter agriculturalists. Newly discovered oil has made the fight between the Hema and the Lendu worse. Both want the potentially lucrative land rights and their fighting is stoked by neighbouring Uganda. In the past five years, more than 50, people have been killed in Ituri.
Many more are massacred and buried. Some survive and are held captive beyond the UN's reach. One survivor, Vivienne Nyamutale, 30, tells me she was a prisoner of Lendu fighters for 75 days. On five separate occasions before the Lendu fighters attacked a Hema village, Vivienne says, Hema men were brought before the crowd, cooked, and eaten by the fighters. Finally, after one massacre, she escaped. Vivienne is one of a handful of women who tell me about rape camps farther along the Fataki road where we found two dead men.
Then I meet Chantal Tsesi. She was alone with her 6-year-old son, Claude, as men armed with machetes entered her house. She tells me: "They cut off my arm. They cooked it, while they were drinking our mandro, and ate it with the rest of the beans and rice. Then, she says flatly: "They told me they were going to find my husband and eat his heart. After the attack, Chantal spent three months in the Drodro Hospital, where later the patients were killed bed by bed.
Then her husband abandoned her because she can no longer work. In the village, Chantal's mother, Eliza Dz'da, lived with another daughter, Georgette and her four children.
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All of them, Eliza says, were killed. They took our food and cooked pieces of Georgette and the children," she tells me.
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Both Eliza and Chantal say they're not interested in vengeance. Eliza says: "I've always lived with the Lendu, because they've always worked for us. When they came to work on the farm, they ate with us, and at the end of the day, we gave them money.
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At a distance, their desire to forgive seems inexplicable. Up close, amid the fatigue of the war, it's easier to understand. But the idea of forgiveness and its reality are two very different things. To try to get beyond the ethnic divisions stitched through every story, I go to see Petronille Vaweka, president of the Special Assembly of Ituri. She doesn't doubt the stories. Now in this war, with drugs, they cook people and eat them. No one can lie - both sides have eaten each other. In a conflict over land, gold, and oil, cannibalism as a crime of war seems to have entered the 21st century.
No doubt, elements of both myth and magic play a role in the accounts. Rumours of cannibalism do much the same thing as the act itself: They terrify.