French government scraps funding plan for Kahuzi-Biega National Park, citing human rights concerns

July 20, 2023

Kahuzi-Biega National Park has been the scene of countless, well-documented atrocities against the Indigenous Batwa people who once lived there. © Survival

- German government ignores requests to cancel its own funding

In a landmark decision, the French government has scrapped its plan to fund the controversial Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The park is famed for its population of lowland gorillas, but it has been the scene of countless atrocities against the Indigenous Batwa people who were evicted from it in 1975.

A report last year by Minority Rights Group documented atrocities committed against the Batwa by the park’s rangers, including the burning alive of children, gang-rape, torture and murder.

The French authorities were planning to start financing the park through the state development agency AFD, but earlier this month, in a reply to Senator Guillaume Gontard, France’s Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, confirmed that the plan has been scrapped. Ms. Zacharopoulou said: “It has been abandoned, in line with our requirement for the respect of human rights.”

Survival supporters have sent thousands of emails to the AFD protesting at its funding for conservation projects that cause massive human rights violations on Indigenous lands in Africa.

However, the German government has so far refused requests from Survival International and other human rights organizations to abandon its own funding of the park, and continues to support it. Since October 2022 it has contributed around $US690,000.

Linda Poppe, Director of Survival Germany, said today: “While we’re naturally delighted that the French government has finally seen sense and abandoned its plan to pour hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ euros into this notorious park, we’re dismayed that the German government seems intent on carrying on.

“How much blood needs to be spilt, how many women raped, how many houses burned, for the German authorities to finally recognise that the whole fortress conservation model on which the park is based is fundamentally flawed.”

Fiore Longo, head of Survival’s Decolonize Conservation campaign, said: “The French decision is a huge victory for the Batwa’s resistance to the brutal takeover of their lands, and a big success for their and Survival’s campaign. Now the German government must follow suit, otherwise it will stand on the wrong side of history. Its silence in the face of these atrocities is shameful.”