In the Democratic Republic of Congo conflict is never far off. This is in part due to conflict minerals, the mining of which contributes to the perpetuation and aggravation of a cycle of violence. In the vast Okapi Wildlife Reserve, mining is illegal. But that doesn't limit the lengths to which people are willing to go to fight for the gold and other natural resources.
The Okapi wildlife reserve in north-east Congo is a spectacular wildlife reserve, as well as rich in gold. This natural resource is sought after by different armed groups in the area, who fund illegal mining in the reserve and use the gold to buy weapons. At the closed-down Bapela mine-site we experienced how grim this fight for gold is, when our ranger patrol was attacked by armed militia.
DR Congo seems to once again be spiralling into violent conflict, a development instigated by president Joseph Kabila's refusal to hold elections. The gold rush worsens the tensions between different (armed) groups. By focusing on the complex relationships in the wildlife reserve, we wanted to report on how gold sparks conflict between nature reserve rangers, militias, the army, illegal miners and local communities, and how this gold connects to the western markets and the luxury products and electronic devices that we buy in the developed world.
Photos by Klaas van Dijken, taken with a smart phone: Bapela mine site, crossing the river Epulu and the rangers on patrol.
Lighthouse Reports / Lisa Dupuy
Lighthouse Reports / Klaas van Dijken
Lisa Dupuy / Klaas van Dijken / Adriane Ohanesian
Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie