Virunga National Park has been beset by the presence of a multitude of state and non-state armed actors who are involved in the unauthorized exploitation of forest resources. It is also faced with populations trespassing on its territory to engage in ‘guerrilla livelihood’ activities, in particular cultivation, prohibited fishing and charcoal production. At the same time, a plethora of conflicts–including intra-elite struggles, conflicts around land and local authority, and intercommunity disputes –abound in the wider Virunga area. To confront this convoluted conflict environment, the park has emphasized strict law enforcement and joint operations between park guards and the Congolese army. Tracing the interplay between resource exploitation, different types of conflict, and armed mobilization, this talk argues that this strategy has backfired, fuelling, rather than mitigating, the dynamics feeding into armed mobilization.
About the speaker
Dr Judith Verweijen is a Lecturer in International Security at the University of Sussex. She is also Director of the Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research. Judith’s work is situated at the intersection of conflict studies, political ecology and critical military studies. Specifically, she looks at how armed actors shape regimes of access to and the exploitation of natural resources, and how conflicts around natural resources become militarized. Her main focus is eastern DRC’s Kivu provinces, where she has conducted extensive field research since 2010. Recent publications include work on the counterinsurgency/conservation nexus [Journal of Peasant Studies], the discursive (re)production of green militarization [Geoforum] and the militarization of cattle-related conflicts [Journal of Modern African Studies].