Four arrested over Nyungwe fire

Four arrested over Nyungwe fire
Four arrested over Nyungwe fire

Africa-Press – Rwanda. Four people have so far been arrested for allegedly burning part of Nyungwe forest.

Last week, wildfires destroyed at least 21 hectares of Nyungwe Forest in Bweyeye sector, Rusizi district.

The blaze is believed to have started on July 24 before it was extinguished on July 25.

Rwanda Forestry Authority also issued a warning noting that, “Everyone must avoid any activity that can cause wildfires which leaves forests in ruins during dry seasons, a statement from the agency.”

Anyone found guilty of burning a national park or a reserved area faces up to five years in prison and a fine of Rwf3 million.

Anicet Kibiriga, The Mayor of Rusizi district, told The New Times that the four people who were arrested do poaching and honey hunting activities.

“Police and local leaders intervened and local residents are still helping in the investigation to arrest all who played a role in burning the forest,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, a fresh campaign has been launched to increase awareness about the role of Nyungwe Park and the penalties that await those who could destroy it.

“They know that poaching and beekeeping is prohibited in this park. But they clandestinely enter the park and stall traps to kill animals while others search for honey. We continue the campaign to educate local residents on their role in acting as watchdogs to conserve the park,” he said.

Studies show that the park feeds two of the world’s largest rivers – the Congo and Nile rivers, – and it is the source of at least 70 per cent of Rwanda’s freshwater.

The value of Nyungwe National Park, which is located in south-western Rwanda, is estimated at $4.8 billion according to studies.

Recently, the cabinet approved the request to nominate Nyungwe National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The park is also a regional biodiversity hotspot, home to 1,068 recorded plant species, 322 bird species, 75 known mammal species and 13 different primate species.

Nyungwe Park also features a swamp with a variety of species.

The water flows about 3km to form a waterfall which flows through Lake Kivu, Congo River, Tanganyika until the Atlantic Ocean.

In October 2020, Rwanda Development Board and African Parks signed a new 20-year partnership agreement for Nyungwe National Park, to ensure sustainable management of the park, promoting conservation and providing benefits to local people.

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