Military history usually doesn’t cover the effects of warfare on the environment and forest research generally doesn’t consider the atrocities of warfare. However, throughout history forests all over the world have been greatly influenced by wars that raged through and near to them. In many countries conflict timber has played a role in financing wars, as was the case when the Democratic Republic of Congo gave the world’s largest timber concession to Zimbabwe in exchange for military support. In times of war, refugees often seek shelter in forests, relying on their resources for survival. But likewise rebels may use the forest as a shelter and hide out.
This study focused on the Rwandan conflict in the Kigezi region between 1990 and 1994 and its aftermath till 2000. People that were living in the proximity of four major forests (Echuya, Mafuga, Bwindi and Mgahinga)
and one private
During the years of conflict, the Rwanda camped in both Echuya Forest Reserve and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The soldiers’ poaching affected wildlife populations as well as the animals’ behaviour. Large mammals reportedly retreated further into the forest because of gunfire. Mgahinga’s mountain gorillas even retreated to DRC. In this period gorilla tourism declined, especially since the 1994 attack by militias on tourists in Buhoma, Bwindi. On the positive side, crop raiding declined because of animals retreating deeper into the forest. Also, many people fled from the area and left behind their dogs, who became feral and fed on crop raiding porcupines. The former ‘Uganda National Parks’ management maintained their protection work in Mgahinga as much as possible, whereas the Forest Department(now National Forest Authority) lost all control in Echuya. Mafuga Forest Reserve was not at all affected by this conflict, because no military or militia camped here nor did refugees settle in this forest. The forests where refugees did settle were little affected as they did not use the resources from these forest. On the other hand, a government reserve at Busanza and a local community forest at Nkuringo were both depleted.
In the ensuing mayhem during periods of conflict resources are plundered, traditional sustainable systems collapse, biodiversity is harmed and considerable erosion often results. An extra note of attention should be given to the fact that often the most detrimental impacts on forests occurs during early peacetime because rules and regulations haven’t been established yet.