Ongoing debates in conservation studies stress the dire consequences of ‘fortress’ and ‘militarized’ conservation at violent frontiers. Presenting evidence from Kahuzi-Biega National Park in war-torn eastern Democratic Re-public of Congo (DRC), this article shows how the park has become a focal point for armed insurgent groups in the region. Although fortress conservation has contributed to one major incident of violent resistance in recent years, it plays only a marginal role in defining the structures shaping the actions of armed groups. These structures — some of which are reproduced and (occasionally) reshaped by armed groups — include the legacies of poverty and insecurity, the geographical features of the park and the presence of illicit trading networks. This perspective emerges only when we zoom out from the park to place it within the context of the history and broader political economy of the DRC. On the one hand, these dynamics severely constrain the agency of conservation organizations, leaving militarized conservation as the only feasible form of enforcement. This approach at times generates violent outcomes for certain groups of people and produces a resource-rich, isolated terrain which provides a staging ground for broader conflicts to play out. On the other hand, militarized conservation could provide basic law and order at the forest’s edge. Ultimately, therefore, militarized conservation plays an ambivalent role vis-à-vis security and stability.
|Number of pages||40|
|Journal||Development and Change|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 27 Apr 2023|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank the four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the article. At various points, Papy Mulume, Michel Bazika, Yves Ikobo and Romain Lwaboshi accompanied the first author in the field. We thank them for their commitment to the research, without which this article would not have been possible. We also thank the Université catholique de Bukavu (UCB) and its Centre d'expertise en gestion manière (CEGEMI) as our local partner. The research was funded by VLIRUOS (grant number CD2019JOI013A102) and Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (grant number V432519N).
© 2023 The Authors. Development and Change published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Institute of Social Studies.