Holly Dranginis

Virunga's Charcoal Cartel

Letter from Goma

On the southwestern flank of Virunga, a protected national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there was once a thick rainforest. Today it looks like the surface of the moon, barren and smoking. A resident in the area told me that ten years ago he could walk up the road and see elephants. Now the elephants are gone. In their place are violent militias operating an illegal charcoal trade, cutting and burning Virunga’s rare forests to the ground. The charcoal cartel is run by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, Congo’s most prominent nonstate …

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