Rwanda, Uganda, DRC sign Tourism Pact

A treaty to guide the trans-border management of flora, fauna and other tourist attractions between Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo is in the offing. The three countries are currently involved in consultations regarding the implementation of the Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC).

When it is finalized, the respective Governments would jointly solve trans-boundary problems such as poaching and illegal hunting. Others are rebel activities within the protected areas, human-wildlife conflicts and wildlife diseases among others.

It would also pave way for joint activities such as monitoring and research, development of new tourism products, community conservation interventions and awareness creation activities. The Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the DRC, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semuliki Valley Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda are the areas, which the treaty could cover.

The main parties under the Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration are Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Institute of Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN).  The mountain gorillas are one of the main resource that the three countries share and a lot is needed to be done so that these great apes that have been declared by the IUCN to be Critically Endangered can be well managed.

According to a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) statement, absence of the collaborative treaty has affected fundraising efforts for the activities of the Transboundary Secretariat. It is in Kigali, Rwanda.

Most donors are not comfortable with funding a partnership that has not been officially recognized by the respective governments, the statement read in part. However, Uganda will soon hold a stakeholders meeting to be followed by a Cabinet Paper. Rwanda, which is reportedly ready, awaits Uganda and DRC to complete their consultative processes.

DR Congo on its part reported that that they had finalized consultations on the draft Treaty, and were awaiting cabinet approval of the Treaty, it said.

In 2008 the Netherlands Embassy in Kigali provided funding worth 4 million Euros to the Collaboration for a 4-year project in spite of the absence of a formal treaty. It is meant to cater for the community conservation component of the trans-boundary Strategic Plan. A lot was discussed about the transboundary resources most especially the mountain gorillas that roam through the Virunga Ranges. It was resolved that if a gorilla family of one country migrates to another country, once the tourists visit that group in another, the fees generated from the gorilla safari will be shared by both countries.

The funding, which was solicited for together with support from International Gorilla Conservation Project (IGCP) also focuses on exploring ways in which lives of people near protected areas could be improved.

The governmental parastatal; UWA, RDB and ICCN pledged to contribute some funds towards trans-boundary work by facilitating meetings held in their respective countries and supporting the Secretariat.

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