Date: February 2006
Location: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Distributor: Sky One (22 May 2006) – 46 min.
Credits: filmed and directed by Claudio von Planta
Reporter and Producer – Sam Kiley / Co-Director and Producer – Jim Foster
Production Company – Carbon HQ
GUNS FOR HIRE – CONGO DRC is my second documentary about ex-military personel who work for PMCs, private military companies.

Reporter Sam Kiley followed Conrad Thorpe who is an ex British Special Forces colonel. He got hired by the Congolese government to train anti-poaching units in the Virunga National Park. They are known as ICCN rangers (Institue Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature). After a decade of civil war this training is a desperate attempt to protect Congo’s remaining endangered wildlife.
Production Notes:

The production of this film offered me the first opportunity to witness the aftermath of the various civil wars in the Eastern part of Congo DRC. At first sight, the natural beauty of the vast wilderness is breathtaking. But, at the same time, I was shocked by the extreme poverty of the local population. Most of them were (and still are) internally displaced people. These impoverished people suffered horribly during the civil war which took place after the disintegration of President Mobutu’s regime in 1997. These civilians live in constant fear of pillaging militias.
Some of the worst bandits are the Interahamway, the former Hutu mass murderers from Rwandan who escaped into the Eastern Congo after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. They continue to terrorise the local population and they are also plundering the resources of Virunga National Park. They are extremely destructive poachers and will be in direct conflict with the ICCN rangers.
The so called ‘Government Army’ in Eastern Congo is also a constant worry. Most of these soldiers were members of former militias. They have no discipline and always earn their living with illegal activities. They control Gold and Coltan mining operations, are involved in logging and charcoal production and, of course, they participate in poaching.
The biggest headache of Conrad’s park rangers is their fight against the illegal activities of the government troops. The ranger’s efforts are greatly handicapped because they lack jurisdiction over the Army. So the Army can freely pursue criminal activities with no fear of consequence. It is also an illusion to believe that the government, headquartered in Kinshasa, will ever have the clout and influence to solve any of these conflicts. They are over 2000 km away and have absolutely no control of the activities in Eastern Congo.
At the end of 2008 the political and economic situation remains very volatile. The outbreak of a new regional conflict between the Tutsi Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and various government troops and militias is a disaster.


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