Emmanuel de Merode
De Merode in 2013.
Emmanuel Werner Marie Ghislain de Merode
|Born||5 May 1970|
|Father||Prince Charles-Guillaume de Merode|
|Mother||Princess Hedwige de Ligne-La Trémoïlle|
|Occupation||Director of Virunga National Park|
Emmanuel was born in Carthage, Tunisia. He is the second son of Charles-Guillaume, Prince de Merode and Princess Hedwige Marie de Ligne-La Trémoïlle. His parents belong to two of Belgium's historically most ancient and influential families, the Houses of Merode and Ligne. He descends patrilineally from Félix, Count de Merode, a military commander during the successful Belgian Revolution of 1830 who helped form the first Belgian legislative council and government. His mother's branch of the House of Ligne are also the heirs to a French princely family, the House of La Trémoille; His maternal uncle is Prince Charles-Antoine Lamoral de La Trémoïlle, 13th Duke of Thouars.
Emmanuel does not use his hereditary title in professional contexts; however, he is legally a prince in the Belgian nobility, the title having been conferred upon the family by King Albert I in 1929. His elder brother, Prince Frédéric de Merode, is married and heir to his father's multiple titles as head of the family.
Charles-Guillaume's sons grew up outside Nairobi in Kenya and de Merode studied at the Banda School before attending Downside School and Durham University in the United Kingdom. Emmanuel earned a PhD in Anthropology from University College, London (UCL), having concentrated on Congolese conservation issues. He has lived in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire) since 1993, currently residing in Rumangabo, Virunga National Park's headquarters.
Anthropologist, conservationist and pilot, Emmanuel de Merode has striven to control the bushmeat trade and protect endangered wildlife in Central and Eastern Africa. His main focus has been on supporting the work of African wildlife rangers in conflict affected areas by driving economic development in partnership with local communities. His work was primarily in the parks of eastern DRC, working to sustain the national parks through the DRC's 20-year civil war. Merode is the author of fourteen scientific papers and co-editor of the book Virunga: The Survival of Africa's First National Park.
On 1 August 2008, he was appointed Director of Virunga National Park by the Congolese government. After swearing allegiance to the Congolese flag, he became the only foreign national to exercise judicial powers in the war torn central African nation. He now lives at the park headquarters in Rumangabo, bordering the park's mountain gorilla sector. The park's 680 rangers are under his direction and much of his work is focused on protecting the park's exceptional wildlife, including critically important populations of mountain gorillas, elephants, okapis and chimpanzees. His first breakthrough was to broker an agreement between the Congolese government and rebel leader Laurent Nkunda to spare the mountain gorilla sector of the park from the rages of the ongoing civil war and to enable government rangers to redeploy in rebel territory. Negotiating the neutral status of environmental and sustainable development imperatives among the warring factions in eastern Congo became a recurring theme in de Merode's approach to establishing Virunga National Park as a stabilizing presence in the war-affected Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Given the chronic insecurity and the succession of violent wars in eastern Congo, de Merode and a team of over 3000 conservationists and development practitioners have focused their efforts on economic development initiatives in a large-scale attempt to bring greater stability to the region. In 2013 he assisted in the launching of the Virunga Alliance in an effort to drive the post-war economy of eastern Congo as an instrument for peace-building in the region. The initiative is based on 127 local institutions from the private sector, civil society and government agencies committing to the sustainable development of the parks resources, through tourism, rural electrification through clean energy, sustainable fisheries and agriculture. A major program aims to generate 80-100,000 jobs in the post-war communities around the national park, providing young Congolese men and women viable alternatives to engaging in conflict related activities.
At his swearing in ceremony, de Merode remarked, "The intensity of the conflict in and around the park makes this a daunting challenge, but it is a great privilege to be working alongside such a dedicated and courageous team of rangers. I have real confidence in our ability to secure a future for the park to ensure that it makes a positive contribution to the lives of the people of North Kivu." His role in maintaining the Park's administration during the M23 Rebellion was covered in the oscar-nominated British documentary Virunga.
He has spoken about his work and the work of the rangers of Virunga in a TEDxWWF talk, "A story of conflict, renewal and hope". Under his leadership, the Virunga park opened to the public again in 2014.
On 15 April 2014 Emmanuel de Merode was critically injured by unidentified gunmen during an ambush on the road between Goma and Rumangabo, hours after a meeting with the state prosecutor. It was reported that, during this meeting, Merode submitted a report on the park's 4-year enquiry in the actions of an oil-company alleged to be illegally exploring for oil in Virunga National Park. He was shot several times in the chest and abdomen, but survived and was able to leave the scene of the attack with the help of local residents. Emergency surgery was performed at a local hospital in Goma. A legal enquiry into the motives and identity of the attackers was undertaken by the Congolese authorities. Media reports have cited various suspects, including those engaged in the illegal production of charcoal, people associated with SOCO International, a British oil company engaged in the exploration for oil in the national park, opponents of the park's law enforcement activities, disgruntled local residents, and those engaged in struggles to control park lands including, at the time, factions of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and of the Congolese military.
Merode returned to Virunga National Park on 22 May 2014 to resume his functions as Park Director.
For his efforts, de Merode has received several international awards. Among others, including public recognition from Philippe, King of the Belgians,Albert, Prince of Monaco, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Princess Marie-Esméralda of Belgium.
|Ancestors of Emmanuel de Merode|