Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dubious dealings in Virunga


Congo Masquerade touched on the problems between SOCO, the Virunga park, UNESCO and the DRC government. Here is an extract (pages 119&120) that gives some background to the attack on Chief Warden Emmanuel de Mérode.

The threefold political sin of corruption, predation and patrimonialism is laid bare by a disturbing deal recently brokered between Congo and two British companies. In flagrant contradiction to Congolese legislation which prohibits mineral and petroleum production in national parks, Joseph Kabila signed a presidential decree in 2010 allowing SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum to explore and drill for oil in the Virunga National Park. Virunga is a World Heritage site in eastern Congo and home to endangered mountain gorillas. If the deal goes through, wildlife will be threatened and decades of costly and committed conservation work will be annihilated. SOCO's environmental impact assessment, required by law, made no reference to the park's status as a protected area. The decision is inconsistent with Congolese commitments for nature conservation and was severely criticized by UNESCO chief Irina Bokova. Environment Minister José Endundo cynically downplayed the inconsistency stating ‘we'll do everything possible to preserve the park but the Congolese people also have to benefit from the riches under the soil’. Endundo added that if oil activities were excluded from the park, he might seek compensation from rich nations in return for not drilling... Given the high economic stakes on the one hand and the social and environmental impacts and the blow – once again – to Congo’s international credibility on the other, it would not be naive to presume that high-ranking officials received corruption money.

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