Virunga National Park
The Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse park. It is a 7800 square km National Park that stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Rwanda and Uganda.
The Oil Threat
The park’s future is threatened: oil has been discovered, and the Congolese government has awarded three concessions for oil exploration, which cover 85% of the park. Oil becomes the most important threat to the park, to the communities and to the ecosystem.
Lake Edward is one of the Great African Lakes, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.
The lake was named by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley in honour of Prince Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII.
The Oil Company
SOCO International plc is an international oil and gas exploration and production company, headquartered in London. SOCO holds rights on the oil concession in BLOCK V (85%).SOCO’s contract allows them access to a big part of Virunga National Park threatening the park with disruptive seismic tests, forest clearing, underground drilling and the laying of oil pipelines.
Virunga’s fauna and flora, as well as the political and security situation in the Great Lakes region are tied closely to the people and to the protection and preservation of this ecosystem. Disruptions in one element will lead automatically to changes in the others.
The local Defenders
Since the beginning of SOCO’s exploration operations in Virunga National Park, Environmental and Human Rights defenders have been fighting for the survival of the park and the respect of community rights. Many of them are facing threats when fighting for Virunga and promoting the sustainable development option for the region and communities.