MAR 24, 2012: Local Communities Oppose Oil Exploration in Virunga National Park, DRC

On 23 & 24 March a reflection meeting took place on the issue of oil exploration and exploitation in Block 5 in the Albertin Rift by SOCO. The workshop took place in Vitshumbi, Ruthsuru, North Kivu.

Credits: IDPE

The workshop was attended by local communities who live in and outside Virunga National Park, in the area of Block 5, as well as by local authorities and by CSO’s who fight to protect the environment and local human rights.

Nine NGOs took part in this workshop: IDPE, PIDP, SOPR, COPEILE, AFED, CREDDHO, Réseau CREF, ADEF (Bas-Congo Province) and DRCNDF. Local communities were represented by fishing committees who are fishing on Lake Edward, and by people who’s livelihoods are depending on the local natural resources that are found in Block 5.

The authorities were represented by the Admin Chef de Vitshumbi, and several local chefs (autorités coutumieres). Civil society was represented by religious leaders, women, intellectuals and other community leadership who have an interest in the issue.

Regarding the contract signed by SOCO with the DRC Government, the local communities oppose to ANY oil development (exploration and exploitation) in Virunga National Park.

Activities of SOCO are welcomed outside the Park if national and international environmental laws and regulations are respected and if all stakeholders (including local communities) can participate in and benefit from these oil activities.

Referring to Congolese law, the local communities foresee the following problems to occur when oil development is to proceed

1. All forms of pollution that will affect supply of food and other resources

2. Water pollution of Lake Edward which destructive consequences

3. Conflict over water cause the river Nile ends in Lake Edward

The communities are aware of the consequences of natural resource exploitation. They are at the basis of the fragile government and current conflicts in the eastern DRC. Therefore they want the DRC Government to take its responsibility serious.

The communities also ask the DRC Government to uphold its position vis-a-vis the international community in the light of all international agreements and engagements the Goverment has with the international Community:

– World Heritage Convention (UNESCO declaration, 17 November 1972);

– African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (11 July 2003);

– The Brazzaville Resolution on the protection of the Congo Basin Forest (5 February 2005);

– Convention on Biological Diversity (5 June 1995);

– The RAMSAR Convention (5 February 1971);

– Kinshasa Declaration to protect DRC World Heritage sites (14 January 2011).

The local authorities and communities recommend:

1) To the DRC Government

– Respect the national and international laws that direct the environment(al) issues;

– Revise the contract signed between DRC Gov and SOCO for the exploration and exploitation in Block V, and let local communities participate in this revision process;

– Inform the local community on the content of the contract.

2) To SOCO

– Respect international and national environmental standards in the extractive sector;

– Conduct a full Social and Envinronmental Impact study, on the basis of Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC);

– Take into account the specific needs of local communities;

3) To the International community

– Demand from the DRC Government to respect its international convenants and envinmental commitments made, in particular protecting and safeguarding the environment and human rights;

– Assist and support the Congolese civil society in their lobby and advocacy work toaddress the oil exploration issues in the DRC.

4) To civil society actors

– Support local communities concerning the problems related to oil exploration and exploitation in Block 5 of the Albertine Rift;

– Facilitate the exchange of information and experiences between communities already being affected by oil development and the ones who are potentially being affected;

– Establish/promote synergy between all actors who work on the problems related to oil development.

5) To local communities

– Prevent division of interest between local communities who are all affected by the same oil issue;

– Support dialogue between communities;

– Defend national and international agreed upon Human Rights law.

Source: PIDP/Shirika la Bambuti, Réseau CREF, CREDDHO, IDPE, COPEILE, AFED, SOPR, Bassin du Nil/RD.Congo