On the 19th of October 2012, SOCO’s communications liaison officer sent a letter to a number of Congolese organizations, including some of the environmental activists who have been receiving death threats since February 2011.
The letter below is a response from Alphonse Muhindo, Director of Réseau CREF, one of the 4 activists that were forced to flee their hometown Goma in July 2012 because of new threats related to their opposition to oil extraction in the Virunga National Park. Important to note is that Mr. Muhindo has still not been able to return to Goma because of safety reasons.
Original French version below
Thank you for your mail that I received while I was preparing for my return to DRC. Thank you also for the information provided and to which we will respond appropriately in due time.
However, you will recall that when we met it was because of a specific reason: the threats against civil society actors including myself. I am disappointed to receive a letter from SOCO, addressed to my person with no mention whatsoever of our discussion. This raises some questions about your credibility.
I’ll like to remind you that we urged you not to make the mistake of favoring economic interests above the human rights of communities and of civil society actors, particularly bearing in mind that we are receiving death threats. This is a real and worrying matter.
I would like to bring this crucial aspect to your attention. Indeed, in your statement, you say that “the success of a project can transform the economic well-being and social development of a host country.” This well-being can only be verified and attested by human beings that are alive and not by activists that have been slaughtered because of oil stakes.
I would like to remind you and bring to your attention that the stressful situation in which we are living, the repeated threats and our forced evacuation are unacceptable. I urge you to make every effort to call upon your colleagues and followers and ask them to stop with these threats.
Certainly, you have contacted Global Witness giving them an update about what your office in Kinshasa did in order to check the telephone number from which the death threats were received. But it is in your interest to push this issue further, as recommended by Global Witness in their recent letter.