Oil in Virunga: A Violence Done Against its People

Africa gives the image of a continent with a growing marginalization in the world trade markets; with the exception of the exploitation of some mineral resources such as: bauxite, uranium, gold and most notably oil.

Today, the oil wealth feeds states like Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Congo, and Cameroon. In other states, Sudan, Mali, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo the aftermath could be even more promising.

The latest trends in late 1990, as highlighted H. BEN HAMMOUDA CODESRIA in Dakar (1999), show that  the insertion of Africa in the globalization markets is most often characterized by a rentier state and the concentration of foreign investment in the sectors of energy and mining, with a consequent marginalization of agriculture and other modern productive sectors.

How is the oil wealth used? For which kind of development and to whom does it benefit?

In the last decade, oil became the main export product of Sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria a local saying states the following: “Our oil boom has become our oil doom”, our oil boom has become our oil curse.

The first two oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and Angola, are listed among the states with the lower income per capita.

Across Africa, oil production appears as a violence done against its people. Instead of being used to develop the productive resources of these countries and the human capital, the oil wealth, managed within a small centralized circle of the state apparatus, encourages illegal capital flows and tax evasion and the emergence of trafficking of all kinds.

Moreover, this oil wealth contributes to a redistributive logic based on urban elites – army officers, government officials; businessmen linked to the import-export and allows the powers in place to refrain from investing in the development of other productive resources. The “useful country, the one where the oil fields are located is then protected by militarily , militias, or by mercenary companies.

Often, oil exploitation and military regimes, or one-party regimes come hand-in-hand: look at Nigeria, Algeria, Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea. Violations of freedom of expression – press censorship … -, violations of freedom of association – multiple violations of trade union rights – also coincide with oil economies.

Already by itself this sector has limited oil employment opportunities and jobs, oil development generates unemployment, by the non-valorization of existing resources other than oil.

Finally the national revenues that is derived from oil rates feeds the country rentier economy and debt: due to fluctuations in the oil prices on the world market and the investment conditions imposed during the negotiations by multinational oil companies to host countries; these countries are forced to reinvest the rent in the maintenance and expansion of their oil facilities, borrowing heavily to meet these conditionalities, or are even forced to increase oil exploitation by pledging future production in debt repayment.

We witness, oil in Africa comes in many shades: Oil reduces the rights of people to real development; oil centralizes management of wealth and promotes the disinvestment from the productive economy; oil increases the militarization of these countries; oil creates unemployment; oil’s rent nourishes the rentier economy and the external debt.


Is this the development option that Congo needs in order to break with conflict, human rights violations and escape the poverty trap? Will the destruction of Virunga’s sustainable economic pillars bring peace or will it generate more violence against its people?  Don’t miss our next post on how the preservation of Virunga could bring stability and a serious economic alternative to the DRC government.

MUST READ Source GRESEA.BE –  Le pétrole en Afrique: La violence faite aux peuples, Bruno Carton:

This case study has been compiled by GRESEA; it is a first inventory, an instructional approach to these “oil” equations. When conducting this study in 1998, the GRESEA committed itself together  with other associations – AITEC, International Association of Technicians, Experts and Researchers (France), IRENE International Restructuring Network (Netherlands) to contribute and reflect on the violations of people’s rights entailed with oil exploitation in various African countries.