Virunga Environmental Defenders Question Felix Tshisekedi on the Protection of National Parks

The Synergy of Ecologists for Peace and Development calls on DRC’s new president to protect the country’s national parks against oil exploitation projects and security threats. This platform, that  brings together a dozen of environmental organisations from North Kivu, launched this call through an open letter addressed to President Felix Tshisekedi on Friday, January 25.

Virunga National Park and Salonga National Park, both World Heritage Sites, are the two main protected areas threatened by oil projects, say the organisation. For these environmentalists, when the Congolese government decided in July 2018 to start a project of partial decommissioning of the two natural sites in order to open some areas to oil exploration  this exacerbated the threats that already weighed on these national parks in terms of security, among others.

Olivier Ndoole, spokesperson for the Synergy of Ecologists for Peace and Development, asks the President of the Republic to take actions that can mitigate these threats:

There is not only insecurity, land grabbing , but also the oil blocks pose a constant threat to the integrity of the parks. We ask the President (Félix Tshisekedi) to cancel first all existing acts, whether they are ordinances or exploitation permits in these parks. Hence, to prioritise in his government, the protection of these protected areas and not only in terms of security but also in terms of legislation.

In particular, for Virunga National Park, these organizations expect the new President to mobilize efforts to allow the resumption of tourism activities. These had been suspended since May 2018 following an armed attack against foreign tourists.

Source: RadioOkapi