First Kinshasa public gathering on oil organized in part by WWF
For the first time ever, members of civil society, representatives from the oil industry and Congolese government officials met to discuss emerging issues around oil exploration and its impact on the people and landscapes in DRC.
The high pertinence of the oil issue in the country was evident by the participation of over 80 individuals.
Oil is expected to bring more income to the country than mining, which could potentially change the country’s economy. However oil extraction is also threatening communities and some of the country’s most prized landscapes, including World Heritage sites such as Virunga National Park.
Floribert Masani from the Goma-based organization Réseau CREF came to Kinshasa to share his experiences with oil company Soco, which is operating in an area that contains part of Lake Edward and the Virunga National Park, a World Heritage and Ramsar site.
“We fear that oil will yet be the new resource triggering even more conflict in our region and will destroy our lake and its fish stock, on which we depend,” Masani said.
WWF co-organized the conference with Réseau Ressources Naturelles, the national network of environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and Southern African Resource Watch.
At the meeting, the organizations drafted a list of recommendations for the DRC government and the oil companies, including:
- Transparency of oil contracts and agreements and a thorough consultation process with affected local communities living in and near oil concessions.
- Upholding of commitments under international agreements like the World Heritage Convention.
- Respect for Congolese law that forbids oil exploration in protected areas like Virunga National Park.
“With this conference, WWF and its partner NGOs have send a clear signal to the oil companies and the government that we are following the oil development very closely and will fight for laws to be respected in order to save our precious habitats and communities that depend on them," said René Ngongo of WWF-DRC.
"We have seen how oil exploration has brought little to nothing to the people in Bas-Congo [the most westerly province in DRC] and has destroyed the ecosystems on which they so heavily depend. This story cannot be repeated in Virunga,” Ngongo said.