DR Congo forces kill at least 36 Burundi refugees

At least 36 Burundian refugees were killed and 117 wounded in clashes with Congolese security forces who allegedly fired indiscriminately at protesters on September 15 in Congo’s South Kivu province.

The clashes erupted in Kamanyola in Congo’s South Kivu province when Citing “credible reports” received by the peacekeeping mission, Maman Sidikou the U.N. envoy to Congo said that the Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers protested the expulsion of four of their countrymen from Congo.He added that he death of the Congolese army officer led to “the escalation of violence.”

The U.N. envoy called for a swift investigation and urged Congo’s security forces to use force as a last resort.

Congo’s government says it is opening an investigation to establish the facts and true identity of the “supposed refugees,” spokesman Lambert Mende said.

Roughly 44,000 refugees from Burundi are sheltering in Congo. Many fled political violence at home in 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully pursued a disputed third term amid deadly protests.

The Congolese government, the U.N refugee agency and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo “have deployed teams on site to shed light on everything that happened,” said the coordinator of the U.N. Communications Group in Congo, Florence Marchal.

Sources: Al Jazeera, ABC News, The Independent Uganda

Oil exploration threatens Africa’s oldest national park

A family of Mountain gorillas at the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: WWF

Africa, home to diverse wild life and national parks, has become increasingly interesting for the global oil industry.  Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, that could easily earn $1.1 billion without crude production, has passed a bill that allows oil companies to drill inside one of Africa’s oldest national sanctuaries, The Virunga National Park. This was done in spite of knowing the fact that it would have devastating environment effects on the local communities and more importantly, on the wildlife in the region.

Soco International Plc (SAI), a UK-based oil company that has moved their drilling inside the Virunga, has proved to instigate direct threat on Congo’s rare mountain gorilla. Although France’s Total SA (FP) has committed not to drill in the park, it has oil blocks that overlap with Virunga located in eastern Congo.

“Oil extraction here could have devastating consequences for local communities that rely on Virunga for fish, drinking water and their other needs,” said Raymond Lumbuenamo, Congo country director for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). While speaking to The Guardian, he also added that while the gorillas are safe at present, the chances of the park generating of $400 million a year, to ensure continued protection, is remote.

Lumbuenamo accepted that it would be difficult to make that kind of money as published in WWF report on Thursday as the security situation at Virunga is already bad. Scuffles with rebel forces inside the park are common and the UN is doing its best to curb such incidents. Oil drilling in Africa is prone to terror attacks as valuable crude oil becomes a contention of power for politicians and bureaucrats. Lumbuenamo assured that developing Virunga for oil will not make anything better.

A worker in the Niger Delta cleans up an oil spill. Photo: National Geographic
A worker in the Niger Delta cleans up an oil spill. Photo: National Geographic

The report published by the WWF explained that the Congo Park was self-sustainable just by depending on tourism, hydro power and carbon credits. In June this year, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has called for cancellation of all Virunga oil permits and appealed to oil extractors Total SA and Soco International Plc not to undertake exploration in world heritage site.  Congo is believed to be conducting a strategic assessment of the 800,000-hectare park, which is being funded by European Union.

The falling standards of the Virunga has prompted officials into consideration to drop the World Heritage Status from the national park, which may leave it even more vulnerable to oil lobbyists. In the recent decades, powerful economies of the world have turned to Africa in search of natural resources to sustain their blossoming economies. China is leading the chase with over $2 billion investments in countries like Mali alone.

As Virunga prepares for the worst, agencies are doing their best to prevent the interests of companies like Soco from endangering already diminishing natural fauna in their ‘pursuit of more’ and turning Virunga into an environmental disaster like the Niger Valley.