Salonga National Park sold for oil?

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Sixty percent of the Congo jungle is located in Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), a once war-torn nation where gorillas are plagued by guerrillas. Approximately 8% of the world’s carbon is stored in the forests of the DRC, making it the fourth largest carbon sink on the planet. 

2018 was a tumultuous year for Africa’s second largest country. After 17 years in power, President Joseph Kabila was replaced by Felix Tshisekedi in the December elections. The country, while rich in minerals like gold, tantalum, tungsten, and tin, is crippled by poor infrastructure, corruption and rebel groups. It is also currently experiencing the second biggest Ebola outbreak in history.

While the developed world is moving towards environmental economies, and sustainability is gaining traction from big business, the Kabila government was less than savoury when it came to environmental affairs.

resource deals, especially in terms of transparency around contracts and the real beneficiaries behind natural resource companies,” said Peter Jones, campaign leader at Global Witness. Should Salonga be excavated for oil it could lose its World Heritage Site standing and the perks that go with it. Salonga National Park consists of 36 000km² of rainforest, making it the second largest rainforest park in the world. Its jungle is home to the endemic Congo peafowl, 40% of the world’s bonobo population, and the last viable population of forest elephants. The southern sector of Salonga is inhabited by indigenous communities who rely on the park’s resources.

Should deforestation continue for whatever reasons, agriculture or mining, the effects of losing the Congo rainforest will be felt worldwide, as it will have a significant impact on climate change and rainfall. This, in turn, will affect agriculture and the livelihoods of millions, resulting in mass extinctions, environmental refugees, and environmental genocide.

Salonga sold for oil

  • 2006: Montfort Konzi, a former Congolese politician, and Idalécio de Castro Rodrigues Oliveira, a Portuguese businessman, setup CoMiCo, a Guernsey-owned oil company. De Oliveira was later convicted of corruption as part of Brazil’s Car Wash Investigation, in relation to the sale of an unrelated oil block. “Lawyers representing CoMiCo said de Oliveira is not a direct or indirect beneficial shareholder of CoMiCo. Today, the present ownership of the majority of the company is hidden behind a nominee company.” – Global Witness report
  • 2007: CoMiCo’s contract was signed by the company and relevant DRC ministers.
  • 2015: New Oil Code implemented. CoMiCo’s contract is not in line with the 2015 oil law’s provisions on area taxes, royalty rates, profit oil, or exploration licence renewals. February 2018: The DRC government announced the creation of an inter-ministerial commission to examine the possibility of redrawing the boundaries of the park, to ‘declassify’ areas that fall under
    oil licences.
  • February 2018: CoMiCo wins approval for a contract to dig up parts of Salonga.
  • May 2018: Global Witness reveals one of three oil blocks assigned to CoMiCo encroaches on DRC’s Salonga National Park, the largest protected tropical rainforest in Africa.

The Congo Rainforest

The Congo Rainforest is the world’s other lung. It is the second largest rainforest after the Amazon. It is estimated that 25–30 million tons of carbon are stored in its forests. Another critical feature of the Congo Basin forest is it produces 75–95% of its own rainfall via evaporation and transpiration, contributing to 7% of West Africa’s rainfall. The Congo Rainforest is home to a plethora of fauna and flora, some of which, like the mysterious okapi, occur nowhere else in the world.

Information extracted from Global Witness report, Null and Void? CoMiCo’s Oil Aspirations in DRC.
Global Witness is an international NGO established in 1993, which works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide.

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Written by Georgina Lockwood 

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