22 August, Kinshasa – Three weeks after the auction of 30 oil and gas blocks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), environmental defenders continue to face direct threats. Some statements by certain ministers of the Congolese government have been fanning the flames. Local and international civil society groups denounce these attacks, demanding authorities embrace a more tolerant discourse and take other measures to protect the rights of environmental defenders.
An auction of 16 oil blocks was approved by DRC’s government in April. It has sparked a national and international controversy. The decision to include a total of 30 oil and gas blocks was made one week before the auction on 28-29 July, overlapping peatlands and protected areas, including the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Scientists and NGOs from both DRC and outside have been warning about the auction’s catastrophic impacts on the local rights and well-being of communities in DRC, biodiversity and the global climate. They also reject oil and gas as a risk to peace and development in the country.
Campaigners have since received a barrage of threats on social media, including accusation of treason and promises to “get to them,” as well as death threats. Menacing anonymous phone calls have also been registered.
More fuel is being added to the inflammatory atmosphere with statements made by Congolese officials. On July 30, 2022, the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Environment, Eve Bazaiba, accused Greenpeace Africa of neither being green nor for peace, when Greenpeace Africa is only acting in the public interest. On July 26, 2022, the Minister of Hydrocarbons, Didier Budimbu, called the campaign of Greenpeace Africa “sabotage” of the government’s efforts by mentioning that the petition of Greenpeace Africa with other NGOs both national and international was not important, and yet these NGOs campaign above all for the good of our local communities and are managed by Congolese.
On the same day of the auction, history was made when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recognising the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. 161 Member States have voted (with no abstention or opposing) to affirm “that States have the obligation to respect, protect and promote human rights, including in all actions undertaken to address environmental challenges.”
We shall not let anybody take nature, clean air and water, or a stable climate away from us. In 2021, 227 land and environmental defenders were murdered in just one year, the worst figure on record. In June this year, in the Amazon rainforest, Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips were murdered. The resolution must be taken by the Congolese authorities to guarantee freedom of speech and that not a single one of those who rise for the environment shall fall.
- Greenpeace Africa: Lagi Toribau, Interim Executive Director
- Rainforest Foundation UK: Joe Eisen, Executive Director
- Réseau CREF : François BILOKO, Secrétaire Général
- Dynamique POLE : Emmanuel Mususu, Secretaire technique CORAP
- Bureau de Veille et de Gouvernance des Ressources Naturelles : Joseph Bobia, National Coordinator
- Appuis aux initiatives communautaires de conservation de l’Environnement et de Développement Durable : Faustin Nyebone, Directeur Exécutif National
- Mouvement des Jeunes pour la Protection de l’Environnement : Bonaventure Bondo, National Coordinator
- Réseau des Éducateurs du Développement Durable : Jonathan Mbaki, National Coordinator