The international community has spoken: NO to oil from DR Congo!

Gorilla mother and baby in Virunga Virunga's gorillas are also in danger (© RdR/Mathias Rittgerott)

Jul 26, 2022

Environmental activists in DR Congo delivered our petition – with more than 106,650 signatures – to the office of the Congolese president in Kinshasa on Monday. Only a few days earlier, the full, ugly truth about the threat to the Congo Basin emerged: the Congolese government intends to auction not 16, but 30 oil and gas blocks in the second-largest rainforest on the planet.

“The DRC government's plans are shocking," said Rainforest Rescue co-chair Marianne Klute: The world is facing mass extinction and a climate emergency, and yet the government is about to set off an environmental bomb that not only threatens the planet, but also the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on Congo’s forests. The oil needs to stay in the ground — in DRC and on the planet as a whole.

It’s hard to imagine the vastness of the wilderness that is at risk: just nine of the 30 blocks cover an area the size of the entire United Kingdom, or of the US states New York and Maine combined — 59,000,000 acres of the Central Basin rainforest.  

A number of the 30 oil blocks are located in the Central Basin, others in one of the world's largest peatlands, and in Virunga National Park, one of the last refuges of the endangered mountain gorilla.

Even if not a single drop of oil is extracted, the roads cut deep into the rainforest by the oil companies for their exploratory drilling will leave the wilderness wide open and vulnerable to loggers, land grabbers and poachers. In time, it will spell the end of the Congo Basin rainforest and peatlands.

More than 100,000 people signed the petition calling on President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to end the development of new oil and gas fields in the country. By the day of the auction, Thursday, July 28, activists will hand over copies of the petition to DRC embassies in Africa and elsewhere.

Quotes from Congolese and international NGOs behind the petition:

The time for promoting new oil projects is over. For our well-being and that of future generations, we say NO to the selling off of our forests and peatlands and ask President Félix Tshisekedi to order the immediate stop of auctioning of oil blocks in our sensitive ecosystems such as the Virunga National Park and other parts of the Congo basin,” said Bonaventure Bondo, Coordinator of the Youth Movement for the Protection of the Environment MJPE-RDC. 

With the auction of oil blocks, local communities are taken hostage by politico-economic elites. Congolese oil will mean the disappearance of immense parts of the biodiversity which 100 million people depend on for fishing, agriculture and other traditional practices. It also means the ongoing neglect of alternatives to renewable energies. We say no to this sale,” said Justin Mutabesha of the Association des Jeunes Visionnaires RDC.

The DRC lacks no resources to boost its economy and improve the living conditions of Congolese people. The country is ranked 182 in good governance, while its population lives on less than $1 a day even in the town of Walikale, where cobalt is mined,” said Faustin Nyebone from AICED (Support for Community Initiatives for Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development).

 “Nothing can justify this environmental crime. Look for money elsewhere and don't pollute our planet,” said Isaac Mumbere of the Réseau CREF RDC.

We can be a solution country for humanity and one that meets its own social and economic needs without jeopardising our children’s future by failing to protect critical ecosystems,” Pascal Mirindi, Extinction Rebellion, University of Goma, DRC.

“Only six months after signing a $500 million forest protection deal at the COP26, the Congolese government is declaring war against our planet with oil and gas. The immediate price will be paid by Congolese communities, who are not aware of the auction, have not been consulted or informed of the risks to their health and livelihoods. Many of them will rise up against it – and we shall stand with them,” said Irene Wabiwa Betoko, International Project Leader for the Congo Basin forest, Greenpeace Africa. 

This chaotic sell-off of some of DRC's most sensitive forests undermines its image as a 'solutions country' to the climate and biodiversity crises. While DRC's development needs are very real, there is little to suggest that oil and gas revenues would be used for the public good rather than the personal enrichment of political elites. Instead, we urge the government and its international partners to keep fossil fuels in the ground and trees standing by working with local and indigenous communities who depend on these areas,” said Joe Eisen, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation UK. 

“The plan to auction 27 oil blocks and 3 gas blocks in DRC is a move to condemn the country and its rich biodiversity to destruction. There’s so much at stake for people’s jobs and health, not to mention the impacts of the climate crisis and human rights abuses that these fossil fuel projects will cause. Instead, this is a historic chance for the nation’s leadership to signal their commitment to driving real transformative change by keeping fossil fuels  in the ground, rather than locking the nation out of a just transition. There’s huge potential for DRC to grow economically through clean renewable energy,” said Charity Migwi, Africa Regional Campaigner at 350.org