News / Africa

    HRW: Critics of DRC Oil Plans Threatened

    In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 11,  2012,  Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga National Park director and chief warden, poses at the park headquarters in Rumangabo. The Belgian director of Africa's oldest national parkwas shot and seriously wounded by three. unknown assailants on Tuesday, April 15. He was traveling between Goma, a main city in the east near Rwanda's border, and Rumangabo at the time. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay,File)
    In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2012, Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga National Park director and chief warden, poses at the park headquarters in Rumangabo. The Belgian director of Africa's oldest national parkwas shot and seriously wounded by three. unknown assailants on Tuesday, April 15. He was traveling between Goma, a main city in the east near Rwanda's border, and Rumangabo at the time. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay,File)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • Listen to De Capua report on alleged threats in the DRC

    Joe DeCapua
    A rights group said park rangers and environmental activists in the DRC are receiving death threats, after criticizing plans for oil exploration. Human Rights Watch said a British firm plans to explore for petroleum near and within Virunga National Park.
     
    Listen to De Capua report on alleged threats in the DRC
    Listen to De Capua report on alleged threats in the DRCi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    The park has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, which says such sites “belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they’re located.” Virunga also is home to many of the last mountain gorillas.
     
    The British oil firm SOCO International is currently operating in eastern Congo, which has been plagued for decades by violence and conflict.
     
    Ida Sawyer said that testimony about the alleged threats is being collected.
     
    “Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of Virunga Park rangers and human rights activists and environmental activists, who have been threatened, arbitrarily arrested or attacked after criticizing plans to explore for oil in the park.”
     
    Sawyer, Human Rights Watch’s Senior Congo Researcher, based in Kinshasa, said, “We’ve called on Congolese authorities to investigate these acts of violence and intimidation – and to ensure that both the park rangers and the activists can express their views freely without risking their lives.”
     
    She said there are also many allegations of government officials receiving bribes.
     
    Many of the rangers and activists, Sawyer said, believe oil exploration would harm Virunga National park and the wildlife, as well as communities near the park.
     
    “However, many Congolese government officials support this exploration because of the potential financial gains oil could bring,” she said.
     
    She said that it’s difficult to trace the origins of many of the threats. But says some – including death threats – allegedly were made at meetings with government officials or employees of the government’s institute for the park.
     
    The DRC government has not yet responded to the Human Rights Watch report. But SOCO International has. The group presented its findings to SOCO prior to their release to the media.
     
    “They sent us a written response and they did deny any role in the threats, the violence or bribery. They said they would look into the allegations of bribery in particular according to their procedures and code of ethics. And then they did condemn the use of violence and intimidation,” she said.
     
    The company wrote that “there have been a number of false and inaccurate allegations leveled against SOCO International in recent years, particularly in the last month.” It blames them on – what it calls – “false, distorted and/or exaggerated accounts” of SOCO activities in the DRC. It says those involved in alleged criminal activity have been “branded SOCO representatives…when simply they are not and have nothing to do with the company.”
     
    Human Rights Watch has urged the British Government to investigate the allegations of attempted bribes of park rangers and activists.
     
    On April 15th, unknown gunmen shot and seriously wounded Virunga Park Director Emmanuel de Merode, a Belgian national. Military and justice officials are investigating. No arrests have been made so far. Human Rights Watch has also asked the Belgian government to investigate.
     
    “Soon after that attack,” Sawyer said, “a number of environmental and human rights activists, who’ve done a lot of work on the park, received threats.”
     
    She said those threats referred to the attack on de Merode. She quoted one as saying, “Don’t believe that just because we failed to get your director that we are going to fail to get you.”
     
    Human Rights Watch said it also met with the governor of North Kivu State, Julien Paluku, who told the group that some government and security officials had been “manipulated.” However, he said he did not know who was behind it.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora