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

Photogallery US Storm Falls Short of Severe Predictions, Yet Affects Millions

NYC mayor says, 'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' yet blizzard warnings, travel bans remain for several East Coast states More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid