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

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid