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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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 Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid