Most people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are desperately poor.
This is the result of a long history of Portuguese and other slave traders; the genocidal colonialism of Belgian King Leopold II (and Dutch/British Unilever corporation) causing about ten millions of deaths; Belgian and other Western neo-colonialism which had democratically elected prime minister Lumumba murdered just after official independence, and which helped inaugurate the bloody dictatorship of Mobutu; of civil wars, in which mining and other corporations from NATO countries play a not very pretty role.
So, most people in the Congo being poor, at first sight one might expect them to welcome the start of an oil industry in their country. After all, the Rockefeller family, the Bush family, Dick Cheney and others in the USA got rich from oil. The bosses of Royal Dutch Shell got rich from oil. The royal families of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. got rich from oil.
So, maybe the Congolese people might not really get rich, but perhaps a little less poor than they are now, from the oil in their soil?
In practice, things are not so simple.
People in the Congo may be poor but that does not make them stupid. They know about oil disasters in the North Sea and in the Gulf of Mexico. They know about the pollution by Big Oil corporations in Nigeria. They know that oil in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda may make rich oil capitalists still richer, but that it may be a very mixed blessing for the local people, the world economic system being what it is now.
This video from Congo is called Mountain Gorillas, Virunga National Park, DR Congo 2008.
From the World Wildlife Fund:
Virunga communities concerned about oil development
02 April 2012
Residents living near Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park last week expressed their renewed concern over the prospect of oil exploration in the area. Many community members rely on fishing in the park’s biggest lake for their food and income, but parts of the lake have been granted to European oil companies for possible development.
Civil society leaders issued a communiqué opposing any oil exploration within the boundaries of the national park and requesting participation in decisions over developments outside the park. Residents are particularly troubled by the possibility of water pollution in the lake harming fish, and other pollution tainting their drinking water or damaging their crops.
Community members called on the country’s government to respect international commitments that prohibit environmentally damaging activities in protected areas. Virunga National Park is a World Heritage Site and UNESCO holds that oil exploration is incompatible with the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.
Residents also requested that oil companies respect international environmental standards and take into consideration the needs of local communities. They are asking that a comprehensive environmental and social impact study be conducted with their involvement before activities move ahead.
The Congolese government suspended all oil exploration activities within Virunga National Park last year, but residents say oil company workers are continuing with their preparations in the area. Community members have previously expressed their support for the suspension at a public rally.
Patrice Lumumba’s Independence Day Speech, June 30 1960: here.
Outrage Against Oil Drilling in Canary Islands: here.
Bill McKibben: Why Taxpayers Shouldn’t Stand for Subsidies to Big Oil. Bill McKibben, TomDispatch in the USA: “By some estimates, getting rid of all the planet’s fossil-fuel subsidies could get us halfway to ending the threat of climate change. Many of those subsidies, however, take the form of cheap, subsidized gas in petro-states, often with impoverished populations – as in Nigeria, where popular protests forced the government to back down on a decision to cut such subsidies earlier this year. In the U.S., though, they’re simply straightforward presents to rich companies, gifts from the 99% to the 1%”: here.
Patrice Lumumba and British imperial murder: here.
- First Kinshasa public gathering on oil organized in part by WWF (wwf.panda.org)
- Congo seeks to open way to oil drilling in its national parks (congoayuk.wordpress.com)
- Dogs Help Rangers Catch Elephant Poachers (stuartwilde.com)
- Conflict in DRC Congo threatens chimpanzee tourism programme | Mark Tran (guardian.co.uk)
- MI6 organised execution of DRC leader Lumumba, peer claims (telegraph.co.uk)