Heard of Virunga? It’s Africa’s oldest national park, and a treasured World Heritage Site.
Rainforests, volcanoes, rare and beautiful wildlife – Virunga has it all. People who live and work there know it’s a very special place.
But Virunga is at risk of becoming Africa’s newest oil field. When we heard UK oil company Soco might explore for oil inside Virunga, we had to draw the line. Some places are just too precious to exploit. Find out more about Virunga and the oil threat.
Virunga national park is the size of a small country, straddling the equator in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It’s got more than its share of wonderful wildlife – not just huge numbers of unique birds, but African icons like lions, elephants, hippos, chimps and the remarkable okapi. And some very very rare gorillas.
Soco’s plan to explore for oil isn’t the only threat to Virunga – civil unrest and wars have put pressure on local people, wildlife and resources on-and-off for years. But we believe oil exploration would bring a new and unacceptable level of risk for Virunga’s environment and communities.
Some people say local communities in Virunga will benefit from oil exploitation. We think it’s unlikely. We’ve seen how oil exploration can have serious negative impacts on wildlife, habitats and people in many places.
From the initial aerial surveys, to road-building, pipeline-laying, and of course the potential oil spills and pollution of land and water. (Lake Edward, in Virunga’s internationally important wetlands, is crucial for local livelihoods and food.)
Africa’s third-largest country in terms of area, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) lies northeast of Angola. With 68 million people, it is the continent’s fourth most populous country, the 18th most populous in the world. The DRC is home to over 200 different African ethnic groups, the average life expectancy is 54 years, and 1.1 million Congolese have AIDS. Located in Central Africa and straddling the equator, the DRC holds the promise of enormous wealth for its people with its abundance of natural resources, including cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, and timber. However, a conflict that began in August 1998 that involved seven foreign armies devastated the country and drastically reduced national output, revenue, and foreign investment, leaving the DRC with the lowest GDP in the world according to the International Monetary Fund. What has been called Africa’s World War has caused the deaths of 5.4 million people from violence, famine, and disease; sexual violence is also widely employed as a tool of war. Although a peace accord was negotiated in 2003, the violence continues in eastern DRC.
More than 100 years ago, Belgian colonialists, under the order of King Leopold, who had set up “Congo Free State”—a personal fiefdom he privately controlled through a dummy nongovernment organization—began cutting the hands off of local workers who didn’t meet rubber collection quotas.
Years later, after the fall of the infamous US-backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997, eastern Congo devolved into a seemingly endless cycle of conflict, most of it over its rich natural resources. Numerous militias have rampaged through the east (and still do), funded by businessmen who reap enormous profits in the uncontrolled trade of minerals including cobalt, copper, tin, gold, diamonds, and coltan. Coltan is a key mineral that, once refined, becomes tantalum—a significant ingredient of capacitors, which are used in an expansive array of small electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, pagers, and other electronic devices.
Eighty percent of the world’s supply of coltan lies in DRC. The recent conflict there has been referred to as “The PlayStation War,” with the activist website “Towards Freedom” claiming “millions of dollars worth of coltan was stolen from the DRC to satisfy the West’s insatiable appetite for personal technology,” with Rwandan troops and rebels using prisoners of war and children to mine for the “black gold.”
In addition, there have been incursions into eastern Congo by its neighbors—Angola, Uganda, and Rwanda—and the dense forests provide shelter for numerous and notorious psychopaths, including Uganda’s Joseph Koney (Lord’s Resistance Army). In roughly a decade, Congo’s conflicts have killed an estimated four million—more than any other since World War Two—displaced millions more, and given rise to commonplace massacres, forced abductions, child soldiers, and rape as a weapon of war. On the fringe, the Mai Mai—a witch doctor militia that is a hybrid mafia local constabulary—perpetrate routine slaughter, rape, and abductions.
Coltan or columbite-tantalite is a metallic ore that that is highly essential in electronics today. Once refined coltan becomes a heat-resistant powder, called metallic tantalum, capable of holding a high electrical charge. Because of these properties coltan is used to create the tantalum capacitors used in pretty much all cell phones, tablets, laptops and other electronics.
What is Coltan used for?
Ink jet printers
Airbag protection systems
Ignition and motor control modules, GPS, ABS systems in automobiles
Game consoles such as playstation, xbox and nintendo
Digital still cameras
Chemical process equipment
Cathodic protection systems for steel structures such as bridges, water tanks
Prosthetic devices for humans – hips, plates in the skull, also mesh to repair bone removed after damage by cancer
The Democratic Republic of Congo is suffering what is almost certainly the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. In their 2007 study of mortality rates in the DRC the International Rescue Committee estimated that, as a result of the war, “5.4 million excess deaths have occurred between August 1998 and April 2007.” The IRC report also estimated that the “DR Congo’s national crude mortality rate (CMR) of 2.2 deaths per 1,000 per month is 57 percent higher than the average rate for sub-Saharan Africa”, and in eastern provinces, which are the most violent, the CMR is “2.6 deaths per 1,000 per month, a rate that is 85 percent higher than the sub-Saharan average.” The charity “Raise Hope for Congo” reports that “45,000 people die each month [in Eastern Congo], mostly from hunger and disease resulting from the ongoing conflict, and over 1 million people have been displaced.” That is approximately 1,500 deaths a day, 62 deaths an hour and a death every minute. If you take the figure of 45,000 deaths a month as constant then at the time of writing (November 2009), 1,350,000 people have died as a result of the war in Eastern Congo since the IRC published its study. That would put the total amount of excess deaths at 6,750,000 (6.75 million).
According to the British charity Save the Congo, “You could take all lives lost in Bosnia, Rwanda 1994 [sic] and Darfur then add the 2005 Asian tsunami, then add a 9-11 every single day for 356 days and then go through Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Put all of those together, multiply by 2 and you still don’t reach the number of lives that has been lost in the Congo since the war started.” They also say that “[hundreds of thousands] of women and young girls have been brutally gang raped and around 40% of all adult women have been made widows.”
All over Eastern Congo there are wards “full of women who have been gang-raped and then shot in the vagina.” According to Dr Denis Mukwege, “Around ten percent of the gang-rape victims have had this happen to them”. This means that tens of thousands of women have been raped and shot in the vagina. And this affects of women of all ages, from 3 year olds to old ladies.
The Congolese people live in abject poverty. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the highest proportion of starving people in the world, according to the 2008 Global Hunger Index, which ranked the Congo as a 42.7. That is an increase from 25.5 (which is still ranked as “alarming”) in 1990. Women often have to carry “more than their own body-weight in wood or coal or sand, all day, every day” just to make enough money to survive.
see the rest of the article at anarchismToday…it’s an amazingly exhaustive, detailed, lengthy article…
The colonies are collapsing – it's a scorched earth policy, a war of attrition, so the survivors are left with NOTHING!