The marches won’t subside as long as President Felix Tshisekedi continues issuing oil exploration permits in Virunga and Salonga parks.
Such was the slogan of some 100 civil society organisation leaders and Congolese activists during a demonstration that took place on 10 August in Kinshasa.
For this group of young protesters, it’s out of the question to allow Western companies – collaborating with local political authorities – to drill for oil in the Albertine Rift and destroy its rich biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.
In messages addressed to the National Assembly president and Environment Commission, young people emphasised that these ecosystems are already at risk. They demanded representatives fulfill their duty of conservation and observe international climate change agreements, by passing and enforcing the appropriate laws.
“By authorising oil drilling in Virunga and Salonga, the government would effectively be downgrading these legendary parks, listed as both UNESCO World Heritage and RAMSAR protected wetland, and our children will not have the opportunity to witness the amazing biodiversity and rare species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” declared André Moliro, 350.org organiser in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Local communities demand the government adhere to laws of the Republic and international conventions, protect and promote famers’ rights and prioritize renewable energy investments.
Both local communities and Congolese civil society demand an immediate end to oil exploration licenses in these sensitive ecosystems. A petition targeting parts of Virunga and Solanga parks, both listed as UNESCO World Heritage and RAMSAR sites, already has more than 40,000 signatures.
As a reminder, Virunga National Park – Africa’s oldest – is home to 43% of African bird species, 27% of African mammals and more than 10% of its reptiles, amphibians and plants, in addition to several rare and endangered species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.