Last week was eventful for Virunga National Park and our campaign, with the release of new evidence by Global Witness, Soco’s Annual General Meeting and powerful calls to action from a Soco shareholder, the Church of England.
Now, the Congolese Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Bienvenu Liyota, has spoken to Jeune Afrique about the week that has passed.
CONGOLESE COMMITMENT TO THE PARK:
Campaign groups and local civil society alike are celebrating affirmations coming from Minister Bienvenu Liyota on Friday that “things have changed” since oil blocks were licensed to Soco International in 2010; anything that goes against nature conservation “won’t work” within the current limits of Virunga National Park.
It’s wonderful to hear more commitment of this kind coming directly from the Congolese government and we hope that Minister Liyota receives the necessary support and like mindedness from his peers in Kinshasa.
A CONGOLESE INVESTIGATION:
Minister Liyota also told Jeune Afrique that “the Congolese government can not accept that people use corruption to try and snatch contracts” in the DRC.
He confirmed his intention to investigate those implicated in the newly released evidence, that showed large quantities of money being exchanged between Soco and Major King Feruzi, a congolese military officer connected to mounting allegations of bribery, corruption and human rights abuse.
Further affirmations of this stance were given by the Congolese Minister of Communications, Lambert Mende Omalanga with a statement reported in today’s press, saying that “the Government of the Republic has ordered the opening of an investigation to verify the allegations of assault on citizens”.
These actions indicate that the Congolese government are not as convinced by SOCO’s defence, that “all financial commitments have been fully taken into agreement with the government and transparently.” In fact, Soco’s board are demonstrating yet again that they may not have had as clear a handle on their operations in the DRC as initially thought.
MANAGEMENT OF VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK:
Finally, Minister Liyota went on to erase doubt that the Congolese state is properly managing the parks within the DRC.
Further to deeply disrespectful statements made by Soco's CEO, Roger Cagle, about the Congolese government last wednesday - where he told shareholders in London that the "ICCN in Kinshasa" and Emmanuel de Merode “don’t recognise each other,” - Minister Liyota corrected Jeune Afrique, telling the press that “contrary to what’s reported … the Congolese forest is very well managed,” adding that “no tree can be cut down in the DRC without [the Congolese government] knowing.”
#TeamVirunga will be keeping a close eye on these developments so be sure to sign up to our mailing list at virungamovie.com/sign-up to stay updated.