Sunday, December 02, 2012

Congo's pain

What is happening in eastern DR Congo is not a civil war, but continuation of a 16-year aggression by the country’s two neighbours. 

The African region which includes Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been in virtually a state of war since 1995; that is at war with each other. This has engaged the national armies, foreign armies, militias, ‘civil defence’ groups, looters, pillagers, child abductors and abusers, rapists, arsonists and murderers. One can add to this list of villains and plunderers the United Nations so-called Peacekeepers. 5 million Congolese have died. Many of these deaths were due to starvation or disease that resulted from the war, as well as from summary executions and capture by one or more of a group of irregular marauding bands. Millions more had become internally displaced or had sought asylum in neighbouring countries.These wars, centred mainly in eastern Congo (North and South Kivu and Maniema) have involved nine African nations and directly affected the lives of 50 million Congolese.

Initially these wars and the pillaging associated with them derived from the efforts to profit from the valuable mineral resources of the Eastern Congo, coltan and diamonds. Now the current targets of their looting – the oil and gas industries. In 2009 Heritage Oil discovered oil in Uganda. The oil and gas industries in East and Central Africa have been the world’s most important area of exploration in the last nine years. Africa is the main continent in the world with frequent and substantial new findings of oil and gas. A joint report by the African Development Bank, African Union and the African Development Fund observed that oil reserves in Africa grew by over 25 per cent, while gas has grown by over 100 per cent since the late 1980s. There have been major finds in Kenya and has become the latest African country to join the great African oil boom. In May 2012 Kenya announced its second profitable oil discovery in two months; and large oil deposit in the remote northern Turkana region.

Unfortunately the good fortune has only brought war and destruction in its wake. The Uganda finds in the Albert Graven were located in the seabed of Lake Albert. The border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) runs down the middle of the lake. Uganda wants all the oil and has been funding the various insurgencies to control all the oil and gas of the lake. Perhaps the most contentious and conflicted result of the oil and gas finds in the region has been the Vanoil of Canada’s success in finding oil beneath Lake Kivu. Vanoil holds exclusive exploration rights to the 1,631 sq. km oil and gas concession in the north-western part of Rwanda better known as the East Kivu Graben. The Kivu Graben area is part of the great East African Rift System and is approximately 90 kilometres wide and 200 kilometres long. The Graben straddles both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is the Southern extension of the Albertine Graben in Uganda where major oil discoveries have been made by Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil.

In March 2007, when the governments of the DRC and Rwanda met with the assembled lake experts and developers at Gisenyi on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, an initiative commenced to define the rules and regulations of safe and environmentally sound exploitation of Lake Kivu's gas reserves. Rwanda seeks to alter this by taking control of the other side of the lake. It has recently taken over Goma through its M23 surrogates and plans to exploit the oil reserves with Vanoil and to seek a competent gas partner for the buried methane. The M23 rebels have announced that they were going to take over the entire DRC. The root of much of the difficulties lies with the fact that the current DRC President, Joseph Kabila is weak, vacillating and bereft of the support of a united nation. That weakness has alienated many in the national army. The countries which supported the DRC in its last war against the Ugandan and Rwandan invaders may well intervene again. The citizens of the DRC have suffered grievously. Their future looks no better.

From here

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