JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Renewed oil interest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) represented a “real threat” to the stability of that country, a report released by nongovernmental organisation International Crisis Group (ICG) has stated.
The organisation warned that oil prospecting could nurture old resentments among local communities and could contribute to border tensions with neighbouring countries.
Oil reserves could also create new centres of power and question the political influence of Katanga – the DRC’s traditional economic hub.
In the context of a general oil rush in Central and East Africa, the ICG also said that the lack of clearly defined borders, especially in the Great Lakes region, posed significant risk for maintaining regional stability.
“Preventive action is needed to turn the threat to stability into a genuine development opportunity,” the ICG stated.
It recommended that the DRC government and its neighbouring countries embark on a border demarcation programme, with support from the African Union border programme, before allocating any more exploration blocks in disputed areas, to clarify the situation on various borders.
The DRC should also implement the Ngurdoto Accords with Uganda and seek a comprehensive and amicable agreement to end disputes with Angola. Clashes between the DRC and Ugandan armies in 2007 led to the Ngurdoto Accords, which established a system for regulating border oil problems.
“Instead of investing in the resolution of border conflicts with its neighbours before beginning oil exploration, the Congolese government is ignoring the problem, failing to dialogue with Uganda and officially claiming an extension of its maritime borders with Angola,” the report stated.
The ICG also urged the DRC government to declare a moratorium on exploration in insecure areas of eastern DRC and enforce the ban on exploration in World Heritage Sites.
It explained that confirmed oil reserves in the east could exacerbate deep-rooted conflict dynamics in the Kivus region. “An upsurge in fighting since the start of 2012, including the emergence of a new rebellion in North Kivu and the resumption of armed groups’ territorial expansion, has further complicated stability in the east, which is the new focus for oil exploration.”
The report also recommended improved oil governance, including defining a policy for the sector and setting up an hydrocarbons code; ensuring contractual and financial transparency; democratising the decision-making process for the awarding of oil rights and the assessment of the implementation of the production sharing contracts signed with the companies.
“In a context of massive poverty, weak state, poor governance and regional insecurity, an oil rush will have a strong destablising effect, unless the government adopts several significant steps regionally and nationally to avert such a devastating devastating scenario,” the ICG said.