Nearly 50 Ugandan, DRC and international civil society organisations (CSOs) have written to the president of Uganda Yoweri Museveni and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, calling on the two leaders to avoid sensitive ecosystems in the new licensing round.
On May 8, 2019 in Mombasa, Kenya, the Ugandan government, through the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Eng. Irene Muloni launched Uganda’s second competitive licensing round and put up five oil blocks for bidding.
Among these was Ngaji oil block which covers Lake Edward, a UNESCO-designated Ramsar site, and Queen Elizabeth National park, a UNESCO-designated Human and Biosphere Reserve.
On the other hand, the DRC Minister for Hydrocarbons also rolled out a call for bids that could see Block V in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, being re-opened for bidding.
Lake Edward in addition to Queen Elizabeth and Virunga national parks are important sensitive ecosystems that are shared between Uganda and the DRC.
The CSOs that are party to this letter affirm that because of the ecological, social and economic importance of the above, no oil activities including issuance of oil exploration licenses should be allowed in the above-mentioned lake and national parks by the Ugandan and DRC governments.
The Albertine Graben where the new oil exploration is planned for Uganda is a diverse ecosystem that generates huge revenues from tourism, agriculture, fisheries and others for both countries. “The revenues support our economies while promoting conservation. For instance, the 2017 estimates from World Wide Fund (WWF) International indicates that if Virunga National Park is managed sustainably, it has the potential to generate over US$235 million per year for the DRC government. This is way beyond what the oil industry would generate,” the CSOs say.
The CSOs remind the presidents of commitments under the World Heritage Convention, Ramsar Convention, Paris Climate Change Agreement and recommendations from the 2016 IUCN Convention among others most of which they signed and committed to avoid activities that degrade the World Heritage and Ramsar sites in addition to engaging in efforts to reduce global temperature rises.
The CSOs affirm their commitment to work with the presidents, communities, national and international CSOs, the media and other stakeholders to promote environmental conservation and clean renewable energy.
The organisations involved in the campaign are; Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Guild Presidents’ Forum on Governance (GPFOG), Green Organisation Africa (GOA), 350.org, African Conservation Foundation – International, Arcus Foundation and eCountability.
Others are; Global Witness, European Network of Networkers for Ecological Reflection and Action , Rainforest Foundation Norway, Zoological Society of London and WILD Foundation.