In November, 2016 the Congolese and Rwandan governments issued their idea to achieve “within a reasonable time” the signing of a protocol for the joint exploitation of natural resources (oil and methane gas) in Lake Kivu. The DR Congo, represented by the Minister of Hydrocarbons Aimé Ngoyi Mukena and the Republic of Rwanda represented by its Minister for Natural Resources, Dr. Vincent BIRUTA, reaffirmed this commitment following a meeting of experts in Goma, province of North Kivu, in eastern DR Congo.
“It is since 1975 that the two countries, the DRC and Rwanda, concluded the first bilateral agreement on joint exploitation of oil and Gaz of Lake Kivu”, stated by the Congolese Minister of Hydrocarbons. But for him, “this agreement was not followed by any concrete project” and in DR Congo, the process of launching the work of exploitation is still in theory. On the other hand, Rwanda for its part, has produced about ten megawatts at a power station located in Kibuye not far from Gisenyi. Methane gas is pumped by a platform that floats on the lake not far from the city of Gisenyi. “Rwanda has also begun exploration of oil,” said the Minister of Rwanda, Dr. Vincent BIRUTA. However, he said the two countries “would achieve results faster and cheaper if they were jointly exploited”. However, the SEPD (Synergie des Ecologistes pour la Paix et le Développement), a platform of ten environmental and human rights organizations in North Kivu, DR Congo, expressed fear about the consequences of this cross-border project.
At first glance, this organization welcomes the goodwill expressed by both governments for the degassing of Lake Kivu which will certainly have economic and energy benefits but also in the long term, will make it possible to lower the concentration of methane and CO2 gas in the lake Kivu and avoid a catastrophe that could jeopardize the lives of more than two million neighboring the lake.
On the other hand, SEPD advocates for a transparent and participatory environmentaland social impact assessment as an absolute prerequisite before any step further towards the oil project on Lake Kivu. This platform of civil society organizations reminded the Rwandan and Congolese governments that, in terms of oil exploitation, “there is no zero pollution”. For them, the lives of the millions of inhabitants of the city of Goma and surroundings count most, and even those living in the islands located inside the Lake having only Lake Kivu as sole source of drinking water. The same for thousands of Kivu inhabitants and those of the western province of Rwanda who live from fishing on Lake Kivu who would risk being left without job due to the potential pollution from oil of Lake Kivu. Also a northern part of Lake Kivu including Tshegera Island being an integral part of the Virunga National Park, this World Heritage site is also fully concerned by this project.
This last aspect should be taken into account before deepening this oil project in Lake Kivu. SEPD also insists that the RDC-RWANDA civil society be actively involved in the Environment/ social impact assessment supposed to be undertaken before the implementation of this oil/gaz project in Lake Kivu.