Forest-for-oil sales in DRC smells of neo-colonialism | Environment

Forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are losing out to fossil fuels and foreign finance. On July 28, the country’s government auctioned 27 oil blocks and three gas blocks that overlap with some of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems, following an April notice of intent.

Neighborhoods traversing carbon-rich peatlands, Virunga National Park and other wildlife reserves are being sold to the highest bidder, in what the country’s government has designated as a nationalist act to boost the economy. “We care more about humans than gorillas,” argued the communications minister. “We have a responsibility to our people, NGOs don’t,” the environment minister said in defence of the brewing environmental disaster.

The nationalist narrative is not only grossly misleading, but it masks the true act of nationalism needed in Africa. First, the government does not even bother to inform and consult the numerous Congolese people whose lives will be affected by oil and gas exploration and production. We know because when the Greenpeace Africa team went to talk to the people living in the auction block, they found the community shocked and angry at the prospect of their ancestral land being auctioned off and ruining their way of life.

Energy battle to feed Europe

The false nationalism of the DRC government has stifled ordinary Africans’ efforts to end a century-long colonial and neo-colonial growth pattern that has benefited rich countries, large multinational corporations and closed elite circles, while deepening the suffering of the majority. mainland.

At its simplest, neocolonialism is the permanent influence of former colonial rulers on African countries through interference in politics, economic policy, and security.

A growing number of African leaders are speaking out against neocolonial practices to defend their national interests and sovereignty, and to ensure that national policies put the dignity and well-being of their people above everything else. While this is what the DRC government claims to be doing by auctioning the Congolese rainforest, it is actually further cementing the influence of neocolonialism on the country.

The decision to auction oil and gas blocks in some of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems comes as European countries and their big oil and gas companies scramble to find alternative energy sources to reduce their reliance on Russia’s fossil fuels.

Many rich economies seem to have forgotten their climate commitments and are now rushing to serve their carbon-intensive lifestyles. As with every neocolonial act before it, their scramble for resources kept the needs of the African people down.

This gigantic auction is bound to render homeless certain rainforest-dependent and rainforest-dependent communities, degrade their lands, disrupt their way of life, and pollute their air and waters for future generations. If history is a guide, a few high-ranking officials will pay for it, and large international companies will be the biggest winners.Also, the oil and gas industry may not create more jobs Youth unemployment has risen By attracting the brightest minds in the country away from the creation of small and medium enterprises – the backbone of job creation in much of the world.

looting is patriotism

There are countless examples across Africa of how such deals have enriched a few elites and left millions of ordinary people in greater trouble. True nationalist behavior comes from deep and honest reflection on the best interests of the people, not the best interests of a few elites.

Few countries in the world can match the population, mineral and biodiversity wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but more than 60 years after independence, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. If selling its rainforest and other natural treasures was once a nationalist act, the country should now be a G7 country. Instead, the rush to sell raw materials has only made it poorer and more corrupt, and its horrific image of child labor and other hardships in its mines has made global headlines.

Nationalism in Africa requires more than selling resources to serve the carbon-wasting lifestyles of rich countries. It will take the courage of African leaders to truly reimagine other ways to get their people out of economic hardship.

Building local manufacturing to create jobs, providing decentralized energy access by harnessing abundant solar energy, protecting nature and investing in ecotourism are some of the development avenues Africa needs. They will help incentivize good governance, distribute wealth and root out the corruption and greed that still characterize many leaders in Africa.

A truly African approach to growth and development will also require a bold reimagining of the socio-economic system itself. Are current methods effective in Africa? Are alternative economic models rooted in traditional African organizations and lifestyles too far-fetched to achieve?

Treating looting as patriotism — as the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is doing — is no substitute for asking these important questions.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial position.

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