Two fishermen reportedly beaten to death after criticising Soco International’s activities in Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo By Martin Fletcher*
Soco won a licence to explore for oil in Virunga in 2006. That licence was ratified by presidential decree in 2010. But Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga’s Belgian-born director, an array of environmental and human rights NGOs, Unesco and even the British government have challenged the legality of Soco’s operations. They contend that oil drilling would threaten not only a highly-protected environment but the fragile peace of a former war zone and conservation efforts throughout the DRC. At least five big shareholders have raised concerns with Soco or sold their investments.
Cagle called the allegations against his company “malicious lies” and insisted that Soco forbade any form of illegal activity by its employees or contractors. He said the company had done its best to investigate the charges, but those making them offered no proof or specifics.
Soco recently completed its seismic tests and is withdrawing from Virunga. In June it announced that would not return to drill without an agreement between the DRC government and Unesco.