Faking an oil discovery to extort foreign aid?

It appears that the Republic of the Congo – not the “big” Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, but its little brother, formerly known as Congo-Brazzaville – may have faked the discovery of new oil reserves in order to extort foreign aid to preserve an ecologically sensitive site.  Der Spiegel reports:

On the Republic of the Congo’s 59th Independence Day on Aug. 15, 2019, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso had an apparent sensation to announce to his people. A Congolese oil company claimed to have discovered an oil field in the north of the country with reserves of 359 million barrels. That would mean an immediate quadrupling of Congo’s oil production. In his speech, the president spoke of the “presence of high-grade reserves” at the site, called the Ngoki Block.

Then Sassou-Nguesso turned his attention to the environment. Some 30 billion tons of carbon is stored in the peatlands of northern Congo, and the president said that his country wanted to “serve humanity” by protecting the bogs. But Congo has a “right to development,” he continued, and the “compensation” that had been promised to his country “is still pending.”

In other words: Either the international community coughs up more money for environmental protection or the president will authorize oil drilling in an extremely sensitive ecosystem.

Sassou-Nguesso’s threat apparently had the desired effect. Just a few weeks later, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed his Congolese counterpart in Paris, with the two leaders signing a declaration of intent that promised the African country 60 million euros in European aid, including a contribution from the German Environment Ministry. The money was intended in part to reduce the effects of oil drilling on the peat bogs. Sassou-Nguesso, for his part, promised to protect the ecosystem.

It looked like a win-win situation, but there was a catch: The alleged discovery of vast oil reserves was apparently fictional. Europe, it seems, had been bamboozled.

. . .

In 2015, the European Union, Germany, Norway, France and Britain joined six African countries in founding the Central African Forest Initiative with the goal of supporting efforts to preserve the rain forest. The initiative provides money to recipient countries in return for putting a stop to logging activities, for example. The 60 million euros that President Macron promised last year are also to run through the Central African Forest Initiative.

The countries redoubled their efforts when scientists a few years ago surveyed the peat bogs in the Congo Basin and determined that around 30 billion tons of carbon is stored there. That was likely the moment that Sassou-Nguesso and Etoka realized the treasure they held in their hands. The Ngoki Block lies at the edge of the sensitive ecosystem.

The president suddenly began presenting himself as a climate protector and in 2017, he established an environmental fund, called “Fonds Bleu,” to protect the Congo Basin. It was to be the collection point for funds provided from other countries. Germany participated in the establishment of the fund, according to the minutes of a preparatory meeting. According to the Environment Ministry in Berlin, the German federal government provided 550,000 euros.

The former high-ranking member of the Congolese government told DER SPIEGEL that Sassou-Nguesso founded the environmental fund “to take the money for himself.” He said that the fund targeted wealthy countries with high environmental awareness, with the Ngoki Block serving the purpose of ratcheting up the pressure on Europe. The message, according to the former member of government, was clear: “If you don’t give us money, we’ll destroy the jungle.” He continued: “They’re bandits.”

There’s more at the link.

One has to reluctantly admire the sheer chutzpah of the man.  Kleptocrats gonna klept, it seems – and this one knows exactly which politically correct ecological buttons to press to do it!  The Republic of the Congo (like much of the rest of Africa) would probably be better served by sending more specialized “foreign aid” of a few mercenaries to remove its present leaders from office . . . but that would hark back to the age of colonialism, which would never do, would it?  Perhaps we could label it “colonic(al) irrigation” to make it more ecologically acceptable.  After all, Congo’s President appears to be a genuine enema of the people!

*Sigh*

Peter

2 comments

  1. Sure it’s fraud on a gigantic scale (which I would never do or condone), but I’m kinda cheering for them over the audacity of it all. Oh my goodness that is so absolutely hilarious!

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