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Foto: Jan Thomas Odegard

Building a movement to resist the rush for new oil in Africa

Albertine Rift Valley is one of Africa's most important biodiversity conservation areas and gives livelihoods to millions of people. However, oil companies and governments are now eager to pump up the big quantities of oil which have been discovered under the surface. In May, representatives from the Oilwatch Africa Network and Norges Naturvernforbund (Friends of the Earth Norway) visited the Ugandan part of this unique area to learn, share experiences and support the struggle to preserve all the values of the area.

The Albertine Rift Valley is forming the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, stretching from the northern end of Lake Albert to the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. Covering only 1% of Africa’s landmass, the Albertine Rift Valley contains more than 50% of mainland Africa's bird species, almost 40% of its mammal species, more endemic mammals, birds and amphibians than any other area in mainland Africa, and almost 15% of Africa's plant species. The lakes in the area are the most productive in Africa. The area is also an important watershed for the supply of clean water to the communities living here and along the Nile, as the White Nile has its sources here.

All this, together with the inhabitants’ health and livelihoods, are now deliberately put at risk through the planned oil production, as experience tells us that oil production will always have negative impacts, and most often big negative impacts.

During the gathering in Uganda in May, based on their observations and experiences, the Oilwatch Africa members resolved that:

·      African governments should embrace the idea of “keeping new oil in the soil’’

·      all areas declared ecologically sensitive and pristine in Africa should be declared a “no go” area for oil exploitation

·      an appropriate cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken with popular participation to review the long term costs and impacts of extraction against perceived benefits

·      all communities in Africa must deepen their struggles against environmental and climate injustices by building alliances, solidarity and sharing experiences

·      the global north must take the lead in reducing carbon emissions, providing technology for adaptation and finance

See the full resolution text here.

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Fotograf: Jan Thomas Odegard
National A
ssociation of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) is Oilwatch Africa’s Ugandan member and was the host of the gathering. NAPE is challenging the Ugandan government’s oil policy and is cooperating with local communities in the Albertine Rift Valley. The visit of representatives from other African organizations and from Norway showed both the Ugandan government and the communities that NAPE has a wide support for their struggle to secure the livelihoods of the people in the Albertine Rift Valley and preserve all the values in the area.

The cooperation between Oilwatch Africa and Norges Naturvernforbund has developed since 2007, mainly with Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria, which is hosting the secretariat of Oilwatch International and Oilwatch Africa. Support through the Norad-funded programme called “Environmental Movements in the South” has made it possible to boost the cooperation. The focus is on strengthening the advocacy work of the network and its member organizations, in 2010 with the focus on the network’s secretariat and the member organizations in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda. Norad is about to assess whether they are to continue funding this programme.

Oilwatch Africa is a network of NGOs, community groups, environmental, religious and human rights organizations. Oilwatch Africa is part of Oilwatch International and has member groups in 18 African countries, mostly in West Africa. Read more about Oilwatch Africa and the environmental and political context here.