As if fresh fighting in the east of the country over the spoils from some of the world’s richest mineral deposits would not make foreign investors think twice, now a think-tank warns that new oil discoveries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo represents a real threat to stability in other parts of the region where some calm has returned in recent months.
The International Crisis Group says in its latest Africa report that new oil exploration in the DRC’s east is “nurturing old resentments among local communities and contributing to border tensions with neighbouring countries,” while at the same time fueling secessionist tendencies in the Central Basin and the east.
“New oil reserves could also create new centres of power and question Katanga’s (DRC’s traditional economic hub) political influence,” ICG said in the report adding that “in the context of a general oil rush in Central and East Africa, the lack of clearly defined borders, especially in the Great Lakes region, poses significant risk for maintaining regional stability.
The DRC resource sector – apart from rich gold and diamond fields, the DRC is home to the world’s largest coltan and cobalt resource and second globally in terms of copper deposits – had already been thrown into turmoil in February with the death of the country’s mining go-to guy.
Augustin Katumba Mwanke, the former governor of copper-rich Katanga province, was seen by many analysts and diplomats as the power behind Joseph Kabila’s throne.
Katumba’s death came only weeks after a fiercely contested election – only the second in 40 years – that saw Kabila re-elected, but leaving his camp without a sufficient majority in parliament.