WWF has learned that two community activists opposing planned oil development in and near Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park have received threatening telephone calls. The men both report having been called by unidentified individuals who told them, "If you continue your advocacy against SOCO, you will die." SOCO, a British oil company, recently announced plans to begin exploratory activities in and around Virunga National Park, which is a World Heritage Site and home to endangered species. SOCO has denied any involvement in the harassing phone calls.
WWF joins local human rights group African Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADHO) in expressing concern over the threats. ASADHO has called on the attorney general at the Court of Appeals in the city of Goma to investigate the incident and to take measures to safeguard activists.
The victims of the threats are members of organizations involved in educating community members about the environmental and social impacts of oil development. Tens of thousands of residents depend on fishing in Virunga National Park’s Lake Edward, which is slated for oil exploration.
WWF is concerned for the personal security of those working to protect community resources around Virunga and urges authorities to guarantee their safety.