As high-level representatives from governments, top-level executives from major energy companies, and leading business and financial institutions met this week to discuss the $80 billion Grand Inga dam project, the meetings were marked by the absence of African civil society from the planning process.
The central idea of the Grand Inga project is to harness the Congo River’s power to provide electricity to countries such as Italy, Israel, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and purportedly 500 million Africans living in the dark. Once brought to fruition (proposed completion date is 2020), Grand Inga would be the most powerful hydro power in the World.
The enormous potential of the Congo River to light up the African continent and export electricity to Southern Europe and the Middle East is legendary.
Some concerns of note regarding the project:
* No conversation has taken place with the Congolese people.
* The displacement of local populations will occur.
* Negative impacts to local ecology and environment are ever present.
* Potential saddling of the Congolese people with decades of debt exists.
* Rural African populations will likely be left out.
* Like so many other projects regarding Congo and its enormous wealth, the Grand Inga project planning process suffers from a lack of transparency.
* The initial signs are that big business is poised to reap super benefits from this project. Mining companies such as BHP Billiton are poised realize great windfalls from the Grand Inga project.
* Villagers living in the vicinity of the Grand Inga have not benefited from the smaller Inga Dams (Inga I & II) established decades ago. There is little indication that they will benefit from Grand Inga.
* Concerns are growing that the project will primarily benefit local elites and multinational industrial interests but do little to ease the electricity or development needs of Africa’s poor.
The fabulous wealth and potential of the Congo never ceases to boggle the mind; from its vast mineral wealth, to its spectacular forestry and natural pharmacopeia and the roaring mighty Congo River. The Grand Inga project is yet another example of Congo’s potential to transform an entire continent. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the Congolese people or most Africans will benefit, especially with the existing leadership which was put in power by the West to facilitate the wholesale fleecing of the country’s wealth. (see the 2007 International Crisis Group Study “Congo: Consolidating the Peace“)
The principal key resource that has received little interest and borne the brunt of the latest scramble for Congo’s wealth is Congo’s remarkable people. Almost six million of whom have died since 1996 as a result of the Rwandan led and Western backed invasions and resource grab of 1996 and 1998. Forty-five thousand Congolese continue to die each month, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, 80 percent of the population lives on 30 cents or less a day, all in the midst of arguably the richest natural wealth on the planet. It is this sad state of affairs that led Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees to remind the world that “The international community has systematically looted DRC and we should not forget that.”
Once the women will have been stitched-up from their violent rapes, the children returned from the bush as child soldiers, the displaced returned to their villages, they will have found their country sold off for another generation or two, while they scrounge to eke out a meager existence in a land of plenty and become wholly dependent on the humanitarian industry.
As a global community of conscience we must not allow this to happen. Each of us should be found at the side of the Congolese as they defend their interests in the face of the latest onslaught not seen since the days of King Leopold II.
Read more about the Grand Inga project and find out how you can work with the Congolese to achieve human dignity and control of their country’s enormous wealth.