Will Italy, Israel, and Egypt Benefit from Congo’s Hydro Power at the Expense of the Congolese People?

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.

The Friends of the Congo (FOTC) is a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The FOTC was established at the behest of Congolese human rights and grassroots institutions in 2004, to work together to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire. FOTC can be contacted at: info@friendsofthecongo.org. Read other articles by Friends, or visit Friends's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Annie said on April 25th, 2008 at 7:23am #

    Thanks for posting this article.
    I encourage everyone to join FOTC, they do an excellent job of presenting the issues that plague DR Congo.

  2. jeff tuema said on April 25th, 2008 at 8:31am #

    let the dam be built,the congo your talking about is more radical than before, I won’t be suprised if in the next year or two you see bombs exploding at a couple of east african embassies along with the western embassies in congo. Trust me on that Congolese of this generation are not your soukous generation, their not your Pan Africanist. Radical, angry youth are being molded at home. Their anti-east african, anti west and have built their unity on a lethal dose of bantu nationalism. Build the dam the light up southern africa we could care less if it reaches Itlay, nigeria, egypt or the rest of africa. African unity is dead in the Congo.

  3. Michael Kenny said on April 25th, 2008 at 10:56am #

    I always think anaoymous articles (or bloggers!) are a bad idea. Anyone who has the courage of their convictions will have no problem revealing their true name. Those who do not have the courage of their convictions should not write articles! Also, anonymity favours “false flaggers”, of which I think there are far more on the net than anybody realises.
    That said, what intrigues me is how they get the electricity over such long distances without natural leakage causing it to peter out and how they plan to get it accross the sea to Italy.

  4. Michael Kenny said on April 25th, 2008 at 1:16pm #

    Within seconds of posting the above message, I received a reaction at the e-mail address from which I sent it. Since our e-mail addresses do not appear on the site and “will not be published”, might the editors care to explain how the author of the article obtained my e-mail address only seconds after I had posted the message?

  5. hp said on April 25th, 2008 at 1:51pm #

    jeff tuema, I think the ‘bad guys’ are counting on just that. Nothing like some some violence and ‘terrorism’ to get them rushing in to ‘help’ the poor common citizens/villagers/ fill in the blank.
    And don’t worry, they won’t leave until the ‘job’ is done.

  6. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 25th, 2008 at 5:16pm #

    I wouldn’t presume to try to answer your question to DV’s editors, MK. But I want to express my total agreement with your comments about anonymity. The last comment I read on the topic on the internet was someone saying: It’s the substance of what’s said, not the person that says it, that’s important.

    More or less.

    But I may have a more radical position on the matter than you. I fear the Homeland Security fucks and feel that using aliases on the internet anytime is counter-productive. In the sense that James Dean in Giant got to be “too big to kill.” More or less.

  7. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 25th, 2008 at 7:59pm #

    Presumably not across the sea (at Gibralter), but across the Suez Canal and up thru the Levant….?

  8. maha said on April 26th, 2008 at 8:11am #

    MK, do you actually care what’s in the article? It seems not.
    If you wanted to learn more about the FOTC then you could go to their website couldn’t you?

  9. John Wilkinson said on April 26th, 2008 at 12:43pm #

    there’s absolutely no way to transport electricity to Italy, Israel, etc. from the Congo region, not with the technology we have now. It can never be economical, the losses would be prohibitive over such a vast distance. A couple hundred miles or so is the practical limit, not several thousand. That’s why we have power plants scattered all over the place. Maybe he meant foreign corporations inside Congo.

    As for our email addresses being made available to outsiders, that happened to me, too, back in January. (In my case, I got an email from the author of the article I commented on). Yes, I’d like an explanation, too, how that is allowed to happen. Pretty much in keeping with my observation you can’t trust anybody, no matter what they profess to be; left is no different than the right, they’re subject to the same forces and instincts.

  10. John Wilkinson said on April 26th, 2008 at 12:44pm #

    …actually not one, but three emails I received….

  11. Khaled Omar said on April 27th, 2008 at 3:22am #

    Building a Dam in congo & transfering electricity 2000-3000 kilometers, its a stupid work; however the more stupid & imperialism is taking the electricity of Congo to other countries.
    those countries need for developmers not for thieves because they suffer a lot of them.

  12. Annie said on April 27th, 2008 at 11:15am #

    The issue is not whether or not Congolese will benefit from the dam project, it is how wealthy, outside (American, European, Chinese and Russian) will benefit from the dam project. The dam will be built at huge (inflated) expense to the Congolese. They will borrow money from American and European banks who are in the company of the engineering companies who build the dam. The outside interests will convince the Congolese that with this new project, their economy will grow expontentially. When that fails, and the loan is called, the Congolese will have for forfeit whatever is left of their already exploited natural resources to the outside interests. And they’ll have to pay back the loans as well. Whether or not the electricity can travel is meaningless. Congolese workers will certainly be used in the contruction of the dam, but at near slave conditions. In the end they will be left with a huge mess…again. I have no doubt however, that someday the technology will exist to harness effectively the hydro power, and the Congolese will get screwed again.

  13. chris young said on December 13th, 2009 at 11:44am #

    This is all about the outsiders and their greediness. We all know that Africa is the richest continent in the world, so I understand why people would want a part of it. Will this project benefit the people of africa, I think we all know the answer to that. The officials of the land should not allow it because the people of the land will not benefit from it. This whole thing has greed and shadiness written all over it . I say NO