Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Energy politics in eastern DRC: Op-Ed by Congo Masquerade author Theodore Trefon

Three former presidents hanging over the control room at Ruzizi
Information in the recently leaked UN report about Rwanda & Uganda supporting the M23 rebellion in North Kivu does not come as a surprise.

The day Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame refused to publicly shake hands at the UN meeting in New York late September I was visiting the Ruzizi II hydroelectric plant in South Kivu, an hour’s drive from Bukavu.

The Ruzizi II power station, built in 1989, is operated by a tri-national company (Burundi, Rwanda and Congo) but the dam, power station and transformers are located in the DRC.

One third of the electricity is for Congo, one third for Burundi and another third for Rwanda. Presumably, if Kinshasa decided to throw the switch, it could deprive its troublesome neighbours of power.

According to most expert reports, only 9% of Congolese have access to electricity (with 30% in urban areas). But given the frequent blackout spells (délestage) there are never 9% that have electricity at any given moment.

In addition to being a social and economic problem, the lack of electricity is an environmental catastrophe. People chop down Congo’s forests to produce cooking fuel.

The question that was on the tongues of many Kivutians who know that Congolese electricity is going to Rwanda, who have only limited access to electricity themselves, is this: if our president is really at odds with Kagame, why are we still supplying Rwanda with our much needed energy?
Does anyone have an anwser to this?

Originally posted on Theodore Trefon's Blog

Learn more about the problems of the Congo in his book: Congo Masquerade

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