The African territory that includes Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been in a virtual state of war since 1995. The wars in eastern Congo have caused the deaths of millions of Congolese, who have paid the price for living in a very rich and unmanaged country with failing or nonexistent civil institutions. These wars, centered mainly in eastern Congo (North and South Kivu and Maniema) have involved nine African nations and directly affected the lives of 50 million Congolese.
Between August 1998 and April 2004, some 3.8 million people died violent deaths in the DRC. Since 2004 this number has almost tripled. Many of these deaths were due to starvation or disease resulting from the war as well as from summary executions and capture by irregular marauding bands. Millions more were internally displaced or sought asylum in neighboring countries. Rape was endemic; insecurity was the rule and impunity the response.
Initially, these wars and the rapes, murders and pillaging associated with them derived from the efforts of Uganda and Rwanda to profit from the valuable mineral resources of eastern Congo. However, no matter how valuable the pillage of coltan, diamonds and other mineral ores might be (these industries are huge and involve thousands of conscripted artisanal miners), their value cannot compare to the potential for oil and gas wealth.
OIL AND GAS DISCOVERIES
In 2009, Heritage Oil discovered oil in Uganda. The oil and gas industries in East and Central Africa have been the world’s most important area of exploration in the last nine years. Africa has the world’s most frequent and substantial new findings of oil and gas. A joint report by the African Development Bank, the African Union and the African Development Fund observed oil reserves in Africa grew by more than 25 percent and gas by more than 100 percent since the late 1980s.
In May 2012, Kenya announced its second profitable oil discovery in two months, a large oil deposit in the remote northern Turkana region. Kenya has become the latest country to join the great African oil boom, following recent discoveries in Uganda and the DRC. The East African Community now forming can count on a better energy future with the Kenyan discovery, in addition to the substantial reserves in Uganda and the gas discovered in Tanzania. South Sudan, with its large oil reserves, has applied for membership in the East African Community. There are also large oil and gas fields in Somalia.
Unfortunately, the good fortune that smiled on Eastern and Central Africa has only brought war and destruction in its wake. The Uganda finds in the Albert Graven were located in the seabed of Lake Albert. The border between Uganda and the DRC runs down the middle of the lake. Uganda wants all the oil and has been funding the various insurgencies to control it; skirmishes have taken place between the two national armies and the border is heavily patrolled.
Extensive oil and gas reserves have also been found beneath Lake Tanganyika, which shares a border with the DRC, Tanzania, Zambia, and Burundi. Tanzania has largely avoided any role in the conflict and has collaborated with the DRC in extracting oil and gas. Nonetheless it has a stake in the conflict.