DR Congo: Inga III hydropower project must be suspended until good governance guarantees. On September 18, 2018 40 Congolese organizations expressed concern over lack of transparency and democratic oversight of the Inga III hydropower project.
Negotiations for the Inga III hydro dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo are opaque and non-participatory, said 40 Congolese non-governmental organizations today. The organizations called for a moratorium on the signing of any collaboration agreement or other contracts for the Inga III project until the guarantees of good governance of the project and protection of the rights of local communities are established.
The Inga III project, part of the larger "Grand Inga" complex, would massively increase hydroelectric power generation on the Congo River in Congo Central Province in the west of the country. With an estimated capacity of around 10,000 megawatts, Inga III could help significantly reduce the electricity deficit in the DRC and much of Africa.
A joint Chinese and Spanish consortium is negotiating with the government on its proposal to build Inga III, a project estimated to cost about $ 13.9 billion. No formal contract has yet been signed.
These negotiations are taking place as the DRC faces a major political crisis that has had a devastating impact on human rights and security, after President Joseph Kabila stayed in power beyond the limit two mandates provided by the Constitution, which expired in December 2016.
Organizations are concerned that any commitment by the current authorities to advance the Inga III project in this context could be detrimental to the Congolese population. As the project is under the direct control of the Presidency of the Republic, it is characterized by a complete lack of transparency and is not subject to any control.
The signatory organizations express their concerns about large-scale corruption, well documented in the implementation of other similar agreements, including infrastructure or mining, and the lack of meaningful dialogue with the communities affected by the project Inga.
"A project as extensive as the construction of the Inga III dam requires prerequisites, including improving participatory governance, resolving previous problems related to Inga I and II, conducting good environmental impact assessments and the presence of legitimate political leaders ready to make decisions for the country, "said Emmanuel Musuyu, technical secretary of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Monitoring Reform and Public Action (CORAP). "That being the case, we need a moratorium to ensure that the project benefits the population and does not violate its rights. "
According to the 2013 agreement between the Congolese and South African governments, 2,500 MW out of 4,800 MW expected from the original Inga III project are to be exported to South Africa. The balance of 2,300 should be distributed on 1,300 MW for the mining industry of the former province of Katanga and another 1,000 delivered to the National Electricity Company (SNEL), according to the World Bank and other sources. In a joint statement released on August 10, 2018 At the end of their meeting, Presidents Joseph Kabila of the DRC and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa spoke of "positive progress in the negotiations for the finalization of the Grand Inga project. "
Such an arrangement would not satisfy the Congolese people’s right to access electricity, the organizations said. Only 15 to 17 percent of the population would have regular access to electricity today, according to Congolese government estimates. Many believe that this figure is actually much lower. Even in areas connected to the national electricity grid, the supply of electricity is not regular and, is characterized by daily cuts, often for several hours in a row, with a flat bill, testified subscribers of the SNEL in Kinshasa .
Since November 2015, the Grand Inga project has been entrusted by order to the Agency for the Promotion and Development of the Grand Inga Project (ADPI), an entity that is directly under the control of the Presidency of the Republic. The presidency has made an order appointing a representative to head this entity without going through the tender procedure.
Between 2 and 25 May 2017, civil society organizations sent written requests for information on the Inga III project to the Prime Minister, the DRC Minister of Energy and Hydraulic Resources, the head of the ADPI, as well as other national authorities and Central Kongo Province. They received no official response, apart from a response from the Director General of SNEL, who referred them to the Presidency, indicating that the file was managed by the Chargé de Mission of the President of the Republic.
In January 2018, 128 civil society organizations called for the "outright" withdrawal of presidential orders for ADPI.
The signatory organizations also expressed their concern that the current plans of the Inga III project do not protect the interests and rights of the affected communities. Civil society and neighboring communities were not adequately consulted and did not play any role in the decision-making regarding the project. No environmental and social impact assessment has been conducted to date and no mitigation and environmental management plan has been adopted. The organizations fear the attacks on the environment and on the rights of the populations:
the floods which will affect the biodiversity, the erosions, the destruction of certain plant and animal aquatic species of the Congo river, the silting, the destruction of the cultures and fields,
the stopping of fishing, the impoverishment of populations, the displacement of more than 10,000 people without guarantee of fair compensation and compensation, etc.
Lessons should also be learned from the mismanagement of other large-scale projects in the DRC in recent years, the organizations said. In 2007, the Congolese government and a group of Chinese companies agreed on a $ 3 billion project under which Chinese companies would support infrastructure projects in exchange for access to lucrative mining sites in the DRC. The project, known as Sicomines, was disproportionately expensive in its infrastructure component and characterized by lack of transparency and good governance, according to a study by the Congolese organization ASADHO.
Similarly, a 2014 project worth $ 250 million to create an 800 square kilometer agro-industrial park in Kwango province in western DRC called Bukanga Lonzo lacked transparency and democratic oversight and, has absolutely failed to increase food production. An Ernst & Young
audit report on the management of the Bukanga Lonzo project, which had been commissioned by the DRC Finance Ministry, denounced "corrupt practices by the heads of Africom Commodities Pty Ltd [ the South African company contracted to manage the project] in complicity with
the Congolese authorities, "according to the civil society organization LICOCO (Congolese League against Corruption), which consulted the audit report. In July 2018, Africom Commodities submitted the case to arbitration and lodged a complaint against the Congolese government in an attempt to recover nearly $ 20 million, according to the company, in connection with the failure of the agricultural project.
"Any signed contract or payment made with respect to Inga III in the current context is more likely to fill the pockets of ruling leaders than to truly contribute to improving access to electricity for the Congolese population, which has massive needs, "said Jean Keba Kangodie, director of victim protection at ASADHO. "The Spanish, Chinese and South African companies considering this offer, as well as other international players, should realize that any payment they
would make now in connection with Inga III would only strengthen a corrupt and abusive system. They should suspend any agreement until new legitimate institutions are established with the transparency and good governance guarantees of the project. "