It is also important to note that when the ICCN source was locked out of his offices in Goma after speaking with progressive media reporters, Cosma Wilingula sent an email calling the informant and American investigative journalists “enemies” of conservation. This email was copied to de Merode, and every American and British NGO working in Virunga. Damage control was in full force and National Geographic has essentially closed the circle on spin control by not delving deeper into this story, or reporting on these incidents. A paper trail of emails exists and has been made available to the Washington Post.
See No evil: Hear No Evil
National Geographic can also be accused of promoting the simplistic message that there are only “good guys” (conservationists) and “bad guys” (militia and villagers). This is not journalism, it is not truth telling, it is propaganda. National Geographic attempts to get itself off the hook for this “investigative piece” by saying that no one will ever “know who pulled the triggers.” No one will ever know who killed the mountain gorillas because the truth was buried by occult interests, lead by British and American mercenaries. There are those who saw what happened, those who know what happened, and they have either been silenced or killed.
If the ICCN Goma source was so off the mark in his testimony, why did a bodyguard recommended by Robert Muir steal related notes and video testimony from a female journalist, who was working under a MONUC Press badge and investigating NGO corruption in Virunga for independent media? Why take the risk?
What about the suggestion that charcoal is the biggest threat to Virunga and that the World Wildlife Fund is another “good guy,” busily planting trees in Virunga? One Congolese source calls this idea, “laughable,” noting that the WWF, in return for compensation, has been involved in the obliteration of the Congo rainforest by forestry concessions, most notably the Blattner Group. Logging operations of western companies comprise over 30 million hectares and the World Wildlife Fund rubber stamps their operations. The profits and the expropriation of Congolese land for the international logging sector dwarfs the $30 million a year charcoal industry run by and for Congolese people.
A BBC News report in May 2000 revealed that the WWF and the European Commission ordered a whitewash of a report on the destruction of the Congo rainforest. The report was written in 1997, but squashed because WWF was concerned that the multinational logging companies identified in the report and “governments accused of bribery and corruption would act against them,” according to the BBC report.
Is it any surprise that there would be a local charcoal industry? As National Geographic points out, there is no electricity (or very little) in Goma, and none in the refugee camps. There is no other available fuel to cook with, heat homes or boil water to drink. What is the alternative for these people who have nothing?
Power for the People
In April 2008 the African Development Bank announced plans to build a hydro-electric plant upstream from the underutilized mouth of the Congo River. A power line will run from the Mobuto-inspired and defunct Inga plant to the DRC capitol, Kinshasa.
The Inga plant is situated on powerful falls north of the port of Matadi, and from there the Congo River runs down to the Atlantic coast.
The DRC has one of the lowest levels of electricity consumption in the world due to lack of investment. The development of hydroelectricity which reaches rural areas would go a long way towards reducing the need for charcoal use. Charcoal is also a health hazard and has been implicated in respiratory disease and shortened life spans in the region.
The DRC’s electrification rate is only 6 percent compared to an average 20 percent for Africa as a whole.
The energy generated in the restored Inga power plants would also be able to supply other provinces and neighboring countries, according to the investors. Two modernized power stations at Inga would be able to generate nearly 40,000 megawatts, enough to provide electricity to all of southern Africa.
Conservationists have already registered objections to this development project, yet they rubber stamp logging operations that make charcoal gathering in the Virungas look like a box of toothpicks.
Rainforest Floating Down the Congo River Â© keith harmon snow