Communion leaders call on Canadian company to end Namibian oil drilling project

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Communion leaders call on Canadian company to end Namibian oil drilling project
The Okavango (or Kavango) River flows through northern Namibia. Photo: Zairon/Wikimedia Commons

Anglican leaders in Canada have joined bishops across the Anglican Communion in calling for a Canadian company to halt oil drilling in the Kavango Basinan ecologically sensitive protected area in Namibia.

Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald both signed a petition calling for an immediate stop to drilling by Canada-based firm Reconaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica).

Thirty-four Anglican bishops and two other archbishops also signed the petition, launched by Luke Pato, bishop of Namibia. It was delivered March 8 to the government of Namibia, its consulate in Cape Town and to ReconAfrica in Vancouver.

The Kavango Basin supplies water to the Okavango Delta. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the delta is known for its biodiversity and is a sanctuary for 400 bird species and Africa’s largest remaining elephant population. ReconAfrica has purchased rights to drill for oil in more than 35,000 square kilometres of the basin.

Oil exploration of the Kavango Basin by ReconAfrica, Anglican leaders say, violates the rights of the San people under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). They believe drilling will make water scarcer in Namibia, the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, and are also concerned about the impact of climate change. They also cite inadequate public participation and environmental impact assessments along with “moral and spiritual” concerns.

“One of our baptismal promises is to ‘safeguard the integrity of creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth,’ ” Nicholls says. She also cites the church’s commitment to Indigenous peoples’ right to “free, prior and informed consent” as stated in UNDRIP.

The ReconAfrica project, MacDonald says, “directly involves the urgency of Indigenous rights in connection to resource extraction, the integrity of creation, and our common ecological future; it represents our solidarity with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Anglicans who are facing these existential issues with prophetic courage in their own context.”

The company, however, says claims that the project is on environmentally sensitive land are untrue. The drilling site, according to materials on its website, is 80 km from the Kavango River and thus, ReconAfrica says, not “in or very near the Okavanga Delta.” It says the project has the potential to lift local people out of poverty by providing access to “affordable and sustainable energy,” and that the company is improving local roads and drilling new wells for potable water.

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Matt Gardner is a staff writer for the <em>Anglican Journal</em>. Most recently, Gardner worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Gardner has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He will continue to support corporate communications efforts during his time at the <em>Journal</em>.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. question is what has the Anglican Church of Canada done for the Namibia community? I don’t see them helping the local community by drilling water wells or bringing jobs

  2. If there are high quality hydrocarbons, which preliminary results indicate, that can be extracted in socially and environmentally responsible ways in accord with Namibian law and to the benefit of the Namibian people as a whole, what serious objections could there possibly be to that? Let all those who seek a moratorium on hydrocarbons be the first to stop using products and services relying upon them.

  3. Oh, so your countries got wealthy extracting and using oil to fuel your economies but you want to deny that to some of the poorest people on earth? How very compassionate of you.

    Energy production in Namibia and Botswana will completely transform the lives of the people there. They will be able to have modern infrastructure including water, sewage and electricity, education and healthcare. They will have a vibrant economy as opposed to one the highest unemployment rates in the world.

    ReconAfrica is working very closely with local governments and exceeding environmental standards. They have the fullest support of the governments of Namibia and Botswana.

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