“Maybe it’s time we get a level playing field and be compensated,” Mr. Mpanu said.
Many Congolese officials believe that after decades of colonialism and political mismanagement, their country’s needs should be prioritized against those of the world.
For President Tshisekedi, casting his nation as a bulwark against global warming has met with political realities. The country’s next presidential election is 18 months away, but the jostling has already begun with Mr. Tshisekedi running for another term. In 2018, he was declared the winner in a highly contested election. He cut a deal with his predecessor, the unpopular but still powerful Joseph Kabila, whom western officials have labeled corrupt. The pair’s arrangement fell apart in 2020, but some analysts caution that Mr. Kabila or his cronies could wind up on the ballot at a time when foreign investment is pouring into the country.
Just how much compensation is at stake for Congo is something that will not be known until seismic surveys are carried out — by itself a very destructive process, according to scientists.
In May, Didier Budimbu, Congo’s minister of hydrocarbons, said the country, which currently produces about 25,000 barrels of oil a day, had the potential to produce up to 1 million barrels. At current prices that’s the equivalent of $32 billion a year, more than half of Congo’s GDP.