Rwanda, DR Congo officials meet over Kivu methane gas

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Natural Resources minister Vincent Biruta (C) with Congolese hydrocarbons minister Aime Ngoi Mukena Lusa Desire (left) and other officials after a meeting in Goma, eastern DR Congo, on Thursday, where they discussed extraction of methane gas deposits in Lake Kivu, among other projects. / Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti

OFFICIALS from Rwanda and DR Congo have said it is time to end ‘mere talk’ and start concrete action on a joint exploitation of methane gas deposits in Lake Kivu, with an aim of producing energy for the people of both countries.

The agreement for joint exploitation of methane gas in Lake Kivu dates back to 1975 when the two countries committed to work together to generate energy from the lake, but 40 years later, there is no tangible impact.

While the lake presents the potential of generating over 700 megawatts of methane gas, according to studies, only 26 megawatts have been extracted through the Kivuwatt project on the Rwandan side.

In August, President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart, Joseph Kabila, met in Rubavu and pledged to speed up work to tap into the extraction of methane gas in Lake Kivu to generate energy, among other initiatives.

Following the meeting, a joint committee of experts in energy sector was set up to discuss how the commitment of government leaders should be implemented.

And, on Thursday, officials from the two countries met in the Congolese town of Goma where they discussed the way forward.

Dr Vincent Biruta, the minister for natural resources who led the Rwandan delegation to Goma, said Lake Kivu is endowed with a lot of shared resources that can be jointly exploited for the benefit of the people in both countries.

“There are resources we need to exploit together for the common development of our countries, there are agreements signed long ago under which both countries committed to work together on joint projects but some have derailed while others are in progress. Rwanda has made a breakthrough in exploiting methane gas, we have also started exploration for oil in the area. The resources are trans-border so we can work faster and efficiently together,” said Biruta.

Congo shows desire

Jean-Bosco Mugiraneza, the chief executive of Rwanda Energy Group, said there are enough energy resources in the lake to significantly make a difference for the people of both countries.

“Kivuwatt project is generating electricity on the Rwandan side, and we are now looking at ways the second phase (Kivuwatt II project) can be pursued jointly,” said Mugiraneza, adding that research shows that up to 700 megawatts can be extracted from Lake Kivu for a period of at least 50 years.

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A methane gas plant on Lake Kivu. / Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti

Speaking during the meeting, Aimé Ngoi Mukena Lusa Desiré, the Congolese minister for hydrocarbons, also emphasised the need to work together.

“We have talked and talked about cooperation in exploiting the resources in the Kivu area long enough; it is time to implement,” Ngoi said.

“The will of our heads of state must prevail. Today, we are ready to start from what is there, Rwanda has started and if they have advanced, we are ready to catch up as they can also catch up on what we started.”

He said other than energy, the two countries should also work on other projects, mainly roads.

Effective exploration of methane gas in Lake Kivu is expected to boost electricity generation in both Rwanda and DR Congo, accelerate economic growth in both countries, and reduce the potential danger caused by a possible methane gas explosion.

The electricity access countrywide today stands at 27 per cent while that of DR Congo stands at about 20 per cent, according to officials.

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