Press Release

Alexander Soros Foundation Honors Two Activists For Risking Their Lives to Protect The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park

October 27, 2015

New York, NY – The Alexander Soros Foundation today announced that it has conferred its annual Award for Activism in Environmental and Human Rights on Alphonse Muhindo Valivambene and Bantu Lukumbo, two environmental and anti-corruption activists from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Both activists have dedicated their lives to defending Virunga National Park against corrupt interests attempting to open the park to illegal oil drilling and poaching. Their campaign has led to threats against their safety, and in 2012, the activists were forced to temporarily flee Congo in fear for their lives.

Alphonse Muhindo is the Secretary General of Réseau CREF, an NGO dedicated to the sustainable management and rehabilitation of forest ecosystems in the DRC. Bantu Lukambo is the founder of the Innovation for the Development and Protection of the Environment (IDPE), a group concerned with illegal oil drilling, poaching and fishing in the Virunga region of the DRC.

“I am thrilled that Alphonse and Bantu have agreed to come to New York to accept their awards,” said Alex Soros, Founder of the Alexander Soros Foundation. “Virunga is one of the richest, most beautiful national parks in the world, and we are all indebted to Alphonse, Bantu, and the many other activists like them who put their lives on the line to protect Virguna from those who seek to take advantage of its natural resources and harm its diverse and unique natural wildlife.”

Alphonse Muhindo said, “Exploiting our oil resources will serve only to destroy a more precious resource: Virunga. While oil exploitation might make huge profits for companies, it has a disastrous impact on the local environment and community. Development must be based on a sustainable environment and a just society with a fair income for all.”

“I hope that this award will encourage the international community to consider environmental destruction as a crime against humanity,” said Bantu Lukambo. “Countries must be held to account when they violate their own laws and international conventions – that they have freely ratified – on the protection of the environment.”

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth introduced the Foundation’s recipients at the Foundation’s award lunch, while Global Witness Co-Founder Patrick Alley framed the importance of the award and the critical nature of the situation in Virunga. Messrs. Alley and Roth both serve on the Alexander Soros Foundation Award committee, which also includes Human Rights First President Elisa Massimino, human rights scholar Aryeh Neier, and attorney William Zabel.

The trailer for the Academy Award nominated documentary “Virunga” was also screened at the award lunch. “Virunga” chronicles the story of activists fighting to protect Virunga National Park and has received international acclaim.

About The Alexander Soros Foundation

Founded in 2012, The Alexander Soros Foundation is an organization dedicated to promoting civil rights, social justice and education by making grants to cutting-edge organizations in the United States and abroad.  For more information, please visit alexsoros.com.