On October 27, 2015, the Alexander Soros Foundation 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.
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.