Friday, 1 September 2017

DRC: government must deliver on pledge to end child mining labour by 2025

DRC: government must deliver on pledge to end child mining labour by 2025


For the first time, the DRC has acknowledged that children are working in artisanal cobalt mines
New government strategy responds directly to findings uncovered by Amnesty
This commitment must not be ‘another false dawn for children in the DRC’
In response to the commitment made this week by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to eliminate child labour in the mining sector by 2025, Seema Joshi, Head of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said:
“This commitment could mark a significant step on the road towards eradicating the scourge of children as young as seven working in the mines of the DRC.
“If delivered, it means future generations of Congolese children won’t spend their childhoods mining materials for our smartphones and electric cars, in dark, dirty and dangerous conditions.
“The government’s strategy responds directly to findings uncovered by Amnesty International and, for the first time, they have acknowledged that children are working in artisanal cobalt mines.
“These are encouraging developments, but the key now is implementation. Previous government promises on tackling child labour have come to nothing. We’ll be watching very closely to ensure this latest commitment isn’t another false dawn for children in the DRC.”
The announcement of the government’s new strategy on child labour was made by Minister of State for Employment, Labour and Social Welfare, Lambert Matuku Memas. He made the announcement at a workshop, held in Kinshasa on 30-31 August, in which the DRC government launched a new national strategy to remove children working in artisanal mining.
It is not known how many children work in mining in the DRC, but UNICEF estimated in 2014 that approximately 40,000 children worked in mines across southern DRC.
Amnesty’s 2016 report on the use of child labour in cobalt mines in the DRC, written in partnership with Afrewatch, is available here: This is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt. At this week’s workshop, the DRC government pledged to progressively implement all the recommendations listed in the report.
Cobalt is a vital component in the Lithium-Ion batteries that power most electronic gadgets and electric vehicles. More than half of the world’s cobalt is mined in the DRC.
Amnesty International

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Congolese Troops to Protect World's Richest Untapped Tin Deposit

Congolese Troops to Protect World's Richest Untapped Tin Deposit


The Bisie Tin Project’s Mpama North prospect in North Kivu
 in the eastern region of the DRC is one of the most 
significant tin deposit in the world.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has promised to help Alphamin Resources Corp. to protect the world’s highest-grade untapped tin deposit.
Construction of the mine has already started in a remote part of North Kivu, an eastern province, and Alphamin intends to have the $152 million project fully funded by the end of the year, Chief Executive Officer Boris Kamstra said Tuesday. A large part of the project’s success will depend on maintaining security in an region that hosts armed militia groups and eliminating illegal mining.
“The DRC government has been hugely supportive in that we now have a very strong military presence in our area,” Kamstra told reporters at a Johannesburg briefing attended by North Kivu Minister of Mines Anselme Kitakya. “In essence we’ve got a military curtain between ourselves and the east of us which is largely unpopulated forest.”
A military and police presence will help make sure Alphamin can mine unhindered by local bandits, and authorities have also pledged to ensure stability following an upcoming national election. The vote was first due in November but has been delayed, meaning President Joseph Kabila has remained in power despite being required by the constitution to step down last year.
There are also as many as 800 artisanal miners in the area and Alphamin is working with the government to move them to legal sites where small-scale mining is allowed, Kamstra told
The government has signed a treaty to define a framework for Grand Baie, Mauritius-based Alphamin to operate within its territory and any illegal mining activity will “resisted,” Kitakya said.
As many as 15,000 diggers descended on Bisie, as the site is known, in 2008 when tin prices soared to more than $25,000 a metric ton, creating a clapboard town complete with bars, money lenders and brothels. The mine became the focal point for advocacy groups including Global Witness, which said the trade in minerals from eastern Congo that found their way into consumer electronics was driving war and violence.
“It was the poster child for conflict minerals,” said Richard Robinson, managing director of Alphamin Congo. “We’re continuing to struggle with the criminal interests behind the artisanal trade” but the company is working closely with government officials to secure the site, he said.
With more than 3.5 million tons of reserves at a grade of 4.3 percent of tin per ton, Bisie will deliver an internal rate of return of 49 percent, according to Alphamin’s website. That’s based on a tin price of $17,300 a ton. Tin has climbed about 40 percent since the beginning of 2016, and traded at $20,335 a ton in London on Tuesday.

Monday, 14 August 2017

UN Experts Accuse Congo Army General of Mining Gold Illegally

UN Experts Accuse Congo Army General of Mining Gold Illegally


Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba (Tango Four)

  • General alleged to own company dredging gold in eastern river
  • Group says $409 million of gold smuggled out of Congo in 2013
A group of United Nations experts said it’s gathered evidence that a sanctioned Congolese military officer owns gold mining operations in the northeast of the country, contravening the country’s mining code.
Tax officials, mine workers and dredge owners told the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo that Major-General Gabriel Amisi Kumba owns dredges that are mining gold on the Awimi River in Tshopo province, the group said in a report published on the UN’s website Sunday. The group also collected testimony that the management of La Conquete, a company allegedly owned by Amisi, is protected by Congo’s military.
Amisi is currently the Congolese armed forces’ commander of the First Defence Zone, an area that includes the capital, Kinshasa. Last year, the U.S. and the European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes, on Amisi, citing the role of units under his control in lethal crackdowns on demonstrations by Congolese opposition supporters in January 2015 and September 2016.
In November 2012, Amisi was suspended as commander of Congo’s land forces after a previous report by the group of experts accused him of distributing weapons to armed groups and poachers operating in the conflict-ridden east of the country. General Amisi was cleared by the military authorities in July 2014 and appointed to his current position in September the same year.
The group was unable to reach Amisi and Bloomberg wasn’t able to find contact details for him to request comment. General Leon-Richard Kasonga, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said he hadn’t seen the report and couldn’t comment.
The group’s report also said that it “confirmed almost all artisanally sourced gold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was exported illegally and underestimated in both value and volume.” The group has made similar claims in previous reports, estimating that during 2013, 98 percent of artisanally produced gold, valued at as much as $409 million, was smuggled out of Congo.
Established in 2004, the group of experts’ members are appointed by the UN secretary-general to gather information about conflict, abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in Congo.
By William Clowes

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Child miners aged four living a hell on Earth so YOU can drive an electric car: Awful human cost in squalid Congo cobalt mine that Michael Gove didn’t consider in his ‘clean’ energy crusade

Child miners aged four living a hell on Earth so YOU can drive an electric car: Awful human cost in squalid Congo cobalt mine that Michael Gove didn’t consider in his ‘clean’ energy crusade 


  • Sky News investigated the Katanga mines and found Dorsen, 8, and Monica, 4.

  • The pair were working in the vast mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • They are two of the 40,000 children working daily in the mines, checking rocks for cobalt.

Picking through a mountain of huge rocks with his tiny bare hands, the exhausted little boy makes a pitiful sight.

His name is Dorsen and he is one of an army of children, some just four years old, working in the vast polluted mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where toxic red dust burns their eyes, and they run the risk of skin disease and a deadly lung condition. Here, for a wage of just 8p a day, the children are made to check the rocks for the tell-tale chocolate-brown streaks of cobalt – the prized ingredient essential for the batteries that power electric cars.

And it’s feared that thousands more children could be about to be dragged into this hellish daily existence – after the historic pledge made by Britain to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 and switch to electric vehicles.

Eight-year-old Dorsen is pictured cowering beneath the 
raised hand of an overseer who warns him not to spill
 a rock


It heralds a future of clean energy, free from pollution but – though there can be no doubting the good intentions behind Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement last month – such ideals mean nothing for the children condemned to a life of hellish misery in the race to achieve his target.

Dorsen, just eight, is one of 40,000 children working daily in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The terrible price they will pay for our clean air is ruined health and a likely early death.

Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world’s biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the planet’s reserves.

The cobalt is mined by unregulated labour and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.

The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb).

He then staggers beneath the weight of a heavy sack that 
he must carry to unload 60ft away in pouring rain

Goldman Sachs, the merchant bank, calls cobalt ‘the new gasoline’ but there are no signs of new wealth in the DRC, where the children haul the rocks brought up from tunnels dug by hand.

Adult miners dig up to 600ft below the surface using basic tools, without protective clothing or modern machinery. Sometimes the children are sent down into the narrow makeshift chambers where there is constant danger of collapse.

Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death.

Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in the area.

No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the country. The UN estimates 80 a year, but many more deaths go unregistered, with the bodies buried in the rubble of collapsed tunnels. Others survive but with chronic diseases which destroy their young lives. Girls as young as ten in the mines are subjected to sexual attacks and many become pregnant.

Dorsen and 11-year-old Richard are pictured. With his 
mother dead, Dorsen lives with his father in the bush 
and the two have to work daily in the cobalt mine 
to earn money for food.

When Sky News investigated the Katanga mines it found Dorsen, working near a little girl called Monica, who was four, on a day of relentless rainfall.

Dorsen was hauling heavy sacks of rocks from the mine surface to a growing stack 60ft away. A full sack was lifted on to Dorsen’s head and he staggered across to the stack. A brutish overseer stood over him, shouting and raising his hand to threaten a beating if he spilt any.

With his mother dead, Dorsen lives with his father in the bush and the two have to work daily in the cobalt mine to earn money for food.

Dorsen’s friend Richard, 11, said that at the end of a working day ‘everything hurts’.

In a country devastated by civil wars in which millions have died, there is no other way for families to survive. Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) is donating £10.5million between June 2007 and June 2018 towards strengthening revenue transparency and encouraging responsible activity in large and small scale artisanal mining, ‘to benefit the poor of DRC’.

There is little to show for these efforts so far. There is a DRC law forbidding the enslavement of under-age children, but nobody enforces it.

The UN’s International Labour Organisation has described cobalt mining in DRC as ‘one of the worst forms of child labour’ due to the health risks.

Soil samples taken from the mining area by doctors at the University of Lubumbashi, the nearest city, show the region to be among the ten most polluted in the world. Residents near mines in southern DRC had urinary concentrates of cobalt 43 higher than normal. Lead levels were five times higher, cadmium and uranium four times higher.

The worldwide rush to bring millions of electric vehicles on to our roads has handed a big advantage to those giant car-makers which saw this bonanza coming and invested in developing battery-powered vehicles, among them General Motors, Renault-Nissan, Tesla, BMW and Fiat-Chrysler.

Chinese middle-men working for the Congo Dongfang Mining Company have the stranglehold in DRC, buying the raw cobalt brought to them in sacks carried on bicycles and dilapidated old cars daily from the Katanga mines. They sit in shacks on a dusty road near the Zambian border, offering measly sums scrawled on blackboards outside – £40 for a ton of cobalt-rich rocks – that will be sent by cargo ship to minerals giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt in China and sold on to a complex supply chain feeding giant multinationals.

Challenged by the Washington Post about the appalling conditions in the mines, Huayou Cobalt said ‘it would be irresponsible’ to stop using child labour, claiming: ‘It could aggravate poverty in the cobalt mining regions and worsen the livelihood of local miners.’

Human rights charity Amnesty International also investigated cobalt mining in the DRC and says that none of the 16 electric vehicle manufacturers they identified have conducted due diligence to the standard defined by the Responsible Cobalt Initiative.

Monica, just four-years-old, works in the mine alongside 
Dorsen and Richard

Encouragingly, Apple, which uses the mineral in its devices, has committed itself to treat cobalt like conflict minerals – those which have in the past funded child soldiers in the country’s civil war – and the company claims it is going to require all refiners to have supply chain audits and risk assessments. But Amnesty International is not satisfied. ‘This promise is not worth the paper it is written on when the companies are not investigating their suppliers,’ said Amnesty’s Mark Dummett. ‘Big brands have the power to change this.’

After DRC, Australia is the next biggest source of cobalt, with reserves of 1million tons, followed by Cuba, China, Russia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Car maker Tesla – the market leader in electric vehicles – plans to produce 500,000 cars per year starting in 2018, and will need 7,800 tons of cobalt to achieve this. Sales are expected to hit 4.4 million by 2021. It means the price of cobalt will soar as the world gears itself up for the electric car revolution, and there is evidence some corporations are cancelling their contracts with regulated mines using industrial technology, and turning increasingly to the cheaper mines using human labour.

After the terrible plight of Dorsen and Richard was broadcast in a report on Sky News, an emotive response from viewers funded a rescue by children’s charity Kimbilio. They are now living in a church-supported children’s home, sleeping on mattresses for the first time in their lives and going to school.

But there is no such happy ending for the tens of thousands of children left in the hell on earth that is the cobalt mines of the Congo.

By Barbara Jones for The Mail on Sunday

Friday, 28 July 2017

Is Norwegian money funding Congo deforestation?

Is Norwegian money funding Congo deforestation?


Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are endangered and found only 
in the DRC. 

  • A recent report by conservation NGO Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) is decrying what they say is Norwegian government complicity in funding a project they allege could result in the clearance of vast tracts of Congo rainforest and the release of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
  • RFUK's report spotlights a project funded through Norway's Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) that would increase the area comprised by logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by 20 million hectares. Its analysis found the concessions stand to include 10,000 square kilometers of peat swamp, and if actively logged, could release as much as 3.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Norway's Ministry of Climate and Environment says the report is overblown and the situation more complicated than RFUK contends.
  • Per F. I. Pharo, director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, said an amended project proposal is under review and will not be accepted unless various conditions are met: "Among the key recommendations Norway has made to the program document is the importance that the program document should not conclude on important policy choices that should be the product of a thorough and inclusive process at country level."
A recent report by conservation NGO Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) is decrying what they say is Norwegian government complicity in funding a project they allege could result in the clearance of vast tracts of Congo rainforest and the release of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment says the report is overblown and the situation more complicated than RFUK contends.
RFUK’s report spotlights a project funded through Norway’s Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) that it says could increase the area comprised by logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by 20 million hectares. The project is part the French Development Agency (AFD)’s Sustainable Forest Management Programme.
According to the report, the concessions stand to include more than 10,000 square kilometers of peat swamp. Peat is a kind of swampy soil made up of partially decayed organic matter that accumulates over hundreds, even thousands, of years. Often reaching more than four meters (13 feet) deep, areas of peat have been found as deep as 20 meters (65 feet).
Naturally waterlogged, peat becomes highly combustible if it is drained and dries out. And if fire ignites on dried peatland, it can be extremely difficult to stop. Such was the case in Indonesia at the end of 2015 when the country and others nearby were racked with a haze crisis so severe that scientists estimate it contributed to the premature deaths of at least 100,000 people and released more CO2 than Germany does in a year. The haze was caused by smoke from out-of-control wildfires, primarily on peatlands that had been drained for agriculture, which burned an area the size of the U.S. state of Vermont. In response, Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo banned clearing and conversion of the country’s remaining peatlands.
Areas allotted for timber concessions in the DRC overlie parts of world’s largest known tropical peatland. Mapped for the first time earlier this year, this massive peat swamp comprises approximately 145,500 square kilometers (56,200 square miles) – an area equivalent to England in size. Researchers estimate it stores some 30 billion metric tons of carbon.
Logging on swamplands is prohibited in the DRC. But in its report, RFUK contends the legislation does not actually define what constitutes a swamp, thus potentially creating a loophole for exploitation.
RFUK estimates about 2.8 billion metric tons of peatland carbon may be released if forest is destroyed in new concession areas. In total, the organization says 3.4 billion metric tons of carbon could be emitted if concessions become active.
“Analysis carried out by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) indicates that, as well as releasing ~0.6 billion tonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide from the direct impact of logging activities, the likely new logging areas would substantially overlap areas of high carbon peatlands, placing an additional 2.8 Gt of carbon – or roughly 10.4 Gt of carbon dioxide – at increased risk of release to the atmosphere if these critical ecosystems are degraded and destroyed,” RFUK writes in their report. “This is equivalent to nearly 200 years of Norway’s current national annual greenhouse gas emissions.”
Further analysis by RFUK indicates illegal concessions currently comprise around five million hectares. The organization urges Norway to aim its attention at canceling and dismantling these concessions rather than funding the establishment of more.
“By refusing to insist that Congo’s illegal concessions are shut down, it is encouraging impunity for law-breaking and bad forest governance,” RFUK director Simon Counsell said in a statement. “Norway should now state that its funding for DRC’s forestry projects will be halted until all illegal logging concessions have been cancelled.”

A mysterious contract

Independent researcher Arnaud Labrousse commended the RFUK report as “excellent.” Labrousse specializes in Central Africa forestry issues, and brought up additional concerns about an alleged award of a 10 million euro ($11.7 million) REDD+ contract by DRC’s Kabila administration to French firm CERENE Services to map 1.5 million hectares of DRC forest.
In brief, REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and is a program administered under the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) that aims to mitigate carbon emissions through improved forest management in tropical countries. Under REDD+, developed countries provide financial incentives to developing countries to help them pay for forest management enhancement projects.
Norway’s CAFI is one of these projects – the largest-ever in Africa when it signed a letter of intent (LoI) for $200 million with DRC’s Minister of Finance in April 2016.
CERENE was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2011, according to French investigative and opinion journal Mediapart. CERENE’s “innovation director” Gérard Royal is the brother of Ségolène Royal, who was France’s environment minister at the time the contract was awarded, leading Labrousse to question if the company benefited from a political “boost” during negotiations. The funding source of the contract has not been made publicly available, but Labrousse refers to it as an “enormous elephant in the room” for CAFI, which he says is “desperately trying to convince NGOs that the present government is a credible interlocutor.”
Association between CAFI and CERENE was refuted by Per F. I. Pharo, director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
“CAFI is not, and do not plan to be, involved in CERENE generally and this contract more specifically,” Pharo told Mongabay. “We are not familiar with the details of this contract, including how it will be financed.”
Pharo said he and his colleagues are working to collect more information about the CERENE contract and allegations involving the company and “whether it will be appropriate for CAFI to take any action.”
Mongabay reached out to CERENE and the DRC’s Ministry of Finance, but no responses were forthcoming.

Norway reacts

Norway did not respond lightly to RFUK’s report. In a statement released earlier this month, the Ministry of Climate and Environment took exception to the report’s claim that the country’s approach to protecting DRC forest is to “hand it over to the logging companies.”
“These allegations have no basis in reality,” the statement reads.
The statement goes on to explain that effective management of DRC forests is a “challenging task” due to weak governing capacity, structural deficiencies and continued instability from long periods of conflict.
The statement points to CAFI successes such as the revocation of illegal logging concessions, as well as the rejection of an initial proposal.
“Reform of DRC’s commercial logging sector is one component of this program (though receiving less than 2% of the overall CAFI funding to DRC). RFUK is well aware that their allegations towards Norway and CAFI all relate to a project proposal that has been rejected by the technical committee of DRC’s national REDD+ fund, in large measure due to concerns raised by Norway.”
In emails to Mongabay, Pharo said a revised version of the proposal has been submitted by the AFD and will be reviewed again by a technical committee in the coming weeks.
“Among the key recommendations Norway has made to the program document is the importance that the program document should not conclude on important policy choices that should be the product of a thorough and inclusive process at country level,” Pharo said. “Furthermore, we have insisted on the sequencing and quality of the activities related to the industrial sector, and made it clear that the logging moratorium can only be considered lifted, if and when the conditions set out in the LoI and the Congolese law have been met.”
Okapis (Okapia johnstoni) were discovered by scientists in 
the early 19002 and are found only in the DRC.

A governmental moratorium on new logging concessions has been in place in the DRC since 2002. According to the LoI, the conditions required for lifting it include the integration of REDD+ and sustainable development projects.
“We also believe the program needs to strengthen the focus on the social aspects of the forest sector, strengthen the budgets to the independent forest monitoring and combatting illegal logging, build upon the lessons learned and already existing processes related to community forests,” Pharo said.
He continued, explaining that risk management is key to the program’s success: “We know that the risks are high in the forest sector. Since the first proposal was drafted, the national REDD fund in DRC has organized a five days multi stakeholder risk management work shop in Kinshasa that has identified risk elements for the forest sector and possible mitigation actions. AFD has thus been asked to incorporate this work in the revised proposal.”
Pharo said RFUK’s analysis wrongly assumed that old concessions phased out prior to 2005 will be reestablished in the future. This is not likely to happen, he said, because many overlie swamp areas where logging is prohibited, logging areas can only be extended once the LoI’s conditions have been met and, in the event these conditions are met, potential new logging areas will be defined via a “thorough consultative and targeted land use planning process.”
“Provided that our comments are taken into account, we see this program as an opportunity to improve the forest management and governance in DRC,” Pharo said. “Unlike the picture RFUK is drawing in its communication, this is a broad program that will, among other things, support DRC to establish, through an inclusive process, a new forest policy, an action plan to combat illegal logging, strengthen the independent monitoring of the forest sector, strengthen the authorities’ capacity to enforce their laws, testing different forest management models and supporting more sustainable forest management.
“In sum, the ambition is that the program will contribute to reduced emissions, not increased, as indicated by RFUK.”

A challenging task

Despite differences of opinion on how to best protect and manage the DRC’s forests, one commonality emerges: a hard road lies ahead. Both RFUK’s report and Norway’s statement highlight governance issues as major roadblocks to affecting successful conservation programs in the country, a sentiment shared by other institutions such as UK-based independent policy institute Chatham House.
“The RF-UK briefing highlights some of the major challenges that are facing DRC’s forest sector – namely, the very weak governance in the country which means there is limited ability for the government to control its forest resources and to implement effective planning and management,” said Chatham House’s Alison Hoare. Hoare is a senior research fellow whose expertise includes forest governance, natural resource use and community forestry.
To illustrate the scale of the challenge in the DRC, Hoare points to Chatham House research estimating that 90 percent of logging in the country was done illegally as of 2013. The study attributes most of this logging to small, informal operations that supply domestic and regional markets, and found the volume of harvesting had doubled over the previous six years as population and income levels increased.
Satellite data from the University of Maryland show tree cover loss rates growing steadily over the past decade in the DRC, peaking at more than 1.3 million hectares (13,000 square kilometers) in 2014 before dipping back down to 928,000 hectares in 2015. Most of this loss occurred in and around primary forests.
Hoare underlined the need for a sustainable forest sector in the DRC, one that will help alleviate poverty while meeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. But she said that for this to be possible, the country’s governance must significantly improve. She lauded Norway and CAFI’s acknowledgment of this issue.
“This has been clearly recognized by Norway, and the other CAFI partners, as reflected by the milestones set out in the LOI,” Hoare said via email. “It is also very positive that Norway has highlighted the importance of the sequencing and the quality of the activities that it supports.”
But, Hoare cautioned, much work remains to be done if the DRC is going to meet the LoI’s milestones set for the end of 2018.
“These include: adoption of a forest policy, based on a participatory process with all relevant stakeholders; implementation of local & community forest management models; application of the Forest Code to all existing Concessions; and elaboration of an ambitious plan to fight illegal logging,” she said. “Further, the milestones note the need to meet the legal conditions before the logging moratorium is lifted, and also to implement land-use planning.”
Hoare said that succeeding in these milestones would be a “remarkable achievement” for the DRC and urged CAFI to target its support at activities that will help make such an achievement a reality.
“Most importantly, this means establishing an effective legal and institutional framework for the sector, and ensuring much greater transparency and accountability,” Hoare said.

By Morgan Erickson-Davis

Children bear brunt of militia violence in central Congo

Children bear brunt of militia violence in central Congo


Children in central Democratic Republic of Congo are bearing the brunt of violence between the army and a local militia which has uprooted at least 1.4 million people over the past year, the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) said on Friday.

Six in 10 of those forced to flee their homes in the conflict-ravaged Kasai region - about 850,000 - are children, leaving them prey to attack, detention, sexual violence, and recruitment by militia fighters, according to the U.N. agency.

More than 3,300 people have been killed in Kasai since the start of an insurrection in August by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, which wants the withdrawal of military forces from the area.

Kasai is the scene of a growing humanitarian disaster in a nation where violence has spiraled since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his mandate ended in December.

"The crisis is having a devastating impact on children," UNICEF representative Tajudeen Oyewale said in a statement.

"The lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their families in Kasai have been turned upside down by this brutal violence."

Oyewale added that the violence had disrupted access to healthcare and education in Kasai, which UNICEF described as one of the world's worst displacement crises for children.

More than 5,000 children in the region have been separated from their families, and at least 100 were killed in the first three months of the year, according to UNICEF's latest figures.

About half of militia members are estimated to be children - many younger than 15 - and more than 500 have been deployed as fighters or used as human shields, the agency said.

"The future of an entire generation of children is at risk in the Kasai region," added Oyewale.

The violence in Kasai has stoked fears of a wider conflict in the central African giant, a tinderbox of ethnic rivalry and competing claims over mineral resources. Wars at the turn of the century killed millions and sucked in neighboring countries.

Some 3.8 million Congolese are uprooted within the country, more than in any other African country, and about 7.3 million need aid urgently, according to U.N. data.

The United Nations this week named three experts to lead an international investigation into killings and other crimes in Kasai, having accused "elements" of Congo's army of digging most of dozens of mass graves discovered there in recent months.

The government has repeatedly denied its troops were responsible for the graves.

Writing By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Emma Batha