Monday, 20 February 2017

Massacres in the DRC: The international community deeply concerns but never protects Congolese

Massacres in the DRC: The international community deeply concerns but never protects Congolese


Look They Are Dying’ - Massacre of 
Civilians by Congolese Soldiers

Following the recent Killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo took place in the village of Mwanza Lomba, amid ongoing clashes between government troops and Kamwina Nsapu militia members, the United States says it is "deeply concerned" over a video purporting to show soldiers shooting dead 50 to 100 unarmed civilians  including women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mark Toner, US State Department Acting Spokesman, said in a statement "Such extra-judicial killing, if confirmed, would constitute gross violations of human rights and threatens to incite widespread violence and instability in an already fragile country".

"We call upon the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to launch an immediate and thorough investigation, in collaboration with international organisations responsible for monitoring human rights, to identify those who perpetrated such heinous abuses, and to hold accountable any individual proven to have been involved."

But this is not a matter of individual accountability as after watching the video footage of Congolese military- "Joseph Kabila's militia"- committing such horrible crimes,  ASADHO, a Congolese human rights NGO, is asking the international community and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an international investigation into the chain Commanders that includes the head of regime in congo the and bring the perpetrators before the ICC

Lambert Mende, the DR Congo's minister of communications in the Joseph Kabila's overstayed government , has discounted the authenticity of the seven-minute video, calling it a "ridiculous fake... worthy of scenes from a Rambo movie". The Congolese human rights NGO said "Lambert Mende want just to distract the international community".

Noting that more than 70% of the human rights violations documented in 2016 were committed by security officials and Congolese are dying directly and indirectly because of the Joseph Kabila dictatorship, Why the international community never directly condemns Joseph Kabila for his killings in Congo?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

African states wary of potential repeal of 'conflict minerals' rule

African states wary of potential repeal of 'conflict minerals' rule


A possible plan by U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend a rule on "conflict minerals" could help fund armed groups and contribute to a surge in unrest in central Africa, regional states said on Wednesday.

Sources told Reuters last week that Trump planned to issue a directive targeting a Dodd-Frank rule that requires companies to disclose whether their products contain minerals from war-torn parts of Africa, including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A leaked draft seen by Reuters calls for the rule to be suspended for two years.

Competition for Congo's vast mineral resources has fuelled two decades of conflict in its eastern provinces, including a 1998-2003 regional war that killed millions, most from hunger and disease.

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional body comprising 12 member states including Congo, warned that repealing the provision would make it harder to ensure minerals were conflict free.

"This might ultimately lead to a generalized proliferation of terrorist groups, trans-boundary money laundry and illicit financial flows in the region," the ICGLR said in a statement.

The minerals covered by the rule - gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten - are important components in various electronics, aviation products and jewellery.

Several international campaign groups have urged Trump to maintain the provision. Human Rights Watch said last week that suspending the rule would undermine efforts to eliminate conflict minerals from supply chains.

Business groups opposed to the measure say it forces companies to furnish politically charged information and that it costs too much to trace the source of minerals.

However, some analysts believe scrapping the regulation could end up hurting U.S. companies if it fuelled instability in Congo's volatile and mineral-rich North and South Kivu regions.

"Having a better regulated, stable and secure mining environment in the Kivus is in everyone's interest, including U.S. firms," said Oliver Stern, an Africa expert at international risk consultancy Kroll.

The ICGLR acknowledged that the initial roll-out of the law had imposed a "de facto embargo" as major firms avoided buying minerals from the region. However, an ICGLR programme to trace minerals' origins had led to a revival of exports, it said.





The African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) are increasingly concerned by the continuing impasse in the dialogue among the political stakeholders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) related to the implementation modalities of the 31 December political agreement. 
The four partner organizations note that six weeks after agreeing on the modalities of a transition period leading to the holding of peaceful and credible elections by December 2017, the parties are yet to conclude discussions on the effective implementation of the agreement. This situation has the potential to undermine the political goodwill that led to the signing of the 31 December agreement.
In this context, the four partner organizations call on all stakeholders in the DRC, including the presidential majority and the opposition, to redouble, in good faith, their efforts towards a speedy conclusion of the ongoing talks.
The four partner organizations reaffirm the need for all parties to rally behind the mediation efforts led by the Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo (CENCO), and recall that the full and timely implementation of the 31 December agreement is critical in upholding the legitimacy of the transitional institutions until elections.


Friday, 10 February 2017

Is this the world's most life-affirming destination?

Is this the world's most life-affirming destination?

"They look at us with little curiosity – a bunch of tourists in 
masks is not much cop as far as they’re concerned"

In a country long riven by strife, Virunga National Park is a rare success story. It is now one of Africa's most electrifying wildlife destinations, where you can come face to face with Congo's growing population of mountain gorillas 
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo there is more lightning than anywhere else in the world. Of the 10 hotspots most affected by lightning strikes, five are in DRC. It is an apt metaphor for a country that has been riven by civil war and exploitation, but one that is beautiful and spirited and exciting. And there is nothing more life-affirming than sitting on the magnificent wooden balcony of Mikeno Lodge, which overlooks the forest in Virunga National Park, and staring out at a really violent tropical storm.
Actually there are other things that bring home that thrill of mortality – such as spending time with mountain gorillas and camping on the edge of an active volcano. You can do those at Virunga, too.
Congo is one of the biggest and most beautiful countries in Africa, and Virunga is its jewel, the oldest national park on the continent. Established in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium, it has the greatest biological diversity of any national park in the world – its 3,000 square miles contain all manner of landscapes and wildlife, including savannah, lakes, mountains, rain­forest, 703 recorded bird species and two seriously active volcanoes.
I have always been fascinated by Congo, but until fairly recently it was not safe to visit. But in the past two years, tourism has picked up fast. This is not a place to see the ‘Big Five’ in a Land Rover convoy with sundowner gin and tonics; it’s a bit more edgy than that.
Anything to do with Congo is edgy; it’s part of its allure. That isn’t to say it’s without royal approval – Virunga enjoys a healthy relationship with the Royal Foundation, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s charitable trust, and Virunga’s director, Emmanuel de Merode was a keynote speaker at the Duke of Cambridge’s United for Wildlife launch, in 2014.
The most direct way to get to Virunga is to fly to Kigali in neighbouring Rwanda and make the two-hour drive to the chaotic DRC border, close to the city of Goma, near the northern shore of Lake Kivu. Our guide for this trip is Balemba Balagizi, a thoughtful man who is an assistant conservationist at Virunga. Bukima, in the east of the park, is the base camp for seeing the gorillas, set on a cleared ridge of the forest.
Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002

It has six comfortable tents, and on a clear night you can see the fiery cone of Nyiragongo, which last erupted – catastrophically for Goma – in 2002. Of a world population of about 1,000 mountain gorillas, roughly a third are in Virunga. At 5am, scouts go out to locate them, and after an early breakfast of fruit, French toast and local honey washed down with rich Ugandan tea, we have a briefing from the rangers: put on face masks when encountering the gorillas to spare them the risk of infection; keep seven metres away; don’t use a flash.
There are nine gorilla families around Bukima, and six of them are habituated (meaning expert rangers have accustomed them to humans). We are divided into small groups according to fitness – so the show-off Americans are assigned gorillas living a three-hour uphill trek away, while we make a more sedate journey to visit the Rugendo Humba family (all are named after rangers who have died defending the park), a troupe of nine, including two silverbacks and two babies.
Besieged by butterflies, we are led by a ranger with a machete to battle the thick vegetation. It’s a warm, humid hike along the fertile ground along the edge of the park. After about 90 minutes, he turns and puts his fingers to his lips. We’re very close now.
We put on our masks, and one older man is told to discard his stick – nothing that could be construed as a weapon may be brought into the gorillas’ sector, because although they are used to rangers, they must not become habituated to aggressors.
"I feel not one iota of fear, just a sense of community and 
empathy with them. It is a completely extraordinary

And suddenly there they all are, lolling about, a giant silverback with his chin propped up on his fist like a sullen teenager, his wife sprawled on her back next to him in the dappled sunlight, then climbing over him for a spot of grooming. They look at us with little curiosity – a bunch of tourists in masks is not much cop as far as they’re concerned.
A little one tries to get his parents’ attention, just like a bored toddler – playing with a plastic bag he stole from the army outpost, putting it on his head like a hat. He seems keen to interact with us, but the ranger gently herds him back – this isn’t a petting zoo. When the younger silver­back comes closer, in a faintly challenging way, I feel not one iota of fear, just a sense of community and empathy with them. It is a completely extraordinary experience.
An hour passes quickly. The rangers chat to the gorillas in what seems to be their own language, warning them off if they get close. (Innocent Mburanumwe, the deputy director, teaches this to the rangers – his father was a gorilla habituator.) For this is one of conservation’s great success stories: 10 years ago there were only 75 of the primates in Virunga. Now there are 300.
It was not always a happy story. In 2007, nine gorillas were massacred by bandits wanting to exploit the park for logging and charcoal; their thinking was that if there were no gorillas, then there would be no need to protect it.
It backfired badly: the incident received worldwide press and there was an unprecedented outpouring of grief among the local people and park employees; the corpses of the slain gorillas were borne through the forest like royalty. Seven of the 12-strong Rugendo family of gorillas, beloved by rangers, including their patriarch, Senkwekwe, were killed.
The gorillas are buried at Virunga’s headquarters, in a special burial ground. Wooden signs mark their graves.  
Rumangabo is the HQ of Emmanuel de Merode, who took on the running of the park in 2008, entrusted with protecting the natural resources, bringing stability to the region and prosperity to the local population. Virunga had a golden age in the 25 years preceding the first Congolese civil war – President Mobutu even maintained a camp there – but in the 1990s it was deemed unsafe, and it wasn’t until 2014 that Virunga reopened for tourism.
Emmanuel De Merode director of Virunga National Park

De Merode, who is an anthropologist and conservationist, is really up against it. DRC has a population of more than 75 million and growing – the average family has 10 children – yet there is no basic infrastructure; the country has been called ‘ungovernable’. But it also has huge resources – copper, coltan (for mobile phones), diamonds – and magnificent landscape.
It’s impossible to reduce Congo’s complicated history into heroes and villains, but since Patrice Lumumba, its first democratically elected leader, was executed in 1961, there has been sporadic chaos and a succession of corrupt presidents.
The current incumbent is Joseph Kabila, who came to power in 2001 aged 29, 10 days after his father, Laurent, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. Kabila jr snatched a second term in 2011 (after an election tainted by fraud), and was due to step down when his political mandate expired in December, but is still there.
Like many African leaders, he has no exit plan, and now there is predictable unrest as things hang in the balance. His personal fortune has been estimated by Forbes to be $10 billion; the country’s national budget is $6 billion.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

In the Congo, an Opposition Stalwart Falls

In the Congo, an Opposition Stalwart Falls


The death of longtime leader Etienne Tshisekedi has left
 the fractured political opposition in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo searching for a
 figure to rally behind.


Few would consider the Democratic Republic of the Congo a bastion of stability, but the country's volatile political scene was recently roiled even further by the death of one of its most prominent opposition figures. When Etienne Tshisekedi died Feb. 1 during a medical trip abroad, he left the fractured Congolese opposition rudderless. But even though his passing will force a changing of the guard among President Joseph Kabila's rivals, it will not pave the way for the president — who has already exceeded his constitutionally permitted mandate — to extend his term beyond the year's end.


The 84-year-old Tshisekedi was the face of the Congolese opposition for decades, known for challenging the country's political powers as far back as the reign of President Mobutu Sese Seko, when the country was known as Zaire. Tshisekedi's death comes at a crucial time for the Congo, which postponed national elections last year. Though the Roman Catholic Church helped to broker a deal to reschedule the presidential race and ease Kabila from office, the agreement has since gotten hung up on disagreements over power-sharing arrangements between the government and the opposition. Tshisekedi's death could make it tougher for the parties to find a compromise.

The current president, who has been in office since his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated in 2001, finished his second term in 2016. But rather than relinquishing his post, as the Congolese Constitution requires, Kabila opted to delay the next presidential election using the pretext of voter registration issues and a lack of funding for the vote. The country's constitutional court ruled that the president could stay in office until his successor was elected. Since then, however, the ruling party and the opposition have been unable to reach an understanding.

Tshisekedi's death has only added to this air of uncertainty, raising questions as to who will assume the mantle of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress. One possible successor, his son Felix, is a rising star within the party but does not have the full support of its members. Given his family connections (his mother is also an influential party figure), some of the party's strongest supporters are loath to back what might appear to be a dynastic succession. To make matters worse, Felix is a young and mostly untested figure in Congolese politics. His failure to inspire party unity during the succession process could lead to splits that would weaken one of the more cohesive parties in the Rassemblement — the umbrella term for the country's political opposition. The loss of its leadership could create further division among the various opposition groups. After all, even before Tshisekedi's death, they could not agree on whether to engage with Kabila's government.

Another potential (if unlikely) candidate is Moise Katumbi, a wealthy former provincial governor who had been gathering support for a presidential run before the 2016 election was put on hold. But an outstanding arrest warrant against him says that he hired mercenaries in a bid to challenge the government. Katumbi left the country in May 2016, purportedly to seek medical treatment abroad, and he has not come back since. Should he resolve his legal issues and re-enter the country in the runup to elections, when they are rescheduled, Katumbi would certainly be a credible successor to Tshisekedi. But his return is far from certain.

According to the opposition's Dec. 31 agreement with the government in Kinshasa, elections will be held before the end of 2017, at which point Kabila will step down. The deal also called for the president's pledge not to change the constitution before he leaves office or to seek a third term. Moreover, it stipulated that a council would be created to oversee the transition process (before his death, Tshisekedi had been selected to lead it) and that the Independent National Electoral Commission would be reformed. 

Although parts of the agreement are in place, such as the installation of Rassemblement member Samy Badibanga as prime minister, its full implementation has stalled over disputes about how the ruling party and the opposition will divvy up government posts. The Roman Catholic Church warned in mid-January that the transition plan, which was not personally signed by Kabila but agreed to by his Alliance of the Presidential Majority, could still fall apart. Even though the coalition's approval is most likely an indication that Kabila's political allies are ready to act without him, the fact that the president did not sign the deal gives him some room to act, should the political winds shift and present him with an opportunity to stay in office.

Nevertheless, Kabila's hand is fundamentally weak. During his 16 years of rule, Kabila consolidated power by pitting members of his alliance against one another — a strategy that worked particularly well for him while in office but that has put him in a difficult position today. His tactics weakened his allies, leaving no clear successor to follow in his footsteps and offer protection to him and his family (as well as to their significant business interests throughout the country).

Over the past month, a growing number of reports have said Kabila's allies have floated the idea of holding a vote on a referendum to remove presidential term limits. But since the party behind him is less than unified, pursuing a plebiscite would be a politically risky move for the president that would doubtless strengthen and unite the political opposition against him. Even if Kabila could somehow engineer a way to stay in office beyond his term extension, doing so would ignite public anger and open the president to threats to his personal safety.

Kabila's current political weakness is the fruit of the divide-and-conquer strategy he employed so successfully throughout his time in office. Yet it is also why Tshisekedi's death — though a notable passing of a giant in Congolese politics — will not do much to alter the country's political course. Because either way, the president needs to balance his fragmented alliance in the months ahead while finding a suitable replacement who will safeguard his interests as the country prepares for the next stage of its difficult political evolution.

Stratfor, geopolitical intelligence platform

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Four killed in armed attack on Banro's Congo gold mine

Four killed in armed attack on Banro's Congo gold mine


BANRO’s Twangiza mine, Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic
 of the Congo. Despite its location, Banro has a heavyweight
 investor base, including BlackRock and Ruffer’s Baker
 Steel. Local observers are sceptical of any peace deal
 with rebel gunmen, the M23: “Two years later, 
the accord won’t be respected and the war
 will start again. March 2013

Armed men attacked Banro Corp's Twangiza gold mine in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo early on Tuesday, leaving three police and one assailant dead, the company said.
Police opened fire on the raiders, ending the assault, Banro's vice president for government relations, Désiré Sangara, told Reuters.
Twangiza opened in 2011 and has become the most advanced of Banro's four gold mines in eastern Congo.
It has been plagued by illegal miners squatting on the site and armed groups - some of the dozens of militias that remain active despite the official end to a regional conflict in 2003.
(Reporting By Aaron Ross; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Congo's violent kleptocracy at a crossroads

Congo's violent kleptocracy at a crossroads


People walk near burning debris during protests in
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo,
Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016.

At fifteen minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve, early fireworks went off in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These weren’t to celebrate another new year, but rather the signing of an agreement that, if implemented, paves the way for the country’s first ever peaceful, democratic transition of power.

Many months in the making, the deal was an important achievement. The agreement has many variables: President Joseph Kabila committed to not hold a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to run again; the opposition agreed to not hold up the deal because of the pending legal case of one of its main leaders, Moïse Katumbi; all agreed to hold elections in 2017; and the government agreed to drop charges against several, though not all, political prisoners. 

Before looking forward to the difficult process of implementation, it’s important to look back for a moment to understand what allowed this deal to come together. 

Congo’s Catholic bishops provided highly competent mediation, but the negotiations also needed to be ripened, as the parties did not always see it in their interest to come to agreement. This leverage came in local and international forms: determined activism by Congolese pro-democracy movements LUCHA, FILIMBI, and others, who continued demonstrations in the face of protest bans and arrests of their leaders; carefully escalated international pressure and elevated policy attention from the U.S. and Europe, in particular by coordinated targeted sanctions spearheaded by U.S. envoy Tom Perriello and Belgian envoy Renier Nijskens; regional diplomacy and pressure, in particular by Angola; compromises by the opposition and the government; and, in the U.S., a significantly larger bipartisan Congressional, activist, and NGO constituency for democratic change than had ever before been seen for Congo.

Senators Markey, Durbin, Flake, and Coons, and Representatives Chris Smith, Bass, Royce, and Engel deserve praise for keeping up the pressure. 

This Congolese-U.S.-European coordination – along with the threat of even more biting financial pressure from the Obama administration, Europe, and Trump team advisors – gave Kabila little wiggle room to maneuver, and just before the midnight deadline on December 31st, produced a signed agreement.

Every indication, however, is that Kabila will obstruct implementation of the deal, and the reality is that the Congolese government has a long history of reneging on agreements by sowing confusion in the implementation phase. The accord effectively ends Kabila’s political future, and it leaves his powerful family, business allies, and military top brass, many of whom have profited personally from lucrative illicit natural resource deals, in a state of limbo. Insiders to the talks say that Kabila’s team was thrown off by Katumbi’s last-minute gambit to not hold up the signing. Kabila is reportedly now unhappy with his negotiators for caving on his top issue: holding a referendum to change the constitution. 

Excuses by the Congolese government as to why the accord cannot be implemented will likely include that it wasn't inclusive enough, that it violates the constitution in some way, and that an "implementation agreement" still needs to be negotiated. Congolese officials have already begun to issue statements along these lines. Kabila could also declare a state of emergency, arguing that conflict in eastern Congo is escalating and preventing democratic reform from taking place. 

Going forward, it is critically important that the United States, Europe, and Congolese civil society hold the Congolese government and opposition to the main benchmarks they agreed to, and escalate financial and legal pressure against those who do not stick to them. 

Five benchmarks are worth noting. First, the parties need to agree on an election day, and then adopt a realistic timetable for organizing the process.

They need to quickly decide on which elections will be held in 2017 (presidential, legislative, and/or local) and start the voter roll update.

Presidential elections are the priority, and experts have said the voter roll could be updated in 2017, but the presidency will likely try to delay these decisions and make excuses that there is not enough time to complete either task. They should also increase the transparency of the electoral process. 

Second, the parties should soon set up an oversight committee for the accord. Members need to be chosen, and the parties need to lay out its precise authority.

Third, they should select a date for the change in prime ministers and transitional government. The opposition has chosen its candidate, and the government should now set a date in the near future for the handover.

Fourth, the legal cases of political prisoners/activists in exile must be resolved. The government must clear the charges of four key persons it agreed to, the bishops should continue their mediation on the other three cases, and the magistrate committee to deal with the other cases must be set up. Other LUCHA and FILIMBI activists should also be released. Fifth, the media that was shuttered must be re-opened. The government should now unblock the six Congolese media outlets and the signal of Radio France International that were shut down in 2016. 

The international community breathed a sigh of relief that a deal was signed in Congo, but many in Congolese civil society express strong skepticism that the terms of the deal will not be fulfilled.

The U.S. and Europe played a critical role in the lead-up, and they must now stand ready to continue leveraging the process when needed, through anti-money laundering measures that would increase financial pressure, higher-level sanctions, and legal pressure. 

Congo has been run as a violent kleptocracy for over a century, and that corrupt system ultimately must be dismantled for Congo to have a chance for long-term peace and stability. Implementing this agreement would be a good first step in that direction. 

Sasha Lezhnev is the Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project.
John Prendergast is the Founding Director of the Enough Project.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Congo police clash with sect, kill at least eight, activists say

Congo police clash with sect, kill at least eight, activists say


Police in southwestern Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday killed at least eight members of a separatist religious sect, local activists said, escalating tensions in a normally peaceful part of a conflict-ravaged country.
The police opened fire on members of Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) as they approached the morgue in the town of Kimpese to recover the bodies of fellow members killed in protests last month, Jonas Lukoki, the provincial coordinator of the New Civil Society, told Reuters.
"There were 12 deaths, including three children," Lukoki said. Another local activist in Kimpese said that the police had killed at least eight BDK members. Both activists said the demonstrators were unarmed.
A police spokesman told Reuters that several people had been killed when BDK members clashed with the police in Kimpese but did not have further details.
Analysts say President Joseph Kabila's failure to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December has led to a surge in activity from multiple armed groups, often with deadly consequences.
Armed clashes used to be rare in western Congo, unlike the east, where dozens of rebel groups and militia operate. But violence has increased there in recent months, including clashes in December between another religious sect and security forces in the northwest that killed at least 18 people.
BDK was founded by self-proclaimed prophet Ne Muanda Nsemi in the 1980s. It seeks to revive the pre-colonial Kongo kingdom, which flourished for centuries around the mouth of the Congo river at central Africa's Atlantic coast.
Security forces killed more than 300 of its members and bystanders in crackdowns on sometimes violent protests in 2007 and 2008, rights groups say. It claims to have thousands of supporters, but this number hasn't been verified.
The government said at the time it needed to assert its authority and went on to ban BDK in March 2008, but the group continues to command a significant following in the region.
By Aaron Ross

Thursday, 2 February 2017

World Bank warns DR Congo is facing enduring economic crisis

World Bank warns DR Congo is facing enduring economic crisis


DR Congo is experiencing an economic crisis, the World Bank (WB) has warned in its 4th report on the monitoring of the economic and financial situation of the country presented on Tuesday in Kinshasa.
Among the main indicators of this crisis, the World Bank cites the revision of the rate of growth of the DRC from a high of 7% to the current average growth of 2.5%.
“This growth when compared to the population growth of the DRC, which is almost 3%, means we are now getting a per capita growth rate of 0% or less,” explained Emmanuel Pinto, the World Bank’s chief economist in the DRC.
Another indicator, the same document reveals is the depreciation of the Congolese Franc in relation to the US dollar. According to the World Bank, the depreciation rate of the Congolese franc rose from -1 in 2015 to over 11% on 20 December 2016.
It’s a situation which the Bretton Woods institution blames on the adoption by the DRC of certain inappropriate economic policies.
The Congolese economy has been hit hard by lower commodity prices and slower Chinese demand, which consumes about 40% of DRC’s exports.
In addition, the suspension of copper production by Glencor for 18 months has precipitated the crisis, the World Bank noted in its report.
To rectify this crisis, this report recommends the resumption of IMF and the World Bank programs to allow the country to benefit from budgetary support.
It is also recommends that the Congolese government reduce public spending, increase domestic revenues and review its mining code.
By Ken Karuri 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017



Former DRC Forest Minister Bopolo (left), Norwegian 
Climate Minister Helgesen (middle), and former DRC 
Finance Minister Yav (right) in Kinshasa, 23 August
 2016.  And Header of contract 002/16 signed by
 Bopolo on 15 September 2016

Only a month after he was forced to cancel three logging concession contracts that his predecessor signed last year in violation of a 2002 freeze on new allocations,[1] DRCs ex-Environment Minister Robert Bopolo Mbongeza awarded a new permit to an adviser to President Joseph Kabila and green-lighted a second one to a ruling party member of parliament.[2]

The 15 September award and authorization, covering over 4,000 km² (an area four times the size of Berlin), came only three weeks after Norways Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen visited Kinshasa to prepare the first disbursement of a $200 million Norwegian-led donor program to protect Congos forest.[3] A first tranche of $40 million Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) funding was approved in October 2016.[4]

After posing for the cameras with Helgesen, Bopolo awarded a 25-year 162,936 ha Tshopo Province concession to Groupe Les Bâtisseurs du Congo, (GBC).[5] The President of the Board of Directors of GBC, Faustin Lokinda Litalema has been Kabilas Agriculture and Rural Development adviser since September 2015.[6] He appears to have created GBC in 2016.[7] Lokindas contract specifies that he deposited a $50,000 security guarantee for the concession at the Banque Gabonaise et Française Internationale in Kinshasa.[8]

The same day he signed a contract with Lokinda, 15 September, the Minister addressed a letter to ruling party MP Jacques Mokako Nzeke according an entity called "APC" (not otherwise specified) of which he is referred to as legal representative a 239,393 ha Mongala Province concession and setting a 90 day deadline for contract signature.[9] Greenpeace believes this contract has now been signed, but has not obtained a copy of it. On 1 April 2016, Mokako had solicited four concessions.[10] Prior to becoming Minister, Bopolo was an MP from Mokakos Mongala Province and national coordinator for the Majorité Both GBCs contract and the green light to APC are violations of the 2002 moratorium on the allocation of industrial logging titles.[11]

In July 2016 Bopolo reacted to the revelation of illegal concession awards by his predecessor by telling international media that they were illegal[12], that they had evidently taken place in a totally clandestine manner[13] and that the contracts in question were absent from his files.[14] In fact, he had himself signed at least three mission orders for Ministry staff to support social investment agreement negotiations between the illegal concessionaires and local residents.[15]

Since the revelation of the contracts in July, the DRC government and CAFI have ignored repeated calls by international NGOs to set up an independent investigation commission to determine the responsibility of “all officials associated with or involved in concealing” them.[16]

Bopolos predecessor, Bienvenu Liyota Ndjoli, has denied all wrongdoing, arguing that the 2002 moratorium does not bar re-award of defunct permits that passed the donor-financed legal review of titles completed in 2009.[17]

On 8 August 2016 then Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo Matata ordered Bopolo to cancel the three titles awarded by Liyota in 2015. [18] He added that once this was done Bopolo was to approach Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) to secure our expected financing.[19] Congos donors seem to have been only too happy to settle for title cancellation in the absence of sanctions, heedless of NGOs 22 July warning of the need for a thorough and transparent investigation conducted by an independent investigation commission, into the actions and responsibilities of all involved in [the] issuance and maintenance [of the 2015 contracts], to ensure accountability of all officials associated with or involved in concealing the violation, including those at the highest Ministerial levels. The persons found to be responsible for these activities must be sanctioned in accordance with the law: this is a crucial first step to end impunity, nepotism and corruption in the forestry sector.

And the demand for a further investigation to determine whether there have been any further breaches of the moratorium, and, if so, to assure that these concessions are cancelled as well.[20]

It appears that no one has been held accountable for the 2015 awards, or for concealing them, and the status of the security guarantees made by their beneficiaries, totalling $150,000, remains unknown.

Last October NGOs demanded that no CAFI money be released until breaches of the fund's 22 April 2016 Letter of Intent are addressed. None of the projects for which funds have been transferred complies with the Letter's commitments to, and specific procedures for, transparency and participation.

To ensure donor money is not wasted and in order to become effective in reaching its stated objectives a suspension of the entire CAFI program is needed until a thoroughgoing revision of its overall approach including the adoption of adequate monitoring mechanisms and safeguards is carried out, said Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Forest campaign manager at Greenpeace Africa.

[1]  Greenpeace Africa, How the DRC government has secretly breached its own logging moratorium, 12 July 2016.

[2]  Ministère de lEnvironnement, Conservation de la Nature et Développement Durable (MECNDD), Contrat de concession forestière n°002/16 du 15 septembre 2016 issue de la reprise par lEtat de la forêt autrefois attribuée en vertu du contrat de concession forestière n°030/11 du 24/10/2011 résilié, 15 September 2016 ; Letter n°[?] CAB/MIN/ECN-DD/04/00/RBM/2016 from Robert Bopolo Mbongeza to Jacques Mokako Nzeke, 15 September 2016. Bopolo served as Environment Minister from 25 September 2015 to 19 December 2016.

[3]  Ministère des Finances, RDC-NORVEGE : évaluation des activités, quatre mois après la signature par CAFI de la Lettre dIntention le 22 avril 2016 [à] Genève en [S]uisse, undated.


[5]  Contrat de concession forestière n°002/16 [], op. cit.

[6]  Joseph Kabila, Ordonnance n°15/071 du 16 septembre 2015 portant nomination des conseillers principaux au cabinet du Président de la République, 16 September 2015.

Formerly a member of the Orientale Province parliament and member of the Orientale Province Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative EITI) board, subsequently Orientale Province Minister of Rural Development. (Réseau Ressources Naturelles, Des députés provinciaux de la Province Orientale formés sur lITIE, Magazine Ressources Naturelles n°9, July-August 2010).
 [7]  GBC SARLs business registration number, as indicated in contract #002, is CD/KIN/RCCM/16-B-10.178.

[8]  Section 18.

[9] Letter n°[?] CAB/MIN/ECN-DD/04/00/RBM/2016, op cit. Mokako is president of the NGO Action

pour le Territoire de Bumba (ATB).

[10]  Ibid. Our translation.

[11]  République Démocratique du Congo. Ministère des Affaires foncières, Environnement et Tourisme. 2002. Arrêté ministériel n°CAB/MIN/AF.F-E.T./194/ MAS/02 du 14 mai 2002 portant suspension de loctroi des allocations forestières.ésidentielle coalition there.