Monday, 30 January 2017

“Conflict gold” blights the Democratic Republic of Congo

“Conflict gold” blights the Democratic Republic of Congo

30/01/2017

A Congolese fighter controls workers at a gold 
mine in Iga Barriere, Ituri region, northeast of
 Democratic Republic of Congo

Over the past two decades, large swathes of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been subjected to conflict between rival militia groups, which together with some Congolese army factions, have benefited financially from the artisanal mining of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.
These so-called “conflict minerals” have found their way into international supply chains serving a range of end-users – including companies in the electronics, automotive, aerospace and jewellery sectors – prompting efforts to regulate DRC artisanal mines and strengthen corporate due diligence procedures.
In a bid to increase transparency in the DRC mining sector, the authorities have since 2011 been participating in a scheme to validate artisanal mines that have no connection with paramilitaries, members of the Congolese army or human rights abuses.
As of May 2016, a certification scheme – the country’s first – had undertaken 18 validation missions in the east of the country, assessing some 232 mining operations (comprising 394 mine sites). To date, 204 operations have been declared ‘green’ or ‘conflict-free’, a 31 per cent increase on 2015.
While the validation missions, including NGO and UN representatives, are unable to visit every mine, they are said to cover a large percentage of the artisanal mining mineral trade in the region.
Although critics say that the inspectors need to increase the number of mines they survey and the frequency of inspections, the validation scheme is reported to have prompted improvements in security in some conflict-affected areas.
Last February, research by the US NGO the Enough Project concluded that there had been a significant reduction in armed group control of tin, tantalum and tungsten (3T minerals) mining areas.
The trend was underlined in October with the publication of an inspection by the Belgium-based International Peace Information Service (IPIS) of 1,615 mines in eastern DRC between 2013 and 2015. The results showed that 77 per cent of the 390 3T mines surveyed had no connection to armed elements (local paramilitaries, militants from neighbouring countries or Congolese troops).
Significantly, in 2015 a record amount of conflict-free tantalum had been exported from DRC – estimated at 948 tons, or an almost 400 per cent increase on 2013.
However, there has been little improvement in the gold sector, with the IPIS study finding that 65 per cent of the 1,220 gold mines inspected had an armed presence. Efforts to curb militants’exploitation of gold mines appear to have been less effective because many of the sites are in remote areas where paramilitaries abound. Gold is also is easier to smuggle out of the country and more difficult to trace.
The UN recently said that the mineral remains by far the “most used to finance armed elements and criminal networks” in DRC.
Militants are able to profit from gold mining because of extensive smuggling networks and the prevalence of corrupt Congolese exporters. A UN report published in May 2016 found evidence of the latter ignoring due diligence requirements to source from conflict-free mines and massively under-declaring exports to provincial and national authorities.
This, it says, allows them to pay no taxes or only a fraction of what would otherwise be payable, with discrepancies of at least $174m in 2015. Traders were said to have a deliberate policy of not asking questions about the provenance of gold they acquired – that from non-validated mines is ineligible for export – and knowingly buying consignments which had clearly falsified documentation, effectively enabling the laundering of conflict gold into the international supply chain.
While a traceability system – to help companies to source conflict-free minerals – is becoming “increasingly embedded in the 3T mining sector”, the report concluded there is no such scheme for gold.
A gold mine in eastern Congo.

That so much gold of questionable provenance is still being exported from DRC underlines the need for companies using the mineral in products to ensure their due diligence procedures are robust, particularly since recent research suggests that the measures some put in place have been found wanting.
In the US, the Dodd-Frank Act requires listed companies to determine whether their products use 3T minerals and gold from DRC or neighbouring countries, and to check whether those they have purchased have benefited armed groups. Their due diligence reports, which have to be independently audited, are then filed with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In a report published last year, researchers at the University of Michigan who analysed every conflict mineral report submitted to the SEC in 2014 and 2015, found that only 1 per cent of companies were able to declare that their products were conflict-free beyond reasonable doubt, while 80 per cent admitted that they were unable to determine their minerals’ country of origin.
In 2015, Amnesty International and Global Witness reported on the findings of a joint study that examined a sample of 100 SEC reports. They concluded that 79 of the submissions failed to meet the minimum requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act and that most companies in their sample were not doing enough to map out the supply chain of the minerals they purchase.
Clearly, the DRC government needs to step up regulation of the artisanal mining sector in the east of the country. The mine validation scheme should be expanded to include more gold sites and greater efforts must be made to investigate and prosecute corrupt exporters and curb smuggling.
But end-user companies also have a part to play. By strengthening their due diligence procedures, they will not only reduce their exposure to conflict minerals but help choke off a key source of funding for DRC’s militants.

ByYigal Chazan: an associate at Alaco, a London-based business intelligence consultancy.

Congo-Kinshasa : échec des négociations

Congo-Kinshasa : échec des négociations

30/01/2017


Le second ultimatum fixé par la Conférence nationale des Evêques du Congo (Cenco) aux politiciens qui négocient la marche de la transition a, lui aussi, été dépassé, samedi soir, sans signature d’un accord de sortie de crise.
Celle-ci a été provoquée par l’absence de volonté du président Joseph Kabila d’organiser l’élection de son successeur avant la fin de son dernier mandat constitutionnel, le 19 décembre.
Ayant organisé avec succès la répression des protestations, le régime a signé, le 31 décembre, avec diverses oppositions, un accord lui permettant de prolonger M. Kabila au pouvoir jusqu’à la présidentielle, prévue cette fois pour avant la fin de 2017.
En échange, l’opposition réunie derrière Etienne Tshisekedi obtient le poste de Premier ministre et celui de président du Comité de suivi de l’Accord du 31 décembre; des mesures de décrispation politiques (libérations de prisonniers politiques et abandon de poursuites politiquement motivées contre des opposants); l’interdiction pour la Majorité présidentielle d’organiser un référendum constitutionnel et pour le Président de briguer un nouveau mandat; modification de la Commission électorale nationale indépendante (Ceni) qui a été incapable d’organiser les élections dans les temps.
Un flou certain
L’Accord de la Saint-Sylvestre n’avait toutefois pu être obtenu qu’en laissant flotter un certain flou. Qu’il fallut ensuite dissiper. Les évêques se remirent donc au travail pour obtenir des "Arrangements particuliers" précisant comment on mettrait l’Accord en application. C’est là-dessus que les négociateurs bloquent.
Samedi soir, après quinze jours de travail, la Cenco a constaté que les "Arrangements particuliers" ne pouvaient être signés, faute d’accord - essentiellement entre la Majorité présidentielle et le Rassemblement d’opposition présidé par Etienne Tshisekedi - sur plusieurs points.
Qui choisit le Premier ministre ?
D’abord le mode de désignation du Premier ministre. Dans l’entendement du Rassemblement, c’est lui qui le choisit et Joseph Kabila le nomme. La Majorité présidentielle exige, elle, que le Rassemblement présente 5 noms au chef de l’Etat, qui choisira et nommera.
Désaccord également sur la répartition des portefeuilles ministériels. Car il y a les ministères régaliens et les autres; ceux qui rapportent de l’argent et les autres… La Majorité présidentielle veut faire reconnaître son poids politique (issu d’élections frauduleuses en 2011); les autres parties ont aussi un vorace appétit.
Désaccord encore sur le chronogramme jusqu’aux élections, alors que le temps passe.
Enfin, l’opposition veut que la Cenco accompagne la transition jusqu’à la présidentielle; la Majorité veut que les évêques s’effacent dès les "Arrangements" signés.
"Ce n’est pas un échec", juge une source à la Cenco interrogée par "La Libre Belgique" dimanche. Les évêques doivent se rendre à Genève cette semaine - "à un atelier de formation à la négociation" - tandis qu’une "équipe chargée du volet ‘mesures de décrispation’ se rendra en Belgique et en France" la semaine suivante "pour rencontrer des acteurs liés aux cas Muyambo et Katumbi". Ces deux figures politiques sont parmi les principales à subir poursuites et/ou incarcération pour des raisons jugées politiques par l’opposition.
"En attendant", poursuit notre source, "nous espérons qu’ils vont se réunir et trouver un accord dans les huit jours"

MARIE-FRANCE CROS
la libre belgique

Saturday, 28 January 2017

European Parliament resolution on the rule of law crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon

European Parliament resolution on the rule of law crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon 


28/0102017


MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
25.1.2017
to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

on the rule of law crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon  (2017/2510 (RSP))

Marie-Christine Vergiat, Barbara Spinelli, Paloma Lopez Bermejo, Angela Vallina, Javier Couso Permuy, Dimitris Papadimoulis, Stelios Kouloglou, Kostadinka Kuneva, Kostas Chrysogonos, Merja Kyllönen on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group

The European Parliament,
–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in particular those of 7 October 2010, 9 July 2015, 10 March 2016 and 1 December 2016, and to the resolutions of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, in particular that of 15 June 2016,
–  having regard to the political group resolutions and the failure to adopt a joint resolution on Gabon at the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly meeting held in December 2016 in Nairobi (Kenya),
–  having regard to its debate of 13 September 2016 on the post-electoral situation in Gabon,
–  having regard to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
–  having regard to the Constitution of the DRC, in particular Article 56 thereof, which stipulates that: ‘Any agreement, convention, arrangement or other act which has the consequence of depriving the nation, natural persons or legal persons of all or part of their means of subsistence drawn from their natural resources or wealth shall, without prejudice to international provisions on economic crimes, be considered looting and be punishable by law’,
–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights,
–  having regard to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance,
–  having regard to Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention and to Protocol II thereto, which prohibit, in particular, summary executions, rape, enforced recruitment and other atrocities,
–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989,
–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 2211 of March 2015, which extended the mandate of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (Monusco) until 31 March 2016,
–  having regard to the award of the 2014 Sakharov Prize to Congolese gynaecologist Dr Denis Mukwege for his struggle to protect women’s rights in the DRC,
–  having regard to its resolution of 20 May 2015 on the certification of importers of certain minerals and metals originating in conflict-affected and high-risk areas,
–  having regard to the agreement on the EU regulation on ‘conflict minerals’ that was endorsed by the Member States on 15 June 2016,
–  having regard to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report of 15 April 2015 on the illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources by organised criminal gangs,
–  having regard to the report of the European Union election observation mission in Gabon that was published on 12 December 2016,
–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,
–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,
A.  whereas the situations in Gabon and the DRC are fundamentally different and there is no reason to deal with both in the same resolution;
Democratic Republic of the Congo
B.  whereas the increase in the number of armed factions, the disorganisation and the absence of a stable State, the inability of the United Nations to offer a consistent response to the genocide and its consequences and the complicity of countries with interests in the region, such as the United States, Belgium and France, have led to a tragic situation in which hundreds of thousands – or even millions (according to some NGOs, up to six million people) – have died since 1996, most of them civilians, mainly as a result of oppression, murder, malnutrition, diseases and poverty following the wars in 1996 and 1998; whereas the repercussions of that situation are still being felt in the country today;
C.  whereas, since 2012, instability has once again been a feature of the DRC, and whereas the consequences of that instability, such as fighting and atrocities, which have been most prevalent in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, in the east of the country, have cost several thousand people their lives; whereas, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as at 31 July 2015, nearly 1.5 million people were internally displaced, which amounts to 7% of the country’s total population; whereas more than 400 000 Congolese refugees are still living in exile; whereas refugees fleeing the serious humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic, a neighbouring country, are arriving in the DRC; whereas the exploitation of the ‘ethnic issue’ in the region has seriously exacerbated the conflict and continues to divide regions; whereas the price of foodstuffs has risen substantially since the start of the conflict;
D.  having regard to the many war crimes and crimes against humanity, the large-scale violations of human rights, the crackdown on opponents, the mass rapes of women and young girls and massive population displacements; whereas, according to official figures, at least 200 000 people have been raped in the DRC since 1996, and whereas the real figure is doubtless much higher, as many rapes are not recorded; whereas rape is a weapon of war used by all the warring parties, including the official armed forces; whereas forced recruitment, including of children, to make them combatants is commonplace in the DRC;
E.  whereas transnational companies are funding the armed groups so that they can continue to exploit the DRC’s mineral reserves; whereas the DRC has 80% of the known reserves of coltan, a mineral used in particular to make capacitors for computers and mobile telephones, but whereas the benefits of the wealth thus created accrue to multinationals, not the Congolese people; whereas this state of affairs has been repeatedly condemned in reports published by the United Nations; whereas in April 2015 Ibrahim Thiaw, the Deputy Executive Director of the UNEP, stated that the annual earnings from this exploitation of natural resources exceed USD 1 billion and that the bulk of the profits – up to 98% – end up in the coffers of international concerns, with the remaining 2% being used to fund armed groups in the DRC; whereas the agreement reached by the Member States on 15 June 2016 on the EU regulation on ‘conflict minerals’ falls well short of what is required in that it covers only ‘unprocessed products’, which account for 10% to 15% of EU imports;
F.  whereas the structural adjustment plans imposed by international financial institutions, first among them the World Bank, have weakened the country even further by turning it into a legal and tax haven for multinationals, particularly in the mining sector; whereas as a result of these structural adjustment plans the mainstays of the Congolese economy have been broken up and thousands of workers have lost their jobs, thus depriving people of their livelihoods and worsening their living conditions and enabling major industrial groups, most of which are based in the West, to grab resources and gain a stranglehold over the economy;
G.  whereas Monusco, which was set up in 1999, has been a total failure in that it has not improved the lot of civilians, who are severely affected by the war, and whereas its support for the national Congolese army (FARDC) has only served to embolden the latter to commit more crimes; whereas, following the suspension in February 2015 of military cooperation between Monusco and the FARDC, the UN decided on 2 March 2016 to resume the provision of military support to governmental forces;
H.  whereas the Constitution of the DRC stipulates that a President may not serve more than two terms in office, and whereas the current President should have left office at midnight on 19 December 2016; whereas President Joseph Kabila made it impossible to hold new elections in good time for him to be replaced by preventing the electoral rolls from being updated, and whereas this has led to political tension, demonstrations, outbreaks of violence and scores of deaths; whereas between 19 and 20 December 2016 alone, 40 people were killed, 107 injured and 460 arrested, according to the UN;
I.  whereas on 31 December 2016, following three weeks of talks conducted under the auspices of the Catholic Church, the government and the opposition reached agreement on establishing a national transition council (CNT) chaired by the long-time opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi and on appointing a prime minister from among the members of his ‘Le Rassemblement’ coalition; whereas under that agreement Joseph Kabila will remain in power until parliamentary and presidential elections are held no later than in December 2017, and will not seek a third term; whereas some opposition members did not sign the agreement, in particular the members of the Movement for Liberation of Congo (MLC), a former Vice-President of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, and a number of negotiators belonging to fringe opposition groups;
J.  whereas, although the agreement of 31 December 2016 was a major step forward, there remain a number of grey areas, including the organisation and funding of the forthcoming elections (the cost of which has been put at USD 1.2 billion, while the country has a total budget of no more than USD 4 billion); whereas the agreement’s implementation is still under discussion; whereas on Monday, 23 January 2017 Étienne Tshisekedi was obliged to leave Kinshasa to undergo a ‘medical check-up’ in Belgium;
Gabon
K.  whereas, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Gabon’s human development index (HDI) stood at 0.684 in 2014, which means that it ranks 110th out of 188 countries, and whereas more than half of the people in Gabon live below the poverty threshold despite a relatively high level of per capita GDP;
L.  whereas, in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index, Gabon is ranked 99th out of 168 countries;
M.  whereas Gabon signed the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in 2010, but has yet to ratify it;
N.  whereas elections were held in Gabon on 27 August 2016, and whereas an EU observation mission was deployed in the country from 12 July to 30 September 2016 with the consent of the Gabonese authorities; whereas, according to the Ministry of the Interior, the outgoing President, Ali Bongo, polled 49.80 % of the votes, thus securing victory by a mere 5 000 votes; whereas the opposition is contesting the outcome of the election, clashes have occurred in some districts of Libreville, the National Assembly building has been set on fire, demonstrations have taken place and at least six people were wounded in shooting incidents on 31 August 2016;
O.  whereas on 1 September, during an attack by security forces on the headquarters of Jean Ping, two people were killed and a number were injured in what witnesses described as a ‘slaughter’; whereas further violence has occurred in the capital and in several other places in the country; whereas the population of Gabon has been deprived of access to the internet and social media; whereas more than 800 people have been arrested in the capital during the post-electoral violence; whereas the opposition claims that at least 50 people have been killed in different parts of the country; whereas a number of African newspapers have reported that French soldiers with positions of responsibility in the Republican Guard took part in the bombing of the headquarters of Jean Ping;
P.  whereas at the beginning of September, despite harbouring doubts about the independence of the country’s institutions, the opposition decided to follow proper procedures and bring an action before Gabon’s Constitutional Court; whereas that action was rejected by the Constitutional Court on 23 September 2016, and whereas the opposition then brought a second action at the beginning of November to contest once again the results of the presidential election of 27 August 2016;
Q.  whereas, despite the pressure brought to bear on its members, the EU observation mission submitted its report on 12 December 2016 and described the presidential election as opaque and noted ‘a lack of transparency in the actions of the bodies responsible for administering the elections, which failed to make available to stakeholders essential information such as the electoral roll and the list of polling stations’; whereas the main irregularity highlighted by the observation mission was the result obtained by Ali Bongo Ondimba in the province of Haut-Ogooué, the Bongo family’s home region, where, according to figures supplied by the Ministry of the Interior, there was a 99.93 % turnout and Mr Bongo gained 95.47% of the votes cast; whereas the mission questioned these results, pointing out that they ‘went against the trend identified by the mission on the basis of the results announced by the governors of the country’s eight other provinces’; whereas the mission accordingly took the view that ‘these anomalies place a question mark over the correctness of the methods used to collate the results and over the final result of the election’; whereas the Constitutional Court made no reference to the issue of fraud in the province of Haut-Ogooué in its judgment of 23 September 2016;
R.  whereas, despite the clear and unequivocal findings of the report, no action has been taken, with the EU appearing to prefer to say nothing following the French authorities’ de facto acknowledgment of the inauguration of Ali Bongo as President in late September 2016;
S.  whereas the fall in oil prices and government budget cuts are further exacerbating the economic and social difficulties in both Gabon and the DRC; whereas strike action is increasingly being taken in Gabon by teachers’ unions, oil workers, pensioners, post office workers, the judges’ union and other groups; whereas the strikers’ key grievances include non-payment of bonuses and pensions, denial of civil servant status, interference by the President in the Council of the Judiciary, the release of the remaining ‘political prisoners’ and closures/buy-outs of oil facilities;
T.  whereas there have been strong calls to protest against the holding of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Gabon; whereas on Wednesday, 18 January 2017 young people from the JOUR (United Opposition Youth Group for Resistance) association held a peaceful march in protest against the holding of the 2017 AFCON in Gabon; whereas some of them, including their chair, Marceau Malekou, were charged with public order offences and taken into custody;
U.  whereas France has been deploying troops in Gabon since the country became independent in 1960, under defence agreements concluded in August of that year; whereas, according to the Ministry of the Interior, 350 French troops are currently stationed there (known as the ‘éléments français au Gabon’ – EFG); whereas on 7 September 2016 the French Government decided to send the second parachute regiment to Libreville, officially to protect French nationals; whereas a new agreement signed in 2010 stipulates that ‘the French forces stationed in the Gabonese Republic shall be free to move around the country, including its territorial waters and airspace. That freedom of movement in Gabonese territorial waters shall include stopping and anchoring, irrespective of the circumstances’; whereas the French forces in Gabon are not required to pay taxes or rent, which goes against the normal practice in most countries; whereas the agreement also grants French military personnel stationed in Gabon full immunity against prosecution, including in respect of any deaths caused in the discharge of their duties;
V.  whereas France’s shadow has loomed large over its former colony since the country became independent; whereas the economic cooperation agreement signed in July 1960, one month before Gabon’s independence, stipulates that ‘France shall continue to provide the Gabonese Republic with the material assistance (...) required in order for it to achieve the economic and social development objectives it has set for itself’; whereas close to 14 000 French nationals currently live in Gabon, and whereas France, which is Gabon’s leading economic partner, has some 120 companies (around 200 SME/SMIs) in the country;
W.  whereas, given France’s support for the Bongo regime (in particular in the form of military cooperation) and the links that almost all Gabonese politicians have to France, there is good reason to fear that the ‘Françafrique’ policy will continue, to the detriment of the people of Gabon;
1.  Criticises the fact that the situations in the DRC and Gabon, which are unalike, are being dealt with in the same resolution;
Democratic Republic of the Congo
2.  Condemns all acts of violence, all violations of human rights and all sexual violence; expresses its solidarity with all the peoples that have suffered from years of conflict; criticises once again the exploitation of the ‘ethnic issue’, which has cost millions of people in the region their lives and has only served to divide the population;
3.  Condemns all forms of intimidation and harassment, including judicial harassment, of human rights defenders, journalists, members of the political opposition and other independent or critical voices; stresses the need to uphold and protect freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all persons who have been arbitrarily detained;
4.  Notes the agreement concluded on 31 December 2016 between the government and the opposition, which it believes could be a step forward in the process of bringing peace to the country; calls, therefore, for the EU and its Member States to show support for the implementation of the agreement and the holding of elections, in particular by stepping up the provision of financial assistance to the DRC, so that transparent, democratic elections may be held in accordance with the timetable laid down in the agreement; insists that all financial support provided by the EU and its Member States for elections in the DRC must be fully transparent;
5.  Considers that combating impunity in relation to infringements of humanitarian law and economic and financial crimes is one of the vital preconditions for re-establishing peace in the DRC;
6.  Is particularly concerned about the situation of women in the country and the crimes and discrimination against them; considers it vital that the relevant authorities and the international community step up their efforts to put a stop to the use of mass rape as a technique of warfare, to ensure access to free public healthcare, in particular for reproductive health, contraception and abortion, and to foster genuine gender equality;
7.  Considers, similarly, that the relevant authorities and the international community must prioritise putting an end to the recruitment of child soldiers;
8.  Condemns the fact that the Congolese people’s basic needs are being systematically sacrificed to the economic and geopolitical interests of multinationals and foreign powers;
9.  Takes the view, therefore, that a lasting solution to the disastrous situation in the eastern DRC will only be possible if action is taken to ensure that ordinary Congolese benefit at long last from the country’s natural resources; emphasises that, to that end, the country must reassert its sovereignty over its natural wealth by taking steps to ensure democratic scrutiny of the activities of foreign transnational companies and by developing its own facilities for exploiting, processing and marketing its commodities, which will require the DRC to revise and terminate all mining and logging contracts, in accordance with Article 56 of the Congolese Constitution, in order to ensure that this wealth benefits as many Congolese as possible, and not just a minority;
10.  Reiterates the need to guarantee the DRC’s right to food sovereignty, which includes the right of farmers to produce food for their people, by putting an end to land-grabbing and guaranteeing farmers access to land, seed and water;
11.  Calls on the international community, and first and foremost the DRC’s ‘creditor’ countries (in particular Belgium), to remove the barriers to the development of the DRC, and thus to the establishment of peace, by cancelling its debt and the debt interest the country continues to pay and by implementing genuine international cooperation based on the upholding of fundamental human rights and Congolese sovereignty, instead of free-trade agreements and structural adjustment plans; urges the DRC authorities to insist on an audit of their debts and the cancellation of all debts incurred illegitimately with foreign creditors, with a view to a comprehensive debt write-off and so that the basic human needs of the country's population can be met;
12.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to increase financial support and humanitarian aid to respond to the urgent needs of these population groups; calls for the EU and its Member States to provide assistance in the form of grants rather than loans, so as to avoid making the debt burden heavier; deplores the fact that many EU Member States have not met the target of earmarking 0.7% of GNI for development aid and that some have lowered the percentage that they spend on such aid; deplores the fact that Member States are cutting back their involvement in food aid programmes; calls for development aid not to be used to secure or control borders or to repatriate migrants; calls for the aid provided by the EU and the Member States in the DRC to be used, as a priority, to address problems linked to severe inequalities, poverty, chronic malnutrition, access to health and public services, particularly reproductive healthcare, and the achievement of the sustainable development goals; calls, similarly, for food aid to be increased and to be used, as a priority, to buy food from local producers;
13.  Reiterates that the activities of European companies present in third countries must be entirely consistent with international human rights standards; calls, therefore, on the Member States to ensure that companies which come under their national law do not disregard human rights or the social, health and environmental standards which apply to them when moving to, or doing business in, a third country; calls on the Commission and Member States to take the requisite action against European companies which do not comply with those standards or which do not adequately compensate victims of human rights violations for which they are directly or indirectly responsible;
14.  Calls more specifically, with regard to the DRC, for an independent investigation into compliance by European companies with labour and environmental standards, in particular in the natural resources sector and with specific reference to coltan, and into the possible involvement of these companies in the funding of armed groups; calls, similarly, for an international investigation into the allegations of links between the structural adjustment plans, the financial support provided by international financial institutions and the crimes committed in the DRC;
15.  Opposes any attempt to outsource the EU’s migration policies to third countries; deplores the fact that the Rabat Process, in which the DRC is a stakeholder, does not make it possible to challenge the underlying causes of migration in any way, but simply promotes return and readmission policies; believes those policies to be at odds with the right to freedom of movement, asylum rights and, more broadly, the rights of migrants laid down in international conventions;
Gabon
16.  Expresses serious concern at the post-electoral crisis in Gabon and the consequences that it might have for the country, the region and the peoples concerned; deplores the fact that, after having called for the results to be made public, France once again acknowledged Ali Bongo as the winner of the elections, despite the conclusions reached by European and international election observers;
17.  Condemns all the violence perpetrated following the elections, in particular the breaches of human rights, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions, and the violations of freedom of the press and freedom of expression;
18.  Calls for an immediate end to all violence, human rights violations and political intimidation of civil society and members of the opposition, and for respect for international law and human rights;
19.  Calls for an international investigation to be conducted under UN auspices into the elections and the abuses that have ensued, in order to determine how to establish a political dialogue that can bring Gabon out of the current crisis and safeguard the democratic rights of its people;
20.  Calls on Gabon to ratify, deposit its instrument of ratification for and comply with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance;
21.  Deplores once again the role and influence that France, the former colonial power, has in Gabon; opposes any continuation of the ‘Françafrique’ policy in the country; insists that French troops should be withdrawn from Gabon without delay;
22.  Takes the view that the problems in Gabon can be resolved only by giving all citizens equal rights, sorting out disputes over fertile farmland, tackling unemployment and poverty, fighting corruption, poverty, inequality and discrimination and promoting social, political and economic reforms to create a free, democratic and stable state; voices particular concern about the situation in schools;
23.  Considers that the people’s lack of access to the country’s natural resources, rising unemployment, worsening social conditions and impoverishment are obstacles to stability and should be absolute priorities for the forthcoming period;
24.  Condemns economic, social and political interference in the affairs of third countries resulting from World Bank and IMF structural adjustment plans and the free-trade agreements – officially known as ‘economic partnership agreements’ – concluded by the EU; stresses that these policies have led to land and resource grabbing, particularly grabbing of oil resources, and economic, social, political and humanitarian crises, forcing large number of people to leave their homes;
25.  Calls for the European Union and its Member States properly to apply the principle of Policy Coherence for Development in all their actions vis-à-vis Gabon, in order to ensure that they are properly coordinated and do not undermine the objectives of reducing poverty and achieving the sustainable development goals; condemns the attachment of any conditions to development aid with the aim of externalising the EU’s borders and the management of its migration policies;
26.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the African Union, the governments of the countries of the Great Lakes region, the President, Prime Minister and Parliament of the DRC, the Government of Gabon, the United Nations Secretary-General, the UN Human Rights Council and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
Europian Parliament

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

We are destroying rainforests so quickly they may be gone in 100 years

We are destroying rainforests so quickly they may be gone in 100 years


24/01/2017

At current rates of deforestation, rainforests will vanish altogether in a century. Stopping climate change will remain an elusive goal unless poor nations are helped to preserve them


 Likouala-aux-Herbes river near in Congo-Brazzaville. 
The Congo Basin is the world’s second largest
 tropical forest.

If you want to see the world’s climate changing, fly over a tropical country. Thirty years ago, a wide belt of rainforest circled the earth, covering much of Latin America, south-east Asia and Africa. Today, it is being rapidly replaced by great swathes of palm oil trees and rubber plantations, land cleared for cattle grazing, soya farming, expanding cities, dams and logging.

People have been deforesting the tropics for thousands of years for timber and farming, but now, nothing less than the physical transformation of the Earth is taking place. Every year about 18m hectares of forest – an area the size of England and Wales – is felled. In just 40 years, possibly 1bn hectares, the equivalent of Europe, has gone. Half the world’s rainforests have been razed in a century, and the latest satellite analysis shows that in the last 15 years new hotspots have emerged from Cambodia to Liberia. At current rates, they will vanish altogether in 100 years.


As fast as the trees go, the chance of slowing or reversing climate change becomes slimmer. Tropical deforestation causes carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, to linger in the atmosphere and trap solar radiation. This raises temperatures and leads to climate change: deforestation in Latin America, Asia and Africa can affect rainfall and weather everywhere from the US Midwest, to Europe and China. 
The consensus of the world’s atmospheric scientists is that about 12% of all man-made climate emissions – nearly as much as the world’s 1.2bn cars and lorries – now comes from deforestation, mostly in tropical areas. Conserving forests is critical; the carbon locked up in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 150m hectares of forests are nearly three times the world’s global annual emissions. 
 Rainforests are home to more than half of the world’s
 animals.

And as the forests come down, the people who live in or around them and depend on them become impoverished. Without the forests, people migrate to cities, or move to richer countries in search of work. The world’s rainforests not only provide food, energy security, incomes and medicinal plants for 300 million people, but are home to the richest wildlife in the world.
So, what to do? The positive news is that all countries formally pledged at theParis climate summit in December 2015 to reduce emissions and keep global temperature rises to well below 2C; and in so doing they recognised that this would not be possible without stopping or at least reducing tropical deforestation.
The 50 or more developing countries who share the world’s tropical forests all recognised their contribution and promised to crack down on illegal forestry, replant trees and restore degraded forest lands.
Some countries were highly ambitious. China, Brazil, Bolivia and Congo DRC together put forward targets that could protect over 50 million hectares of forest over the next 15 years, an area the size of Spain.
Indonesia, the world’s sixth largest carbon emitter, promised to cut its emissions by 29% by ending illegal deforestation and restoring 12m hectares of forested land. Ecuador said that it planned to restore 500,000 hectares of forest land by 2017 and then increase that amount by 100,000 hectares a year. Honduras committed to plant or restore 1m hectares of forest by 2030. 
If countries stick to their pledges and let damaged forests recover, annual global greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by as much as 24 to 30% – an enormous step.
 Logging mill in the Amazon Basin, Peru.

The science and economics needed to stem deforestation are in place, but there is one huge caveat: countries with tropical forests are some of the poorest in the world, desperate to develop and use their natural resources to grow their economies. Their pledges to stop or reduce deforestation are mostly conditional on rich countries financially and technically helping them achieve this – and the onus on reducing emissions is on these rich countries which have historically caused most climate change. 
Rich countries pledged at Paris to raise $100bn a year to help poor countries reduce their emissions. Some of that money should go to tropical forest protection. 
In addition, a new UN-backed mechanism called Redd (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) has been initiated that involves rich countries paying countries to protect forests and the carbon stored within them. Tropical and sub-tropical countries could receive both public and private funding if they succeed in reducing their emissions from deforestation. But this is deeply controversial as global schemes are prone to corruption, difficult to implement and hard to measure.
If there is money to protect forests, will it go to big companies as subsidy, or lead to evictions of people and human rights abuses?
There must be safeguards, but Germany, Norway and the UK have together promised up to $1bn a year for Redd schemes until 2020. The World Bank plans to contribute a similar amount to work with African countries. A further fund is intended to benefit indigenous and other forest communities which have been the traditional protectors of the forest. 
Until Paris, stopping tropical deforestation was at best unlikely and probably impossible. It remains very difficult, but a political and financial mechanism has now been created to incentivise countries, companies and communities to do so at a fraction of the cost of reducing comparable emissions in the US or Europe. Protecting the forests now depends on rich governments not ducking their responsibilities and playing their part. 
John Vidal
The Guardian

Monday, 16 January 2017

DR Congo plots $700m mining sector investment

DR Congo plots $700m mining sector investment

16/01/2017


Gecamines, the state-owned company of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has drawn up ambitious plans to reinvigorate its role in the country’s mining industry. The firm is $1.6bn in debt and its role was greatly diminished during and following the long Congolese civil war. However, chairman Albert Yuma Mulimbi is now banking on Chinese investment to re-establish it as a mine operator in its own right.
Although the DRC has a wide range of mining resources, it is the copper industry that generates most income. It has overtaken Zambia as Africa’s biggest copper producer, although the two countries continue to vie for top spot, and is the fifth biggest producer in the world, with output of 990,000 tonnes in 2015. Private firms such as Glencore and Freeport-McMoRan dominate the industry.
Gecamines produced just 17,000 tonnes in 2015 but expects this to have increased to 24,000 tonnes in 2016, with a forecast of 50,000 tonnes for 2017. Total investment of $717m over five years is intended to boost annual output to 100,000 tonnes by 2020. This is still just a tenth of the parastatal’s output in 1986 but represents at least a partial recovery after years of being sidelined. The increase is being achieved by investing in new machinery at Gecamines’ Kambove mine.
The firm was in talks with China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group over the development of a mining joint venture and it is now confident that the venture can proceed. Gecamines is unhappy with the terms of existing joint ventures, in which it has minority stakes. However, critics, including NGO Global Witness, argue that the firm needs to operate in a more transparent manner if it is to play a full role in the development of the sector.

Political stability at risk

Alongside all other stakeholders in the country, mining firms will be watching political developments in Kinshasa with great interest. President Joseph Kabila’s efforts to stay in power beyond the current constitutional limit of 19 December met with widespread opposition. Clashes between the security forces and protestors left dozens dead and it appeared that the country could slide back into civil war.
The political, economic and security situation in the country remains fragile and the progress has been made on all three counts over the past 15 years could be undone by a political crisis. The terms of the constitution have already been broken, as a presidential election was supposed to have been held by 27 November.
An agreement was struck in December, whereby Kabila would stay in power until the end of 2017 when the election would finally be held. Under the terms of the deal, Kabila is barred from trying to change the constitution to allow him to stand for a third term and extend his presidency, which is already into its 16th year. Yet the deal lacks two important signatures: that of Kabila himself and his main political rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, although their respective negotiators have said that they will abide by it.
Political machinations in Kinshasa are a very long way from the country’s main mining centres, including Katanga, and in any case, central government has limited influence over such distant provinces. Yet a political collapse could trigger renewed local, regional and even international conflicts that would deter mine investment and particularly the construction of the transport infrastructure required to get mining commodities out of the country. The railway from Katanga through Angola to the Port of Lobito is being rebuilt.
A mine executive who has worked in the DRC, but who preferred not to be named, said that security is not just important in relation to keeping the mines operating but in keeping mines within the formal economy. Many armed groups seized territory inside the DRC during the civil war in order to take control of particular mines. Any step in this direction could deter Chinese investment.

Neil Ford

African Business

At least 24 dead in ethnic clashes in South-eastern Congo

At least 24 dead in ethnic clashes in South-eastern Congo 

16/01/2017


At least two dozen people, most of them women, have been killed over the past week in ethnic violence between Bantus and Pygmies in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. human rights official said on Monday.
The Luba, a Bantu ethnic group, and the Twa, a Pygmy people who inhabit Central Africa's Great Lakes region, have been in conflict since May 2013 in Congo's Katanga region, known for its rich deposits of copper and other metals.
Clashes have been fuelled by social tensions between Bantu villagers and the Twa, a hunting and gathering people who have long been denied access to land and basic services. Attacks by militiamen from both groups have left hundreds dead.
José Maria Aranaz, head of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), said that at least 24 people, including 19 women, have been killed in Moba, a town located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, since Jan. 11.
"A particularly worrying pattern we have documented is the way in which women have been targeted, both generally in the violence but also with sexual violence," Aranaz told Reuters.
The UNJHRO has documented at least 158 deaths, 205 injuries and 50 rapes resulting from the ethnic violence since last July.
Nearly 200,000 people were forced to flee clashes during the same period, said Yvon Endoumou, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 
REUTERS