Monday, 22 May 2017

DR Congo has world’s highest number of people fleeing conflict internally


DR Congo has world’s highest number of people fleeing conflict internally


Over 922,000 people were forced to flee their homes inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2016. This was the highest number of internal displacement due to conflict recorded globally, and was one of the most startling findings of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s global report which was launched in New York today.
“DRC’s largely forgotten crisis in central Africa superseded all other crises in terms of the number of people forced to flee their homes,” said Ulrika Blom, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in DRC. “Even Syria or Yemen’s brutal wars did not match the number of new people on the move in DRC last year.”

“Certain countries drop off the international agenda only to re-emerge a few years later with significant numbers of new displacements,” said Alexandra Bilak, Director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). “This was the case for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which highlights how the failure to address the underlying causes of conflict and crisis results in cyclical patterns of displacement.”

The new IDMC report found that political insecurity in DRC aggravated long-standing ethnic tensions and clashes between armed groups last year, particularly in North and South Kivu provinces in the east of the country.
Of the 3.7 million displaced people overall, over 1 million are newly displaced since the start of 2017 after violence clashes in Kasai province. Over half the rest of the people displaced are in North Kivu (837,000) and South Kivu (387,000).
“DRC is the world’s most forgotten crisis,” said Blom. “Humanitarian needs here are immense. But despite over 7 million people needing aid, the US$813 million international aid appeal is only 20 per cent funded.”

Twenty years of armed conflict and inter-communal violence has pushed millions of people into vulnerability, faced to fight off food insecurity, malnutrition and epidemic outbreaks.
Communities in North Kivu province, for example, have been left with acute needs. Raids and communal clashes between armed groups in Walikale and Lubero territories forced nearly 373,000 people to flee their homes, making up 42 per cent of the province’s displaced population at the end of 2016.
NRC is concerned by the UN mission in DRC, MONUSCO, reducing its presence in some territories. As such, it is crucial now more than ever that humanitarian agencies are able to step up efforts to ensure that displaced families are fully protected. “Unless we properly define who and how we can protect civilians after the UN mission scales down, DRC’s people will be plunged deeper into crisis,” warned Blom.

·         2.2 million people are internally displaced, and over 550,000 people have fled the country as refugees.

·         7.3 million of DRC’s 92 million people are estimated to need humanitarian aid.

·         1 in 10 people in eastern DRC was displaced in the past decade.

·         Life expectancy is only 58 years.

·         On average 1 in 10 children die before their 5th birthday.

·         DRC ranks 176 of 188 on the world’s human development index.

·         DRC is among the last 10 per cent of the least developed countries in the world, according to United Nations Development Programme.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Glencore: 'Electric vehicle revolution is happening faster than expected'

Glencore: 'Electric vehicle revolution is happening faster than expected'



Around half of global copper demand is from the electronics industry and roughly one quarter finds application in building and construction. The remainder find its way into industrial machinery, consumer products and – important in terms of growth potential – the vehicle market, specifically electric vehicles.
Vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines typically contain about 20 kilograms of copper. For electric vehicles the copper load is up to 80 kilograms (and increased quantities of cobalt, nickel, manganese).
Bloomberg reports Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore, the world's third largest producer of copper, told investors at an industry meeting in Barcelona “the electric vehicle revolution is happening and its impact is likely to be felt faster than expected.”
Almost all carmakers are increasing investment in electric vehicles as governments adopt tighter emissions targets, he added.
In a recent report consultants McKinsey forecast that barring large-scale substitution by aluminum and other materials or a significant increase in recycling, primary copper demand could potentially grow to 31 million tonnes by 2035 as per capita usage rates in emerging markets, particularly in China, approach levels in developed economies. The prediction represent more than 40% growth from today's annual demand levels of around 22 million tonnes.

The Urgency of Now: The fate of the lungs of Africa hangs in a balance

The Urgency of Now: The fate of the lungs of Africa hangs in a balance


As the plane from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) makes her descent towards the airport in Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur province, I was impressed by a beautiful canopy of greenery that paints the landscape below my window; I was looking at the Congo Basin Forest. A casual observer sees a forest, nice and robust, full of life. But I know it is a fragile forest that could lose one of its best protection measures soon if we do not fight for it. 

After the war in the DRC in 2002, under pressure from the World Bank, the Congolese government suspended the awarding of new industrial logging concessions. One of the primary objectives of this Moratorium (a temporary stop until certain conditions are fulfilled) placed 15 years ago, was to embark on a path whereby the forest sector would become a sustainable industry, generating billions of dollars in revenues and tens of thousands of jobs. 
Due to inaction to embark on participatory zoning on potential concession areas; failure to establish a three-year rolling plan indicating the exact number, areas and locations where concessions would be gradually awarded; and failure to build institutional capacity to regulate, monitor and control commercial forestry, the moratorium has remained in place for all these 15 years, and continuously helped to preserve Congolese forest and  prohibits the expansion of logging concessions.
That the moratorium is under threat is an alarming but painful truth. During the last fifteen years, there have been numerous breaches to the moratorium by Congolese government officials who are tied to the moratorium because preconditions for lifting it have not yet been fulfilled, but would rather get rid of it. This would put at risk the habitat of threatened species and the chance for forest communities to manage their livelihood.

In July 2016, Greenpeace exposed the awarding of illegal concessions by then Environment Minister Bienvenu Liyota and in February 2017 exposed again the award of two illegal concessions in September 2016 by then Environment Minister Robert Bopolo. Bopolo subsequently admitted he had signed three concession contracts, and alluded to the existence of even more illegal awards. 
While Minister Athys Kabongo Kalonji announced he would cancel all the illegal concessions awarded by his predecessor, the cancellation orders have not been published till today. Also, it still remains unclear what other people were involved in the concealing of the illegal allocations, no investigation has been initiated,  hence no sanctions have been taken against those involved. How can it be possible that those involved in these illegalities are not held accountable, but some of them are even promoted?

Donors of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), an initiative that aims to protect the Congo forest to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, requested the immediate cancellation of these illegal awards, but more than three (3) months after the exposure, the DRC government still hides in vagueness.
These same donors also seem to believe that industrial logging could actually be part of the solution. An expansion of the logging sector and the lifting of the moratorium is considered by them as credible option to reach the initiative’s objectives. Greenpeace, as well as a significant part of the global scientific community, considers this option as fundamentally incompatible with the goals of reducing forest degradation and deforestation.  

I was heading from Mbandaka to Imbonga village to meet local partners. The village’s only route is a twelve hours journey on a fast boat on the Congo River. Although illegal under Congolese law, large quantities of logs abandoned by bankrupt logging industries can be seen in some villages on the way to Imbonga.
Working for a campaign organisation that bears witness to environmental destruction, I realised the delicate nature and what’s at stake to protect the Congo Basin forest.
Villages are in conflict with industrial logging Corporation because of little or no dialogue between both parties and there is minimal trickle down gains from forest exploitation revenue. Community Forestry offers the opportunity for local and indigenous people to control and manage the forest in a sustainable way, but once the moratorium is lifted, new industrial concessions will very likely be in direct competition with these community projects. 

The Congo Basin forest boasts impressive Intact Forest Landscapes (IFL);  forest ecosystems which show no remotely detected signs of human activity and can maintain all native biological diversity. The forest is rich in plants and animals unique to the region like okapis and lowland elephants. This forest also boasts the world’s largest tropical peatland. The lifting of the moratorium can put at severe risk the existence of animal species critically endangered, like the bonobo as well as the peatland, which is only useful in the fight against climate change when left intact.
As our plane flies out of Kinshasa’s night sky, the darkness out of my window makes me realise the limited reach of electricity supply in DRC. With basic infrastructure and limited social amenities, I asked myself what rewards have industrial logging brought to the people? Why would one want to lift the moratorium without adequate safeguard to manage forest resources and who are the real beneficiaries of forest exploitation?
By Nchemty Metimi Ozongashu

Greenpeace Africa 

Stand up for forests, sign the petition here!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Time for High-level EU and US Targeted Sanctions on DR Congo

Time for High-level EU and US Targeted Sanctions on DR Congo


In 2016, the United States and the European Union announced targeted sanctions against a total of nine Congolese individuals deemed most responsible for violent repression of protests against President Kabila’s moves to cling to power beyond his constitutional term limits. On the last day of 2016, following several stages of U.S. and E.U. sanctions combined with extensive mediation by the Catholic Church, the political opposition and government reached agreement on a roadmap for the country’s governance leading up to elections to be held before the end of 2017. However, the government’s appointment of a new prime minister on 7 April without the opposition’s consent is widely regarded as a violation of the agreement, including by the Catholic Church, and casts serious doubt over Kabila’s commitment to live up to his promise to step down.
The time is ripe for additional sanctions in order to maintain pressure on the Kabila government. Rather than looking at those directly responsible for violent repression, this post focuses on how US and EU sanctions can be expanded to target the core of Kabila’s kleptocratic regime, which seems to be committed to preserving itself at all cost.
In order to pursue the designations made in 2016, both the US and EU added new sanctions criteria to relevant operational authorities. In 2014, Executive Order 13671 was issued in the US to update the sanctions authorities on the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the addition of “actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC” to the sanctions criteria. An  EU Council decision of 12 December 2016 added “obstructing a consensual and peaceful solution towards elections in the DRC” to the EU sanctions criteria. These criteria came in addition to those already in place to implement UN Security Council resolutions that mostly deal with human rights violations and support to armed groups.
Five out of nine of the 2016 designations were based on the additional sanctions criteria, whether solely or in combination with criteria related to planning, directing or committing human rights violations. Whereas UN sanctions have in the past mainly targeted armed groups, their leaders and the associated businesses operating in the east of the country, U.S./EU sanctions now hit senior state officials in Kinshasa. The table below lists the nine individuals designated by the US and the EU in 2016.

While these sanctions start to focus on close allies of President Kabila, they haven’t affected those who profit most from the violence and corruption in Congo and who obstruct or help obstruct the democratic process: the Kabila family, key presidential advisors, heads of state owned enterprises, and some of Kabila’s other business accomplices.
The Enough Project earlier reported that during Kabila’s tenure, up to $4 billion per year has gone missing or been stolen due to the manipulation of mining contracts, budgets, and state assets. A share of this money is likely to have gone to at least 70 businesses that Bloomberg recently linked to the Kabila family, which are reported to have to generated hundreds of millions of dollars for the family.
In a passport scam recently reported by Reuters, a company owned by one of Kabila sisters is set to make an estimated $120 million from a deal that will require Congolese citizens pay $185 for a new passport. Kabila’s advisor Emmanuel Andrupiako, who helped broker the deal, reportedly received $700,000 from companies associated with the passport producer.
To facilitate dubious transfers the Kabila family often seeks to control commercial banks. President Kabila’s sister Gloria Mteyu has a 40% stake in the Congolese branch of BGFI Bank, where his brother, Selemani Mtwale, is CEO, as reported by Bloomberg. According to a whistleblower quoted in the Belgian newspaper le Soir, BGFI has been involved in a number of suspicious multimillion-dollar transactions favoring the president’s close ally Albert Yuma, who is also president of the state-owned mining company Gecamines.
Foreign business accomplices play an equally important role. For example, in a recent U.S. Department of Justice plea agreement, the U.S. hedge fund Och-Ziff pleaded guilty to having paid, through an associated businessman, tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Congolese officials in order to receive mineral concessions at very low prices.
The existing U.S. sanctions criteria may offer greater scope to target individuals involved in embezzlement and corruption than those of the EU because corruption and mismanagement clearly “undermine democratic institutions.” Beyond the sanctions provided for in EO 13671, theGlobal Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act became law at the end of 2016. This law is not tied to one country but authorizes targeted sanctions against any foreign official and/or their accomplices involved in significant acts of public corruption, including “the expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, bribery, or the facilitation or transfer of the proceeds of corruption to foreign jurisdictions.” To the extent DRC sanctions do not directly provide the authority to target corruption, the Global Magnitsky Act does. The process for implementing the law is currently being developed by the U.S. government, and sanctions are expected to be issued during 2017.
Concerning targeting corruption within the EU sanctions framework, the current EU criterion most likely to be used is the impact of a targeted official on elections (the EU does not yet have an analogue to Global Magnitsky). One could argue that money embezzled from state coffers draws away finances needed to organize elections and, by depleting state coffers, threatens other basic rights. But it is not clear how far this criterion could extend or the evidence that would be needed to make these linkages. Thus, it would appear to be a safer legal course for the EU to follow its previous process and add a new, targeted criterion to its legislative texts and expand its targeted sanctions list accordingly.
As long as Kinshasa’s kleptocratic leaders and their entourages enjoy unrestricted travel and are able to wire money through the EU and US and hold assets here, they won’t feel the pressure to cease violent repression and self-enrichment and adhere to the constitution. Targeted sanctions on these individuals, their corporate holdings and networks, as well as their facilitators, would send an important political signal and offer a swift and effective way to alter their calculations and push them toward holding elections. Such change still being elusive, it is now time for the EU and US to push ahead with more significant designations.

Enough Project

Friday, 5 May 2017

Did Murdered U.N. Expert Unknowingly Tell Her Killers How to Find Her?

Did Murdered U.N. Expert Unknowingly Tell Her Killers How to Find Her?


By informing FARDC Brigadier General 
Emmanuel Lombe of their itinerary, 
which would be standard practice,
 did Zaida Catalan sign her death 
warrant and that of her colleague
 Michael Sharp in the Democratic 
Republic of Congo?

“The U.N. Security Council urged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday to cooperate in the investigation into the killing of two UN experts and the mass graves found in the Kasai region.”
The Voice of America/Africa presser then segues to a statement written by France (the penholder for DRC) that calls on Kinshasa and opposition parties to reach an agreement allowing a presidential election to move forward before the end of 2017.
Tying the investigation of the murders of Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp to politics in the same document is telling. One must revisit the narrative that began in August 2016 in Kasai Province when Mwami (Chief) Kamwina Nsapu was killed to understand why.
According to Radio Okapi, the Coordinator of the Congolese Human Rights Observatory (OCDH) in Central Kasai, Hubert Ngulandjoko, condemned the killing of “militia leader” Kamwina Nsapu. Overnight, the Mwami who was organizing against the regime of President Joseph Kabila and fighting for social justice became a militia leader and terrorist in press reports. His body was desecrated in opposition to traditional beliefs.
The two murdered experts, commissioned by the UN secretary-general to document the violence in central Kasai province, were investigating the killing of the Mwami and the discovery of more than 40 mass graves in the region. Since August more than 400 villagers have died in what is now known as the uprising of Kamwina Nsapu.
Who is doing the killing?

The deaths of Sharp and Catalan mirror those of the 400 they were investigating.
“There are multiple, credible allegations of massive human rights violations in Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental and Lomami provinces, amid a sharp deterioration in security situation there, including people being targeted by soldiers (FARDC) for their alleged affiliation with a local militia,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in February and before the deaths of Sharp and Catalan.
YouTube video posted on February 17, 2017, shows men in Congolese army uniforms fatally shooting a group of villagers. A close look at the grainy footage shows that the victims are carrying slingshots, machetes and spears as they are mowed down by machine gun fire.
After a series of denials by DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende, and pressure by Human Rights Watch and other groups, the soldiers responsible for the atrocities against the villagers were arrested and charged.
“At a press conference, military justice announced several arrests in the video case of the execution of alleged militiamen Kamuina Nsapu. There were uniformed men firing on civilians, most of them disarmed. The Congolese government had described these images, shot in a single plane and broadcast on social networks, as “rough editing.” Military justice says something else.”
Ida Sawyer, Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch offered a different take on the arrests. “But Congolese judicial officials have shown little ability or willingness to independently investigate the military chain of command to examine the role of high-ranking commanders in unlawful killings and other crimes,” she said.
The orders came from high up the chain of command, and by his denials and blame directed at a “roughly edited” videotape, DRC spokesman Lambert Mende was introducing the possibility of culpability.
While all of this was going on, the U.N. investigators were kidnapped on March 12 and their bodies found 16 days later in a shallow grave. At least that is the narrative you will find in most international press reports. Other reports suggest that their bodies were found within a day of the executions, but this was hidden from the public and United Nations officials. Was this an attempt to buy time?
CGTN Africa, among others, is questioning the veracity of a video being circulated by the Congolese government.
“On 13 March, JMAC (the intelligence service of MONUSCO), informally circulated the news of the killings to the chancelleries and high authorities of the international community in the DRC.” See this report.
I am queasy discussing the execution of these young people, yet another of millions of atrocities that have not been brought to light in Congo. My fear is that writing about this assault and veering from the spoon fed narrative could be an unintended exploitation of the families. But, experience suggests that the truth is not what the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo wants us to believe. Unfortunately, the official United States narrative seems to be following suit, as evidenced in the VOA presser.
Mounting evidence and reports from the ground suggest that DRC government troops (FARDC) killed the U.N. experts in the most heinous ways possible. Coincidentally or by design, their executions were also videotaped and Mende has used the video, which shows men with red headbands (a symbol of the followers of Mwami Kamwina Nsapu) committing the executions.
Mende conveniently produced a professionally edited video (he will not say where he got it). Is this really “proof” that FARDC was not involved?
Someone needs to explain how rebel forces could execute two innocents, film it, and then how Mende could obtain it and subsequently have it narrated by Congolese police. Mende learned his lesson when a video surfaced in February and implicated government forces. Would a self-produced video help to exonerate him this time?
Couple that with the fact that MONUSCO (UN in Congo) has cozied up to FARDC and is working hand in glove with them. As Radio Okapi reports, “During discussions with the authorities of Upper Katanga, MONUSCO Force Commander Mgwebi Mbuyi Leso stressed the need for collaboration between the UN mission and the Congolese army (FARDC).”
Also, MONUSCO and General Emmanuel Lombe Bangwanga allegedly knew the secret route the victims were taking to investigate the mass graves.
Consider this: “On March 11, UN expert Zaida Catalan was received at the headquarters of the 21st Military Region in Kananga (Kasai, DRC) by the commander of the latter, General Emmanuel Lombe Bangwanga. Together, they would have agreed on the route to the villages where the Swedish young woman with her teammate, the American Michael Sharp, accompanied by a Congolese guide and three moped drivers, should have traveled to investigate Mass graves full of opponents belonging to the Kamuina Nsapu movement. Following the indications of this senior officer, that the following day, the convoy took a runway located in a zone under the control of the regular army (FARDC).”
The independent investigative unit L’AgenceD’Information asks the question no one has answered.
“By entrusting General (Emmanuel) Lombe, on the eve of her departure, the itinerary she was about to take, did Zaida Catalan sign her death warrant, that of her colleague Michael Sharp and their Congolese interpreter Betu Tshintela? Confirmed by numerous indices, the hypothesis is more than likely.”
You can find the rest of this report here.
This information contradicts the statements of Lambert Mende who, after the disappearance of the experts, said he regretted that they did not inform the authorities of their itinerary.
Voice of America Africa should be demanding, not “urging,” a thorough accounting from dictator Joseph Kabila. But expecting human rights from Kabila is a non sequitur.
Zaida Catalan was beheaded after other even more unspeakable atrocities. This is not what you want to read in the morning, but this is reality every single morning for villagers in Kasai and elsewhere. Adding to the mounting obfuscations propagated by DRC spokesman Mende, I will add that having worked under a U.N. press badge in DRC, you must inform them of your routing. It did not work out well for me either. My “bodyguard” turned out to be a mercenary who turned me over to the secret police. I was lucky and got out of the mess. Oh, and my “bodyguard” was working under a U.N. badge also.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley summed it up. “In other words, the U.N. is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this.”
It was too late for Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp who were trying to help the people of Congo. You can read more about Michael Sharp, an extraordinary young American, here.
Zaida Catalan’s last re-tweet on March 3 read: “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. –Buddha”
By Georgianne Nienaber
The Huffington Post

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Cobalt’s Congo conundrum

Cobalt’s Congo conundrum


The battery market’s DRC dependency can only grow, says Benchmark

“If there’s any nation that contributes over 50% of supply for a mineral, alarm bells start to go off.” That’s especially true when the country is as troubled as the Democratic Republic of Congo,Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Caspar Rawles told a Vancouver conference on April 21. Social and political instability combined with child labour concerns intensify what he calls the “cobalt conundrum,” in which battery manufacturers have no choice but to increase their reliance on DRC resources. That’s his forecast, even as he acknowledges demand for new sources from elsewhere.
The DRC easily dominates global cobalt, with 64% of mined supply according to the most recent Benchmark figures. No more reassuring, China dominates refined supply with 57%. Without significant cobalt reserves of its own, the country holds a prominent position in DRC mining, where the energy ingredient results as a byproduct of copper extraction.
That position expanded this year with the Freeport-McMoRan NYSE:FCX/Lundin Mining TSX:LUN sale of their DRC Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine to China Molybdenum and a Chinese private equity firm. An anticipated and equally geopolitically feckless follow-up would be the American/Canadian JV’s sale of its Finnish cobalt refinery to the same people. By processing Fungurume ore, the facility provides about 10% of the world’s refined supply, Rawles says.
For all the disturbing news coming out of the Congo, “there will be no lithium-ion battery industry without DRC cobalt,” Rawles maintains. “We expect cobalt supply from the DRC to become more dominant in the market, and that’s because of where the large projects are, plus-10,000 tonnes a year.”
Yet by no means is Congo cobalt necessarily conflict cobalt, even when artisanal supply is considered. Some artisanal operations are perfectly legal, he says, while media-reported numbers can be “inflated.”
Tackling the issue presents difficulties, Rawles says. Companies often mine a small part of huge concessions, with no power to prevent the desperately poor from working other parts of the claims. The only people with any such power in the DRC “are the mining police and they just confiscate the material, they don’t take away the problem. It’s a longstanding problem and it’s going to take time to resolve.”
Not surprisingly, “substitution is definitely something that cathode companies are working on,” he points out. Not all cathodes require cobalt, unlike lithium. Even so, he sees about 81% of the market continuing to use cobalt cathodes.
As the Li-ion battery market grows from 70 GWh last year to Benchmark’s estimated 170 GWh in 2020, “cobalt demand will be high but won’t surpass supply.” Beyond 2020, Rawles predicts a deficit growing to 2023, then ending around 2024 or 2025.
“The only thing that can accelerate a reduction in cobalt is supply disruption,” he adds. Critics of DRC President Joseph Kabila attribute the country’s delayed elections to his determination to retain power after 16 years in office. Protests have resulted in scores of fatalities, raising fears of even wider civil unrest.
Another possible impact on supply/demand forecasts could come “if EVs take off even more quickly than we expect.”
The DRC hosts the world’s two big near-term copper-cobalt operations, Glencore’s majority-held Katanga mine and Eurasian Resources Group’s Metalkol Roan Tailings Reclamation project. Rawles expects Katanga to resume production early next year after its 2015 suspension. While the project’s technical report sets annual cobalt capacity at 30,000 tonnes, he expects the early years will probably realize half of that.
RTR’s slated for 2019 startup, Rawles says. ERG targets an initial 14,000 tonnes of cobalt annually, increasing to 20,000 tonnes over the next three to five years.
So despite “a number of other, smaller projects in the pipeline,” DRC dominance will prevail. Still, Rawles does see opportunity for other sources of cobalt. But new suppliers will have to follow a “value-added strategy,” he argues. They must produce a cobalt chemical that meets a manufacturer’s precise requirements. And the suppliers need to do that without refining their product in China, where it might be blended with conflict supply.
“That’s how they can brand themselves,” he says. “There’s going to be demand for that. Certainly the large supply is going to come from the DRC and if you’re really serious about EVs, that’s where the cobalt’s going to come from. It’s not going to happen without that.”
But, he emphasizes, “there will be demand from certain companies that don’t want to touch DRC cobalt.”
By Greg Klein
Resource Clips

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

World Wildlife Fund under fire for destruction of native lands in Congo Basin

World Wildlife Fund under fire for destruction of native lands in Congo Basin


A young Pygmy father and child in Nyunzu, Katanga,
 DR Congo.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has won an undesirable award for “greenwashing” after partnering with companies that destroy forests in the Congo without the consent of the tribes that live there.
Survival International’s “Greenwashing of the Year” award is given to companies or organizations that dress up the destruction of tribal peoples’ forests under the guise of conservation.
“WWF’s supporters might be surprised to learn that it’s working so closely with the loggers who are destroying one of Earth’s great rainforests. Congo Basin tribes, the original guardians, are being pushed aside and their societies wrecked,” Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said in a statement.
“Perhaps this ‘award’ might encourage people inside WWF … to put pressure on their organizations for reform,” he said. “It’s time to listen to tribal conservationists.”
The WWF is a Geneva-based nongovernmental organization that partners with seven companies that are logging nearly 4 million hectares of forests belonging to the Baka and Bayaka “Pygmies” in central Africa. According to Survival International, these forest peoples have lived by hunting and gathering in central Africa’s rainforests for millennia.
In the past few decades, however, their lands have been devastated by logging, war and encroachment from farmers. Many communities have been displaced by conservation projects, facing extreme levels of poverty and ill-health in ‘squatter’ settlements on the fringes of forest land that was once theirs.
While WWF officials said its partnerships are intended to “advance sustainable forest management,” all of the foundation’s partners have been accused of illegal logging, and Survival International officials said that none has received consent from the Baka and Bayaka “Pygmies.”
The partnerships also violate WWF’s own policy on indigenous peoples, Survival International points out, which requires all projects to be undertaken with the full consent of tribal communities.
In an interview with the Guardian in 2013, WWF International’s President Yolanda Kakabadsesaid that the organization’s conservation philosophy has changed considerably since its foundation in the early 1960s, and that it is now “much more selective” in how it picks partners.
Still, it is consistently criticized for “selling its soul” to powerful companies like Coca-Cola, Shell and Monsanto that use the WWF brand to mask destructing logging operations, according to the Guardian report. WWF has the highest possible score on the Greenwashing Index, a consumer watchdog site run by EnviroMedia Social Marketing and the University of Oregon.
Kakabadse told the Guardian that consumer interests pose an “enormous threat to sustainability,” but argued that engagement with the corporate sector is necessary if the organization is to move forward. “Greenwashing” is a global problem, she added – not something that WWF can address on its own.
“We can say things can be different but what is the solution?” Kakabadse said. “If someone has the solution then come and give it!”

Congo Hires Israeli Firm to Lobby Trump Administration

Congo Hires Israeli Firm to Lobby Trump Administration


Congolese President Joseph Kabila speaks in Kinshasa
 on July 28, 2006

  • MER Systems hiring U.S.-based lobbyists to advise Congo
  • Lobbyists include member of Trump’s election-campaign team

The Democratic Republic of Congo hired an Israeli security firm to lobby the U.S. government after criticism of President Joseph Kabila’s failure to hold elections and hand over power.
Congo agreed to pay MER Security and Communication Systems Ltd. $5.58 million between Dec. 8, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017 for policy advice and support in lobbying senior government officials and members of Congress, according to documents published on the U.S. Department of Justice’ website April 28. MER, based in Tel Aviv and whose main business activities are the manufacture, supply and installation of telecommunications and electricity systems, said in the filings it will employ subcontractors to work with the Congolese government.
MER will hire U.S.-based lobbyists, while advising the Congolese government on U.S. concerns relating to African security issues and on the appointment, travel and engagements of a Congolese special envoy to the U.S., according to the filings signed by Omer Laviv, the company’s chief executive officer. Laviv didn’t respond to a message left on his voicemail when Bloomberg sought comment.
Relations between the U.S. and Congo have deteriorated in the past two years amid election delays and security crackdowns on opposition protests in the central African country. Kabila was required by the constitution to step down after elections last year, but the votes were delayed and Kabila held on to power under a contentious December political pact between the ruling party and some members of the opposition.

Targeted Sanctions

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration imposed targeted sanctions on four Congolese security officials and one government minister last year for their involvement in the repression of political demonstrations. So far, President Donald Trump’s government hasn’t followed suit, although Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has criticized Kabila’s administration, describing Congo to the Council on Foreign Relations in March as a “corrupt” government that “preys on its citizens.”
MER already received $4.5 million of the payment from Congo between December and April to hire U.S. subcontractors, including Adnan Jalil, to lobby on behalf of the government, according to the filings. Jalil was a Congressional liaison for Trump’s election campaign, Politico reported in February. Two calls to Jalil’s company, Aselus Strategies LLC, in Washington weren’t answered when Bloomberg sought comment.
By Thomas Wilson