Greenpeace witnesses DRC’s Oshwe Communities Protest Against Logging Company

Press release - September 23, 2010
Kinshasa, September 22, 2010: Greenpeace urges the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to clean up the industrial logging sector and to stop its expansion. This call echoes that of hundreds of community representatives from Oshwe, Bandundu Province who protested recently continued logging by SODEFOR (Société de Développement Frostier). Their demonstration took place outside a three-day community meeting organised by SODEFOR. Held from September 9 to 11, the meeting was intended to initiate a framework for consultation with local communities of Oshwe. Greenpeace was present as an observer.

This was not the first time this subsidiary of Liechtenstein-based Nordsudtimber (NST) has been attacked for its unfair practices and poor contribution to Oshwe’s poverty-ridden communities. Earlier this year, Greenpeace and several other organizations also denounced SODEFOR for instigating conflict among neighbouring communities which culminated in the tragic death last February of Georges Nkaka, a Bokongo group member[i].

Having been the victim of many broken SODEFOR promises in the past, participants were skeptical about the company’s commitment to make amends. The firm said it wants to be judged on its actions, which have failed since the company was founded in 1994.[ii]

Marching from the town to the conference hall, the demonstrators showed how fed up they were by chanting "Toboyi SODEFOR": "We don’t want SODEFOR anymore".

The 2002 Forestry code requires logging companies to sign social responsibility agreements as a precondition for the granting of long-term logging concession contracts. In addition, SODEFOR aims to obtain a “sustainable forest management” label, such as FSC certification, and is already preparing for a pre-audit. Under pressure, SODEFOR and its partners don’t have any choice but to consult with local village communities and Indigenous Peoples. But local communities like Bokongo, deeply distrustful, insist that the prerequisites[iii] they’re demanding be filled before the beginning of any “negotiations”. Other communities have also expressed reservations and will wait to see whether SODEFOR acts in good faith regarding its obligations with the first signatory communities.

Greenpeace calls on the Environment Ministry to issue a decree stipulating a deadline for signature of the “social clause” of social responsibility agreements, after which no logging concession contracts may be signed.

Greenpeace has repeatedly shown that industrial logging is not a solution for development, and leads to disastrous degradation of intact rainforests and biodiversity hotspots. The DRC should not expand industrial logging into High Conservation Value forest areas[iv] but reinforce the existing moratorium on permit allocation. With donor community support, the DRC government should engage in efforts designed to clean up the logging sector and develop an appropriate REDD strategy[v] encouraging alternative development models that provide effective means to alleviate poverty, protect rainforests and biodiversity and mitigate climate change.


For more information:

Augustine Kasambule (Media Officer) : +243998230896

Irène Wabiwa (Campaigner) : +243997853171

René Ngongo (Forest Policy Advisor) : +243998334500

 

[i] Greenpeace, SARW, OSISA, RRN, OCEAN, CERN, CENADEP, ASADHO, CJPSC, CDJP, March 2010 “Advocacy Report on the recurring conflicts between Sodefor and the Bokongo community in Oshwe territory, Bandundu Province”.

[ii] Norsudtimber's Congolese subsidiaries’ logging titles cover a total of over 7 million hectares including many intact forests.

[iii] Local communities claim compensation should be paid to the family of Georges Nkaka and for their rights over the forests exploited by SODEFOR for many years.

[iv] A recent government proposal suggested an expansion of 10 million hectares, in addition to the 12 million hectares already under allocation.

[v] REDD: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

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