Joseph Melloh has spent the last three months in a Congolese jail, not for his former career as a professional poacher, but for campaigning against the bushmeat trade and investigating the operations of one logging company in the Congo.
Joseph Melloh uncovering the bushmeat trade in Central Africa
Joseph Melloh used to be a professional poacher. But several
years ago he not only turned his back on poaching, Joseph became an
ardent campaigner against the bushmeat trade. He has become a
leader in uncovering the illegal bushmeat trade in Central Africa
guiding journalists from around the world to the story of the
ongoing slaughter of wildlife.
Three months ago Joseph set out from his home in Cameroon for
the rainforests in Congo and the forestry concession of a
Swiss-German logging company Congolaise Industrielle du Bois (CIB).
His investigation of the CIB concessions were aimed at forest law
enforcement in the Congo, but it was the law that turned on
Joseph has been in a Congolese prison since May for an unfounded
charge of 'jeopardising the external security of Congo'. Joseph was
picked up by the police for conducting interviews with residents of
Pokola and for filming the CIB forestry operations.
Joseph was released today after a judge in Brazzaville reduced
the charge and sentenced Joseph to 45 days in jail, which he has
Joseph's release is a victory for conservationists working in
Africa to protect the last areas of rainforest and animals that
live in the forest, but his case clearly highlights the current
problems that exist globally around monitoring the activities of
logging companies in the field.
Corporate forest crime costs forest nations several million US
dollars each year, yet most of these nations have no formal
framework or the institutional capacity for independent monitoring
of the companies operating in their forests.
In just two weeks governments from around the world will meet in
Africa for the Earth Summit on sustainable development. Yet the
growth of the logging sector in Central Africa is a model of
unsustainability. Africa has lost two thirds of its ancient forests
in the last thirty years. It is a primarily foreign owned
industrial timber industry that is responsible for destroying huge
areas of ancient forest. These foreign-owned companies are rarely
held accountable for their actions in Africa or at home where they
import the illegal timber.
Governments will have the opportunity to commit to the
development of a global framework on corporate responsibility,
which should include transparency, independent verification and
corporate liability at the Earth Summit.
Joseph was jailed for doing what all logging concessions should
be required to permit. As in neighbouring Cameroon, we are now
calling on the government of Congo to commit to formal independent
monitoring of logging company activities. Without this kind of
commitment, then current political processes to protect forests,
like the World Bank's programme on Forest Law Enforcement and
Governance, will mean very little.