Last 1 March, Minister Amy Ambatobe wrote to Prime Minister Tshibala apprising him of his plan to tender all the titles that had passed a World Bank-sponsored legal review concluded in 2009 but that were subsequently surrendered to the State. Adjudication of the 3,100,000 ha would begin in the coming days. Later in the month, he proceeded to issue at least two 2018 cutting permits to the Chinese operators who saw their illegal titles reinstated in February.
It’s not clear whether the Prime Minister has responded to the Minister’s correspondence. The signatories to this statement said, “We are urging Minister Ambatobe and Prime Minister Tshibala to cancel plans to auction these fourteen new logging titles. Proceeding with this plan will spell disaster for the world’s second largest rainforest and deepen the chaos of a logging sector which only benefits a few industrial loggers and Kinshasa elites at the expense of local and indigenous communities.”
The signatories will soon file a formal appeal before the Supreme Court to reverse the February reinstatement of the titles illegally awarded to Société la Millénaire Forestière (SOMIFOR) and Forestière pour le Développement du Congo (FODECO). Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC) MP Juvénal Munubo said he has raised a question in Parliament to Minister Ambatobe concerning the reinstatement of 650,000 ha of forestry concessions to two Chinese firms.
Mr. Tshibala’s role appears less decisive to the fate of the over three million hectares to be put up for bidding than that of Néhémie Mwilanya, the cabinet director of President Kabila. Following the 20 February publication of Greenpeace Africa’s press release “DRC government reinstates illegal logging concessions in breach of its own moratorium,” Mr. Mwilanya contacted Greenpeace Africa seeking confirmation that the 2002 moratorium had in fact been violated. Greenpeace assured him this was the case and that we expected the government to ensure all breaches of the moratorium are sanctioned.
Minister Ambatobe’s plan is yet another snub to the donor community. In a letter addressed last 14 March to DRC’s National REDD+ Fund, eleven donors decried the Ministry’s disengagement from donor support, condemning the reallocation of the 650,000 ha and the hasty, pre-election revision of DRC’s Forest Code, and threatened the suspension of “several” streams of funding. The signatories appear to have been unaware of Mr. Ambatobe’s 1 March letter to the Prime Minister.In an astonishing tirade to donors two weeks ago in Brazzaville, Mr. Ambatobe vowed that Norway’s Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), which suspended funding in February, wouldn’t succeed in “recolonising” DRC.
“The leniency of CAFI clearly emboldened the regime,” state the signatories organisations of this statement. “Last October, CAFI transferred $41 million to the National REDD+ Fund, almost half of which was for programs not yet approved. And CAFI has acknowledged that its suspension of funding won’t block expenditure of funds already disbursed.” Despite the lack of commitment from the Congolese government to address corruption and impunity in the sector, CAFI is currently considering the approval of a project proposal from the French Development Agency that would support an expansion of industrial logging and facilitate the lifting of the moratorium that protects Congo’s forests.
[email protected]; Senior Campaign Manager, Greenpeace Africa; +243976756102
[email protected]; Chargé des Programmes, Groupe Climat REDD Renové; +243998085861
[email protected] (RCN); +243815190535
[email protected] (RRN); +243854802383
*Documents proving that Minister Ambatobe wants to allocate these 14 logging concessions as well as cutting permits are available upon request