Kinshasa, 1 March 2017; Greenpeace Africa is shocked by the deportation of a French filmmaker and the cancellation of the visa of a Greenpeace employee by the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo following a filming trip in the Equateur Province.The team undertook the trip to document the life of communities in the Imbonga area who live close to the logging concession of Etablissements MOTEMA. The company belongs to Admiral Baudoin Liwanga Mata and subcontracts operations to COTREFOR. The legal grounds for the brief arrest and subsequent deportation of the filmmaker and Greenpeace employee following the filming trip remains unclear.

“They were in the country legally, with all the relevant authorisations and documents, including an official accreditation from the Communication and Media Ministry. Their deportation is yet another worrying sign [1] of how some DRC officials are trying to limit the role of media and civil society in the country, and to protect corporate interests,” said Irene Wabiwa Betoko, Senior Forest Campaign Manager at Greenpeace Africa.

On Friday 17th February, the filmmaker and the team accompanying him were ordered by local authorities to leave the area and go to Mbandaka. On arrival in Mbandaka, the filmmaker’s video equipment and passport as well as the passport of the foreign Greenpeace employee were confiscated. Nobody was detained, but the filmmaker was interrogated by immigration authorities, after which the team was then sent back to Kinshasa.

In February this year, [2] the illegal award of two forest concessions by former Environment Minister Robert Bopolo Mbongenza in violation of the 2002 moratorium on new logging titles. This led to firm critique of the DRC government by international donors as it confirmed the ongoing chaos in the logging sector in the country.

On 8 February the current Minister of Environment, Athys Kabongo Kalonji confirmed to Voice of America [3] that the titles Bopolo awarded were illegal and had been cancelled. He went on to specify that no cancellation order had yet been signed. But he said nothing about sanctioning those involved in their award.

“The fact that our employee and a filmmaker documenting local communities’ activities in forest concessions are expelled just weeks after this exposé is very concerning, and appears to be an act driven by corporate interests and high level political actors to limit the critical role of Greenpeace”, added Wabiwa.

The DRC government was requested to cancel the illegal concessions by a board of international donors led by Norway, who signed a $200 million deal with the DRC government to reduce deforestation, called the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). CAFI however failed to explicitly request to the DRC government to ensure accountability of all officials associated with the violations. CAFI also failed to complain about earlier expulsions and asked no guarantees from the DRC government that civil society is allowed to operate freely.

“If the government wants to credibly show it is committed to improve governance in the DRC’s forest sector, then it should set the basic conditions and guarantees for civil society to operate and monitor the forest sector without threat of arrests and deportation. We request the Congolese government to ensure free participation of NGOs in the monitoring of forest management and thus send a strong signal to the donors of their efforts towards transparency, one of the key elements for a fruitful cooperation”, concluded Wabiwa.

Notes to the editor

[1] In July 2016 two Global Witness employees have been expelled from the DRC on false accusations,and in January 2017, Ida Sawyer, a Human Rights Watch researcher was obliged to leave the country a second time in six months.

[2] “DRC donors release $40 million after 4,000 km² of forest illegally awarded to Kabila advisor and MP”, Greenpeace Africa, February 1 2017.

[3] “DRC cancels illegal logging licences”, Voice of America, February 10 2017.

Media contacts

[email protected] – Senior Communications Manager Greenpeace Africa; +27 71 688 1272

[email protected] – International Communications Coordinator Greenpeace Africa; +27 79930474