Two Global Witness employees have today been expelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo on false accusations that they were inciting a revolt and were in the country without permission.
At a press conference in Kinshasa the DRC Minister of Environment Robert Bopolo Bogeza accused Global Witness of threatening national peace and stability by encouraging communities to rise up against the logging companies that are operating in their forests.
“The accusations levied against us are completely false,” said Alexandra Pardal of Global Witness. “Global Witness has been active in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2007, working with the government and international donors on improving the transparency and governance of the forest sector.”
“This was a routine trip. Global Witness was in DRC to meet with communities living on the edge of logging sites in Equateur Province to find out whether the benefits promised by logging companies had materialised. Logging companies are obliged by law in the DRC to negotiate with local communities the social and economic benefits that they will deliver, which can include the construction of roads, schools or medical clinics.”
“We were in the country legitimately, on authorised visas, and with all of the relevant documents outlining our intended work. The fact that our staff has been expelled from the country on false pretences is a worrying sign that the DRC government is trying to limit the critical role played by civil society in ensuring the country’s forest sector is transparent, lawful and corruption-free.”
The campaigners were detained on Tuesday by immigration authorities in Mbandaka, Equateur Province and had their passports confiscated.
Global Witness is a non-governmental organisation working to prevent environmental and human rights abuses driven by the exploitation of natural resources. We first began work in the DRC in 2007 at the request of the World Bank and in agreement with the DRC government.
We are calling for a commitment from the DRC government to allow international and local civil society to carry on their critical work monitoring the forest sector without fear of intimidation or expulsion. International donors must apply pressure on the DRC government to ensure that this is achieved.
Earlier this year international donors led by Norway signed a US$ 200 million deal with the DRC government to reduce deforestation, called the Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI). This deal foresees a number of improvements to the governance of the DRC’s forest sector.