Reopening Logging in the DRC Could Cause Environmental and Humanitarian Disaster

New plans by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to open up their forests to logging have sparked outrage and worry across the region. The DRC had imposed a moratorium on logging in most of their forests since 2002, but Environment Minister Robert Bopolo Bogeza says opening up the logging sector could bring new trade and financial benefits for the country.

A number of NGOs and environmental organizations rushed to condemn the move, saying it makes no sense, especially when looking at the goals of the Paris environmental summit – in which the DRC promised to expand forests.

Even worse, the contentious history the DRC has with resource extraction, exploitation and warfare could make for a deadly combination. As Irène Wabiwa Betoko, with Greenpeace Africa explains, “The large-scale logging of DRC’s rainforest was and is a disaster. It not only harms the country’s environment, but also fuels corruption and creates social and economic havoc.”

A Vast History of Exploitation

It is the paradox of our time: The land is mineral rich and yet the people live in poverty. Yet this has long been an issue for the DRC. A century ago Belgium was complicit in some of the largest labor camps in human history – imprisoning millions of slave workers in the Congo to harvest rubber. It’s estimated that 10 million people were murdered or starved to death by King Leopold II’s reign. Meanwhile, Belgium became known for grandiose thoroughfares and buildings – many of which were built on rubber, timber and ivory stolen from the Congo.

The chaos created by these conditions were later exacerbated by failed leaders and military uprisings, particularly former President Mobutu Sese Seko and his successor President Laurent Kabila. Both Kabila and Mobutu often used the country’s natural wealth for their own personal enhancement with only a pittance going back to communities.

During the Congolese wars from 1996 – 2003, minerals became an easy way for warlords and militias to make money through illicit trade. According to a report by Global Witness, “It is no coincidence that some of the gravest and most widespread human rights abuses between 1996 and 2003 occurred in areas rich in natural resources and that the armed conflict was played out in these areas…to seize control of territory rich in natural resources: widespread killings of unarmed civilians, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, and forced displacement. In the mines, forced labour and use of child labour were widespread.”

Concerns Over a Repeat

Today using violence and illicit criminal enterprises in the exploitation of minerals and natural resources is still commonplace. Although the government has tried to institute a number of reforms, these are often undercut on multiple levels. For instance, members of the Congolese Army have been reported to be assisting in the trade of conflict minerals, and when caught, are often let go without remand. Such examples illustrate coordinated corruption from the top of the command structure down. 

The U.S. has also tried to institute reforms with the Dodd-Frank Act, which is meant to control the proliferation of conflict minerals. According to the act companies must give a report of their supply chain and have it independently verified by an auditor. Yet according to a 2015 report by Amnesty and Global Witness, “79 percent of the 100 companies analysed failed to meet the minimum requirements of the US conflict minerals law.”

These constant failures on the part of the Congolese state and the international community brings the reality of reopening logging channels back up into the forefront. There simply aren’t systems in place to ensure that a forest, twice the size of France and full of inhabitants both human and animal, won’t be destroyed, poisoned and used to fund future conflict.

The DRC has astounding natural resources, but it has suffered at the hands of international and local level greed, keeping the nation largely destabilized for over a century. Renewing logging licences to make the government money will only open up more channels for organized crime and international companies to take what they want with impunity. And with absolutely no reason to believe any money from these licenses will make their way past the pockets of bureaucrats, such moves are far more likely to fuel war than local communities.

Photo Credit: Cai Tjeenk Willink

63 comments

Glennis W
Glennis W22 days ago

All logging should be banned Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W22 days ago

No more logging in supreme parks Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W22 days ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W22 days ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

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Danuta W
Danuta W24 days ago

Thanks for the post.

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Peggy B
Peggy B24 days ago

TYFS

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Sue H
Sue H25 days ago

The Greedocracy raising it's ugly head. :(

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Michael F

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Marija M
Marija M26 days ago

Interesting, tks.

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JoAnn P
JoAnn Paris26 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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