Dem. Rep. of Congo: The charcoal cartel run by the FDLR rebels is destroying Virunga national park says Enough Project

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Author: Holly Dranginis, Enough Project (Etats-Unis d'Amérique)

Un cartel illégal du charbon de bois participe au financement d’une des plus importantes milices d’Afrique centrale et détruit une partie du plus ancien parc national du continent africain. Entretenant des alliances avec l’armée et des unités de police et organisant des réseaux de trafic dans les sanctuaires des forêts protégées de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC), les Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) représentent le pivot des réseaux de criminalité organisée dans la région des Grands Lacs et continuent à menacer la sécurité des populations. Depuis des années, ce groupe finance ses activités en exploitant des ressources naturelles précieuses, dont des minéraux, mais aussi l’ivoire, le poisson et la marijuana. Mais l’une des activités les plus rémunératrices des FDLR est le commerce illicite du charbon de bois dans le Parc national des Virunga, trésor de laRDC...Établi dans les profondeurs de la zone sud-ouest des Virunga, le commerce illégal du charbon de bois est lucratif. D’après certaines estimations, il rapporterait chaque année jusqu’à 35 millions de dollars...[le] trafic de charbon de bois [par les FDLR] constitue des infractions...es FDLR se rendent également coupables de crimes...[tels que]...le travail forcé et le prélèvement illégal d'impôts...Le parc des Virunga fait face à un certain nombre de menaces, parmi lesquelles le braconnage et l’exploration pétrolière, mais le commerce illégal de charbon de bois est celle qui cause le plus de dégâts...Le succès du commerce illégal de charbon de bois repose sur de vastes campagnes de déforestation de certaines zones des Virunga et sur plusieurs violations des droits de l’homme, tels que des meurtres commis en représailles et l’esclavage sexuel. Ces actes entretiennent et accélèrent des cycles d’insécurité, de pauvreté, de peur et de destruction de l’environnement. [Voir le rapport en anglais].

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Report
20 June 2016

The Mafia in the Park: A charcoal syndicate is threatening Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park

Author: Holly Dranginis, Enough Project

An illegal charcoal cartel is helping to finance one of the most prominent militias in central Africa and destroying parts of Africa’s oldest national park. Nursing alliances with Congolese army and police units and operating remote trafficking rings in the sanctuaries of Congo’s protected forests, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is a kingpin in Africa’s Great Lakes region’s organized crime networks and a continuing threat to human security. For years, the group has helped sustain its activities by exploiting valuable natural resources, including minerals, ivory, fish, and marijuana. But one of the FDLR’s most successful revenue-generating businesses is the illicit charcoal trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s cherished Virunga National Park. Headquartered deep in the remote southwestern sector of Virunga, the illegal charcoal trade is lucrative. Some have estimated it has an annual value of up to $35 million...the FDLR also commits a range of domestic and international crimes, including forced labor andillegal taxation...Virunga faces a number of threats, including poaching and oil exploration, but the illegal charcoal trade isuniquely damaging...The success of the illegal charcoal trade relies on the widespread deforestation of parts of Virunga and the perpetration of human rights abuses, including reprisal murders and sexual slavery. These acts stokeone another and accelerate cycles of insecurity, poverty, fear, and environmental destruction.

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Article
19 May 2016

Global Magnitsky's power to protect

Author: Holly Dranginis, The Hill (USA)

Like the endangered wildlife he helps protect, Congolese environmentalist Bantu Lukambo is being hunted. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, conservation is dangerous work because it threatens the interests of powerful groups. Several of Congo’s national parks – including Africa’s oldest, Virunga – are under siege. Armed groups and poachers have used these remote areas as sanctuaries and business headquarters, trafficking in ivory, minerals, and charcoal made from old-growth forest...Lukambo conducts investigations, seeking to defend Virunga from its range of assailants. He has been exiled three times for it. Lukambo and his colleagues are enemies of a corrupt, sophisticated state, and they deserve protection. As Congo’s president Joseph Kabila holds tight to power ahead of his potential third term, the government is sharpening its tools of repression, targeting anyone threatening its interests. The US Congress can help safeguard space for civic action and promote accountability by passing the Global Magnitsky Act. The Act would create a process for the US to sanction individuals targeting whistleblowers for exposing illegal state activity. This bi-partisan bill passed in the Senate last December and moved out of committee in the House this week. House leadership should quickly bring it to the floor for a vote. In its most recent report, the UN Group of Experts on Congo said army officers “remain involved in the exploitation and trade of natural resources” and in 2014, Global Witness reported that intelligence officers were involved in bribery related to oil drilling in Virunga.

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Article
12 May 2016

Virunga's Charcoal Cartel

Author: Holly Dranginis, Foreign Affairs (USA)

The charcoal cartel is run by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, Congo’s most prominent nonstate armed group...It is responsible for brutal attacks in remote areas of Congo’s dense jungle...Although the FDLR survives on a range of illicit livelihoods—gold mining, kidnapping for ransoms, and the looting of villages—these days, according to locals and UN peacekeeping officials, charcoal is one of the FDLR’s most lucrative pursuits. It is worth an estimated $35 million a year. But the costs to nature and human life are immeasurable...eams of rebel soldiers worked together to produce charcoal: felling trees and digging pits of roughly eight feet in diameter to bury and burn the wood underground. Some civilians joined willingly; others by force...ecause Virunga has protected status as both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, though, ndobo is patently illegal...The FDLR presence and rampant poaching has turned Virunga into one of the most dangerous national parks in the world. Over 150 Virunga rangers have been killed in the past ten years by poachers and militia occupying resource-rich territories...“The supply chain for charcoal is smaller [than for minerals], but the profits go somewhere—laundered through companies in Goma and out [of the country],” Daniel Ruiz, the UN official, told me...But even if the illegal charcoal trade in Virunga is purely business, it is a bloody one...Numerous UN annual reports say that the FDLR is responsible for raping women, abducting children, and burning villages.

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