A month before President Tshisekedi ordered – the day before COP26 – the immediate “suspension” of a large-scale logging scam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment Eve Bazaiba was doing everything to promote it. This is what emerges from the document that Greenpeace Africa reveals today: a mission order signed on September 13 by Ms. Bazaiba for seven members of her ministry to accompany a team of Tradelink in the province of Tshopo. On the route, his own constituency of Basoko takes pride of place.
Remember that Tradelink is this obscure brokerage company which in September 2020 was able to illegally get six so-called “conservation concessions” located on a forest as large as half of Belgium. Its only known shareholder is a Belgian expatriate who has made a career in mining, timber and oil.
“The granting of these concessions was perhaps the biggest ‘retrocession’ of Congolese territory to Belgian interests since independence,” said Irène Wabiwa Betoko, head of the Greenpeace Africa campaign for the Congo Basin forest. . “By providing her support for this scam, the minister has demonstrated her contempt for Congolese law, for civil society, as well as for the commitments of its President to the donor countries he is currently courting”.
By the time Minister Eve Bazaiba signs this order, she has been aware of the Tradelink affair for months: on June 9, civil society filed an administrative appeal seeking the cancellation of the contracts. His signature comes three days after the expiry of the legal deadline for responding to it.
The fans of the company were however at that time very few: the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) had confirmed the illegality of its concessions in July, in August the governor of Tshuapa called for them to be canceled. The Minister of Regional Planning recognized the “relevance” of the civil society approach.
Eve Bazaiba didn’t care. On September 13, the one who “has no lesson to learn from any NGO” dispatched a member of her cabinet, three heads of office, the national REDD + coordinator and two ministry officials to lend a hand. to one of the biggest land grab deals in the DRC. Or in ministerial language: for “Facilitating the negotiation and signing of social clause agreements, carrying out socio-economic surveys and signing the CLIP of the TRADELINK Company”.
Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) Ms. Bazaiba shows total ignorance: “prior” means before the signing of juicy contracts, not after the “agreed sums” have been pocketed.
Strangely enough, a provincial ministerial official is assigned to the mission as… “representative of the society”. Mission expenses are, of course, “at the charge of the concessionaire”.
At the end of October, several days after President Tshisekedi’s order to suspend Tradelink concessions, the minister’s team still had not packed up.
The revelation of Ms. Bazaiba’s involvement in the Tradelink affair comes just as the Congolese government seeks to make donors swallow the lifting of the 2002 moratorium on the allocation of new forest concessions. At COP26 the DRC will present itself as a “solution country”.
Donors should know that when it comes to signing orders, Ms. Bazaiba has double standards. When the mission in question is that of auditors financed by the European Union to look into the legality of forest titles, we can wait: this year it made them wait until two months after the EU ambassador in person had to intervene to ask for his signature. As for a support mission for the Tradelink imposture: his pen is all ready.
Greenpeace Africa calls on the Head of State Felix Tshisekedi to order an urgent investigation to establish the responsibilities of all those, including Minister Eve Bazaiba, involved in the Tradelink plot and to ensure that the sanctions are applied according to the rigor of the law.
Greenpeace Africa reiterates its request to President Tshisekedi to ensure the effective execution by Minister Bazaiba of her decision to suspend all illegal logging concessions.
In these times when the whole world is mobilizing for COP26, the DRC government must send a strong signal to both the Congolese and the international community that the DRC’s forests are safe from new scams, by strengthening the decree on the moratorium on new forest concessions.