Zimbabwe appears to have no intention of withdrawing its troops from the DRC in the foreseeable future, thus posing a serious threat to the already fragile Lusaka Peace Process. A report, Branching Out, published today by London based non-governmental organisation Global Witness(1), details the world’s largest logging deal that has been planned by the Zimbabwean government that will, if they raise the final capital, enable them to log 33 million hectares of prime rainforest, an area almost 1.5 times the area of the United Kingdom.
The deal is to be executed through a company called the Congolese Society for the Exploitation of Timber (SOCEBO) which is part of a complex web of businesses set up by Zanu-PF, which is an empire controlled by Zimbabwe’s political and military elite, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, Speaker of Zimbabwe’s Parliament, a former Minister of State Security, and close confidante of President Mugabe. SOCEBO is a subsidiary of COSLEG, which was established to supply Zimbabwean troops to fight for Kabila’s Government in exchange for rights to mine diamonds, cobalt and now to harvest timber.
“Global Witness is very concerned that this highly secret deal could threaten the peace process and is yet another example of the way in which natural resources are not only fuelling conflict but undermining already complex peace processes,” Said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. “A recent International Rescue Committee report details that 2.5 million people have already died in the conflict, and that since it began 75% of all the children born either have or will die before the age of two (2). If Mugabe is serious about the Peace Process he must stop this deal from going through. And if Joseph Kabila is serious about wanting peace in DRC then he must end this dubious deal, in which his father Laurent Kabila gave away 15% of DRC to the Zimbabwean army.”
In addition DRC was singled out by UNEP just this week as one of only 15 countries where, in their opinion, international efforts at forest conservation should be focused, but 15% of the country’s land area has been signed over to Zimbabwe’s army – not notably skilled loggers. The long-term impacts on people’s livelihoods and rare wildlife will be devastating.
Zimbabwe is under increasing pressure to make the DRC pay. Its military intervention has been cripplingly expensive and its business interests have largely failed. The London flotation of Cosleg partner Oryx diamonds was aborted, its cobalt mining venture didn’t pay – which leaves DRC’s vast forest reserves.
Contact details: Patrick Alley: Mobile + 44 (0)7968 160377; Office: + 44 (0)20 7272
6731. Email: [email protected]; website: www.globalwitness.org
Notes to Editor:
(1) Global Witness is a London based NGO that focuses on the links between the exploitation of natural resources, and the funding of conflict. It also works on logging in Cambodia, Cameroon and Liberia, and the role of diamonds and oil in funding various conflicts in Angola and elsewhere in West Africa.
(2) International Rescue Commitee, ‘Mortality Study, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; February-April 2001’.
Press Release / Aug. 26, 2001