by Simon Counsell, Executive Director, RFUK
For the past 13 years, the government of DR Congo has had in place a law prohibiting the handing out of any more areas rainforest to large-scale commercial logging companies. Although the law was widely broken for the first few years, it has broadly been respected since 2007, when the country’s President, Joseph Kabila issued a new decree under his authority. This law has probably been one of the most important anywhere in terms of holding back damage and destruction to rainforests. It has helped keep an area of forest the size of France free from the large-scale wanton damage caused by industrial logging companies.
But in January of this year, DRC’s Minister for the Environment, Robert Bogeza, caused shock when he announced the intention of his government to lift the moratorium on new logging operations. Working with other international organisations such as Greenpeace and Global Witness, as well as the leading groups in DRC itself, we quickly mobilised to alert the media and international supporters of forest protection of the danger that this announcement posed. As a result, several governments raised their concerns with the Congolese authorities, including France’s Environment Minister, Ségolène Royal, in a meeting with DRC President Joseph Kabila.
Shortly after, the Minister reported that the announcement had been a “mistake”, and that he had actually no plans to lift the moratorium. For the moment, at least, the grave danger to DRC’s forests has abated.
The recent event was the third or fourth time in 13 years that there have been threats of lifting the DRC logging moratorium and opening the floodgates of destruction in the country’s forests. Each time we have responded, and been effective, and the government of Congo has taken the right decision. Once again, through timely action, and working with other organisations, we have shown that even a small organisation such as RFUK can be effective and influential in helping to hold back the threats to the world’s rainforests.