DRC: Buela community at a disadvantage
The Buela, a forest community in the Congo Basin, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, signed an agreement in 2011 with Sodefor (Société de Developpement Forestier), a subsidiary of Nordsudtimber, a Liechenstein-based company, to allow forest areas used by the community to be logged by the company.
However, the process leading up to the signing was skewed in favour of the company. According to a Congolese lawyer working through an initiative of Avocats Sans Frontières with forest communities in the region to ensure respect for their rights, no company representative ever came to discuss the agreement with the community. Instead, Sodefor sent an NGO that it engages, PABO (Partisans et Artisans de Bongandanga). PABO told the community members that it supported them, but actually advocated the company’s position and failed to inform the community of its rights and options with respect to the company’s proposed agreement.
The lawyer also said the community members’ inexperience in these matters meant they were unaware they could discuss and negotiate the terms of the agreement. The presence of military personnel at the signing ceremony, coupled with the memory of the military’s arrest, torture and killing of some Buela and rape of Buela women following Sodefor’s request for military intervention in 2005, allegedly created sufficient fear in the community members that they simply signed the agreement.
Photo: Boys transporting mega-logs in DRC. Credit: Nick Hobgood
For more information, look out for MRG's State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 report (published 28 June).
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Countries:Democratic Republic of Congo
Categories:State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012
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Name: Emma Eastwood