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Congo environment minister: Signature forged on Forest Licences

Congo environment minister: Signature forged on Forest Licences

KINSHASA (10 December 2010) – The Democratic Republic of Congo’s environment Minister claimed that unidentified officials forged Friday her signature to grant conservation licenses for the country’s vast forests, which play a key role in regulating Earth’s climate.

Recent months have seen Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi demand an audit of all forest concessions. Eve Bazaiba, Environment Minister, also called for a ban to uncut log exports. Read more

Bazaiba stated that anyone who has a contract to grant a forest concession, or for an export permit for logs, or timber bearing her signature, should present themselves to her office.

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A source within the judiciary said that prosecutors interviewed several environment ministry officials Friday after an investigation by IGF, the government’s anticorruption agency.

“I was responsible for investigating the forgery of handwriting,” Bazaiba (also a Vice Prime Minster) said on Twitter.

Congo is home to the majority the world’s second largest rainforest. It also straddles its neighboring countries. According to U.N figures, Congo is under pressure for better forest management and to reduce the rate of deforestation which has more than doubled in the past decade.

Congo was among the global leaders who pledged to halt deforestation and reverse it at the United Nations climate negotiations in Britain last month.

Conservation groups claim that corruption and poor governance make Congo’s forests more vulnerable to illegal logging and expanding agriculture.

Tshisekedi stated in October that he would examine the legality and validity of several forest contracts. This included one covering half of Belgium with Tradelink SARL. It was signed by Bazaiba’s predecessor on September 2020.

Greenpeace accuses Bazaiba, who signed an order mission in September to assist Tradelink with obtaining consent from local people for the land acquisition. The allegations were dismissed by the environment ministry.

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Friday, Bazaiba announced that the mission order had been forged. “This was the thing that rang me alarm bells,” she tweeted.

Reuters attempted to contact Tradelink via a telephone number listed on Congo’s company registration but was unsuccessful.

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Reporting by Stanis Pujakera, Hereward Holland; additional reporting from Justin Makangara; Writing and editing by Hereward Holland

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