Why CSOs want mediation process into DRC’s land conflict paused

Locals protest over the alleged killing of a community member in the Lokutu area in DR Congo by PHC's security guards in February 2021. CS0s say this kind of violence is frequent.
Monitor | 29 April 2024

Why CSOs want mediation process into DRC’s land conflict paused

The fourteen civil society organizations (CSOs) have expressed their disagreement with the manner in which the ongoing Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICM) pertaining to the operations of company Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC) is being handled.

The ICM mediation of the German and Dutch development banks (DEG and FMO) has been ongoing for five years now, this publication has established.

However, it is yet to make any progress in addressing the most basic elements of the complaint from communities in the areas of Lokutu and Boteka that are affected by the operations of the PHC.

In November 2018, nine communities from the DR Congo filed a complaint with the complaints mechanism of DEG hoping to force the company into a dispute resolution and mediation process with them.

They argued that all development banks have justified their investment in Feronia or PHC with their mandate to support development in Africa, which, in this case, cannot be achieved without a resolution of the land conflict.

“We request that you take urgent actions to pause the mediation process while these concerns are being addressed,” the 14 NGOs said in the letter, a copy of which is obtained by Daily Monitor.
The letter was addressed to Mr Niels Annen, BMZ State Secretary, Germany, Ms Bruins Slot (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands), Ms Caroline Gennez ( Minister of Development Cooperation, Belgium), and Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), United Kingdom, and Mr Félix Tshisekedi, the President of the DR Congo.

The concerned organisations are; GRAIN, Corner House – UK, FIAN-Belgium, FIAN- Germany,  Global Legal Action Network, Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (ISA) – Liberia, Jogbar United Women Empowerment and Development Organization (JUWEDO) – Liberia,  Milieudefensie – Netherlands,  Oakland Institute – US,  Rettet den Regenwald – Germany, RIAO-RDC - DR Congo,  Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE) – Cameroon,  Syndicat des paysans riverains de la Socapalm (Synaparcam) - Cameroon and World Rainforest Movement.

Separate information from Europe indicates that the Development Finance Institutions (DFI) BIO of Belgium, CDC of the UK, DEG of Germany and FMO from the Netherlands on February 22 announced that they would cease to be lenders to PHC, the operating company of three longstanding palm oil plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The group of DFIs have sold their respective debt interests to Maku Holdings, an affiliate of Kuramo Capital Management.

Kuramo Capital Management is an African-led investment company and has been a significant PHC investor since 2017.

The letter seen by the Monitor reads: “In 2017, we alerted Kuramo Capital, the current owners of PHC, about our concerns with the legality of PHC's land documents when the company was first considering an investment in PHC (via Feronia Inc).”

In an email response on November 13, 2017, in which the DFIs were copied, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kuramo Capital, Mr Wale Adeosun, stated that they had carried out "extensive due diligence" and that their "assessments found that the Company does have valid land title, which your colleagues viewed and photographed at the Company’s London office in February."

In the report, published on November 25, 2019, Human Rights Watch found that Feronia and its subsidiary in Congo, Plantations et Huileries du Congo, “exposes workers to dangerous pesticides, dumps untreated industrial waste into local waterways, and engages in abusive employment practices that result in extreme poverty wages”.
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