FERN – The Campaigning NGO for greater environmental and social justice..: Silence as Central African Republic’s promise collapses - ForestWatch Issue 184 July 2013

 

Central African Republic’s (CAR) current crisis (FW 181) and state of lawlessness is having fast and brutal political and humanitarian consequences, which are being all but ignored in the media.

 

FERN has been working with civil society partners from the Central African Republic (CAR) for several years, and one of FERN’s campaigners, was in the capital Bangui in late March 2013 when the Seleka, an alliance of rebels, overthrew the regime of President Bozize, who had been in power for ten years. Since then FERN’s partners have had their offices looted and several staff of one NGO had to flee the country in fear for their safety in the increasing violence. The crisis has gone from bad to worse: there are severe human rights violations and a continuous state of insecurity. Over 200,000 people have been displaced within the country and over 50,000 refugees are now in neighbouring countries; poor access to food and basic health care is rife.

 

The reversal of the situation is considerable. Until a few short months ago, local NGOs were hopeful as, for the first time in its history, civil society had been included in efforts to improve governance over its forest resources. One of the prompts for this positive change had been the two-year long discussions between CAR and the European Union (EU), during which civil society had a seat at the negotiation table, leading to the signing of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to combat illegal logging and improve forest governance. CAR also ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO169) in 2010, following lobbying from local partner NGOs. Attempts to truly deliver a multistakeholder dialogue are remarkable in a country that has known so much political instability.

 

All this promising progress has taken a giant leap backwards under the control of the Seleka rebels, a coalition characterised by a lack of political vision, strong influences from Chad and Sudan, and increased infighting. Instead of an organised democratic government, there is complete anarchy, with opportunistic factions as well as foreign rebels taking control over strategic areas of the country, rich in natural resources.

 

A consequence of the current crisis and state of lawlessness is that Sudanese rebels have intensified ivory poaching in the Dzanga-Sangha national park; the Lord Resistance Army has taken control over the diamond rich area of Bria, and Seleka factions and Chinese companies are positioning themselves to take control of mines elsewhere. As a response to this natural resources crisis, CAR was temporarily suspended from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative^1 in April and from the Kimberly Process^2 in May. Discussions around implementation of the VPA have been cast aside and the timber that was the object of those talks. is now being traded with Chad for oil. It is unclear where this timber comes from and there is a high likelihood that it is illegal, in violation of the ratified VPA.

 

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