August 26, 2001
Zimbabwe appears to have no intention of withdrawing its troops from the DRC in the foreseeable future, thus posing a serious threat to the already fragile Lusaka Peace Process. A report, Branching Out, published today by London based non-governmental organisation Global Witness, details the world's largest logging deal that has been planned by the Zimbabwean government that will, if they raise the final capital, enable them to log 33 million hectares of prime rainforest, an area almost 1.5 times the area of the United Kingdom.
"Global Witness is very concerned that this highly secret deal could threaten the peace process and is yet another example of the way in which natural resources are not only fuelling conflict but undermining already complex peace processes," Said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. "A recent International Rescue Committee report1 details that 2.5 million people have already died in the conflict, and that since it began 75% of all the children born either have or will die before the age of two . If Mugabe is serious about the Peace Process he must stop this deal from going through. And if Joseph Kabila is serious about wanting peace in DRC then he must end this dubious deal, in which his father Laurent Kabila gave away 15% of DRC to the Zimbabwean army."
In addition DRC was singled out by UNEP just this week as one of only 15 countries where, in their opinion, international efforts at forest conservation should be focused, but 15% of the country's land area has been signed over to Zimbabwe's army - not notably skilled loggers. The long-term impacts on people's livelihoods and rare wildlife such as the gorilla will be devastating.
Zimbabwe is under increasing pressure to make the DRC pay. Its military intervention has been cripplingly expensive and its business interests have largely failed. The London flotation of Cosleg partner Oryx diamonds was aborted, its cobalt mining venture didn't pay - which leaves DRC's vast forest reserves.