D.R. Congo Minister of Environment Accuses Officials of Signature Fraud

Environment minister for the Democratic Republic of Congo, ​​Eve Bazaiba, said on Friday that unidentified officials forged her signature for permits to protect vast forests that regulate the Earth’s climate.

A few months ago, Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi called for an audit of all forest concessions, and Bazaiba called for an end to the export of uncut logs.

Anyone who has signed a contract for a forest concession or an export permit for logs or timber carrying her signature should appear at her office, Bazaiba said in a statement.

Following an investigation by the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF), the government’s anti-corruption agency, prosecutors interviewed several environment ministry officials on Friday.

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“I was the one who investigated the forgery of handwriting,” Bazaiba, who is also a Vice Prime Minister, said on Twitter.

Congo, home to the world’s second-largest rainforest that borders several neighbouring countries, is under pressure to improve forest management and slow a deforestation rate that has doubled since, U.N. estimates.

As part of the United Nations climate talks in Britain last month, Congo pledged to halt and reverse deforestation.

According to conservation groups, corruption and poor governance are putting the Congo’s forests at risk.

In October, Tshisekedi announced he wanted to examine the legality of several forest agreements, including one signed by Bazaiba’s predecessor in September 2020 with Tradelink SARL that covered an area half the size of Belgium.

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Bazaiba was accused by Greenpeace of signing an order mission in September for ministry staff to assist Tradelink in obtaining local people’s consent for the land acquisition. Environmental ministry officials previously said the claims were unfounded.

Bazaiba said Friday that the mission order was forged. “This is the thing that rang my alarm bells,” she said on Twitter.

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