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DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides4 minutes read

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DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
A bicycle carrier cycles with a load of about 300 kilograms of charcoal to sell in Goma, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo(Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

Lush rainforest covers millions of hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a central part of Earth’s natural defence against global warming — but it is under severe threat from a perfect storm of mismanagement.

An array of global and local NGOs are in a tense fight to save the rainforest, which lost an area twice the size of Luxembourg last year alone, according to Global Forest Watch.

But the problems run right through DR Congo society — from the poor who rely on charcoal for fuel in a country with meagre supplies of other power, to the senior officials who profit from illegal logging.

“There are lawmakers and soldiers involved. They don’t pay taxes — it’s unfair competition,” says Felicien Liofo, head of a wood craftsmen’s association.

Local police say soldiers simply rip apart the fences around the forest and threaten to shoot anyone who tries to stop them.

– NGOs fight back 

The government faces a daunting challenge to protect the rainforest. 

Its 2002 forestry code imposed a moratorium on new concessions and regulated the number of trees that could be chopped down under existing permits, but officials complain of a lack of resources.

Felicien Malu, a provincial environment coordinator, has roughly 1,200 workers to cover a province twice the size of Portugal.

DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
Joseph Bisole, 27, a former child soldier in the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, manufactures charcoal as part of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Ecomakala project to reduce illegal charcoal production, in Burungu, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on September 28, 2019. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

But his staff, he says, are not paid and lack even the basic tools of their trade — boats, motorcycles or pickup trucks. 

“We can’t organise control missions because there are many rivers to cross and unpaved roads,” he says.

His predecessor in the job was suspended for embezzlement, underlining how corruption feeds the problem of deforestation.

NGOs have launched a multi-pronged attack against the plunder.

Greenpeace Africa and a coalition of eight NGOs from DRC and neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville have demanded a halt to all industrial activities in the millions of hectares of peatland shared by the two countries.

DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
Two beneficiaries of a WWF (World Wildlife Fund) pilot project to produce domestic bio gas to combat illegal charcoal production look at their new gas cooker in their home in Sake, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on September 28, 2019. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

The ancient wetlands store huge amounts of carbon, but companies are involved in oil exploration, logging and industrial agriculture in the area.

Global Witness investigated the illegal logging trade and earlier this year accused a general in the Congolese army of illegally reselling logging permits.

However, electricity in DRC is a rare luxury, meaning that most Congolese still rely on charcoal as their main fuel supply.

Making charcoal involves chopping down trees and slow-burning the wood in covered ovens — all of which comes at a steep price for the environment.

“I get through a $30 sackful every two months. That’s a fair chunk of what I earn,” says Solange Sekera while shopping at a market in the eastern city of Goma. “We have no other means of preparing meals.”

Our forests may disappear’ –

The charcoal trade — known locally as Makala — is worth millions of dollars and it is attracting armed groups to the Goma area, threatening Virunga natural park, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas. 

More than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) to the west, the reliance on charcoal in Kinshasa is also causing severe problems.

Kinshasa residents consume five million tonnes of wood a year, according to French research group Cirad, and increasing urbanisation is just raising the pressure on the forests.

On the hillsides around the capital, there are scarcely any trees left.

NGOs and the government are once again trying to respond.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is trying to minimise the impact of charcoal burning by introducing “eco makala” ovens that burn the fuel more efficiently and so use less wood.

DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Ecomakala project managers visit a eucalyptus plantation partly intended to produce charcoal in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on September 28, 2019. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

And President Felix Tshisekedi is trying to boost electricity across the country to reduce demand for wood-based fuel.

He has championed hydroelectric power — and ground was broken in early October on a new dam in Goma.

NGOs and locals are not convinced of the viability of the project, but Tshisekedi is adamant: “Given the current rate of population growth and our energy needs, our forests may disappear by the year 2100,” he says.

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UK to Invest £1.3 Billion in Kenya

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British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has pitched £1.3 billion worth of (about Sh170 billion) business opportunities to a Kenyan delegation led by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit held in London as part of the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit economic plan.

A statement by the British High Commission in Nairobi says the deals cut across housing, finance, renewables and entrepreneurship “will create a new lasting partnership that will deliver more investment, jobs and growth to Kenya.”

The summit comes at a time British corporate giants in Kenya such as Barclays, British luxury carmaker, Land Rover, Standard Chartered Bank , British American Tobacco  and Unilever are struggling to fend off a stiff challenge from aggressive rivals.

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Sudan plans airline revival

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Sudan announced on Tuesday, that it is in talks with Airbus over a deal to supply eight new planes to its state carrier.

According to a statement from Sudan’s finance ministry, a delegation representing the European manufacturer has met the ministers of finance and infrastructure to discuss the deal and revamp Sudan Airways’ fleet

The document further explains that Airbus has also proposed to provide technical support,  without giving details on the financial aspects of the deal.

The manufacturer has commented on the proposal.

Sudan Airways has suffered heavily over the years from trade sanctions imposed by Washington in 1997, with most of its fleet grounded.

Washington lifted the sanctions in October 2017 but the airline has still not been fully operational due to difficulties in procuring spare parts.

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Trump to expand travel ban to seven countries

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United States President, Donald Trump has confirmed plans to expand a travel ban that bars citizens of certain countries from entering the United States adding seven countries to a group of countries subject to travel restrictions, including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, alongside others on the continent and Asia.

The new restrictions will apply to travelers and immigrants from Belarus, Eritrea, Krygrzstan, Myanmar,Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

The ban is one of the most controversial undertakings by the Trump administration, having received backlash from some leaders in the U.S. as well as foreign leaders.

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling in 2018, upheld a version of the ban that blocked nationals from five Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The ban applies to people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

The ban upheld by the high court was a watered down version of the original White House proposal, which barred people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan from coming to the United States for 90 days and banned all refugees for 120 days.

Trump'[s presence at the 2020 Davos comes just a few days before the U.S. senate begins his impeachment trial.

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