Trial begins of timber company accused of shooting and maiming locals
July 21, 2022
The Congo Sunflower Forestry Development company is currently on trial, accused of orchestrating a series of reprisals and physical violence against the villagers of Tokoma in the Tshuapa province of DRC, after they seized some of the company’s equipment from a site illegally being operated on their lands.
According to Mr. Iyoko Elungu, an inhabitant of Tokoma and one of the victims of the reprisals,
"The workers should have been logging in the Batshina forest, which they had paid for access rights to…. Instead, they crossed the line into our forest. So we took their chainsaw to the village, in order to call the Chinese [company] to come and negotiate with us. But instead, they sent the military and the police to forcibly recover the chainsaw."
Local testimonies state that soldiers sent at the request of Congo Sunflower Forestry Development to recover the chainsaw shot two people at close range and arrested two others (the village chief and the spokesman chosen for the cause). The victims that were shot were taken to the Boende General Hospital where one, Mr. Iyoko Elungu, had to have his leg amputated and the other, Mr. Nkoy Luana, had to undergo critical surgery for the bullet wound to his abdomen. The two people arrested (Village Chief Ndjoli Bosiki and Spokesman Moris Base) were imprisoned for three months eventually under the charge of inciting a rebellion — for which they were acquitted by the Boende High Court for lack of evidence.
While a small sentence was handed to the soldiers involved in the shooting, the victims' lawyers deplore the fact that there has been no civil liability attributed to the company, who requested military support rather than going through the appropriate civil channels to resolve the issue. With support from our local partners GASHE, the village of Tokoma has been able to bring the case before the High Court of Boende to claim compensation from the company for the damages suffered by the victims, one of whom has become disabled and the other unfit for work.
RFUK supports Tokoma in their call for justice, and demands the DRC government uphold its human rights commitments, lest violators be allowed to operate with impunity.
Following the recent damning audit of the country’s logging industry by the General Inspectorate of Finance’s (IGF), this case further underlines why the national moratorium on new logging concessions must be extended indefinitely. It also highlights the need to transfer powers to local communities to control access and use of forests including via establishment of community forests and implementation of the country’s upcoming Indigenous Peoples law.