Arrested RIAO-RDC staff member (Photo: RIAO)
Palm oil: new violence against local communities in the Congo
The conflict between the communities of Bolanga and Yambienenne and the palm oil company PHC continues to escalate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Once again, several people were arbitrarily arrested, including a representative of RIAO-RDC, a human rights organization. Security forces damaged numerous huts and destroyed people’s belongings during searches.
Local people protesting in front of the police station in Bolanga demanded the release of two young men falsely accused of stealing oil palm fruits. Many have fled into the forest for fear of further attacks and harassment. Representatives of RIAO-RDC fear for their safety.
According to RIAO-RDC, livestock was stolen, windows and doors were smashed, and money, cell phones and solar equipment were taken.
A lawyer working for the organization who had documented numerous abuses by police, military and security forces managed to get the RIAO-RDC staff member released, but most of the detainees have so far been denied legal support.
The villagers’ livelihoods are also being impacted: In the village of Yambienenne, for example, 36 hectares of peanut and corn fields were destroyed by pesticides supposedly from the plantation.
In February, a man was killed by security forces during protests against the palm oil company. It is unclear whether all of the villagers arrested after the protests have since been released.
The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) had promised at the time to insist on clarification from the Congolese authorities. A major German development organization is known to have supported PHC or its predecessor with a seven-figure sum.