Selection #5 : Mwampoyi
Author – Joe Mulumba
At the heart of Africa, with its luxurious forest that gives planet the necessary lungs to survive, my beloved country Congo rests. When these white men brought their Bible, guns, and stuffed up piece of clothes, they envied these precious stones that our land has always carried. Our chiefs and leaders at the time didn’t know and couldn’t understand to what extent the threat was. When agreement couldn’t be reached, they were quickly dismissed. In the 1950s, African students all over Africa started agitating for freedom. Having received the Western education, they understood that in order to recover their own power, they had to give up their tribal allegiances and unite as a nation. Thousands of lives if not millions of lives were lost in the process to obtain independence. Lumumba was one of the students, ardent believer that no limb or life could be spared in order to fight for independence. His passion led him in jails and receive beatings but in June 1960, with the help of thousands men and women, Congo became free.
Before, during and after colonization, western powers have always used the divide to rein stratagem and not too long after we received our independence, they turned misunderstandings into power struggle between Moise Tshombe, Lumumba, Kasavubu and Mobutu and at the end, Mobutu came out on top, and started his Western powered reign for 35 years. The one legacy he would take from Lumumba is the maintaining of a nationalist spirit where Zairois and Zairoise of all tribes came to identify with their country and their leader.
When he wasn’t useful anymore to his Western allies, Mobutu was taken down and Kabila who took powers got killed a few years later because he sounded too communist for the liking of the Western interests. Kabila Jr. proved himself and is still proving very understanding of those interests of his Western allies to the point that Uganda and Rwanda have made of the East of Congo, their hunting grounds just because they are friendly with the same Western allies that support him.
Rape of women and men, malnutrition, homelessness, prostitution, lack of education, lack of roads and infrastructures, and the list goes on ad nauseam, but despite it all, hope for Congo can’t be quenched. Every day, healthcare professionals, activists, musicians, artists and débrouillards find ways to make a difference in someone’s life. The spirit that animated Lumumba is still animating many of our vibrant Congolese youth who excel at home and abroad in all disciplines, attaining for themselves and their nations the necessary intellectual tools to match their indomitable spirit to see a better Congo.
I know that a Google search on Congo only gives the grim news, but I know not only from my family that still lives there, but from all those years I grew up there, that Congolese are resilient. Our musical, intellectual talent and our beautiful spirit haven’t been diminished by all the trials and it falls upon each and every one of us to see to it that those deaths of innocent civilians and other warriors for freedom weren’t in vain by digging in our pockets and thinking hard about our place in Congo’s future. It’s all about saving one life, one day at a time while pressuring the political leaders to implement the needed changes.
Femmes d’affaires, chefs d’Etats, artistes ou défenseurs de l’environnement… les femmes africaines occupent aujourd’hui tous les terrains. Par leurs actions quotidiennes, elles oeuvrent au développement du continent. Le succès et les carrières exceptionnelles de certaines d’entre elles en font des personnalités incontournables sur le continent. Portraits de six femmes d’influence…
Wangari Maathai et la muraille verte
Wangari Maathai est la première africaine a avoir obtenu le très prestigieux prix Nobel de la paix, en 2004, pour «sa contribution en faveur du développement durable, de la démocratie et de la paix». En 1977, elle a fondé le mouvement de la Ceinture verte qui a commencé par planter modestement sept arbres. Soutenu par les femmes, leGreen Belt Movement a réussi à planter 30 millions d’arbres en trente ans afin de prévenir l’érosion des sols, devenant ainsi le plus grand projet de reboisement en Afrique. Et la militante écologiste a gagné un surnom: «tree woman», la femme des arbres. «Nous n’avons le droit ni de fatiguer ni de renoncer», aime à dire Wangari Maathai pour qui l’écologie, le féminisme, la politique, la lutte pour la paix et contre la pauvreté veulent dire la même chose.
An Islamic bank in Jordan, Sanabel, has bought up over a quarter of a Congo forest for ‘sustainable projects’
When I first read about the acquisition of 500,000 hectares of high value forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo by an Islamic investment bank in Jordan, I thought one thing: land grab.
Over the last couple of years, countries across the MENA region have been buying tracts of land all over Africa. Worried about the rising cost of food as well as declining natural resources locally, they have been trying to make sure that their eggs (so to speak) aren’t all in one basket. Egypt has bought up land in Sudan, Saudi Arabia has staked a claim on land in Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates has farms in Sudan, Morocco and Algeria.
However, this latest land acquisition by Sanabel is a little more interesting as it claims to come with some green credentials. According to news reports, Sanabel which is Jordan’s first Islamic investment bank is considering a number of “Sharia’ compliant forestry activities” for the land it has purchased. These range from afforestation and reforestation projects, and protecting the land from deforestation and sustainable agro-forestry projects.
I have written about the ethical aspects of Islamic banking in the past and also the important role they could be playing in protecting the planet, so it’s great to see some action being taken. Indeed Al-Sanabel Chairman and CEO Khaldoun Malkawi explained that these activities are entirely compatible with Islamic banking principles since they simultaneously help to fight climate change by protecting biodiversity, reducing poverty and promoting corporate social responsibility.
Sanabel did however also add that this purchase is part of their plans to capitalise on the rapidly growing carbon trading market. This means that the company “will develop forest carbon credits projects that will protect the role of forests in mitigating climate change.”
As such Sanabel will be hoping to get companies to pay them to preserve the forestland in Congo and protect it from deforestation in return for carbon credits which help them meet their carbon reduction targets.
This is, however, where it gets a little messy.
Firstly, the carbon credit market has been widely criticised for allowing business to continue spewing lots of emissions. It turns out that buying carbon credits from schemes such as the one that Sanabel will be running is a lot cheaper and easier for businesses than actually cutting their own emissions. So instead of protecting the environment and helping tackle global warming, these scheme just help companies continue their destructive practices.
The second issue that needs to be considered is the displacement of poor people living in these forests. For example, 70,000 indigenous people living in the western region of Gambella in Ethiopia were forced to relocate as the land had been living on was bought up by foreign investors. Saudi Star Agriculture Development was one of the companies implicated in this forced displacement.
Land ownership is a hugely contested issue and passing on ownership to a foreign government can only make the situation more complicated.
So whilst I’m happy to see Islamic banks consider green projects, I think they need to do better next time. They need to show that they aren’t out just to make a quick buck and also that they take their environmental responsibilities seriously.
Images of Congo forest via bobulix/flickr.