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12 Aug 2015

GRAIN & Réseau d’information et d’appui aux ONG nationales (RIAO-RDC)

Agro-colonialism in the Congo: European and US development finance bankrolls a new round of agro-colonialism in the DRC

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The young priest Robert Bolenge* could not have imagined the poverty he would find when he arrived at his new post in Yaligimba...The district lies at the heart of vast oil palm plantations belonging to Feronia Inc.... "I had never witnessed such suffering before," says Bolenge. "I couldn't have imagined that someone could work so hard with a basket tied to his back, cutting down palm bunches all day, and only take home about $20 a month"...The other major DFI investor in Feronia is the UK government's CDC Group plc, formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation...Today, the AAF [African Agricultural Fund] and the CDC control over 70 percent of Feronia's shares...Feronia said it had "revolving 25-year leases" covering 101,455 ha...Yet community leaders...say that the only document that Feronia or Unilever have ever shown them as evidence of the company's rights to the 63,000 ha concession it claims is an old registration certificate that is riddled with errors and that does not confer any legal title."All they have is a falsified certificate of registration, signed by an incompetent surveyor," says the provincial deputy, Gaspard Bosenge-Akoko. "Can you imagine a company grabbing over 40,000 ha of land from these communities, depriving them of their agricultural activities, on the basis of this kind of flimsy document?"...They say the company has never consulted them about the use of their lands and has no right to be there. "We demand, first and foremost, the start of negotiations to reclaim our rights over the lands that have been illegally taken from us over the past 104 years...We want to be compensated, and only afterwards can we proceed to discussions over a memorandum of understanding for a new contract.", [they said]...Around 800 administrative staff lost their jobs when Unilever sold Marsavco and left the DRC. It also left owing these workers at least $24 million in unpaid wages. For the last 13 years they've been struggling to get that money from Unilever. The Supreme Court of the DRC ruled in their favour in 2007, but the money has yet to reach them.