Greenpeace urges Cameroon to sanction illegal timber exploiters

A depleted patch of forest in the Congo Basin. Greenpeace, an environmental lobby group, wants Cameroon to firmly tackle illegal logging.

The Netherlands last week imposed its first-ever sanction on a Dutch timber company, Fibois BV, following an investigation by environmental lobby group Greenpeace into illegal logging in the Congo Basin.

In a report published late last year, Greenpeace had named eleven European companies it said were complicit in the illegal timber business, including Fibois BV and Compagnie de Commerce et de Transport (CCT), the biggest timber exporting company in Cameroon.

In a press release, the Dutch authorities stated: “Because of the political situation in the Congo Basin, timber from Cameroon may only be placed on the market if the importer has taken sufficient mitigating measures to make sure the risk that the timber is illegally harvested is negligible.”

Cameroon is plagued by extensive illegal logging, high corruption and a weak control system which the Cameroon ministry of Forestry attempts to defend.

Timber exploitation

The Cameroon government through the ministry of Forestry and Wildlife challenged the Greenpeace report days after it was published, claiming it was done “without proper investigation.”

In a statement published in the French language daily newspaper Le Jour on March 14, 2016, the Cameroon Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Philip Ngole Ngwese, claimed the government had made significant efforts in the fight against illegal timber exploitation and the promotion of transparency which were saluted by Greenpeace.

But Mr Ini Eric, Forests campaigner with Greenpeace, described the government statement as a “misinterpretation” of what his organisation told the ministry in October last year.

“The Cameroonian government needs to tackle the illegalities and corruption in the timber sector. Cameroon needs to seriously work with the EU to ensure the Voluntary Partnership Agreement aimed at combating illegal logging and strengthening forest governance in Cameroon is fully implemented,” said Ms Irène Wabiwa Betoko, another Forests campaigner with Greenpeace Africa.