A Greenpeace Africa investigation published recently, has uncovered “a trail of stolen timber” en route to Cameroon’s main timber exporting company, Compagnie de Commerce et de Transport (CCT), for onward evacuation to the international markets.
According to a press release titled “How Cameroon’s Stolen Wood Reaches International Markets” published on the organisation’s official website after the investigation, a timber company, La Socamba, allegedly engaged in illegal and destructive practices, including logging several kilometres outside their legal logging title supplies stolen wood to CCT, which supplies timber companies worldwide, including China and Europe.
The press release which calls on the Cameroon government to audit the activities of CCT indicates that CCT in response to Greenpeace’s investigation admitted that Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) had ordered an audit of the activities of CCT and its suppliers to determine their involvement in illegal activities and to trace the resulting timber. An audit, which the Greenpeace Africa forest campaigner, Eric Ini, underscored the need for the process to be carried out in an independent and transparent manner ensuring that CCT suppliers are properly sanctioned when illegal activities will be confirmed.
This revelation is one of several others, which Greenpeace has uncovered within recent years. According to the press release, the Organisation in 2015 published three cases of illegal logging in permits supplying CCT including logging permits exploited by South Forestry Company (SFC), FEEMAM and SOFOCAM, which the Cameroon Government proclaimed innocent only for them to be incriminated later on.
“The Minister of Forestry, Ngole Philip Ngwese, has proclaimed the innocence of companies exposed by Greenpeace for their involvement in illegal logging. Yet, one of the companies investigated by Greenpeace, SFC, was later fined by the authorities twice for exactly the kind of practices Greenpeace exposed, and CCT and its suppliers are now apparently subject to an investigation by MINFOF,” the press release reads in part.
Mr. Ini implored the Cameroon Government to collaborate with the European Union, to put an end to illegal trade in Timber.
”If Cameroon is serious about ending the illegal timber trade, it must work closely with the EU towards credible implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement and, as a first priority, re-establish a system of credible Independent Monitoring of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in Cameroon”, Ini concluded.
He equally calls on the Cameroon Government to ensure the strict reinforcement of the country’s forestry law to limit illegal timber exploitation given that countries like Belgium, Netherlands, UK and others are already regarding trade in timber from Cameroon as “high risk” with UK operators trading in Cameroon timber being investigated.
Cameroon’s forests support the livelihoods of thousands of people and are amongst the region’s most biologically diverse forests, providing valuable habitat for endangered Western Lowland Gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants, amongst other species. Unsustainable and illegal logging in these forests is leading to deforestation, destruction of the ecosystem and diminished resilience to climate change.
By B. Shancho Ndimuh