European timber companies that do business with warring militia groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) are partly responsible for fueling the ongoing conflict in the country, a new report by campaign group Global Witness says.
Timber is the leading export item for CAR, but is loosely regulated by the country’s government, leaving it exposed to misuse by militia group to fund their activities that have lead to the killing of hundreds and displacement of thousands.
According to the report titled Blood Timber: The Case of Central Africa Republic, timber companies from France and Germany have paid more than $4 million to CAR rebel groups and have been allowed to import the timber back to Europe without any consequences.
“Blood timber is just as harmful as blood diamonds,” said Alexandra Pardal, campaign leader for Global Witness.
Global Witness single out one company, Société d’Exploitation Forestière Centrafricaine (SEFCA), that it says has been invited by the European Commission to its annual stocktaking of efforts to end illegal logging and related trade.
The report says that SEFCA has a record of illegal logging and continues to export timber at high risk of illegality to the European Union and has “paid significant sums of money to armed groups in the Central African Republic including a 250M CFA (€381,000) payment to the Seleka regime, whose rebels are accused of egregious human rights violations.”
“A logging company like SEFCA does not belong at an EU stakeholder conference. It belongs in a courtroom,” Pardal said.
“The EU’s multi-million euro illegal logging agenda risks becoming a rogues’ gallery and discredited if it legitimizes companies like SEFCA. If the EU decides to pursue a commercial timber trade agreement with CAR’s failed state involving SEFCA, that’s exactly what it will be doing,” he added.