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Foreign timber firms fund armed groups in CAR: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A line of trucks loaded with logs in the Central African Republic (File photo)

A new report has shed light on the complicity of several foreign timer companies in the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), saying they have funded armed groups operating in the conflict-hit country.

Timber firms from France, Lebanon and China paid almost €3.4 million (USD 3.7 million) in security and checkpoint payments to the Seleka militia group in 2013, according to the report published on Wednesday by London-based campaign group Global Witness.

The logging companies also paid nearly €128,000 (USD 140,000) to Christian anti-balaka militants in 2014, the report added.

“The employment and development benefits of the timber industry have long been exaggerated by the donor community and are far outweighed by the sector’s abuses and costs in Central African Republic,” the report said.

The newly-released report also went on to criticize EU member states for failing to keep illicit timber off European markets, calling on the 28-nation bloc’s member states to cut all trade and aid links to CAR’s logging industry.

“It is tragically ironic that while European governments invested hundreds of millions of euros in military and peacekeeping operations in CAR, those same governments have failed to keep conflict timber off EU markets,” Alexandra Pardal, Global Witness campaign leader, said in a statement.

The Central African Republic has been the scene of violence since December 2013, when Christian militia launched coordinated attacks against the mostly Muslim Seleka group, which toppled the government in March 2013. 

French troops are seen with light armored vehicles at a checkpoint in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic. (© AFP)

 

France deployed troops to the CAR in December 2013 under the pretext of helping restore order to its former colony following the outbreak of violence there.

At least 5,000 people have been killed and approximately one million displaced since the beginning of conflict in the landlocked African country, latest reports say.


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