Community campaigner against British development-funded palm oil plantation murdered

Community campaigner against British development-funded palm oil plantation murdered

Date: 26 July 2019

Statement by Global Justice Now and The Corner House

We are deeply saddened and concerned to learn about the murder of a community activist who was opposing a palm oil plantation backed by British development funds in Democratic Republic of Congo.

We have been informed that at 3pm on Sunday 21 July, Mr Joël Imbangola Lunea was transporting several passengers and their luggage on his small boat when he was approached by a security guard working at Feronia’s Boteka plantation. The security guard proceeded to beat him, eventually strangled him to death and threw his body into the Moboyo River. We understand that the security guard is now in hiding.

Mr Lunea was an activist with the Congolese environmental and human rights organisation RIAO-RDC, which Global Justice Now and the Corner House support. RIAO-RDC is working with communities around the palm oil plantation who question the rights of the plantation company, Feronia, to the land they work on. Nonetheless, Feronia has been supported by development money from a number of countries, including Britain, where funds have been channeled through CDC Group, a company wholly owned by the Department for International Development. The latest funding was agreed as recently as March of this year.

We have been informed that the brutal murder of Mr Lunea follows months of intimidation directed at community members living near the plantations.

As a part owner of Feronia, we have asked for immediate action from the British government. We are demanding that they ensure:

  • A rapid, thorough and independent investigation of this crime so that the perpetrator can be brought to justice.
  • A deescalation of the company’s conflicts with the population so that RIAO-RDC can  carry out their work safely.
  • A review of this CDC investment, in talks with RIAO-RDC to ensure that those communities can once again benefit from the richness of the lands they inhabit.

Global Justice Now
The Corner House

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Photo: Joël (left) took part in a meeting between villagers and representatives of DEG, a German development bank. Credit: RIAO-RDC