DRC: environmental defender, Josué Aruna, "despite the threats, we will continue to fight"Posted on 18-01-2023 - Catégorie: Environment
They are 227 environmental defenders to have lost their lives, assassinated, in 2020, in the world. Each week, an average of four of them lost their lives. This is what denounces the report of the NGO Global Witness, released this Monday, September 13. Most of these murders take place in Latin America. The African continent is not spared. Indeed, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the sixth most dangerous country for these militants. 15 of them were killed. Interview with Josué Aruna, provincial president of the Environmental and Agro-Rural Civil Society of Congo (SOCEARUCO) in the province of South Kivu.
Being a conservationist can cost a leader. Sometimes, some activists even pay with their lives. Josué Aruna was close to death in 2019 and is still being intimidated. He testifies for TV5MONDE.
TV5MONDE: what is your fight?
Josué ARUNA: My current fight is to try to counter all projects related to mining in protected areas in the Congo Basin. We are seeing the massive arrival of Chinese companies in the country. These are companies that do not respect human rights, environmental and social impact studies, or indigenous peoples. The threats that protected areas are facing require local, regional, national and international attention.
The international community, precisely, pays less attention to defenders of nature than to other causes such as women's rights or sexual violence. There is less support. But we are not giving up.
We are seeing the massive arrival of Chinese companies in the country. These are companies that do not respect human rights, environmental and social impact studies, or indigenous peoples.Josué Aruna, environmental defender
(Re)see: DRC: An ecoguard of the Kahuzi-Bièga natural park killed
TV5MONDE: Why doesn't the state defend these supposedly protected areas?
Josué ARUNA: The mining entrepreneurs who come from China or elsewhere are corporations or firms that have money, means. Situations of corruption and fraud are observed. The competent authorities do not have the means to enforce the country's own law and even the international conventions that exist regarding this area of the Congo Basin. This is why, today, it is we, the activists, who stand up against these firms, despite the threats we face. We say to ourselves “we are not going to be silent”.
TV5MONDE: What types of threats do you face?
Josué ARUNA: Businessmen associate with politicians, and they put a price on our heads. They are capable of anything. We have already received anonymous calls, threats and direct intimidation.
I've been working underground for at least a year and a half. I keep a low profile. The NGO Front Line Defendeurs (which supports activists and human rights defenders around the world) has already supported me twice in the context of threats I have suffered.
In 2019, I denounced industrial mining in a reserve in South Kivu and in the Kahuzi-Biega natural park. Bandits were sent several times to intimidate me. Once I narrowly avoided them, but they raped my wife in my room. They were armed men. They came to kill me.
I still fear for my life. I am a father. But with the other climate defenders, we said to ourselves that we had chosen a path to defend the common heritage.
Bandits were sent several times to intimidate me. Once I narrowly avoided them, but they raped my wife in my room. They were armed men. They came to kill me.