Africa

Belgium's GFI 'implicated in bulldozing DR Congo homes'

A demolished medical centre in Democratic Republic of Congo (2009) Image copyright Action contre l’impunité pour les droits humains
Image caption A medical centre was among the buildings demolished

A Belgian mining firm has "consistently lied" about the bulldozing of hundreds of homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Amnesty International says.

New evidence showed a Groupe Forrest International (GFI) subsidiary supplied bulldozers to destroy homes near a copper and cobalt mine, it said.

GFI, which has denied responsibility for the illegal demolitions in 2009, should pay compensation, Amnesty said.

DR Congo is resource-rich, but most of its people live in poverty.

It is estimated to have 34% of the world's cobalt reserves and 10% of copper reserves.

'Congolese cover-up'

Amnesty International said it had obtained evidence - including satellite imagery and videos - to show that armed policemen destroyed homes near the mine in the southern Katanga province with bulldozers supplied by GFI's subsidiary Entreprise General Malta Forrest (EGMF).

"There is now overwhelming and irrefutable evidence showing that the forced evictions that Groupe Forrest International has denied for years in fact took place," said Amnesty International's Audrey Gaughran in a statement.

Image copyright Jeff Mbiya
Image caption The Belgian company said it played no part in the 2008 demolitions and evictions

"It is shameful for a mining giant to lie and deny people justice. It is time for them to finally come clean and compensate the villagers for what they lost," she added.

A government prosecutor investigated the demolitions and tried to bring criminal charges against those responsible, but was instructed by government officials not to do so, Amnesty said in its report.

"This is a cover-up by the Congolese authorities. The state has failed its own people by not bringing anyone to justice for these forced evictions and by not ensuring that compensation was paid," it added.

Amnesty International called on Belgium to review its legal and policy framework to ensure it can properly regulate Belgian multinationals, at home and abroad.

EGMF withdrew from the mining concession in DR Congo 2012 and the mine is now state-owned.

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