Human rights advocate killed in DRC palm oil conflict

Peter Nijenhuis

By |2019-07-23T09:29:08+00:00July 23rd, 2019|Advocacy, Community, Congo Basin, Human Rights|Comments Off on Human rights advocate killed in DRC palm oil conflict

Synchronicity Earth is deeply saddened to report the death of Joël Imbangola Lunea, a human rights advocate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The following contains extracts from the press release published by Synchronicity Earth’s partner Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) and human rights organisation RIAO-RDC. The full article can be read here.

A member of the Congolese environmental and human rights organisation RIAO-RDC has been killed by a security guard of the Canadian palm oil company Feronia Inc. on Sunday, July 21, 2019, near the company’s Boteka plantations in Bempumba, Eqauteur Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Joël Imbangola Lunea was a driver of a motorised boat used to transport people and goods between the villages around Feronia’s Boteka plantations and the city of Mbandaka. He was also a community activist and member of RIAO-RDC, and played a particularly important role in ensuring communications between the local communities and RIAO-RDC.

Joël Imbangola Lunea’s death

At around 3pm, on Sunday July 21, 2019, Mr. Joël was preparing to transport several passengers and their luggage on his small boat, when he was approached by Mr. Boketsu Ebuka (alias “Ebola”), a security guard working at Feronia’s PHC Boteka plantations. Mr. Ebuka accused Mr. Joël of transporting containers of stolen palm oil from Feronia’s plantations. The passengers and other witnesses to the scene say that when Mr. Joel denied the charge, Mr. Ebuka became violent and killed Mr. Joël.

The killing takes place in a context of rising tensions between Feronia and the local communities at the company’s three different plantation sites in the DRC.

Efforts to mediate the conflict

RIAO-RDC is working to try to bring a peaceful solution to the conflict. It led a first mediation process in 2017 that was sabotaged by Feronia when the company pulled out of the process after only a couple of weeks. In November 2018, RIAO