precious wood

Timber trafficking: The hidden history of looting

in depth

This article is part of the dossier:

Timber Trafficking

By Vincent Duhem

Posted on July 11, 2022 13:48

It is a universally acknowledged truth. The continent’s forests continue to deteriorate year after year. There are many reasons for this rampant deforestation. Trafficking in precious wood (kevazingo, barwood, or rosewood) is one of them. Between 50% and 90% is said to be exported illegally.

This is part 1 of a 6-part series

Everywhere, the goodwill shown by authorities clashes with unfortunate realities; the greed of certain people and the difficulty of enforcing the law. Organised by criminal or even mafia-like networks, with the complicity of certain local actors, the trafficking supplies the Asian markets, which are particularly fond of these rare species.

The examples are so numerous that it is difficult to single out any one case. From Abidjan to Yaoundé, via Kinshasa and Dakar, we have investigated the plundering that threatens the continent.

Tensions, investigation, audit

At the end of January, rosewood trafficking was at the centre of tensions at the border between Gambia and Senegal. Two Senegalese soldiers lost their lives.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the minister of water and forests was dismissed in mid-April, six months after the launch of a vast investigation that led to the arrest of an Ivorian-Lebanese logger and forced Alassane Ouattara to commission an audit.

Finally, in Cameroon, a draft forestry law meant to curb the illegal trade in precious wood is gathering dust in President Paul Biya’s drawers.

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