Sunday, July 21, 2024

Environmental Activist Accuses Government of Complicity in Timber Smuggling from Senegal

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By Alieu Jallow

Omar Malmo Sambou, an academic and consultant specializing in contemporary environmental issues such as Natural Resources Management, Climate Change, Social & Environmental Impact Assessments, and Ecological Tourism, has reacted to the Ministry of Information’s press release regarding the shooting incident of Amadou Juma Camara, a Gambian from Kampanti village, during his transportation of timber into The Gambia from Casamance.

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The environmentalist stated that Senegal’s ban on timber logging and trade makes the Ministry of Information’s statement appear as a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. He accused the Gambia government of being complicit in the smuggling of timber from Senegal, involving both Senegalese and Gambian nationals.

“Wood is smuggled into the Gambia by Senegalese and Gambian nationals, certified by the Gambia government that legally operates the trade. The Gambia though without wood, gives licenses for a so-called re-export trade of wood. The country hides behind re-export to cover the shady ways of acquiring the wood.”

Mr Sambou claimed that the very individuals tasked with protecting the remaining flora and fauna are actually orchestrating a trade that undermines these regional natural resources. He referenced the D200,000 non-refundable license application fee at the Department of Forestry under the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources as evidence.

He also noted that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had suspended The Gambia from the timber trade. However, he stated that the government swiftly informed its citizens that it had voluntarily suspended the trade, a claim he described as baseless.

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“An Environmental Investigation Agency reported that an estimated 1.6 million trees have been illegally harvested in Senegal and smuggled into The Gambia between June 2012 and April 2020; it indicated that the rosewood traffic between Senegal and The Gambia has been largely controlled by the armed rebel group Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance and is the principal source of funding for the armed group. The Gambia government is complicit,” he said.

Outspoken environmentalists outlined that The Gambia has exported 1.6 million trees to China – equivalent to 978,968 tons worth over US$470 million of rosewood species Pterocarpus erinaceus which is labelled as near extinction. According to him this accounts for 12% and is the 3rd largest exporter of wood to China describing the actions of the country leading to serious forest cover and biodiversity loss in Senegal.

“This trade will exacerbate the impacts of climate change in the region thereby affecting key sectors of the Senegalese economy; agriculture, water resources, forest cover, etc. The smart thing they do now is to put an embargo while the smugglers gather more logs then lift the embargo to export the woods or export them secretly,” he said.

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