The environmental movement is on the up. The recent Extinction Rebellion, which brought London to a halt over several days, showed the passion and power of a new generation of activists, who are determined to make the earth's threatened bio-diversity a new theme of global struggle. The focus is especially on the exploding human population's impact on the planet.
As the continent with some of the most diverse and also threatened ecosystems, Africa will again play centre-stage in this struggle. Additionally, in the campaign to maintain a sustainable balance between humans and wildlife, it is likely that African people are likely to be adversely impacted, as another group from the West, eyes blazing, are driven by a new environmental ideology. This new ideology is in many ways repeating the moral certainties of the missionaries and those who promoted the 'White Man's Burden' from the last century.
Recent revelations from Survival International about the activities of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the Congo already give cause for concern. The WWF, which is active across large swathes of the forest area, has been offering bonuses to its wardens for arrests of local people in the controversial Messok Dja protected area.
According to Survival International, the payments, detailed in the funding agreement signed between the EU and the WWF (which led to the creation of the Messok Dja protected area) have led to the beatings, torture and sexual assault of local Baka people. To quote one local Baka: "Our forest is now closed off to us. The rangers [even] kill for money, that's how they raise their salary."
There are many disturbing questions raised by this WWF intervention. Amongst these are issues of accountability, mandate, and proportionate response to the threats faced by jeopardised wildlife.
How is it possible that what is virtually a paramilitary group of wardens, operating under an agreement between the EU and WWF, are able to abuse people in the Congo? Where is the government in all this and why does a Western NGO appear to exist beyond the state in Africa?
Despite its mission of 'creating a world where people and wildlife can thrive together', the WWF has been accused of similar actions before.
It was involved in the Project Lock scandal in 1991 through its first president, Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld--the deeply controversial consort...