Harry urged to quit Africa role

Published by The Daily Mail (29th January, 2024)

Prince Harry is being urged to quit a conservation charity he helps to run after a probe by The Mail on Sunday uncovered allegations that it operates an armed militia engaged in human rights atrocities in Africa.

Survival International, which fights for the rights of indigenous peoples, has launched a campaign to get the prince and donors to sever links with African Parks after claims of beatings, rape and torture by some of its guards.

Harry was the charity’s president for six years before being promoted to its governing board of directors last year.

The organisation, which manages national parks in 12 African countries through government partnerships, has been confronted by first-hand testimonies that the Baka, an indigenous people have been subjected to disturbing intimidation.

It is claimed they have been stopped from entering forests where they have foraged, fished, hunted and found medicine for millennia.

Caroline Pearce, director of Survival International, said: ‘What The Mail on Sunday investigation has exposed is horrific. African Parks rangers are accused of brutalising the Baka people and enforcing theft of their rainforest.’

She said it was scandalous that such atrocities were committed while travel firms flew wealthy tourists into the area for gorilla-spotting safaris.

Ms Pearce urged Harry to distance himself from the charity which she claims is complicit in ‘heinous abuse’ of innocent people. ‘As someone who has taken a high-profile stand against racism, the prince could help to bring about real change for indigenous people,’ she said.

A spokesman for Prince Harry’s foundation, Archewell, said: ‘When the Duke became aware of these serious allegations, he immediately escalated them to the CEO and chairman of the board of African Parks, the appropriate people to handle next steps.’

The Baka live in Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo, which has been managed by African Parks since 2010 – when it signed a 25-year deal with the government. The charity is funded by the EU, the US government and wealthy philanthropists, including a Swiss billionaire who is part of the consortium which owns Chelsea Football Club. It has also received British aid for other areas of Africa.

Ms Pearce says that similar suffering, deprivation and destruction of traditional communities is being caused by other conservation bodies across Africa and Asia.

Survival International wrote a letter to Prince Harry last May about ‘violent intimidation and torture’ that had taken place, including the rape of a young mother by a guard.

The man was dismissed, jailed and ordered to pay his victim about £1,300 in compensation. She claims she has only received about £500. Yesterday, African Parks said it has a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for any form of abuse and is ‘committed to upholding the rights of local and indigenous people’.

It said it is ‘aware of the serious allegations’ and had launched an investigation through an external law firm after ‘becoming aware of these allegations last year via a board member who received a letter from Survival International.’

African Parks said: ‘We take allegations of human rights abuses very seriously and always investigate such allegations thoroughly.’

The charity also accused Survival International of refusing to co-operate with its inquiries. The organisation responded by pointing out it had been raising concerns since 2013.

Colonel Theodore Golo, a former army officer who spent almost two years as the area’s top government official, said: ‘There are a lot of problems with the guards.’

He added: ‘Indigenous people are the best keepers of the forest and fauna. They know everything about the forest. They keep it better than we do and better than foreigners.’

The Mail on Sunday investigation highlights ongoing tensions between conservation groups and indigenous peoples in Africa and Asia. While indigenous people care for forests, armed militia run by organisations are battling to save the natural world from miners, poachers and loggers.

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