US News is the DRC: a chocolatee survives in the furnace of the rebels ADF

12:40  13 october  2021
12:40  13 october  2021 Source:   rfi.fr

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Début de processus pour les fèves de cacao à la chocolaterie de Virunga Origins, à Mutwanga le 18 novembre 2020 © Alexis Huguet start of process for cocoa beans with the chocolate of Virunga Origins, in Mutwanga on November 18 2020

"We are pioneers!" Lance Roger Muhindo in front of the entrance of his chocolate that survives in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces Group (ADF) have massacred nearly one thousand civilians in twelve months.

Un fermier dans son champ de cacaoyers à Mutwanga le 19 novembre 2020 © Alexis Huguet A farmer in his cocoa fields in Mutwanga on November 19, 2020

Roger Muhindo and the dozen employees of the "Virunga Origins Chocolates" factory are in the heart of the turmoil. The barbed wires and armed guards around the ground of what should have been a thriving industrial area recall that the front line is nearby.

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Despite extreme violence and lack of infrastructure, the Virunga National Park (NPV) is fighting to run this chocolate. Its objectives: to transform the cocoa on the spot to fight against its contraband towards neighboring Uganda and create jobs to fight against enrollment in armed groups.

"There are others who would like to invest here, but they are afraid, with the war and everything that happens here," explains Mr. Muhindo, responsible for the production of the small factory installed since January 2020 in Mutwanga , in the troubled territory of Beni.

In December, only a few months after the marketing of the first chocolate tablets, Mutwanga and the neighboring localities, so far, relatively spared by violence, have become one of the main targets of the deadly attacks attributed to ADF rebels.

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In less than a year, more than 200 civilians were killed within a radius of 20 kilometers around the chocolaterie, mainly in isolated villages, near cocoa plantations.

Since 2019, the Islamic State Organization (EI) claims some of the rebel attacks of the ADF armed group against civilians and the positions of the Congolese army. The EI presents the ADF rebellion in its communiqués as its branch in Central Africa (Islamic State Central Africa Province, ISCAP).

Les barres chocolatées de Virunga Origins, à Mutwanga le 18 novembre 2020 © Alexis Huguet the chocolate bars of Virunga Origins, in Mutwanga on 18 November 2020

- Solar roaster -

"We deploy small units everywhere to protect those in their fields but it still makes us work too hard" , lament Antony Mwalushayi, spokesman for Operation Sokola-1 of the Congolese army, the ADF operation operation in Beni territory.

In a report of June 2021, the United Nations Expert Panel for the Democratic Republic of Congo specifies that in parallel with the attacks and kidnappings committed by ADFs against cocoa farmers, military Congolese armed forces have harvested the chops in Deserted fields to resell illegal beans in Uganda.

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The head of an agricultural cooperative that supplies Virunga Origins confirms to AFP, under the cover of anonymity, that "as soon as the planters leave the fields, there are soldiers who fly the products and resell them to the contrabanders" .

PNVI managers do not discourage. After turning the to the slow motion, the machines work full speed for a few months.

"We will multiply by ten the production capacity to deal with local and international demand and we will have one of the first 100% product chocolates on renewable energy, thanks to the solar roaster we are going to install", advertisement Bastien Allard, one of the PNVI officials. The expansion of the chocolateerie are in progress, says Allard.

Le barrage hydrolélectrique de Mutwanga, au pied des monts Rwenzori, le 19 novembre 2020 © Alexis Huguet The Hydrolelectric Dam of Mutwanga, at the foot of the Rwenzori Monts, November 19, 2020

After a first small hydroelectric plant launched in 2013, the PNVI started another in 2019, with a capacity of 2 , 4 megawatts, on the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains to feed the city of Mutwanga and the Chocolaterie.

The objective is to encourage investors to implement industries, benefiting from credit and stable and cheap electricity.

"Today, with the chocolate, the population knows how to see the cocoa transformed into chocolate directly" and even if it is still shy, "other factories are setting up, so now on the plan Economic it boosts the economy of the country! ", Rejoices Jonathan Kahumba, son of the region and responsible for the hydroelectric plant.


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