Gabon’s Director General of Forests was arrested on 12 September 2023. Ghislain Moussavou’s arrest comes a few days after his meeting with the President of the Transitional Council for the Restoration of Institutions (CTRI). General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had summoned the senior official from the Ministry of Water and Forests to return potentially embezzled funds within 48 hours.
In Gabon, Ghislain Moussavou, the Director General of Forests, is being exploited by the Directorate General of Research (DGR). He was arrested on Tuesday 12 September 2023 in his office at the Gabonese Ministry of Water and Forests, the Sea, the Environment, the Climate Plan and the Land Allocation Plan.
Ghislain Moussavou’s arrest follows a complaint lodged in May 2023 by the National Union of Water and Forestry Professionals (SYNAPEF). The union accused the senior executive of being part of a criminal network that had set up a system of shell companies and parallel bank accounts to embezzle public money. The complaint relates to some 200-forestry exploitation permits that were allegedly granted illegally, covering an area of 3 million hectares and involving hundreds of millions of CFA francs.
The President of the Transitional Council for the Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) is said to have taken up the complaint. The day after he was sworn in on 4 September 2023, the general who overthrew President Ali Bongo four days earlier ordered the Director General of Forests to return all the money they had embezzled within 48 hours.
The defendant had already been imprisoned in Libreville central prison in 2022 for breach of trust and embezzlement. He was released thanks to the intervention of the former Minister of Water and Forests, Lee White.
A model of sustainable logging
Gabon is held up as a model of sustainable forestry in Central Africa. The country receives more funding for biodiversity than any other country in the sub-region. With almost 88% forest cover, Gabon is promoting green diplomacy, the effectiveness of which is reflected in the financing obtained on the carbon market. In 2019, Norway has pledged to pay Gabon $150 million to protect its forests as part of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).
Long before this funding, the country underwent an independent audit of its deforestation rates in 2016 and 2017. The conclusive results of this study – a deforestation rate of around 0.1% per year – enabled Gabon to obtain an initial payment of $17 million as part of the REDD+ initiative, becoming the first African country to be paid to protect its forests.