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Friday, May 24, 2024

Prince Harry-linked charity faces crime claims

Guards working for African Parks have been accused of human-rights abuses in the local communities of the Republic of the Congo

Wildlife charity African Parks has launched an investigation into allegations of rape and torture committed by its guards in the Republic of the Congo amid growing calls for the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, to resign as a board member.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the organization said it learned of the “serious” charges of human rights violations by its eco-guards against locals living near Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Central African nation. It reportedly received a tip by email from the human rights group Survival International last year. Odzala-Kokoua National Park is one of over 20 parks managed by the non-profit, headquartered in the South African city of Johannesburg, spread over 12 African states.

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“We immediately launched an investigation through an external law firm based on the information we had available while also urging Survival International to provide any and all facts they had,” it said.

The charity, however, accused Survival International – the London-based NGO campaigning for the rights of indigenous people – of refusing to cooperate with the probe “despite repeated requests.”

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“This is an active, ongoing investigation that is our highest priority as an organization, and we encourage anyone with knowledge of any abuses to report them to us or to the Congolese law enforcement authorities,” African Parks added.

The conservation charity, founded in 2000 to protect Africa’s national parks and advance wildlife conservation, presently manages over 20 million hectares of protected areas. Prince Harry was the organization’s president for six years before joining the board of directors last year.

Survival International has criticized African Parks for causing “destruction” instead of “conservation” with its activities.

In response to the charge of refusing to comply with investigations, Fiore Longo, the head of Survival International’s conservation campaign, told the PA news agency that African Parks “had the money to conduct their own investigation.”

“It’s not up to us to give them details. It’s their responsibility when we raise a problem to go there and investigate,” Longo said.