Prince Harry faces calls to quit his role in a conservation charity accused of operating an armed militia engaged in human rights atrocities in Africa
Prince Harry is being urged to thank a charity he helps run after an investigation by The Mail on Sunday revealed it runs an armed militia involved 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 cut ties with African parks after allegations of beatings, rape and torture by some of his guards.
Harry was the charity’s president for six years before being promoted to its governing board last year.
The organization, 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.
They are said to have been prevented from entering forests where they foraged, fished, hunted and obtained medicine for millennia.
Prince Harry was the president of African Parks for six years until he moved to the governing board last year
African Parks rangers in Kokoua National Park have been accused of widespread rights abuses against the indigenous Baka people
Bernard Mingo, left, and Victor Mayanga, claimed they were beaten and handcuffed by rangers from African Parks in the northern Republic of Congo
Caroline Pearce, director of Survival International, said: ‘What The Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed is appalling. African Parks rangers are accused of brutalizing the Baka people and enforcing theft of their rainforest.’
She said it was scandalous that such atrocities were committed while travel companies were flying wealthy tourists into the area for gorilla safaris. Ms Pearce urged Harry to distance himself from the charity which she said was complicit in the ‘appalling abuse’ of innocent people. “As someone who has taken a high-profile stand against racism, the prince can help 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 take the next steps to deal with.’
The Baka live in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo, which has been managed by African Parks since 2010 – when it signed a 25-year agreement 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 that owns Chelsea Football Club. It also received British aid for other areas of Africa.
Ms Pearce says 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 took place, including the rape of a young mother by a guard.
The man was dismissed, jailed and ordered to pay his victim around £1,300 in compensation. She claims she only received around £500. African Parks said yesterday 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 was ‘aware of the serious allegations’ and launched an investigation by an external law firm after it ‘became aware of these allegations last year through a board member who received a letter from Survival International.’
African Parks said: ‘We take allegations of human rights violations very seriously and always investigate such allegations thoroughly.’
The charity also accused Survival International of refusing to co-operate with its enquiries. The organization responded by pointing out that it has been raising concerns since 2013.
Colonel Theodore Golo, a former army officer who spent nearly two years as the area’s top government official, said: ‘There are many problems with the guards.’
He added: ‘Indigenous people are the best custodians of the forest and fauna. They know everything about the forest. They like it better than us 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 militias run by organizations struggle to save the natural world from miners, poachers and loggers.