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Meet the Investors Behind the PHC Oil Palm Plantations in DRC

Oil palm plantation on the PHC concession with investor logos
Oil palm plantation on the PHC concession. © Oskar Epelde
February 8, 2022

As community efforts to reclaim 100,000 hectares of their ancestral land occupied by oil palm plantations are met with violent repression, unlawful arrests, and murder, Meet the Investors Behind the PHC Oil Palm Plantations in DRC exposes the financiers profiteering from the plantations.

Communities in Lokutu, Yaligimba, and Boteka in DRC, forcibly displaced first in 1911 by the Belgian colonial authorities to establish oil palm plantations, face acute hardships today. Livelihoods are severely impacted — hunger and poverty are widespread while the dumping of untreated industrial waste has polluted a major source of drinking water. Having lost their lands and reduced to working as laborers on the plantations, community members face poor wages and unsafe working conditions.

An independent investigation carried out in September 2021 brought to light the escalation of violence against community members. On September 14, soldiers and PHC security guards reportedly looted and destroyed dozens of homes, tortured and kidnapped villagers from communities surrounding the plantations.

On January 8, 2022, after a group of workers at the Boteka plantation went on strike to protest poor wages, PHC called in the police and military who opened fire on the protestors, seriously wounding two workers.

Meet the Investors sunlights KCM’s key partners and US-based institutional investors such as the Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, and Kamehameha Schools, along with investors exposed in the March 2021 publication, In King Leopold’s Steps — the University of Michigan, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the South African Government Employees Pension Fund and Public Investment Corporation, and the UK Royal County of Berkshire Pension Scheme.

The report also shines the light on a key partner, Jide Zeitlin, through his private investment firm Keffi Group. Zeitlin notably resigned as CEO of Tapestry in 2020 following a misconduct allegation. It also details the disturbing internal legal battle currently underway between Wale Adeosun and Larry Seruma for control of the plantations.

Given the failure of the owners of PHC to take action, the Oakland Institute echoes calls of local communities for an international investigation into these grave human rights abuses and for the investors profiteering from the exploitation of the plantation to be held accountable for the wrongdoings of the company.

Report cover