Editor's Note: This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill and was written by Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst Holly Dranginis.
Like the endangered wildlife he helps protect, Congolese environmentalist Bantu Lukambo is being hunted. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, conservation is dangerous work because it threatens the interests of powerful groups. Several of Congo’s national parks – including Africa’s oldest, Virunga – are under siege. Armed groups and poachers have used these remote areas as sanctuaries and business headquarters, trafficking in ivory, minerals, and charcoal made from old-growth forest. Government officials are also involved in these lucrative transnational crimes, including army officials and politicians. Lukambo conducts investigations, seeking to defend Virunga from its range of assailants. He has been exiled three times for it.
Lukambo and his colleagues are enemies of a corrupt, sophisticated state, and they deserve protection. As Congo’s president Joseph Kabila holds tight to power ahead of his potential third term, the government is sharpening its tools of repression, targeting anyone threatening its interests. The US Congress can help safeguard space for civic action and promote accountability by passing the Global Magnitsky Act. The Act would create a process for the US to sanction individuals targeting whistleblowers for exposing illegal state activity. This bi-partisan bill passed in the Senate last December and moved out of committee in the House this week. House leadership should quickly bring it to the floor for a vote.