Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Destruction of The Congo’s Ecosystem. Economic Plundering of the DRC

"Joseph Kabila's" Mass Eco-Atrocities That COP21 Should Not Ignore

Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) -a country of great environmental value with one of the world’s remaining intact forest that accounts for more than half of Africa’s forest- is ecologically under sustained and constant threats because it is no nation-state. 
As awareness of climate change becomes universal, one of COP21 controversial aims -without ensuring the mechanism for accountability- is to mobilized USD100 billion a year by 2020 from high industrialized economies to help the least countries make the energy transition, adapt to the effects of climate change that includes to stop the deforestation in countries such as Brazil, DRC, Indonesia, Peru and Others.
By principle, the COP21 stress is to focus on how developing countries will implement these measures so the funding will be channelled to the Emissions-Reducing-Projects and the Climate-Adaptation-Projects rather than to the Personal-Enrichment-Projects as the developing countries claim the funding as compensation to the pollution created by the industrialized economies.

A Call to save the Congo Basin ecosystem

It is obvious that the Kinshasa government, with its weak institutions, failed to comply with the minimal ecological requirements to make DRC environmentally friendly, and contracted or is about to contract irresponsible projects that will jeopardise the Congo and global ecosystem.
“Joseph Kabila’s” camouflage policy that destroys the Congo ecosystem:
050 Forestry Law: the “Bloody Logging Licence”
Road created by illegal timber logging in the DRC rainforest.
“The world is making commitment to halt deforestation as we know that healthy forest absorbs carbon but we are destroying them at massive rate” said Ricardo Tejada, global communication director of the no-profit International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The DRC, home to a thirds of the world’s second largest tropical rainforest, faces illegal logging and environmental abuses by the “Joseph Kabila” regime and international loggers -from countries such as France, Portugal, Spain, US, UK and China- who are complicit in abuse, slavery, raping of local populations and even killing of opponent community members.
Indeed, roads created by logging have opened up vast areas to commercial hunting that leads to a poaching epidemic of animals such as forest elephants, chimpanzees, bonobos, Congo peacock, and Okapi.
Industrial loggers -engage in illegal logging with impunity-generate massive deforestation, and also target an endangered trees such as ”Wenge” largely for buyers in Europe and china.
“If the international community is serious about saving the world’s last rainforest, it should stop lining the pockets of the people who plunder them” said Alexander Pardal, Global Witness  campaign leader.
In the light of the COP21 event and paradoxically,  the French Development  Agency (FDA), financially supported by France who hosted the climate change talks (COP21), signed an illicit and irresponsible logging agreement with the “Joseph Kabila” regime. The shocking illegal logging, by France, is destroying the Congo rainforest, pushing it to extinction and threatening endemic species.
The FDA’s investments in the destruction of tropical forests are contrary to France’s goals in connection with COP21

Greenpeace campaign to stop the damaging 050 forestry law.
In September 2015, Congolese policymakers introduced the 050 forestry law -also called “Licence to Destroy“- which means communities will continue to have no say in what is done with their lands and forests. The new legislation could easily be used by unscrupulous individuals and industrial loggers to bypass the moratorium on the allocation of logging concession that has been in place since 2002.
Greenpeace is campaigning that the 050 forestry law, which was passed without public consultation, undermines COP21 pledge on forests protection and needs to be repealed.
Even if the government is committed to slowing and probably halting forest loss by adopting the REDD+ strategy; no matter how, the logging activities in the DRC are in a state of organized chaos and corruption and this is completely due to lack of transparency and forest harvesting management.

The Greater Virunga Project (GVP): Gorillas vs Oil Exploration

A mountain gorilla from the Kabirizi family in Virunga National Park, eastern Democratic of Congo, pictured on April 7, 2011
The systematic threat to destroy the Precious Virunga Park -the natural reserve, the tourism sanctuary, the World Heritage Site, UNESCO-Protected-Park, home to rare Gorillas and other biodiversities- following the discovery of a major oilfield in its soil.
Already largely destroyed by the illegal exploitation of natural and mineral resources, and the barbarity of Rwandan and Ugandan occupation troops, that control, the whole Eastern side of  DRC since 1996; in addition, the scandalous and controversial British oil company ”SOCO International and the regime in Kinshasa -both implicated in bribing, intimidation, beating, arming rebels, and even killing and detaining opponents of their drilling project- agreed to process the critically seismic testing in the VNP. Conservationists say the move is illegal. SOCO has denied the claims, and abandoned in November 2015 the project, opting out of renewing its lease.
The Kinshasa Regime spokesman has made, on the 8th November 2015, a prescient statement about the “Kabila’s” position on this issue: “We will examine the matter and consider if we can allowed the operating phase for the country people’s interest and in the light of our international commitments to protect the nature. The government will very quickly make a decision.
Mr Juvenal Mukeshimana, the Executive Secretary of GVTC hands over the GVTC Treaty to H.E. Elvi Mutiri wa Bashara, Minister of Tourism of DRC.
Further to the DRC government announcement, an internal workshop on oil exploration in the VNP was initiated -on the 18th November 2015- by the GVTC staff members. Mr Juvenal Mukeshimana, the GVTC executive secretary, said  that in January 2016, another workshop will be organised to discuss future oil exploration/exploitation issues. Noting that the Oil or mineral exploitation/exploration is not stipulated in the GVTC treaty.
On the 17th December 2015, the European Parliament resolution was adopted on the protection of the VNP. The European Parliament urges on the UK to fully investigate all bribery and corruption allegations, and acts of  violence against human rights defenders active in the DRC put before it relating to SOCO International plc, and its DRC-registered company SOCO Exploration and Production DRC SPRL (SOCO).
The case for Displacement, Conservation and Exploitation(DCE) in Oil-Rich Greater Virunga
Virunga Park, DRC
In the past, the DRC’s Ministry of Environment has also suggested the possibility of “degazetting” Virunga as a national park, which would remove its protected status under domestic law, and potentially facilitate the removal of it World Heritage Protection, reported the National Geography Society.
The Greater Virunga Project, that includes the Albertine Rift area and World Heritage Sites of the border zone between Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, involves mainly the exploration/exploitation of petroleum, natural gas and strategic mineral resources by changing the VNP epicentre to Rwanda while the untapped region ecosystem will be jeopardized.
Ihirwe,orphan gorilla captured in Kivu learning to trust her new doctors at the Kinigi facility in Rwanda
“Joseph Kabila”, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame’s genocidal ambitions are destroying the region in order to provide security for international companies to access mine and oil fields (see UN Report in 2001) by using the strategy for mass depopulation displacement  which involves mass atrocity crimes to empty the Mineral and Oil Rich Area for business, and create -particularly in the Virunga Park (Grand Kivu) where Gorillas will be transferred, for a so called “conservation”, to the neighbouring countries such as Rwanda and Uganda- a Chaos Zone.
In fact, millions of Congolese are dead and displaced, and no source can give an exact estimated of fatalities due to an on going war in DRC. Thus, taking the forced migration in Sudan report as reference, the Grand Virunga project is a threats to the health of Congo’s ecosystem and its residents.
This is an illustration of the predatory practices, and irresponsible and “eco-terrorist” behaviour of the Kinshasa regime. And How far will EU and COP21 go to prohibit the VNP degazettement?
The Transaqua Mega Project: the Blue Gold War in Africa
Transaqua Plan for Water Infrastructure Development
The gigantic projects of waters transfer from the Congo Basin, the second largest river and forest basin in the world that play a key role in regulating global climate, to others basins, including those of the Chad and the Nile.
“Source of future conflict or instrument of peace?”
 The Transaqua project (Tran: transfer and aqua: water), -which originated at the end of the 1970′s, was first proposed by Italian engineering firm, Bonifica, and was turned down in 1994 by involved African countries at the height of the Congo destabilization- will generate major and irreversible environmental risks in the ecosystem of the Congo and neighbouring regions such as the desertification right in the Congo Basin that would affect the agriculture and  the destruction of the current potential vast hydroelectricity of DRC (Inga).
The works that took place from Tuesday 03 to Friday 06 November 2015, in Kinshasa, on the water transfer from the Ubangi to the Lake Chad, is a continuation of the various secret talks between “Joseph Kabila” and the Chadian authorities. These talks are designed to subtilize the Congo River’s waters to supply the Chad and the Nile basins.
International Network of Congo River’s Waters Transport
Hence, “Joseph Kabila” develops secret contacts, at early 2015, with the Egyptian authorities for the same diversion operation of Congo River’s waters to the Nile. As  the Congo river will deliver water to the Egyptian border at Aswan through Sudan; both, ”Joseph Kabila” and Salva Kiir Mayardit (South Sudan President) gave their blessing to Ibrahim Fayoumi -the engineer in charge of ADF- to implement the project. Whereas, the Congolese Water Act prohibits the water transfer from the Congo River outside the nation’s borders unless a referendum, preceded by a national or regional debate, is held.
Other similar projects to divert water to the Middle East are also being in the pipeline.
The water management policy and aquatic environments should be conducted on the scientific knowledge basis and must simultaneously take into account the current socio-economic context. Otherwise this kind of initiative would be irresponsible and even criminal.
The Grand Inga Dam Project: ”an Apartheid Power Solution with Unpredictable Geological Risks ”
Schematic of the Grand Inga
The ambitious Grand Inga Dam, which is the largest hydropower scheme with an estimated power of 40 gigawatts, proposed for the Congo River in the volatile DRC that suffers from political corruption and insurgencies. Therefore, the DRC poses an exceedingly risky investment climate apart from the environmental issues that would affect the regional ecosystem.

Schematic of the proposed Grand Inga transmission routes.
In fact, the Grand Inga Concept, also known as “Apartheid Energy Solution”, was proposed back in the 1970′s when DRC outlined a project agreement with the Apartheid South Africa, Egypt and nations of post-Apartheid Southern Africa to develop a continental energy grid that will involve the transmission cables linking South Africa, West Africa countries, Nigeria, Egypt and later extend it to Southern Europe.
The scheme, which would cost USD80 billion, is eligible for finance under Kyoto as renewable technology without consideration of the river’s geomorphology, function and biogeochemistry as a major constituent of the Tropical Atlantic Ocean.
Large Hydropower Projects have serious unpredicted ecological and social impacts and irreversible damages to the ecosystem. The Grand Inga dam will destroy carbon sinks; generate methane (greenhouse gases); block the migratory path of fish; relocate local population including human rights violations; lead to massive erosions along its bank; and provoke seismic and geological risks in the region…
DRC, the world’s second biggest green lung after the Amazon, will face another form of deforestation as the transmission lines always results in huge corridors of forests being cleared that will have significant environmental and social impacts.
Also, the Grand Inga will be built, in priority, to meet the demands of mining and industrials projects rather than to expand energy access to poor Congolese people as there is no electricity infrastructure.
Most often, a soaring demand for commodities from DRC brings to light the necessity of hydro-power; In 1954, the Inga site drawn attention of the  US’s “Foreign Operation Administration” in search of energy sources for future needs of the American aluminium industry.
The life presidency plan in DRC
To prevent the nightmares of Inga’s past -during Mobutu’s regime- from recurring, the World Bank suggests that the dam’s management can be largely insulated from Congo’s government as a whole. Some donors even suggest the development of an independent authority for Inga management.
Basically, what the World Bank and Development Agencies want is for DRC to have another “President for Life”. Thus, the dam management will be in accordance with their specific requirement that is to perpetually secure their interests.
“The project that establishes the political power in DRC”
To justify the above: on the 9th September 2014 in Cape Town, ”Joseph Kabila”, who is constitutionally barred from seeking third term and knowing the World Bank and Development Agencies stress of having another “President for Life”; promptly signed a cooperation agreement with South Africa in energetic matter including hydraulic resources and electricity. The validation process of Grand Inga’s Treaty was also considered.
Indeed, such mega project requires a “Wesphalian sovereignty” of the Congo State, which the country is seeking since 1885, to avoid further geopolitical and ecological crisis in the region.
As the Climate change been highlighted with COP21, the Inga Falls -on the lower Congo River- are again attracting attention.
In the whole, the Grand Inga Project -touted as green power project- is not a solution to the climate change goals set by COP21.
Kinshasa, the City Garbage
“Kinshasa la Poubelle” drowns in garbage.
“When a GOVERNMENT is not even capable of providing appropriate solutions to the domestic waste management issue.”
Since august 2015, the European Union (EU) transferred to the Congolese local authorities the Urban Sanitation Management Program of Kinshasa, in French acronym PARAU-PAUK, a program lunched in 2008; from there the filth of the temporary storage centres are no longer evacuated to their final destination.
In Kinshasa, the waste accumulation in the temporary landfills has taken an unprecedented proportions which is a real public health problem and creates domestic waste pollution issues such as spoiling the landscape, causing different types of pollution to the ecosystem, causing health hazards, and damaging terrestrial and aquatic life.
The Kinshasa government is unable to manage the issue due to the high level of corruption and the administrative mismanagement. Noting that “DRC loses up to USD15 billion per year to fraud” said the president ‘s anti-corruption adviser.
Therese Olenga, the provincial environment minister and spokeswoman of Kinshasa regime additionally recognizes “one serious problem: the lack of financial resources”
As incompetence and dishonesty prevail above anything, the Kinshasa government imposed a new waste disposal tax, ranging from USD 5-30 per household depending on the neighbourhood, knowing that the largely destitute population would not be able to affort it.
Similar problem occurred in Katanga where the population complains of poor sanitation as the city authority is not able to remove the domestic wasted from the streets.
Congo Rivers: The Dumping Garbage and The Mining Boom Pollution 
Congo River, Kinsuka (DRC), uses as a garbage dump. 
 Consequences of the above issue, the Congo river -historically used by Congolese population for trade purpose to sustain their livelihood such as used for drinking and fishing- becomes a garbage dump of every form of domestic waste, toxic waste from companies, hospitals waste, and for the disposal of dead bodies. Several rivers in Congo are also used as waste storage centre.
The DRC has abundant water resources, but the water quality is extremely poor as the rivers have become health hazards responsible for water-born diseases.

Congo Basin waters
Mining Boom Pollution in DRC’s Basin Waters

Dishes, laundry, taking shower and drinking water are done with the waters of a polluted river in Katanga.
The DRC is estimated to have USD24 trillion worth of untapped deposits of minerals; the ecological damages, also described as “Crime Against Ecosystem”, are caused
only by less than 10% of mineral resources extracted in its soil.Once, the Grand Inga Project is completed, who will know the scale of environmental damages the mineral-rich DRC will face noting that the main project aim is to maximize the mining extraction/exploitation?
In less than 20 years and after the 2002 mining sector liberalization in all DRC’s provinces, the artisanal and industrial mining caused a large-scale pollution of lakes, rivers, Congo River and the water table.
In Katanga province, the poisoned rivers of Upper-Katanga and Lualaba represent a great danger to the population as they use the rivers’ water for their livelihood such as fishing, laundry, bathing and agriculture. The mining company Boss Mining killed and intoxicated, both, people and fish, destroyed agricultural fields, and polluted the rivers in the Lubudi and Kakanda territories.
In the South- Kivu, the pollution of the river waters (from the Lake Kivu and Tanganyika)-by effluents of cyanide and mercury used in the extraction of gold, coltan and other ores- has trapped local population that uses these polluted, devitalised and undrinkable waters for their needs.

 The state of rivers in the Lubudi and Kakanda territories.
Mining and mineral processing have not spared the North-Kivu province’s waters that are also contaminated; Bas-Congo province’s waters are polluted by the petroleum exploitation of oil companies such as SOCIR, PARENCO, CHEVRON TEXACO OIL CONGO, CHEVRON, MIOC, SOCOREP, TEIKOKU OIL….; In the Kasai province, the Lubilanji, Muya and Mbuji-Mayi Rivers are polluted by artisanal, informal and industrial diamond mining companies; In the Oriental province, the rivers pollution in Ituri, Bas-Uele and Tshopo comes from the exploitation of gold, cassiterite, coltan…; And in the Bandundu province, the Kasai, Kakemba, Mbelenge, Mayimbi, Mbendayi rivers are also polluted by mining companies.
The legal framework which protects the environment and sustainable development exists, and “Joseph Kabila” signed multi-million odious deals with mining groups under his rule; but still, more than 74% of people in water-rich DRC have no access to safe drinking water due to the lack of good governance, the collapse of infrastructures and state dysfunctionality that made the situation to spin out of control.

Land-Grabbing: “Agro-Colonialism”
 Workers at Feronia’s oil plantations at Lokutu
Land grabbing combined with industrial plantation, known as “Agro-Colonialism“, is simply multinational companies stealing land with the complicity of Kinshasa regime from the local people, who are later used as cheap labour, for the agriculture purposes of global commodities -such as palm oil, rubber, sugar- while violating human rights law to maximize their profits and impoverishing local communities in the process.
Mostly, the DRC government invites multinational agro-business companies to move in after the forest had been cleared by multinational loggers, and facilitates the transmigration to provide cheap labour for the plantation companies.

Feronia Inc, -a Canadian agro-business and land grabbing company is owned by the UK’s CDC Group with 48% of shares, the French Agency for Development  (AFD), the US government ‘s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the African Agriculture Fund (AAF) with 32% of shares, the Spanish Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion al Desarrollo (AECID) and the African for Development Bank (AfDB)- is involved in land grabbing for oil concessions and large-scale cereal plantation which provides fertile ground corruption practices including lack of transparency, and human right abuses including slavery, violation of labour right and laws, brutality in labour exploitation and prison detention of workers caught by company guards carrying just a few dropped nuts in DRC.
According to the Agriculture law of 2012,in the article 16, that stipulates that only companies which are majority nationally owned can have land, Feronia is in a position of illegal occupation as it owns 80% of shares of and the Congolese state stakes are 24%. The land belongs therefore to the local people who are claiming back their land.
Further to the above, Bernabe Kikaya Bin Karubi  -private secretary to “Joseph Kabila”, former minister of information and DRC’s ambassador to the UK, director in Feronia, and presently “Joseph Kabila” diplomatic advisor profited most blatantly from Feronia, regardless of Congolese people interests as the company’s records show that he was paid more than USD3 million in cash and shares and acted as intermediary to facilitate the purchase of PHC by Feronia. (see GRAIN Report 07 October 2014, Kleptomania in the Congo)
Most of land grabbing in DRC is taking place on the best watered ecosystems which are also the most biodiversity niches for humans and wildlife communities; indeed, fertilizer and pesticide pollution and contamination from intensive farming practices result in the negative health and sanitary consequences.
Particularly, palm oil plantation have devastating effect on the biodiversity of the ecosystem and livelihoods such as massive deforestation and forced displacement of local community. Additionally, the use of herbicides in the oil palm farming, for the genetically modified crops, affects the soil micro-organisms and birds, and increases the risk of genetic contamination of local landraces.

Blood Ivory: Terrorism in the Wildlife of Garamba National Park 
Elephants massacred from a helicopter attack  in Garamba National Park, DRC.
Garamba National Park (GNP)-in the north-east corner of the DRC and the border of South Sudan, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, internationally famous for its elephants, and its boundless ocean of green- is losing its principal values, the northern white rhino.
The poaching pressure remains intense on the elephants and other herbivores species due to mostly the presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of  rebel, Joseph Khony, in connection with terrorist groups such as Al Shabaab and ISIS, who uses ivory as “bush currency” to help finance their wars; local hunters; international criminal groups for their commercial hunting; park staff; FARDC soldiers; Janjaweed, armed riders from various Darfuri tribes in Sudan; and the SPLA’s poachers from South Sudan.
Given the current gold price and in a national context of weak governance, illegal gold panning activity in the buffer zones is expanding and threatening areas of important habitats, notably forest where typically moist forest species occur.
“Crime Against Wildlife”(CAW)
Veteran ranger Jean Claude Mambo Marindo sits beside  almost a hundred tusks seized from elephant poachers
 at Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The national park lost more than 10% of its elephant population in 2014 and many wildlife rangers have died in fighting rebel-poachers. In 2015, the SPLA’s poachers -operating in Garamba’s northeast, are responsible for about 80% of all elephant killing at the rate of 130-150 elephants poached each year in the GNP. Commercial hunting, mining, military exercises and conflict ivory that includes war, civil unrest affect the overall ecological integrity of the site.
The Kinshasa regime -without strong political leadership- is not able to deal with the problem and to provide weapons and ammunitions to FARDC troops to fight rebels (LRA). As part of  another government camouflage policy, the military personnel (FARDC) involved in tracking down LRA rebels do not often get their salaries for months.
The impact of armed conflict on protected areas of DRC is also observed in the Okapi Wildlife ReserveKahuzi-Biega National ParkSalonga National Park and Maika National Park.(See The Anatomy of Resource Wars, page 52)

Mineral Plundering: Mass Eco-Atrocities (MEA)
A soldier controls workers at the gold mine in Ituri region, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since the1997 invasion of DRC backed by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi armed groups that caused huge humanitarian suffering in what became known as First and Second Congo War and up to the current ”Joseph Kabila’s” occupation regime; crimes against ecosystem related to the Congolese mineral plunder -that are difficult to quantify the environmental degradation- are blatantly linked to the lack of state stability, that favours the proliferation of conflicts and armed groups, combined with international corporations and foreign governments’ interests in investing in a fragile Congo pre-positioned as harvest for unscrupulous investors.

The mineral plundering in DRC -involving Congolese government officials, neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe…., international mining companies, unregulated artisanal mining and armed groups- causes serious human rights violations and numerous unrecorded environmental crimes such as mass atrocities, disruption of families (population displacement), mining-related illness, environmental damages that have impact on the cultural and environmental diversity in the country, child-labour, and women abuse including prostitution, rape….
Refugees, from neighbouring countries, are also responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion and poaching.
Despite the ineffective new mining code adopted in 2012, that integrated clauses dedicated to environmental measures; an investigation by BBC’s panorama has found Glencore -a London listed company- dumping acid into the Luilu river and it discovered children as young as 10 years working in the Tilwezembe mine. And Glencore remains unpunished.
Furthermore, access to mining areas are limited by corrupted government officials, and multinational companies security guards to process either the environmental impact assessment before the mining or the regular environmental inspection during the mining.

“But the thief cannot be arrested by himself”

A Call for Honesty.
Once more, on paper, the legal institutional framework exists -in the Congolese legal fields to tackle corruption, including criminal code measures – just to attract funding from donors.
In March 2010, the DRC’s REDD+ R-PP was validated; this spurred the allocations of funding in the amount of USD 3,6 million and USD 5 millions by the FCPF and UNREDD. Later in June 2011, further funding was made available when the World Bank FIP approved USD 60 million and the estimation of USD 94 million was required for the stages of REDD+ initialisation through implementation.(Ref: Global Witness source)

In reality, the funding allocated to DRC’s REDD+  R-PP was respectively diverted from its initial purpose as the endemic system of corruption prevails in the Congolese society- due to endemic poverty and weak state authority- which characterized the policy of the occupation regime on the environmental matter.
In the national REDD’s framework, DRC-WWF and the Ministry of Environment have signed, on the 24 December 2015, an agreement on the improved management of forest landscapes evaluated to USD9,2 million including equipment worth USD2,4 million. Referring to the Past, the funding will be channelled to the Personal-Enrichment-Projects.
Noting also that the DRC’s officials are part of illegal logging business, the 050 forestry law -signed by DRC and other Congo Basin countries- was aimed, as pretext, to protect forests in exchange for funding from donors.

After the COP21 agreement, Rosalind Reeve, a senior fellow in climate change and environment at Ateneo School of Government in Manilla, Philippines said “The proof will be in the implementations of these policies in the years ahead, and in the reporting to measures accurately whether forest are indeed being preserved.”
Following the COP21′s agreement of the 12 December 2015, that should enter into force in 2020, in relation to the matter of facilitating implementation and compliance, and according to the “Joseph Kabila” regime legacy; the Kinshasa government, that is claiming billions from COP21 to tackle climate change issues, has no recognized competency in relevant scientific, technical, political, socio-economic or legal fields.
According to “Climate Justice” concept, the COP21 agreement should be drafted simply based on “honesty” to avoid failure.
By Ishiaba Kasonga with the collaboration of Serge Egola Angbakodolo ORION CONGO STUDIES NETWORK (O.C.S.N)

The articles on this site have been made available for educational purposes only to advance the understanding of  health, social, economic, scientific, environmental and political issues.

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