Reports of police violence in Primeiro de Maio, used to disperse peasants and brickmakers waiting for a meeting with VALE and the government – and the lessons we should have already learned as a country.

Peasants and brickmakers from the neighbourhoods of Primeiro de Maio and Catete have been demanding a fair compensation from both VALE and the government for the loss of their land, loss of access to water and ultimately their means of subsistence. They lost access to River Moatize due to the expansion of the VALE mine – Moatize III – in 2019. VALE claimed in March of this year that it owed nothing to these groups. Since then, it has come to recognize that it will have to pay some form of compensation. However, this process has been dragging. On the 6th of May of 2021, the brickmakers and peasants occupied Section 6 of the mine and blocked the mining road. This event was reported by JA! in a recent article. What happened on this day and, even more importantly, on the day after, invite from us a profound reflexion about the way in which VALE and our government are dealing with this situation. To this effect we have brought to bearing a first-person account of one of the members of the peasant commission of Nhantoto: Sr. Fernando Botão.

“We started telling the drivers to go stow away the vehicles and the machines, and not to circulate on that road, so that VALE would have to, at least, come give us a clarification with respect to our demands. That’s because ever since we were paralysed in our activities we haven’t been assisted [in general] nor have we even received any nutritional assistance” – says Sr. Fernando explaining what happened on the 6th of May when peasants and potters paralysed VALE’s mining road.

The paralysation lasted for a large part of the day and, according to the brickmakers, it only came to a close when they were assured by representatives of the company and the government that in the following day they would have a meeting together with VALE and the government of the district of Moatize in the neighbourhood of Primeiro de Maio.

This paralysation and the demands coming from the groups affected by VALE arise within a context of fatigue and frustration for many reasons, among which are:

– the detereoration of the life conditions of many of these families, formerly sustained by the production of bricks and by subsistence farming;

– the difficulties in the correspondence with VALE, wherein VALE insisted for some time that the group of brickmakers here in question was included in a group that was previously compensated by the company in 2018; the brickmakers and peasants of the neighbourhoods of Primeiro de Maio and Catete have attempted to explain that they are in fact a distinct group that was only affected in 2019 by the recentmost expansion of the mine Moatize III;

– the dragging of meetings between the commissions of brickmakers and peasants, the government and VALE over the past 2 years without there ever being a concrete solution to the problem;
– the uncertainty and lack of information with respect to the disinvestment of VALE in Mozambique leading to concerns regarding the numerous pendencies which the company still has with the communities affected by the mine;

– the rise in conflicts between the members of the commissions of brickmakers and peasants and the respective communities; members of the commissions are acused of not being able to resolve the issues of the community, as well as of negotiaing for their own private benefit, as communities cannot deduce any productive outcomes from these negotiations.

These are just some of the reasons why the community made their demand in conjunction with the commissions of brickmakers and peasants incredibly simple, clear and legitimate: VALE and the government should meet them in their neighbourhood and speak to the entire community without any intermediaries or representatives of the commissions.

In Sr. Fernando’s testimony, we can hear with some detail how the occupation on the 6th of May was, as well as what happened on the next day – 7th of May – when the brickmakers, peasants and residents of the neighbourhoods Primeiro de Maio and Catete assembled to wait for the meeting arranged on the previous day to take place in the big square in front of the old CARBOMOC police office at Primeiro de Maio.

It was the Police who came

“The manner in which they surrounded us (the police), we didn’t expect it, we assumed that maybe they had come to garrison the terrain so that when the Administrator arrived she would see that the site was protected.” – said Sr. Fernando describing the moment when the police arrived at the location where the meeting was planned.

But the police hadn’t come to escort anyone. Neither VALE nor the government of the district showed up to the meeting on the 7th of May. The various vehicles employed by the protection police and the Unit of Rapid Intervention (UIR), which Sr. Fernando had judged to be there for security purposes, surrounded the residents and soon after, according to several reports from the community, UIR agents started approaching the people and ordering them in an intimidating manner to disperse or else – in Fernando’s own words – they would “change colours”.

“I said.. Sir (policeman), you can’t intimidate this lady, because here we are not in Cabo Delgado, we don’t have any weaponry” – retells Sr Fernando as he describes an exchange he had with a security agent who was threatening a resident.

It was then when the UIR agents decided to use tear gas and shoot rubber bullets to disperse the agglomeration. There are dozens of reports of people fainting or developing respiratory problems, including children and newborn babies. According to witnesses, the police even fired tear gas bombs inside the houses to which the people had escaped. One citizen was shot with a rubber bullet and had to be hospitalised for many days; furthermore, at least 6 citizens were taken to the police station without any accusation against them, 2 of them being detained until the following day. Some people also reported to JA the use of fire weapons, itself implied by some fires in the neighbourhood provoked by the gunshots of the police. The children who were studying in the Primary School Primeiro de Maio at that moment had to abandon the lessons, and many were lost from their families for several hours.

What can justify this violence from the police? What interests are the police and the UIR defending? The use of force to repress peaceful manifestations – a right that’s safeguarded in our constitution and fundamental to a functioning democracy – is unacceptable.

When asked about the events of the 7th of May, the Moatize District Administrator declared to JA that she did not know about them – not even about the actions of the police – until 2 or 3 days later. Moreover, she added that she was in her office during the whole day expecting the meeting with the commissions of brickmakers and peasants of Primeiro de Maio. This demonstrates, at best, a great lack of concern or competence, especially if we take into consideration the fact that even the President of the Municipal Council of Moatize was in the neighbourhood Primeiro de Maio as the events unfolded. And why, we ask, did VALE’s representatives not only not show up that day but didn’t even justify their absence to the population – especially taking into account that there have already been numerous times when police forces intervened in Moatize in alignment with the interests of the mining company.

VALE is known for conducting prolonged and non-inclusive processes as way of weakening the demands of the affected communities

It’s important to highlight here that the strategy of lengthening processes, exhausting affected groups and prolonging negotiations while excluding a big portion of the affected persons is common practice of VALE S.A. in many of the territories where it operates. This is all part of a broader strategy VALE uses to evade its responsibilities and try to delegate its commitments to the society and nature to the state, using the loopholes and institutional weaknesses existing in fragile and co-optable democracies such as ours in Mozambique. Needless to say, – for it is so widely documented and analysed – in addition to all the unjust resettlements and the environmental destruction, VALE Mozambique can also be regarded as having amounted no less than a terrible contribution in economic aspects such as fiscal income, employment generation, reduction of poverty, and inequality, which had been some of the great expectations to have been heralded when the contract for exploration was signed.

Well, taking into account the fact that VALE is preparing to sell its mines in Moatize and the Corredor de Nacala project – precisely at a time when its period of bonanza with respect to benefits and fiscal concessions comes to a close – these pending problems should be cause for concern and for sounding alarms in Mozambique as a country, but it seems for now that only the groups most directly affected by the company are recognizing the urgency of the situation. At any moment, VALE could find a buyer who is willing to invest in an obsolete deal in coal – and if it does so it will certainly do all it can to minimize any pending issues it has with the local communities or the country. On the other hand, such an investor will not to be concerned for the resettlement houses which will remain pending rehabilitation, with families still wanting for land to cultivate, or with brickmakers awaiting the conclusion of the interminable negotiations. We are not merely speculating – this is exactly what VALE did with its project in Baía de Sepetiba, in Brazil, when it sold to the company Ternium. The residents were caught by surprise with the sudden sale of the project, and today neither VALE nor Ternium are taking responsibility for the huge damage left behind.

A radically different path is necessary – and urgent

It’s urgent for us, above all else, to find ambitious and systemic ways to resolve, as a country, the problems facing most of the Mozambican people. We need to find another way that does not employ violence and repression as means to deal with discontented and frustrated citizens that decide to protest – for whatever the motive, and independently of whether it is convenient or not. We need to be able to collect heavy taxes on any large or mega-corporations operating in Mozambique so that we can invest in public services of quality for all and reduce the typical social tensions associated with a population pushed to the limit. And to guarantee the participation and protagonism of the people who are on the frontline of the impacts brought to bear by coal mines, big industries, industrial plantations, and mega-dams, so that they be the ones to define what is a just compensation for their land and territory. We cannot accept that our laws or ratified international treaties on human rights serve merely to fulfil the simple function of polishing our discourse toward financial donors or the UN – these rights need to be skin-felt, on a day to day basis, by all Mozambicans. It’s urgent for us to condemn and vehemently refuse any form of governing which oppresses and represses citizens that are against the current model of the country, in favour of the maintenance of ostentatious privileges of an elite that is becoming increasingly richer, unchallenged and criminal.

Above all, we need to rethink our pathways to the future whilst anticipating the mistakes that we have made before. We can learn a lot from the sale of the Rio Tinto mine to ICVL, from all the problems that persist in Capanga, Benga and in the resettlement of Mualadzi up to today, and refuse to allow VALE to do the same. We can learn from all that coal promised to be and wasn’t, and refuse to allow gas to do the same to us. Let us remember that VALE estimated a lifespan of about 35 years when it signed its mining contract with the government of Mozambique in 2007 – which means that, according to its calculations, there would be an international market or demand for coal until 2042. Today, a mere 14 years later, many can see the ridiculousness of this projection. When are we going to understand that to believe in the projections made by fossil fuel companies, or by research organisations funded by them, is a trap for any nation state? Are we going to continue to believe that gas is – for some special reason – going to succeed in developing Mozambique?

The stories of megaprojects that we hear all through Mozambique are not stories of employment, empowerment, or quality of life: they are in fact stories of impoverishment, despair, and social conflict. Nor are the stories that we hear about neoliberal capitalism throughout the world stories of solidarity or independence. The climate crisis, the rise in inequality, the systemic violations of human rights or the rising authoritarianism are inevitable results of a socio-economic system that rewards entrepreneurial actors for their absolute commitment to profit, independently of what the ensuing consequences might be. It is a model that is ever more shamelessly showing us what purpose it serves: the enrichment of global capital elites, with the complicity of our national elites.

In order to confront the times and crises that are coming we need a new paradigm: one which puts an end to the devastation of nature by man and re-establishes the control of the earth by local communities while prioritizing the conscious and collective use of resources that is inclusive of future generations. A paradigm which contributes to the formation of citizens motivated to act in defence of the next one by means of a competent State which is oriented to serve the people with the aim of valuing and strengthening our diversity.

We do need radical changes. And we cannot continue to allow the current socio-economic model to limit even our capacity to imagine a different model. In many places of the world, and even in Mozambique, this is already happening, in micro manifestations of resistance and social transformation that are largely repressed or not duly valued. We need space for these new paradigms to proliferate.

“Politics in our times should depart from the imperative to reconstruct the common world”, defends the Cameroonian philosopher and intellectual Achille Mbembe. It’s urgent that we start to chart this path, because we are already late and things are not getting better.


Watch here the complete testimony of Sr. Fernando Botão
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydHsahOStHc

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15 year old minor marries an adult to escape hunger in Nampula

By: Melvin Arthur, Activist and partner of JA/ Nampula Province

A 15 year old girl, whose identity we’ve omitted, from the district of Palma in Cabo Delgado province, was forced by her progenitors to marry an adult of approximately 45 years of age as a way to alleviate herself from hunger within her family.

The minor, to whom we have attributed the name of Angela, arrived in the neighbourhood of Carrupeia, in the city of Nampula in May last year, when alongside 19 members of her family, she chose this capital of the north of Mozambique as a safe place of refuge against the terrorist attacks in the district of Palma.

Lacking any support, including food and shelter, from both governmental authorities and humanitarian organizations, young Angela’s parents decided (according to her) to force her to marry a 45-year-old adult, who was married already to another woman, as a way to ensure that he’d continue assisting her, especially with food, in order to guarantee the survival of the remaining members of her family.

After the marriage was negotiated, Angela began living with her first husband in a house rented by him, located still in the neighbourhood of Carrupeia, within the municipal administrative post of Napinine.

“My parents advised me to marry that man, firstly, to make things easier at home because we had no capacity to accommodate a lot of people, and secondly due to the lack of food. It was a decision made by my parents which I couldn’t refuse”, said Angela.

Angela’s marriage, though it didn’t even last a year, led to a pregnancy which resulted in a stillbirth. “After loosing the baby, I abandoned the house, against the will of my parents” she said, adding that she does not regret it, despite the difficulties she is currently going through to find food and shelter.

In Nampula, early marriages and child prostitution have been increasing lately and those displaced from the districts affected by the terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado are the main protagonists of this reality*.

Many families of the war-displaced peoples living in the city of Nampula have been complaining because of their exclusion from the support of organizations. Some of the displaced people are begging for some coins in mosques, roads, and commercial establishments just to survive.

It should be noted that the province of Nampula has seen the arrival of a bit less than 70 thousand people displaced by terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, the majority of which have been living with relatives or in rented houses.

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Brickmakers and peasants from “Primeiro de Maio” neighbourhood in Moatize-Tete, paralysed the activities of the mining company Vale, to demand the reinstatement of their rights

Yesterday, the 6th of May of 2021, more than a hundred brickmakers and peasants from “Primeiro de Maio” neighborhood in Moatize-Tete, invaded and paralysed the activities for several hours in section 6 of the Vale Company’s mine, as a protest for the loss of their access to the Moatize River, which is essential for the livelihoods and survival activities that they have been carrying out since 1994. These brickmakers and peasants saw recently their access to the river get cut by the mining company Vale, as part of the process of expanding the company’s activities to the Moatize III mine.

These issues were first raised in a letter, addressed to the Vale Company in March 2021, with a copy to the local government and to the Frelimo’s Party headquarters. The Vale Company replied evasively to the matter, claiming that they owed no compensation to these brickmakers since they had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with other groups of brickmakers. In the face of threats that the work on the mine would be paralysed by the brickmakers, Vale has therefore been calling numerous meetings to try to solve the topic with the affected families. However, the brickmakers report that these meetings have been repeated week after week without having a solution for these issues, and that they already feel worn out by the company’s strategy in prolonging the processes without giving the right details as to how, when and how much the brickmakers and peasants will be compensated for the loss of their livelihoods. This strategy of the company is already known, taking into account its pending issues with groups of brickmakers and peasants previously affected by the Moatize mine, which until today have not been fully and properly compensated, as well as the pending issues with families resettled by Vale who are today still waiting for the company to pay compensation for the loss of their farmlands and to rehabilitate their houses, which are in poor condition.

That is why this Thursday, the 6th of May, the brickmakers and peasants got tired of the company’s delays and decided to block the mine since 7am in the morning, having abandoned the location only at 4.45pm, when a team from Vale called a meeting for today, the 7th of May, where supposedly the issues will be negotiated and solved for the brickmakers and peasants, that have no means to sustain their families.

Despite Vale’s announcement of divestment of the Moatize mine and its intention to sell the mine, in January 2021, the company continues to expand its activities and impact the families living in the vicinity of the mine, without compensating them properly for their losses. It is unacceptable that Vale continues with this hostile stance in Tete and that once again has sealed the access to a river that is fundamental for the livelihoods of families that live in the vicinity, without negotiating properly with the families for a fair compensation. As everything suggests, Vale intends to drag these processes on, until the sale of its project in Moatize and the Nacala Corridor, leaving countless liabilities and destruction behind.

Justiça Ambiental is in solidarity with the cause of the “Primeiro de Maio” neighbourhood’s brickmakers and peasants, as well as all other brickmakers and peasants that have been affected by Vale Mining company for more than 10 years. And once again we ask: Who benefits from coal mining? Who pays for the economic, environmental, social, climatic impacts from mining? When will we embark on a development path that benefits most Mozambicans, rather than just a small elite and international capital?

#CorporateImpunity #CriminalVale

Portucel – intimidation will never keep us quiet

Once again, our visit to the Hapala community had repercussions on the members of the community with whom we spoke. Once again, we denounce the visible discontent of these people and the systematic abuse to which they have been subjected by some Portucel employees in the Ile District, and the question remains whether they do so at the behest of someone or independently. At the time we complained to the Head of the Socone Administrative Post, we explained that the communities continue to claim their land back, as they lost everything in exchange for promises that only served to convince them to give up their land, as these have not yet been fulfilled. These communities never knew that they could refuse to give up their land. We also publicly denounced it through our article “Portucel – The long wait for the much-promised better life”, and, as soon as we left the field, we received information that at least two of the members of the community with whom we were talking had unexpected and unwanted visits to their own homes, by three (3) identified Portucel employees. According to the community members that received the visits, these Portucel employees insistently asked what JA! intended, what they talked about and why they have met with them. One of these people is the leader of the Hapala Community, with whom we had no conversation. We did a brief courtesy visit to him, and according to our last article on this subject, we immediately realised that he was apprehensive to speak to us, due to the presence of another person, which happened to be the one who secretly took a photograph of us. Either way, the Hapala leader had to justify himself to the Portucel employees, to clarify that it was indeed a courtesy visit, as if a citizen had to answer these questions in his own home. This is clearly an intimidation, and we will not let it go, we will always denounce it!

These same three (3) employees were not satisfied with the little information they were able to extract from the leader and knowing that we did have a meeting with members of the community, they then went to the house of an elderly widow who participated in our closed meeting, to pose the same questions to her in her own house. They even snatched from her hands the brochure we had shared with her, returning it only when she protested and after having taken another photo. This peasant woman was present at our closed meeting and had shared with us her frustration for having been deceived, her despair for not having enough land to produce as she did before, and her sadness because, according to her, she has lost everything that was of most valuable to her: her land, her peaceful life. This woman told us how she feels, she told us that she just wants her land back. This woman also told us that she wants respect, she repeated countless times “we are also people, we want respect”. She also told us about the abuses which company employees have been subjecting the people to, the lack of respect with which they are treated, which also includes insults, such as “Namukwaneba”, crazy in the local language.

These acts of intimidation and even threats to members of the community who protest the most, have been recurrent. In the past, these acts have been reported to the offices of Portucel Mozambique in Maputo that has denied and ignored them. The acts have even been reported to the Office of the Ombudsman and they did get some attention, but impunity remains…

The acts of intimidation and threats have worsened. Earlier, they were visited by only 1 employee, now there are 3. Some members of the community received threats that if they continue to mention the names of the employees involved, they will be judicially sued for defamation. Others have already been called upon to respond to the District Police Command for holding open meetings with the JA! team.

We do not work in secret, our meetings are held in open spaces in the community, and local structures have our credentials, and everybody knows our work. In regard to local structures, we have already sent all the information shared here to the Head of the Socone Administrative Post and we request his urgent intervention. He thanked us for the information and assured us that he will soon go to the field with his team to meet with the members of that community to investigate the situation. He even considered the possibility of including JA! in the team that will monitor the process.

We take this moment to send a message to these intimidators in reference: if they want to know what we were doing in the community, they should come and ask us directly – not in the houses, but in our office! However, they still act like cowards, they wait for us to leave and then question the elderly widow, in her own house… who do they think they are? Are they going to intimidate a community leader because he is on the side of his community? Will they pay off everyone they can to act as spies in exchange for what? Maybe just for a phone … or for those social responsibility activities that only people who remain silent are those who will receive!!! Shameful!

JA! is not the only organisation to denounce these abuses, nor to denounce that these communities are not only not better off in life, but in fact have lost the little they had.

Intimidation will not be able to silence all voices! They will not shut us up! The more intimidation, the more threats and acts of intimidation, the louder we are going to scream, the further we are going to seek justice for all these people.

Stop the impunity!

Total Runs from its Responsibilities with its ‘Force Majeure’ Announcement on Mozambique Gas

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29 April 2021

On 26 April, 2021, French transnational corporation (TNC) Total announced, “Considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. This situation leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure.”

Our analysis of the “force majeure” phrase is that Total is trying hard to absolve itself of its commitments and slip out of its contracts with its sub-contractors, many of whom are local. With the “force majeure” announcement, it can claim that it is not responsible for complying with the terms of its contracts, but that it continues to hold the benefits of being the project concessionaire.

A press statement from the Mozambican National Petroleum Institute confirmed the situation of Total’s contracts and obligations, stating: “With the temporary interruption of operations, Total will not be able, during this time, to comply with the contractually assumed obligations and may also suspend or terminate more contracts with other providers of goods and / or services, depending on the time the interruption lasts… we clarify that Total did not abandon the Project, they remain as Concessionaire and Operator, with all the rights, duties and obligations…” (translated from Portuguese).

Sadly, both Total and the authorities fail to mention what will happen to the farming communities that have already been displaced and dispossessed to build the onshore Afungi LNG Park, who have still not been given land promised to them and remain without livelihoods. They cannot wait any longer especially given that it is projected the site will likely be dormant for over a year. Survival is at stake. Neither Total nor the government seem to have made any plan for them.

Total and the other TNCs involved in gas exploitation have already created havoc in Cabo Delgado. The people of the province have suffered immensely. Total has caused loss of livelihoods of local communities, due to land grabs for the gas project and all its secondary industries, and has blocked access to the ocean for fisherfolk who have been dumped inland and left without livelihoods. They were promised jobs in the industry which did not materialise. The area has faced a huge increase in militarisation, conflict and insecurity; the ‘resource curse’ theory has repeatedly shown how these link to fossil fuel development, especially in Africa. All warnings of these risks by JA! and civil society for years went ignored. It is sad to see this scenario play out again.

Cabo Delgado has been in flames. People already living in poverty, facing continued injustice and neglect, are under brutal attack. Palma was attacked by armed and organised insurgents on 24 March 2021 and the siege lasted for 10 days. This and previous attacks, starting in 2017, did not come out of nowhere, and the simplistic narrative of Islamic terrorism hides the social hardship that has given traction to extremist narratives. While the roots of the conflict are complex, the gas industry is fuelling social tensions as local communities feel frustrated, disrespected and desperate, seeing their province’s wealth being plundered by national political, and international economic elites and extractive companies, while the government continues to ignore their complaints and disregard their basic human rights and needs. Mercenaries, who have been indiscriminately killing civilians, are fighting this faceless insurgency alongside heavy-handed military and the conflict has left over 700,000 refugees in Cabo Delgado. When the lion and the elephant fight, it is the grass that suffers, as an African proverb reminds us.

Since the attacks in Palma, thousands of people are unaccounted for, missing or dead. Total evacuated its own staff and contractors, and only days later did some of the local population have a chance to be rescued to safety. Many others met a different fate. Of course the TNCs want more security for themselves, but what about the people? Joseph Hanlon writes in the Mail and Guardian that when Palma was attacked, “there was no security protecting the town, although 800 soldiers were inside the walls at Afungi protecting Total workers”.

Now, after creating havoc, Total wants to maintain itself as the lead gas operator but refuses to comply with its commitments, the most basic commitments to some of the poorest people on earth, like food security for gas-affected communities. The Mozambique gas project has already created deep social and economic issues. These will not go away overnight. Total must stop the gas exploitation entirely, but it cannot slink away from the mess it has already made. It must take responsibility and provide reparations for all the lives destroyed, all the lands grabbed, and the livelihoods lost. Total and the gas exploitation must stop, but that by itself does not erase years of abuse and dispossession overnight! The TNCs must be held accountable for the impacts and human rights violations faced by affected communities and be obliged to fully compensate the communities and remediate the damage caused.

JA! has always asserted and shown that our country should not be going down the dirty and unjust development pathway of fossil fuels, since it worsens the climate crisis, causes displacement and land grabbing, pollutes the air, water, soils, has terrible health impacts on local people and destroys the local ecology and livelihoods, and overall only serves the elites. Rather we need community-owned renewable energy for our millions currently without energy, and we need peoples’ centred development. More Mozambicans are now saying that we need to reflect as a country whether or not it is worthwhile to continue with this gas project.

But one also wonders why Total declared the “force majeure” position. Total is a TNC which secretly prides itself in being able to handle fossil fuel extraction in difficult situations. As Le Monde reported, the Total LNG site in Yemen has been used as a military base and secret prison by UAE militias after activities were suspended because of the war. Total also declared ‘force majeure’ in the Yemen site in 2015. What guarantees will be given by Total and the Mozambican government that the Mozambique Afungi site will not become like the Yemen site?

There is speculation in Mozambique about possible reasons for the ‘Force Majeure’ announcement:

  • It plays on the government’s fears of the project failing or being delayed, which could be used by Total to force the Mozambican government to renegotiate the contracts, already so favourable to Total, to give an even worse deal to the Mozambican people, while corporate elites and Mozambican elites make off with millions.
  • It also allows Total to demand more control over security of the gas region that prioritises their investment, that could come at the cost of broader national security and sovereignty.
  • It could help Total assert power over the Mozambican state and even a threat to use trade and investment agreements and their notorious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system to demand compensation of millions for their losses.

What we do know for sure is this is a way for Total to indefinitely suspend its operations and not incur costs. Foreign contractors/ banks will likely file claims with Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) to be paid back. But Mozambican contractors do not have this option – they will be hit badly while citizens of global north countries will subsidise the fossil fuel TNCs, leaving Mozambique with an even larger debt, which is ironic since the gas revenues were the false panacea meant to solve the debt problem. We denounce these systems that threaten the future and well-being of the poorest peoples while benefiting the wealthiest.

Demand to the transnational corporations, banks and investors:

  • We demand that Total and all transnational corporations, all purchasers and all investors involved in gas extraction in Mozambique cease all activities related to the gas projects right now and we demand an end to fossil fuel finance.
  • We demand Total and the TNCs and all involved provide fair and just reparations to those who have already been affected.

Demands to the Mozambican government:

  • We demand that the Mozambican government stops gas and fossil fuels exploitation in Mozambique, awarding no more concessions and choosing a path of peoples-based renewable energy instead, since the current energy path is destroying the peoples’ livelihoods, the environment and exacerbating the climate crisis.
  • We demand that the Mozambican government ceases putting transnational corporations and foreign investors ahead of the well-being of the Mozambican people and takes urgent measures to effectively regulate big companies operating in the country.
  • We demand that the Mozambican government focus on the socio-economic drivers of the violence and deal with the loss of livelihoods, loss of community lands, oppression of the people and other injustices.
  • We demand that the Mozambican government starts providing regular and credible updates about the situation in the ground in Cabo Delgado, including information about people killed, missing and displaced.
  • We demand that the Mozambican government stops harassing, intimidating and threatening journalists and activists reporting about the situation in Cabo Delgado, and takes concrete measures to punish those who do so including an investigation about the military’s role in human rights abuses.

By JA! Justiça Ambiental/ Friends of the Earth Mozambique

Supported by:

Friends of the Earth France

Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth US

Womin African Alliance

Friends of the Earth Africa

Re:common

Gastivists

Milieudefensie

Global Aktion

Groundwork

Climaximo

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

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The Despair of the people of Cabo Delgado

A week after the insurgents attacked the district headquarters of Palma, the people of that district continue to arrive in Pemba city, with faces full of fear, sadness and, above all, uncertainty. Although about 9000 displaced people have been accounted for so far, there is information coming from those same displaced people, and also confirmed by the Ministry of National Defense, that there are still people hiding in the fields.

The displaced persons tell how it was on 24 March, a date that will never be erased from their memories. Reports say that rumours had been circulating since the morning of that Wednesday that the Al-Shabaab were going to attack the district. But it was not taken into account because of previous rumours circulating in that district two weeks before the attack, which said that the insurgents were in the fields near the village preparing for an attack. The frequent shootings that already characterised the daily life in the village of Palma, also contributed to these rumours falling into disregard on the part of some people. On the other hand, people placed trust in the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) of Mozambique that seemed to have a heavy presence in Palma.

However, according to reports from the displaced people who actually experienced the attack, at around 4pm the attack began in the village of Maʼguna, 800 meters from the village of Palma, when most of the population of that village fleeing the armed confrontation in Ma’guna, came into Palma. Two shoot-outs started simultaneously in the Quibuidi neighborhood, via Nhica do Rovuma and at the Aerodrome of Palma. At that time, everyone abandoned their homes and possessions and ran for their lives in an uncontrolled way. The insurgents appeared from different parts, and since they use a uniform identical to that worn by our Defense and Security Forces, the only thing that differentiates them are the scarves tied to their heads and their bare feet. It was clearly noted that their initial intention was to destroy the government infrastructure. The only safe area to escape was to the sides of Palma beach but at some point, certain points on the beach also became unsafe.

We heard moving and frightening stories from those who lived that Wednesday under fire and the days that followed. There were several kilometres walked on foot and under fire, with fear, hunger and thirst. Mothers ran carrying their young children on their backs. One of these children was hit by a stray bullet, but luckily it entered the buttock and lodged in the leg. That is the little one, Cadir Fazil, 1 year and 2 months old, born on February 21, 2020.

On Monday, 29 March, due to the fact that the baby was wounded, his mother and aunt were given priority on one of UNHCR’s humanitarian flights and were treated urgently at the provincial hospital in Pemba. There have been situations of despair of men refusing to board humanitarian flights and ships because they were unable to locate their wives and children or any other member of their family; children begging for their parents’ lives and yet, being forced to witness their cruel murders. In spite of all this climate of terror, the class difference did not cease to prevail among the victims of Palma. At the Amarula hotel, where government officials and some foreigners took refuge, a helicopter landed twice, the first time to evacuate the district administrator and the second time to evacuate the owner of the Hotel, leaving behind the various people who only had the option of joining the caravan, which was unfortunately ambushed along the way.

The Quiwia and Quirinde forests are still home to people who struggle for their lives because of hunger and thirst. Every day we received unclear information about events in Palma, as the total break in communications remains in that district still, and it may remain so until the crossfire between insurgents and the military ceases.

After several complaints about the silence of the President of the Republic, he took the opportunity to comment on the matter, at the launch of one of the headquarters of the National Social Security Institute (INSS) in the southern district of Matutuíne, Maputo province, where he made a brief mention of what happened in Palma in a simplistic way, and minimised what happened. From the speech made by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, two questions arose. Firstly, for having stated that there have been worse attacks to Palma and that it was not even very intense, the following two questions remain:

– What was the worst attack that has occurred from 2017 until today?

– Why after the worst attack took place, were there not measures taken to prevent a new attack from occurring?

Another statement by the President that drew attention was when he said that we should not lose focus, that Mozambicans should not be “disturbed”. However, it is revolting to hear this when, in one week, about 9000 people were evacuated from Palma by land, air and sea, many of whom do not know how they will survive, since they have abandoned everything they had in their village of Palma.

– What should these people now be focusing on?

– Is it wrong for these displaced people to be disturbed, after having to focus only on surviving?

We must not forget that there are already about 300,000 displaced people living in transition reception centres and resettlement centres so far.

The first displaced persons of this war are being resettled practically permanently in the surrounding districts of the city of Pemba and now with the attack on Vila de Palma, many more arrive, although proper conditions are still not created for the displaced people of Macomia, Quissanga, Mocimboa da Praia and Muidumbe. Should we not be disturbed when we have no answers for the hundreds of people who arrive in Pemba and other parts of the country, coming from the attacked districts without even knowing if they will ever be able to return?

Should we be undaunted and serene in the face of the massacres that we have been experiencing since 2017?

So, Mr. President, since 2017, we have been ‘disturbed’, since 2017 we have howled and called for an end to the attacks and demanded that concrete measures must be taken, but because perhaps Mr. president has a different focus than ours, so tell us, in desperate situations like this, what should we do to not lose focus?

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Report release: Chasing Carbon Unicorns

24 February 2020: Climate justice organisations today release a new report: Chasing Carbon Unicorns: The deception of carbon markets and “net zero”.

In the lead up to delayed COP26 climate talks in the UK, and as big polluters continue to expand fossil fuel exploitation, this report unpacks the science behind carbon offsetting and reveals how “net zero” pledges will never solve the climate crisis. 

The report is available in English, Portuguese, French, and Spanish.

Powerful actors are using “net zero” pledges to hide their climate inaction. Stopping the climate crisis requires us to stop burning fossil fuels – no magical thinking will solve this problem, just immediate action and system change. But transnational corporations and governments are hiding behind the “net” in “net zero” – claiming that they just need to pay someone else to remove carbon, through carbon offsetting, rather than taking action on their own.

This report unpacks the science behind “net zero” claims and how they are used to obscure climate inaction. It explores the new strategies to expand carbon offset markets, linked with new “net zero” demand for offsets. It also explains the roles played by various actors involved in the effort to “make offsetting great again”. These include less obvious players such as a few large mainstream conservation organisations, as well as the more obvious ones: the banks, the finance industry, and corporate interests behind maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel production and consumption.

Report published by Friends of the Earth International, La Via Campesina, Indigenous Environmental Network, Corporate Accountability, Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, Third World Network, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance and Justiça Ambiental.

The recurrent floods from HCB dam

On the 24th of January before dawn, the communities of Chococoma and Chirodzi N’sanangue, in the province of Tete, woke up to the fury of the waters from the Zambezi River. According to the testimonies of the communities, and the evidence found

at the site, the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric dam (HCB) had opened its floodgates without any warning that would have allowed them to protect themselves and their belongings. At least 51 families in these two communities have lost their machambas (vegetable fields), probably many more. Fisherfolk lost their fishing nets and even some boats.

If HCB really opened its floodgates without having the decency to warn people who live downstream, this is a huge irresponsibility to say the least.

What will happen to these families that have lost their livelihoods? During last year’s rainy season, 2020, there was a similar incident and several families lost their fields. Until when will this irresponsibility and impunity last?

Before HCB was “ours”, unannounced releases were blamed on the Portuguese, who did not care for the people. And now, what’s the excuse?

For those who still have the illusion that mega dams protect us from floods, may the recurrent examples from HCB serve as a lesson. Mega dams, in order to produce hydroelectric energy and be profitable, have to store as much water as possible. Therefore, when it rains upstream of the dam site, instead of making small discharges so as to not accumulate too much water, they only think about profit, and keep the floodgates closed. When the water becomes really too much, they are forced to make urgent discharges, and often without notice.

Everyone needs energy, but we can no longer cover our eyes in front of these and so many other impacts of mega dams – directly related to their intrinsic characteristics, the objectives for which they are built, and the priorities of those who manage them.

There are enough alternatives to mega dams to abandon them once and for all. Clean, safe, decentralized, and community-owned energy solutions not only have the potential to solve the country’s energy poverty, but are also solutions to many of the other crises we face today – climate, inequality, unemployment, democracy. Irresponsibility and impunity must end, peoples’ needs must be above profit!

Dear managers of the HCB dam, the Mozambican State, other shareholders, it is your responsibility to investigate this case in detail and compensate the communities for the damages caused by your irresponsible discharges and without sufficient and prior notice!

JA! will continue to do everything in our power so that communities are compensated for what they have lost. The videos and photos that follow are testimonies of the disgrace and injustice that these communities have been suffering.

The struggle continues to protect the Zambezi River, the riverine people and important ecosystems.

NO more dams in the Zambezi! NO to Mphanda Nkuwa! #MphandaNkuwaNao

Save the Zambezi River from the Mphanda Nkuwa dam!

Petition to stop the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric mega-dam project

Join us and over 1300 people who have already signed this petition, sign here:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1y54QjBtCM-QnL8WxdXXEoHwBM3BuKpREamVJ9uGmwIg/edit

Read our petition ;

Context

The Zambezi River is the 4th largest river in Africa, and an estimated 32 million people live on its banks, of which 80% depend directly on the river for their livelihood, through agriculture and fishing and other related activities1,2.

The Zambezi River already has two mega-dams, Cahora Bassa in Mozambique and Kariba in Zimbabwe, which have been causing significant damage to ecosystems and to the lives of local downstream communities. To worsen this scenario, the Mozambican government recently announced, as a priority, the construction of yet another hydroelectric mega-dam on the Zambezi River, the Mphanda Nkuwa dam.

The site chosen for the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam is only 70km downstream from the Cahora Bassa dam. If built, Mphanda Nkuwa will probably be the last “nail in the coffin” of the Zambezi River, and will result in the destruction of the river’s ecosystem and its delta, negatively affecting the lives of thousands of families living on the site and downstream from the dam. In addition to the high social and environmental impacts, it is estimated that the construction of the dam will cost about US $ 4 billion3. The dam is also expected to have an installed capacity of around 1300MW, however Eskom, which will be the main buyer of this energy, is one of the companies that buys energy from the Cahora Bassa dam at one of the lowest prices in the world. On the other hand, in Mozambique we pay one of the highest energy rates in Africa, even though we produce more energy than we demand internally and that the Cahora Bassa dam is “ours”.

The terms in which the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric project was conceived is not in accordance with the fundamental objectives of the Mozambican State enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution of the Republic, especially with regard to human rights and balanced development.

The matters relating to access to information and effective public participation in the decision-making process on the Mphanda Nkuwa project have not been respected, thus relevant and detailed information that gives room for understanding and participation in the project is not in the public domain.

The Article 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights enshrines the right to the development of local communities and the use of natural resources for the benefit of the people, which may be compromised with the materialisation of the Mphanda Nkuwa project.

In turn, the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources defends

that development programs and/or projects are required to be ecologically rational, economically capable and socially acceptable, in addition to the concern of sustainable use of natural resources. This is not envisioned in the Mphanda Nkuwa project, as explained below.

How did we get here?

In the 90s, the UTIP (Hydroelectric Projects Implementation Unit for its acronym in Portuguese) was created with the mandate to implement the project proposal of Mphanda Nkuwa. Thousands of dollars were spent on feasibility studies (obviously, it was never made known to the public how many there were), environmental impact assessment, and others, mostly of poor scientific quality.

In the 2000s, the Mphanda Nkwua consortium was established, in which EDM held 20%, Grupo Insitec held 40% and Camargo Corrêa the remaining 40%. More studies were done at this time, thousands more dollars were spent. The Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was approved in 2011, with huge and serious gaps and unanswered questions and concerns from civil society. This consortium was also dissolved.

In late 2018, the Mphanda Nkwua project was again removed from the dusty drawer and relaunched as a government priority. In February 2019 the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office (called GMNK in its Portuguese acronym) was created, and in September the consortium was selected, which will then assist the government in this new phase of the project. Once again, thousands of dollars of public money will be spent on consulting and studies that, if they follow the previous examples, will remain in the category of “only God knows”!

Development for whom?

There is no doubt that energy is a fundamental and indispensable asset for the development of a nation. However, in order to guarantee sustainable development, the government must study and analyse the different sources of energy available and choose clean and renewable sources, guaranteeing the lowest social, environmental and economic impacts.

For a number of reasons, some of which are listed below, it is difficult to see what kind of development and benefits can be expected from a project like the Mphanda Nkuwa dam. According to projections of the EIS approved in 2011, about 80% of the energy produced will be for export, and the remaining 20% will allegedly be for internal use, to feed the energy-intensive industries that will be installed in that region. Despite the high financial costs, and the harmful social and environmental impacts that will result from the construction of this dam, the vast majority of Mozambicans will remain without access to electricity.

Mozambique needs to invest in decentralised clean energy systems – solar, wind, among others. Decentralisation and the diversity of energy sources are essential to guarantee a just, inclusive, and affordable energy revolution that guarantees access to energy for all citizens of the country.

The serious problems of the latest EIS

The Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the Mphanda Nkuwa dam was approved in 2011, but the questions and concerns raised by various organisations and individuals remain unanswered4. Below are some of these concerns, which have also been raised on numerous occasions in recent years, including during the Environmental Pre-Feasibility and Scope Definition Study (EPDA – initials in Portuguese) and in the process of drafting the previous EIS Terms of Reference.

1. Cumulative impacts.

There was a weak framing of this project in terms of its cumulative impacts, not only taking into account the existing projects in the Zambezi basin, but also those planned and predicted, which somehow compete for the same resources or interfere with each other in its use. For a project of this scope, the most appropriate would be to frame the studies in the dynamics of the hydrographic basin, considering social, environmental and economic aspects, contrary to what has been the norm, that is, the separate and individual analysis of projects without any consideration of the cumulative impacts in the basin. It is necessary to take into account that the socio-environmental effects and impacts are synergistic, not limited to the place where the dam is built. In this case, the impacts of the various dams already existing in this River, such as Kariba, Kafue, Itezhi-Tezhi, Cahora Bassa and others, must be accounted for.

2. Seismicity analysis.

Mphanda Nkwua is located in the Chitima-Tchareca seismic zone. The EIS determines that the largest magnitude earthquake in the proposed dam area is only 6.4 on the Richter scale, relying excessively on one of the studies that analyses the faults in the area. However, there are several other studies that identify major flaws that have not been properly considered and that indicate the occurrence of earthquakes of magnitude more than 10 times greater than that mentioned in the EIS. There are several cases, such as in Japan and even in Mozambique in 2006, in which the magnitude of the earthquakes that occurred was much higher than what had been predicted using methods similar to the one used in the present EIS.

The work team did not properly consult the seismology specialists who have dedicated themselves to studying the area under analysis. Some of these experts raised concerns about the EIS’ conclusions, and a renowned expert with proven experience in the field (Chris J.H. Hartnady) even sent an analysis of the seismic risks of the project, in which he presents concerns, recommendations and conclusions that were not considered by the work team5.

3. Climate change.

The EIS considers that there will be no significant impacts of climate change on the Zambezi River. This observation goes against the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states that “the Zambezi basin will potentially face the worst effects of climate change. This will probably suffer a substantial reduction in rainfall of around 10-15%”.

In line with the results mentioned above, a 2010 scientific article written by Beck and Bernauer (using SRES data), on water scenarios for the Zambezi River basin from 2000 – 2050, predicts flow reduction in the Zambezi Delta (without the construction of Mphanda Nkuwa) between 5% and 43%, depending on the scenario used.

In 2012, scientist Richard Beilfuss, in his study on climate change and dams in
Southern Africa, warns that “The dams that are currently being proposed and built may result in economically unviable dams, with underwhelming performance in case of more extreme droughts, and they can also be a danger, as they were not designed to deal with increasingly destructive floods ”.

We cannot ignore the warnings of internationally recognized scientists and lightly decide to build another dam in this very important ecosystem.

4. Sediment.

With a total basin area of 1,570,000 km2, the Zambezi gathers water, nutrients and sediments from 7 countries. Currently, almost 90% of the Zambezi River is regulated by large dams. This has devastating impacts along the lower Zambezi. The amount of sediment determines the shape and pattern of the riverbed, and the sediment nutrients influence the productivity of floodplains and soil and the health of vegetation.

The few remaining unregulated tributaries are believed to be vital to the ecological maintenance of the system. The proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam will block the Luia River, which is believed to be a major source of sediment for the Zambezi, particularly during the flood season. This has been a concern of civil society and several experts, who have been asking that Luia’s contribution in terms of sediment and nutrients be properly analysed, which would allow a better understanding of the impacts of the Mphanda Nkuwa dam on the system as a whole. Unfortunately, the EIS did not analyse the importance of capturing Luia in the sediment dynamics of the lower Zambezi in a scientifically valid method. The sample size was the minimum allowed for statistical analysis (only 3 samples), and the EIS team itself admitted that this analysis was statistically weak. The types of methods used for sampling did not cover the required range to allow reliable results, and the samples did not cover the variety of flows throughout the river system. In highly variable river systems such as Zambezi, up to 80% of sediments can be transported during the flood season, so it is crucial to collect samples during this period, which was not done in the referred EIS.

5. Local Communities

There has not yet been a decision regarding the flow regime in which the dam will operate (base-load or mid-merit), and the study does not present a plan for the resettlement of local communities, making it impossible to assess or predict which are the real risks and impacts for those who will be most directly affected.

As for possible resettlement sites for local communities, sites both in unexplored areas and in the areas of the Marara district (at the time of the EIS, Changara district) are said to be considered. Apart from being unacceptable to plan a large construction project like this without the proper resettlement plans, many of the proposed resettlement areas already have other communities living there.

The study also pays very little attention to impacts for communities living downstream. There is no explanation of how they might be affected, except for a few vague statements. Furthermore, a compensation for these people is not mentioned, regarding the losses that they may suffer. This is in contradiction with the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD).

Other problems related to this matter concern the rhetoric and biased assumptions used in the study, which considers the downstream communities only as population density. There is no mention of the total number of people living in this watershed, and therefore, the reader is left with no real sense of the level of interference that the construction of the dam may have on rural livelihoods.

It is also expected that the project will create some permanent jobs, but it will displace hundreds of people and affect thousands more downstream. However, the EIS only mentioned the jobs generated during the peak construction period, creating a false notion that it would generate a lot of jobs – however, most of these jobs are temporary. Residents in the Zambezi River basin will bear the serious impacts of the project, but the benefits will be for large transnational companies and for national political and economic elites.

6. EIS’ conclusions.

The conclusions in the EIS are presented as being valid and of high scientific confidence, the report does not present its limitations, it does not mention the weakness of the data that enabled the analysis and the level of confidence of the results obtained. Only when confronted with the numerous questions presented above did the experts acknowledge the limitation of their data, which was then justified by the limited time and funds available for sampling (as in the case of the sediment and seismicity sections). However, these issues have become central to the concerns of civil society and experts for many years, more than enough time to collect the necessary information.

The concerns raised and, until today, unanswered lead us to question the feasibility and confidence of the studies conducted so far, and the real motivations behind this project. We reiterate that the social, environmental, economic and climatic risks of Mphanda Nkuwa have not yet been fully studied and the construction of this dam could have devastating consequences for the Zambezi River, for the people who are most dependent on this ecosystem, and for all Mozambicans.

Why do we say NO to the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam?

The concerns raised over the past few years and not yet answered, as well as the lack of transparency and openness that have characterized the different moments of this project until today, inevitably lead to questions about the confidence of the studies conducted so far;

The real motivations behind this project; and its viability. The social, environmental, economic and climatic risks of Mphanda Nkuwa have not yet been thoroughly analysed, and studies carried out so far indicate that the construction of this dam could have devastating consequences for the Zambezi River; for the people who are most dependent on this ecosystem; and for the country as a whole.

In addition to the issues raised so far, a mega-dam such as this represents an enormous financial risk in the current context – taking into account the volatility of the global energy and commodities markets; the climate crisis that will demand an energy transition from States; and the challenges of governance, corruption and transparency that the country has been facing.

Thus, the undersigned individuals and organisations demand that the government of Mozambique fully clarify the outlines, objectives and rationale behind this “priority” project, including:

  • Where does the investment come from and what is the payoff?
  • Why is this project a priority for the country, taking into account our levels of poverty and inequality; that thousands of children have no place in school, and that there is still no adequate health care for everyone?
  • What is the reason for insisting on this project, which has been abandoned so many times? What other interests are there behind a project of this magnitude?
  • Have other energy alternatives been considered? If so, which ones?
  • Who will be responsible for compensating communities that have lived with their mortgaged future for 20 years, without being able to invest in their community and in the necessary infrastructure, for fear of losing their investments, since in 2000 they were advised by the government not to build any new infrastructure?
  • What is the real purpose of the dam and what hypothetical gains do the government think it would bring to the country in the short and long term, including how does it plan to make the project profitable?

We also demand that there is an open and inclusive dialogue between the government, civil society and specialists from different areas related to this project, where decisions can be made regarding the required studies to answer the various questions of concern, which include:

  • The uncertainty about the flow regime in which the dam will operate (base-load or mid-merit);
  • The uncertainty about the area chosen for the resettlement of the communities directly affected;
  • The poor sediment analysis developed with insufficient data, which does not allow a valid scientific analysis;
  • The weak seismological analysis, without concrete data and with results and conclusions that contradict other studies conducted by renowned experts;
  • The weak analysis of the potential impacts of climate change and modification in water demand upstream of the dam, which will affect the economic viability of the project;
  • The fact that the guidelines of the World Commission on Dams were not considered or followed, particularly with regard to social and environmental rights and justice, among others;
  • Viable energy alternatives for the country, comparing and analysing the benefits and impacts of each;
  • The way in which the project will ensure that the benefits generated will not be appropriated by a small national political and economic elite, and by large transnational companies.

Without the elaboration of scientifically valid and impartial studies that answer all these questions and others that may arise, we, the undersigned, demand that the project be stopped. We also demand that an open, inclusive and profound dialogue be promoted around clean, fair and accessible energy solutions for all Mozambicans, in order to embark on sustainable development that guarantees the protection of the important ecosystems that guarantee life on the planet.

Justiça Ambiental

1https://issuu.com/justicaambiental/docs/condenando_o_zambeze

2https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2009/06/25/climate-proofing-zambezi

3https://www.sapo.pt/noticias/economia/futura-barragem-no-centro-de-mocambique_5f074d05876fbb549b4ec60d

4https://issuu.com/justicaambiental/docs/mu_analysis

5https://issuu.com/justicaambiental/docs/hartnady_2011_critical_review_of_ei

JUSTIÇA AMBIENTAL ORGANISES VIRTUAL WORKSHOP ON THE IMPUNITY OF CORPORATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Lawyers, specialists and activists from Mozambique, Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Brazil and the United States of America make strong criticisms of dominant powers and systems and share strategies to curb the power and impunity of large corporations *

Transnational corporations, international organisations and global trade architecture: guardians of neocolonialism?

In the last few decades, large transnational corporations have become incredibly powerful, even more powerful than many States, especially in the Global South, due to the advent of globalisation and the consequent expansion of neoliberal capitalism. In several southern countries, there has been a phenomenon of liberalisation of national and regional markets and a relaxation of the legal and institutional framework, mainly in the environmental and labour sectors, as well as conditioning social and economic policies in favor of the private sector. Associated with this, the corporate power lobby has led to the privatisation of democracy and the usurpation of public sectors, making transnational corporations profit even from the provision of services that should be the responsibility of States, such as health and education, with high costs for most citizens.

Mozambique: World Bank Neoliberal Policies and the Collapse of the Cashew Industry

Máriam Abbas, a researcher at the Observatório do Meio Rural in Mozambique, spoke of the collapse of the cashew industry in the country, a very vibrant sector between 1960 and the early 1970s, a period in which Mozambique became the largest producer of cashew nuts in the world. With the nationalisation of some factories, many owners left the country, ceasing their investments. Associated with this, the civil war contributed significantly to the destruction of the cajual. However, the most important reason for the sharp decline of the Mozambican cashew industry has to do with the imposition, by the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – since the country was forced to implement the structural adjustment programme from the 1980s – that Mozambique liberalised and privatised the cashew sector. This was a condition for the country to access financing of US $ 400 million.

Neocolonialism, transnational corporations and the global trade architecture

According to Nnimmo Bassey of the organisation HOMEF, Nigeria, neocolonial extractivism thrives on the irresponsible exploitation of nature and work. The theft of Africa’s natural resources by large companies and domestic elites is an open secret. It is believed that around $ 50 billion has been lost annually over the past 50 years through illicit financial flows. This sum exceeds the economic aid that the continent receives annually.

Bassey stressed that “transnational corporations and international financial institutions are the main guardians of neocolonialism, and that foreign direct investment (FDI) remains one of the fundamental instruments of‘ benign ’neocolonialism”. Nations compete for foreign investment and, in doing so, lower norms and regulatory barriers to ensure ease of doing business. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other institutions of globalisation have systematically imposed economic conditionalities on the former colonies and thus guaranteed the perpetuation of North-South exploitation.

Agrarian capital and global food systems

Timothy A. Wise of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), United States of America, looked at the agricultural ‘modernisation’ agenda to be imposed by major world powers in the Global South, such as the so-called Green Revolution in Africa – which practically translates into the usurpation of community lands, imposing large-scale plantations and monocultures. However, these initiatives have been failing, such as the case of ProSAVANA in Mozambique, which has largely failed due to the resistance of Mozambican civil society.

The corporate narrative insists that peasant seeds are unproductive, and their agricultural systems and practices are backward. They then argue that farmers need support with fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, pesticides and other inputs which production and markets are controlled and dominated by transnational companies. Transnational companies like Monsanto then press for the adoption of new seed laws (and their patents), making the collection, treatment and exchange of native seeds among peasants illegal. The Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA, for example, has received about $ 1 billion in funding over the past 14 years, and has instituted an input subsidy programme, giving coupons to farmers to buy commercial seeds, chemical fertilizers and other agricultural inputs to companies. This is, in fact, a great scheme to divert important public funds to these corporations

  • Review of land policy in Mozambique

The issue of revision of land policy in Mozambique was also the subject of heated debate during the webinar. The lack of transparency that has characterised the beginning of this process seems to confirm that what is behind this review are harmful interests. Speakers and some webinar participants reiterated that greater involvement of peasants and civil society is needed to strengthen resistance, maintain vigilance, and monitor and report attempts to commercialize land and natural resources as a whole.

Megaprojects in Africa: engines for the development or enrichment of elites?

Megaprojects across the African continent represent utopian visions of development, progress and growth anchored in colonial and extractive ideas. As explained by Ruth Nyambura, an ecofeminist activist from Kenya, megaprojects bring a very hierarchical and top-down approach, and are intrinsically masculinist, where the State or companies impose on the local population the projects that were previously decided without any involvement of these populations.

Megaprojects penetrate national development plans, where the State decides to invest millions of dollars in infrastructure that benefits the country’s elites and large corporations. Given that the majority of peasants in Africa are women, it is quite worrying that agricultural megaprojects are highly harmful to women, and invariably exclude them from real participation. The only space that seems to exist for women in this type of projects is the space for women entrepreneurs, bringing a naive conception that African women can emancipate themselves through entrepreneurship, and Nyambura reiterated that this narrative ignores the structures and structurally patriarchal dynamics of our societies.

Natural resources, hydrocarbons and the mining sector in Mozambique

Natural resources, hydrocarbons and the mining sector present themselves as sectors that will bring large investments to countries, with promises of high revenues for the State and leverage of the economy. However, megaprojects in this area have not been bringing satisfactory results to the country, explained Inocência Mapisse, a researcher at the Center for Public Integrity (Centro de Integridade Pública – CIP).

In Mozambique, as in other places, the extractive sector has a low capacity for hiring labor, since – by their nature – these projects are capital intensive but absorb very few human resources. A CIP study in 2017 shows that the extractive sector in Mozambique contributed only 1% to job creation. In terms of tax revenue, 42% of what is exported in Mozambique comes from the extractive sector, however, for example, in 2014, mega projects in the extractive sector contributed only 5% of total tax revenue – and this scenario is common across the region Southern Africa.

Political economy of natural resources: impacts and implications of megaprojects and extractivism

Mozambique is not a rare case – across the continent the scenario repeats itself. To date, the extractive industry has not lifted any African country out of poverty. On the contrary, there is a tendency to exacerbate conflicts and the indebtedness of countries highly dependent on the extractive sector. On this topic, Daniel Ribeiro, from Justiça Ambiental (JA!), warned that Mozambique is betting on natural gas, a resource whose price fluctuates a lot. Projections are made with optimistic market values – there is a lot of pressure to do so – and therefore they entice States with the revenue potential of these projects, but they ignore several factors including the drop in global prices, which is more and more frequent. “This decline has a very strong impact on the economy and destroy what may have been achieved during the period of high prices,” explained Ribeiro. In addition, with more optimistic projections, loan facilities increase, encouraging a propensity to contract debts (as happened in Mozambique); more expectations are created in local and national populations regarding the alleged benefits of the project, and consequently the levels of frustration, social tension and instability increase when these promises or expectations are not fulfilled.

Finally, Ribeiro stressed that the fundamental structure of investments in the extractive industry, combined with the lack of transparency that characterises the sector, make us very susceptible to corruption. This further reduces the already slim chances that these projects will contribute to improving the living conditions of the population.

Justice and human rights in Mozambique and in the world: from the implementation challenges to the perpetuation of impunity. What alternatives and resistance are being built?

Human rights lawyer and defender João Nhampossa argued that Mozambique is in a terrible situation with regard to the violation of human rights of local communities due to the exploitation of natural resources by several companies. He also stated that a culture of impunity prevails in the country. Focusing on some emblematic cases such as mining companies in Tete and gas companies in Cabo Delgado, Nhampossa spoke about the human rights violations associated with land loss, a common feature of all these megaprojects. Local communities end up being marginalised and left in a precarious situation after resettlement processes that do not comply with national legislation – which clearly stipulates that the living conditions of resettled populations must be equivalent or better than before resettlement. These people have been trying to use democratic spaces to demand justice and dignity, but when they appeal to the government, it refers the responsibility of restoring land, livelihoods, or access to water to the company, but when the company is approached, it refrains from any responsibility and sends communities back to the government.

Unfortunately, judicial processes on human rights violations in the courts are not treated as an urgent and priority matter, and when dealing with politically sensitive cases, the courts use artifices to avoid adjudicating in favor of the communities. The injustices inherent to processes of land loss and inadequate resettlement lead to social upheavals and protests, which are invariably answered with police repression and violence.

North-South asymmetries and architecture of impunity

The academic Giverage Amaral defended that, around the world, the definition of an ideal or exemplary human being is very much linked to Western conceptions that do not dialogue much with local narratives in countries like Mozambique. He also argued that globalisation has become an asphyxiating process of domination over local logic, and that it has brought ecological, political and economic risks, instead of the social benefits it had promised. The colonisation logic comes with neocolonial corporate names, between donors and investors. States are threatened, sanctioned or prosecuted for standing against the interests of global capital, such as Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ecuador, and so many others.

Nowadays, we have witnessed an increase in various forms of violence, with a particular incidence in areas of extractive exploitation. Alongside this, companies find new ways to remain in impunity and to capture our States – which become accomplices and active parties in these crimes.

Limitations to the protection of human rights in Africa

The structure for the protection of human rights in Africa is at three levels, the national, the sub-regional or pan-African, and the universal, which is based on the United Nations system. When we analyse all these steps, the most important level of protection for human rights is the national level. For Apollin Koagne, a Cameroonian international law researcher based in Geneva, the national level is the only level where you can have a truly conciliatory approach, where you can have a system in in which the judge can at the same time apply human rights laws, and investment laws, for example. When reaching to the pan-African level of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Commission will only apply the African charter and other human rights instruments, and will not be able to say anything, for example, on investment treaties.

This situation poses a problem, because most of our states have to arbitrate between different types of laws and regulations, sometimes having to choose whether it is preferable to violate a human rights treaty or an investment treaty. “Since the rights holders in investment treaties are corporations and States – which are much more powerful than ordinary citizens, who are rights holders in human rights treaties – what we see is that, in most times, the State will end up considering it more profitable to violate human rights treaties, ”concluded Koagne.

Struggles against mining and dams in the world: the case of Brazil

Tchenna Maso, a peoples’ lawyer in Brazil, pointed out that mining is a historical activity in Brazil and it has left several social and environmental liabilities of violations that are interconnected. We had the most serious and emblematic cases of the collapse of the Fundão dams, in 2015, in Mariana, and in 2019 in Brumadinho. The populations affected to this day are fighting for justice. Vale, for example, enjoys extensive State protection. At the level of the international human rights system, there are still many legal gaps that do not allow a transnational company to be placed on the dock, and it is essential that social movements fight to change this scenario.

In the regions where we find these mining projects, where these transnational companies enter, we realize that they act in a capillarity to capture all the local public authorities, and what should be public policies provided by States, become public policies provided by companies”, Maso reiterated.

WORKSHOP RECOMMENDATIONS

Between speakers and participants, the lively debate revolved around several lessons learned and recommendations, which should guide our social movements for rights and justice. We highlight the following:

  • There is an urgent need to break with the belief that megaprojects (especially extractivist megaprojects) can bring about development, and to begin to build and demand radically opposed alternatives. The State needs to support inclusive and endogenous development models and systems that benefit and are managed by local communities;
  • It is necessary to establish synergies and join forces between peoples of various regions to stop the power and impunity of transnational companies, so that these companies are held responsible for their crimes and human rights violations;
  • It is essential to use existing national, regional and international legal mechanisms to seek access to justice, and to denounce and expose the gaps that still exist in the regulation of transnational companies;
  • The right to self-determination must be recognized and guaranteed to local communities, which includes the right to free, prior and informed consent and – necessarily – the possibility to say NO to a certain project planned for their territory that they consider harmful;
  • It is necessary to invest in family farming, especially agroecological, to build food sovereignty. This includes not only supporting peasants but also denouncing and resisting agribusiness projects, monoculture tree plantations, or planting genetically modified crops that have negative impacts on the environment and local peasants;
  • It is necessary to support and strengthen movements that seek to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights, such as the process under way at the United Nations to draft a binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights;
  • There is an urgent need to rethink and redefine progress and development indicators. Purely economic indicators such as GDP do not reflect the quality of life of the population nor the levels of inequality, therefore they are misleading indicators of the success of the development policies of each country.

In conclusion, speakers and participants reinforced the need for civil society to organise and articulate in its plurality of actors and struggles, and with the due role of the most affected people, in order to demand systemic changes in our societies, which will have to be fundamentally feminists, anti-capitalists, anti-colonialists and anti-racists.

*During September 2020, Justiça Ambiental JA! held its usual Maputo workshop on corporate impunity and human rights, this time in virtual format through 3 Webinars. This article is a summary of the main points made by the speakers and participants throughout the workshop.

For more information: jamoz2010@gmail.com

To watch the recording of the Webinars:

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