Karpowership “Just Insane”

Karpowership, a highly controversial company, is planning to develop power-generation operations off the coast of Maputo. Karpowerships will be only a few kilometres from the shore, and will have a detrimental impact on the city’s people with heavy air pollution and safety risks. Even worse, much of this energy will not even go to Mozambicans, but to South Africa.

The company is a subsidiary of Turkish company Karadeniz, which is embroiled in scandals in several countries, and has been exposed for major corruption, threatening civil society and submitting faulty impact assessments.

Karpowerships are offshore vessels, floating power plants that use gas to produce power. Karpowership has partnered up with EDM (Electricidade de Mozambique), and much of the power generated from the ship in Maputo will go to South Africa, most likely Eskom, the state power electricity provider, which is currently facing a massive corruption disaster and crisis, with rolling blackouts for South Africans. It is also unclear where this gas will be supplied from.

The Constitution of Mozambique recognises that all citizens have the right to a healthy and balanced environment under Article 90, and establishes an obligation on the Government to protect the environment and the human quality of life. The Constitution also obliges the Government, within the framework of the right to a healthy and balanced environment, to ensure a rational use of resources safeguarding the environment capacity to regenerate, ecological stability and rights of the future generations.

The Karpowership will be terrible for the environment of Mozambique, which is already suffering because of the extractive and fossil fuels industries around the country. It runs on the massively-toxic heavy fuel oil (HFO), which is the dirtiest fuel left behind from the process of refining crude oil. HFO is not meant to be used near urban areas, and has been banned by the United Nations because of the high amount of toxic fumes of sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other heavy metals, as well as cancer-causing chemicals it emits into the atmosphere. This will be emitted into the air that is directly breathed by the populations of Maputo and Matola. The Karpowership will also be dumping high amounts of hot water into the Maputo Bay, raising the temperatures to a point that drives away fish and sealife, in turn lowering catches for fishermen and destroying wildlife marine reserves like Inhaca Island which brings international tourists and scientists to Mozambique. Karpowership is already supplying electricity to Mozambique from a ship in Nacala, which has been running on HFO since they began operating in 2018, and will likely do so for the rest of the 10 year period.

A number of civil society organisations in Mozambique are challenging Karpowership’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project. Karpowership opened a period for public consultation in November 2022, when they presented an EIA that was inadequate and with many deficiencies. They claimed, incorrectly, that their project was part of Category A activities which made its EIA requirements more lenient and with less procedures, when in fact, the proposed activity involved stockage and transformation of fossil fuels that make it are part of a Category A+, which in turn requires their EIA to be submitted for an independent peer review. As a Category A+ project, it would be subjected to a stricter control by the authorities as well as by the public.

Karpowership has been trying to operate in neighbouring South Africa for years but has been facing resistance from civil society, while also flouting regulations. Perhaps now, realising that South Africa might be too difficult, they have decided to try Mozambique, where regulations are more soft and institutions are not as independent as in South Africa.

South African civil society stood up to oppose the first round of EIAs. On 31 March 2021, organisation groundWork made a submission to Triplo4, the consultant for Karpowership SA. The submission detailed all the issues with the project, and shared them with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), which included that:

Contrary to the government’s statements, the cost of Karpowerships is not the cheapest, and the vessels are actually meant for short-term supply, while the 20-year contract will create a lock-in leading to higher tariffs and less affordable and accessible energy

The EIA Scoping and Environmental Feasibility did not refer properly to a Climate Change Impact Assessment, as required by South African and also by Mozambique EIA regulations. They did not consider basic information such as emissions from gas production, gathering, processing, initial transport, and HFO liquefication. These omissions are a major problem, considering that they would show how gas will have an equivalent, or even worse, impact on the climate as coal.

They also used figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from 2007, when the most recent one at the time gave updated figures showing that methane had between 28-36 times the global warming impact of C02 over a 100-year period. The 2007 report says that this number is much lower, at 21. Furthermore, the mitigation measures for the impacts of GHG emissions from the ships are entirely undeveloped and inadequate

Regarding air quality, Karpowerships are not supposed to be near urban areas, but the location of these vessels so close to the coastline mean that coastal communities would be exposed to the pollution from the vessels anytime the onshore wind is blowing.

The atmospheric impact report section of the EIA was highly flawed – it does not measure toxic emissions from natural gas combustion and natural gas leaks. It also does not consider the serious risk of an explosion which will be totally disastrous for the air and people living nearby.

Half of the jobs of the project will be short-term construction while the long term positions are skilled job that will likely be filled by Turkish crew. Several communities, including different types of fishing communities may be harmed and their livelihoods affected, but the EIA does not consider this.

Public participation was totally inadequate – neither fishing communities for tribal communities were recognised and important persons or even notified about the proposed development and consultation. Many communities who were notified did not receive sufficient information, or could not afford technology to access this information online. In the case of Mozambique, the Prosecuting Authority has the mandate to defend and protect collective and environmental interest and surprisingly did not participate in the consultation.

Furthermore, in South Africa, one of the reasons the government had put out a bid was because of the need for ‘emergency energy’, and planned to sign a 20 -year contract with Karpowership SA. However, groundWork says that this so-called emergency was due to poor decision-making skewed in favour of fossil fuel development, and that “dig a yet deeper hole and put a just transition to a low carbon economy further out of reach.” They added that “Signing a 20-year contract to procure power from Karpowerships is effectively locking in gas for that time, crowding out space for ever-cheaper and more reliable clean energy, and exacerbating the climate crisis”.

These, and other issues in the comments from civil society led to the DFFE refusing Karpowerships SA’s environmental authorisation.. After they amended their EIA based on the government’s refusal, it still was not good enough. In December 2022, more comments were submitted by groundWork, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and the Green Connection supported by legal organisations Centre for Environmental Rights, Biodiversity Law Centre and Natural Justice.

Karpowership SA’s second EIA again failed on all three sites and in 2023, the DFFE suspended a secondary EIA for yet another powership at the port of Ngqura. .

While all of this is going on, a simultaneous process was being undertaken to stop the Karpowership license from another angle. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) launched a legal challenge to review South Africa’s National Energy Regulator (NERSA)’s decision to grant Karpowership SA three Independent Power Producer (IPP) generation licences. NERSA had awarded these licenses to Karpowership SA even though the projects had not get been given environmental authorisation by the DFFE, there were no port authority permits or gas pipeline permits, and Karpowership SA had not yet reached financial close despite this being a condition of the Department of Minerals and Resources’ award of Karpowership SA as the preferred bidder in its emergency procurement. This process is still ongoing.

At the end of 2022, CER published a report about the financiers of Karpower – Standard Chartered (United Kingdom), Investec Group (South Africa), Isbank (Turkey) and MCB Group (Mauritius) – who provided Karpowership with a US$ 140 million loan. Following this report, Karpowership tried to intimidate activists by sending them a lawyer’s letter, claiming they had made ‘defamatory statements’, but their claims were unfounded.

As shown above, South Africa is perfect example of Karpowership’s corruption and how they tried to undermine the processes of a country. In an interview in February with Andre de Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, he said Karpower had “an extensive legacy of alleged corruption, breaches of contract and abuse”, and that “There is absolutely no justification for concluding a 20-year agreement with a company that can raise the anchor, literally, and sail away with the asset the country has paid for.” Eskom is currently in a major crisis, with the government calling the ‘loadshedding’ a state of disaster.

Now, in Mozambique, The Scoping and Environmental Feasibility Report did not consider the impacts on marine ecology, like the waste discharge and leakage, and dismissed the impact that the vessel will have on the marine environment, as well as the risk of a gas spill. Sao Sebastiao estuary, where the Karpowership will be located, is also surrounded by mangroves. Mangroves have an exceptional ability to capture carbon and serve an additional role in mitigating severe storms, and serve as a habitat for fish and crustaceans. Karpowership and Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) claimed that the impacts on mangroves will be temporary and due to power transport lines. The EIA regulations in Mozambique do not distinguish between temporary and non-temporary impacts on mangroves and require that all activities with impacts on mangroves to A+ category which requires an independent peer review.

The Scoping and Environmental Feasibility Report also has gaps regarding the qualitative noise impact on megafauna, including the dolphin and mangrove habitats, important birds and communities living around the area and cumulative impacts as the area is closest to a coal terminal port, and many other industries, including a cement factory. In South Africa DFFE’s refusal bore socio-economic and environmental considerations including the EIA’s gaps on qualitative noise impact assessment.

Mozambique has no regulations or standards on noise quality, and this fact makes Mozambique favourable to opportunistic investors, as environmental licence does not take into consideration noise impacts. Although the EIA regulations imposed an assessment of cumulative impacts and air and water quality standards, the absence of an environmental load capacity allowed more and more projects without any consideration of the impacts on the environment and quality of life as a whole. Karpower completely ignored the impacts of one more activity in an environment already under pressure.

Bit this is not the first time that Karpowership parent company, Karadeniz Holdings, which is registered in tax-haven Malta, is embroiled in major corruption controversy. In Lebanon, in 2021, the state’s financial prosecutor ordered two Karpowerships to be impounded following slapping it with a $25 million fine for corruption, after which Karpowership punished the government by shutting down energy supply to the country, leading to power blackouts.

In Mozambique the agreement signed between Karpower and EDM and the information about the financiers are not available to the public. financiers.

In Brazil, in 2022, the courts demanded a suspension of the installation and operations of the four Karpowership plants, due to this failure to submit an EIA, and the damage it would cause to the sensitive ecological Sepetida Bay and fishing communities, as well as fined the company for not meeting deadlines.

Karpowership has behaved badly in so many other countries, and with the lax regulations in Mozambique, it will be even easier for them to create irreversible implications here, for the environment, climate and health of people. Karpowership must be stopped before they can start with this destruction!

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Mozambique Holdings employee attacks peasant women in Namadoe community, Lugela District

Conflicts between members of the communities affected by the Mozambique Holdings company’s plantations and its managers and employees in the Lugela district have been ongoing since the company begun its activities in the area. Until today, there is no information on how the land use title was transferred from Madal to Mozambique Holdings Lda, despite the numerous requests for information submitted to Government.

The affected communities claim that there was no community consultation process for the transfer of the land use title, and that they were allowed by Madal to use several areas under Madal’s title for food production. Since Mozambique Holdings Lda started operating, several community members lost their production areas without any compensation, as some of these areas were under Madal’s land title but always used by the communities.

JA! and the community associations have already denounced several situations of intimidation, threats, insults and even aggression against community members and the destruction of fields and stored foods. These situations were publicly denounced, and formal complaints were submitted to the relevant authorities, including the Police. The perpetrators of these acts are well known by all, they are and have been denounced and nothing has happened. Due to the increase and aggravation of conflict situations and the dissatisfaction of these communities, the District Administration intervened with the company in order to convince the company to allow the communities to use part of the lowlands for rice production and for the last two years this has been the case.

However, last Sunday, the 14th of May, two peasant women from the Namadoe community were in one of these low-lying areas planting cabbage when Mr. Binua, from Mozambique Holdings, who was driving by saw them there, he stopped his motorcycle and ran towards them. As they say, the two peasant sisters, as soon as Mr. Binua reached one of the peasant women, without saying a single word, he began to violently attack her. The sister ran away, but quickly realized that her sister was still being beaten and returned to defend her. The fear was quickly forgotten and together they defended themselves against Mr. Binua, having attacked him until he bit one of the ladies and fled on his motorbike taking with him the peasant women’s two machetes, but in the escape, he left his cell phone behind. This same man has already assaulted other members of the community, men, women and even a girl, with impunity, and continues to walk arrogantly through the communities as if he was untouchable. Last Sunday, he was not so lucky, and by all accounts he received a brave and well-deserved beating from the two sisters, acting in self-defense.

Mr. Binua, not happy with the outcome, went on to file a complaint with the Chief of Locality, who forwarded the case to the Police Station in Tacuane. We are following the situation in order to ensure protection and if needed legal assistance to these brave peasant women who are fed up of being disrespected, insulted and bullied by an outsider who believes to be above the law.

The reduction of the production areas of these communities has brought them countless challenges, these as many communities in our country depend on these lands to produce food and it is these same lands that have been granted to companies like this one, who do not respect local communities, their culture, traditions and ways of life and still think act as if they were above the law. The most recent cyclone Freddy destroyed several food production fields in these communities, and it is in this harsh context that these communities find themselves.

Due to all these issues Mozambique Holdings LDA is not welcome by the communities, it does not contribute in any way to improve the living conditions of these communities, the managers and foreign staff have a terrible relationship with the locals. Since the company begun its operations, it has only aggravated communities’ situation of poverty and vulnerability, and Government, by failing to act in the face of these crimes, is in fact supporting their criminal activity. Communities feel abandoned by the government in this situation, and impunity reigns.

Who is behind Mozambique Holdings? Who protects them? And who protects and defends the rights of these communities?

The Struggle goes on!

Enough of Impunity!

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JA! suffers another cyber attack

Digital surveillance and cyber attacks are part of the modern day reality for civil society, and one that most of us in the south do not have resources or skills to manage adequately. Even though JA staff had benefitted from some basic training and we made several decisions in order to improve security and decrease virus attacks (such as changing to linux based operating system more than 15 years ago), the cyber world moves at a fast pace, making training, software and systems outdated quickly.

This weakness was recently exposed at JA in early January when we were hacked. Our web page was taken over and passwords changed, so we lost access to it. A ransom was demanded under the threat of deleting all the information. We first wondered if it was just a scam or bluff, but even if not, we do not entertain the option of ransom and do not reply or even attempt interacting with such threats. So we started the process of regaining access to our page. Unfortunately, while we were focused on recovering our web page, we hadn’t realize that the administrator’s laptop and JA’s main backup drive had also been hacked, only realizing this when the laptop stopped working and the backup drive deleted. This attack exceeded previous hacks or virus attacks, and exposed the effect of the smaller and regular cyber attacks in decreasing our alertness and urgency around the issue.

Luckily, we had a recent recovery drive for the laptop and we had received training on recovering deleted drives in the past. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to even get our linux based systems to identify the backup hard drive. After trying to recover the backup hard drive with other systems we gave up and had to take our backup drive to a specialist company that does data recovery at a high cost.

It took 3 weeks before we received the first batch of recovered data (almost 4TB), but the remaining data has been more complicated and we are still waiting for it, as well as the technical report from the company. However, we have been warned that the second batch of data has a lot of damaged files and is not organized in our original file system, it consists of thousands of files in dated folders that we will need to go through and reorganize.

The IT specialist also gave us some helpful information based on his findings. There was a common virus in the startup files and a concerning backdoor, similar to a well known old windows-based backdoor called “Banito”, but one that works on Linux systems. We also learnt that hackers had gained access to our accounts without needing to use passwords through the use of something called ‘session tokens’, that help you log in and out of your accounts without having to write the password. These tokens are stored on your computer cache and can be easily hacked through a redline stealer malware kit, in our case through a .scr screen saver file.

There were a few other odd/concerning threats found that were more complicated to understand, especially for us with our low IT IQ. Besides, the focus of the IT specialist was data recovery, they had not done a thorough analysis. Unfortunately, the cost to do a forensic analysis was too high and the most important part to analyse would be the hacked laptop, but by then we had already reformatted the laptop (with cycles of full hard drive rewrite and delete), and we could not hand it over for a forensic analysis due to it being in urgent use by the administrator.

Amidst such eventful weeks – with Cyclone Freddy, the flooding, the death of Mozambican rapper Azagaia and then the police violence at the march to honor him – we ended up delaying the publication of this post. Coincidentally, before we were about to post this, we found out that our Say No to Gas campaign site was also attacked by hackers, but given that the site was developed last year using more up to date software, and the developer was still doing the maintenance, he managed to block the attack.

We fear that these types of events may become more regular both from criminals and our governments, that have drastically increased investments in digital surveillance. Some countries, like Israel, have expanded their military oppression to digital surveillance and this has become a major business, with programs like Pegasus being exported to other regions such as Africa. This has contributed to African governments’ increased control and monitoring of civil society and oppression of critical voices. Digital surveillance has become central to these plans. Countries like Rwanda have shown the path forward for other African countries on how oppressive governments can control and suppress dissent, while not only getting a pat on the back from developed northern countries, but even turning their military and security sector into an economically productive sector servicing the northern countries dirty work. Digital surveillance and cyber attacks have become central to this model of oppression and human rights violations.

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The Africa Climate Justice Collective is concerned about the ravaging effects of the climate crisis in Africa, especially the recent flood disasters that submerged some parts of the Southern and Central African regions of the continent.

Cyclone Freddy has wreaked havoc in Southern African countries especially Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi since February 2023. Thousands have been displaced and hundreds have lost their lives while others are still missing. In Madagascar at least 300 000 people have been affected, 17 people have died and 3 are missing. Malawi has recorded 563771 displaced persons, 511 deaths while 533 are missing. In Zambezia province of Mozambique, 22000 people have been displaced, 10 dead and 14 injured.

In Central Africa, Buea City in southwestern Cameroon between 18 and 19 March 2023 experienced torrential rains that caused floods and landslides and resulted in casualties. The twin disasters which were both triggered by several hours of rainfall had led to the loss of lives (media reports confirmed 2 deaths) and destruction of properties. In total, nearly 300 people living at the foot of Mount Cameroon have been affected. In all these countries, houses and infrastructure have been destroyed and it will take a long time as well as require a significant stream of funds to recover. These events highlight the urgent need for effective disaster response strategies and climate change mitigation measures to protect vulnerable communities in the affected countries and beyond.

Faced by these tragic events, the African Climate Justice Collective (ACJC), which is made up of 27 movement-based and other allied civil society organizations, and individuals and partners all across Africa, is calling for concrete actions to address the ongoing Climate emergencies not only in Southern Africa but in the continent as a whole. Cyclone Freddy’s long journey began off the coast of Australia in early February 2023. After becoming an exceptionally powerful storm and crossing the Indian Ocean, Freddy first struck eastern Madagascar on February 21 and southern Mozambique a few days later.

According to Anabela Lemos, Director of Justiça Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique and a convenor of the ACJC “our people are compelled to pay the debt they never owed, they are forced to reap pain and agony from the crisis they never created while the government and multinational corporations go to the Bank with fat pockets”.

Rumbidzai Mpahlo who coordinates the ACJC stated that “As a collective, we continue to call for the activation of both climate finance and the Loss and Damage Fund without any debt- creating and repressive conditions. This is an emergency which should be treated with the urgency it deserves.

Maimoni Ubrei-Joe of Friends of the Earth Africa and Nigeria has stated that the recent IPCC report has further demonstrated the failure of world leaders to commit to addressing the global climate crisis. ““The time to act to reverse the negative impacts of climate change is now””.

This recent IPCC report has sufficiently shown how short-term climate forecasts (spans next decades) are not brilliant, and weather disasters like Cyclone Freddy, will multiply with disastrous consequences. It is therefore more than ever the moment to build a more effective and efficient disaster management that is capable of anticipating these risks and disasters, looking urgently at the case of the communities affected by Cyclone Freddy. Positive experiences of management of extreme floods and other climatic phenomena on the African continent should inspire the development and strengthening of rapid alert and response mechanisms.

The CADTM African network demands that the polluting multinationals recognize their climate debts and pay due compensations to the victims of climate change and Africa as a whole focusing on these three countries; Mozambique, Malawi, and Cameroon which are currently grappling with climate change impacts. The CADTM African network invites African leaders to restrain from refunding the debts they have contracted in repairing the climate damages.

We are hereby standing in solidarity with those affected in Malawi, Mozambique, Cameroon and Madagascar. The Global North and Governments of these nations should ensure that funds and relief materials are made available for loss and damages as agreed upon at COP 27 and these funds should be made available to those directly affected and not channeled to the nations ecological funds where they will be diverted to meet other national needs leaving out those that have been badly affected by the cyclone.

We are traversing a great moment of transition, from a system that is crumbling away, to a new one, that is not yet fully formed. At this very moment, a few and powerful blood-thirsty Africans continue to sell out our countries and our sovereignty, fomenting wars and destruction for vanity and personal gain to feed. At the same time, on the ground are showing the best of our human principles, throwing themselves into the post disaster chaos, to help victims, often reaching the areas where “no aid ever comes”, and so many others who mobilize their solidarity in their own ways to support their fellow nationals.

As much international solidarity there may be in any major disaster, African nations must muster themselves the vision, capacities, skills and resources needed to not only be prepared for disasters, but to manage its territories in harmony with Nature. The ACJC recognizes that there is great complexity in the actual implementation of this proposal, but only the Nation itself can claim its own sovereignty. African Governments MUST CHANGE COURSE. The solutions and proposals of the ACJC provide a guide for this. But there is much more to be done. Now more than ever, there is ample evidence that territories with wider biodiversity are significantly more resilient, or able to more rapidly recover from climate related shocks. Some, if not most, of the solutions are already within our grasp as a society.

Our hearts go out to all of the lost ones, and to those who are left behind in mourning, but also to all the survivors and those on the ground working to make their communities a better place for our loved ones.



Contact: Benson Dotun Fasanya | info@africaclimatejustice.org | +2347062249235.

Contact: Judite Jofrice | judite.ja.mz@gmail.com| (+258) 84 310 6010

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7 de Abril – Dia da Mulher Moçambicana

A 7 de Abril, celebramos todas as mulheres moçambicanas! Celebramos a força, perseverança, sabedoria e solidariedade das mulheres moçambicanas!

A data foi instituída em homenagem a Josina Machel, heroína nacional, uma das muitas mulheres moçambicanas que lutaram pela independência do nosso país. Mas mesmo estas mulheres, antes de lutarem pela independência do nosso país, tiveram igualmente de lutar pelos direitos das mulheres, pelo direito a lutar, pelo direito a resistir à colonização, pelo direito à sua voz e à participação na política e nas decisões do futuro do nosso país!

Hoje, celebramos estas conquistas. Cientes de que a luta é contínua e ainda temos um longo caminho pela frente até que todas as meninas e mulheres moçambicanas e pelo mundo gozem dos mesmos direitos que os homens, até que a luta pelo reconhecimento e realização dos direitos das mulheres seja a luta de todos!

Recentemente, o Presidente da República esteve em Nova York numa visita de trabalho no âmbito do exercício da presidência rotativa do Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas. Durante as actividades, encontros e entrevistas mantidas, o Presidente Nyusi referiu alguns pontos relativos ao respeito aos direitos humanos, liberdades e terrorismo, de uma forma bastante questionável devido aos últimos acontecimentos no país. Numa dessas entrevistas foi questionado sobre a possibilidade de uma mulher vir a presidir a República de Moçambique.

Por sermos mulheres e/ou por conhecermos os inúmeros e tão diversos desafios e lutas por que passa diariamente a grande maioria das mulheres moçambicanas, indignamo-nos quando ouvimos a sua resposta: “Nós em Moçambique não temos o problema de mulher não mulher… mulher tem espaço… e por mérito próprio… “

Neste sentido, gostaríamos de ouvir do Sr. Presidente, que espaço têm as mulheres que estão fora do círculo de familiaridade e amizade dos antigos combatentes que ainda se mantém no partido no poder, e que procuram satisfazer os interesses deste grupo político? Obviamente que existirão algumas e raras excepções mas ainda assim, o grosso dos espaços políticos liderados por mulheres em Moçambique continua a seguir uma linhagem de fácil rastreio.

A cada dia crescem as concessões de terra feitas a projectos de plantações florestais, mineiros e outros tantos, e é sobejamente sabido que as mulheres moçambicanas tem sido as mais sacrificadas pela usurpação de terras, perda de acesso a cursos de água, compensações injustas e violência a todos os níveis.

Sr. Presidente que espaço têm as mulheres no distrito de Lugela que viram suas machambas destruídas pela Mozambique Holdings para pôr árvores de borracha? Que espaço têm as mulheres afectadas pela empresa Portucel que reclamam há anos sem ser ouvidas e quando elevam a sua voz ainda correm o risco de ser ameaçadas e caladas? Que espaço têm as mulheres afectadas pela Vale ou pela Vulcan, que são obrigadas a cozinhar comida com poeira para os seus filhos para alguns poucos lucrarem com o carvão? Que espaço têm as mulheres deslocadas de guerra em Cabo Delgado, que para além de perderem suas terras, cedidas à Total, ainda viram os seus familiares sendo brutalmente assassinados e muitas são sexualmente violadas? Que espaço têm as mulheres ameaçadas por Mphanda Nkuwa, que nem sequer podem cantar que não querem esta barragem na sua terra, porque são ameaçadas e acusadas de terroristas?

Que espaço têm as milhares de mulheres moçambicanas grávidas que caminham quilómetros para poder chegar a um posto de saúde, e talvez quem sabe serem devidamente atendidas? Que espaço têm as nossas camponesas que andam quilómetros carregadas de “Xidjumba” para ir vender e trazer alguma coisa para casa? E quando acreditam que chegaram ainda são extorquidas pela nossa “polícia municipal” e assaltadas pelos bandidos que a polícia não consegue controlar porque está ocupada a perseguir cidadãos que cantam “Povo no Poder”? E que espaço têm todas as meninas que são obrigadas a deixar de sonhar, deixar de estudar, deixar de ser criança, pois são usadas como moeda de troca, sendo obrigadas a casar com homens sem escrúpulos que tem idade para ser seus avós, porque não tem protecção e porque ainda somos vistas como um ser inferior? Quantas são as meninas e mulheres moçambicanas que ainda não têm acesso à escola? Quantas foram as meninas e mulheres moçambicanas brutalmente violadas e assassinadas na nossa terra desde o início deste ano apenas?

Muitas mulheres têm conseguido vitórias importantes na luta por igualdade e dignidade, mas a luta continua até que sejamos todas livres! Livres para resistir, livres para marchar e gritar pelos nossos direitos, livres para dar opinião sem temer represálias, livres para escolher o nosso futuro!

A nossa luta continua!


March 18th and people power

Never has the shutdown of democracy in Mozambique been more evident than last March 18th, particularly in the cities of Maputo, Beira, Nampula, and Xai-Xai. It is a reality that we urgently need to resist and fight against. Since 2008 freedom of expression, demonstration, and association have been repressed, but it was in 2020 that the government and its international partners used Covid19 as an almost plausible pretext to restrict citizens’ freedoms, with the announcement of a set of measures that gave rise to restrictions on the mobility of people and goods, restrictions on public and private meetings, and limitations of the right to protest – a right that is constitutionally conferred to us through Article 51 of the Constitution of the Republic.

The last few years have been marked with threats against freedom of speech and association. Activists, journalists and community leaders that stand up against inequality, government abuse or megaprojects have been intimidated, persecuted and some are missing until this day1.

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, while at the same time owning vast natural resources. Coal, gas and oil have been exploited by transnationals, bringing riches to a few economic and political elites. Rural and peasant communities have been displaced, a violent insurgency has been ravaging the North of the country, and the government is focusing on a military strategy to deal with it. People from Cabo Delgado are being sexually assaulted, threatened and murdered by both insurgents and government military forces. On top of this, the government has been openly attacking civil society organisations accusing them of being ‘anti-government’ or ‘anti-development’, and drafting new laws aiming to restrict the freedom of association2.

On the 18th of March 2023, the Mozambican people – mostly youth – with or without party or institutional affiliation, people linked to civil society organizations or not, decided to march to celebrate the life and work of our musician and social activist, Edson da Luz, better known as Azagaia, who had passed away nine days earlier, on the 9th of March of 2023. The official announcement from his family said he died of an epilepsy attack, a disease he had long suffered from. Azagaia was a Mozambican rapper that spoke and sang boldly about what is going on in our country, sang about putting the people in power, and was fiercely attacked and intimidated by the regime in many occasions. He was boycotted by the main public media channels, but still became the hero and the voice of thousands of disempowered youth who desired change.

Saturday, the 18th of March, is a date that will go down in our country’s history as a day when our police forces, armed with armored cars, dogs, and tear gas weapons, used unprecedented police brutality to prevent a peaceful march. What we witnessed in the streets of Maputo revolted all of us.

All legal procedures were followed to ensure that the march in honor of Azagaia’s life and his legacy would run smoothly. According to Mozambican law, marches do not need authorization, but a letter must be submitted to the relevant authorities to inform them. This was done, and most of the municipalities gave the green light to the marches, with a well-defined itinerary. In Maputo, the starting point would be the Eduardo Mondlane statue, and we would march to Independence square, next to the Samora Machel statue – two symbols of popular power and freedom in our country.

Early that morning, messages started circulating noting the number of armored cars and heavily armed police agents positioned at various points around the city. We thought that maybe it was to ensure our safety. Naive and innocent thinking, typical of those who believe that one can still live in a democracy in Mozambique.

Dozens of police vehicles and agents were surrounding the statue of Eduardo Mondlane, the place where the march would start, and preventing groups of young people from getting there. According to ‘superior orders’, we were not allowed to gather in groups, even though we had permission to gather and march together. Suddenly, and without any warning, the police started firing tear gas everywhere. We all started running, but the desire to exercise our right to march and to pay tribute to Azagaia was strong. We needed to have this last tribute to one of the few voices, if not the only one in recent times, that represented us, that sang our pains, anguishes and revolts without fear of reprisals. The desire to march made us hide in street corners near the square, in smaller groups with our T-shirts stamped with the face of our young hero of the people, who fought for our freedom only armed with pen and paper. Our fists remained up in the air, but our screams for “people in power” were quickly swallowed up by the aggression that raged against us all.

All over the world tear gas has been used as a control mechanism and to disperse protests, but even so, its use is regulated and it cannot be thrown directly at people. However, on March 18th, the PRM (Police of the Republic of Mozambique) repeatedly fired tear gas bullets directly at the participants. A member of JA! team was grazed in the back as he dodged a gas capsule that was aimed directly at his body, a young woman next to us was hit in both ankles. There was also the case of young Inocêncio who lost his left eye after being hit by one of these bullets – that supposedly do not kill. One of the capsules set a car on fire. One of the organizers of the march in Nampula said he was tortured for hours, and videos of young people being beaten up and tortured by the police as they were being detained around Maputo were circulating. At the Madgermanes Park, a place in the city that symbolizes the struggle of former workers from the defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR) who have been protesting for their rights for more than 30 years. Several young people gathered there singing Azagaia’s song that gave the march its name: “People in Power”. The young people simply crowded around chanting some of their idol Azagaia’s greatest hits peacefully, but once again the police attacks came and this time with even more brutality. A smoke screen of tear gas descended on the park and everyone fled towards Independence Square. Not even the young people who took refuge inside the Maputo Cathedral escaped the fury of the PRM agents.

The street is the only place we can go to protest when our power is taken away from us and our rights are violated, and the police responds by poisoning the air?

In addition to the brutality and violence of the police, counterintelligence and surveillance actions were carried out by some non-uniformed officers. They took pictures of people who were on the march, registered license plates and even followed some people to their homes, in a real action of intimidation that we can no longer tolerate.

Azagaia said it well in his song A Marcha (The March):

“Now that we’re together,

I’ll tell you a secret

They can’t handle us

They’re the ones afraid now

And in our just cause

they can’t infiltrate…”

In the midst of all this, we are even more surprised by the PRM press release, where they tried – in a machiavellian way – to justify their brutal action against defenseless citizens in a peaceful demonstration. The PRM claimed to have used proportionality of force against ‘protesters who were throwing blunt objects’, in an ‘attempted coup’. A complete absurdity, a gross lie, and an insult to those who were there on the day. The countless images and reports of the events prove over and over again that the PRM acted outside the law and with tremendous brutality. It is a criminal and condemnable stance at all levels, both from the agents who carried out the repressive actions in the streets of our country, and above all from the superiors who gave the orders, who should be tried and convicted.

To the police and UIR officers (Rapid Intervention Unit) who repressed and massacred citizens on the 18th – no superior order justifies your actions, because the Constitution of the Republic enshrines the right to resist illegal orders. Do your part and march also for your right to resist, for your obligation to protect the people.

As to the international community, the big donors and development partners, the supposed benchmarks of human rights and democracy, they will mumble in the corridors and look away, because it is not convenient to criticize the government on which they depend to continue exploiting our gas, heavy sands, coal or rubies.

It is important that we stand together, strong and firm in the cause of the people. This will be the real tribute to Azagaia, the man who fought to decolonize our minds.

We will continue to march and sing for freedom and justice! We need to unite and stop the repression and the attacks on Mozambicans who believe in a better country! People in power!

Povo no Poder!



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Trapped – How to break a community that resists?

The case of Quitupo

Located in the district of Palma, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, the village of Quitupo is one of the district’s 63 villages1. In 2010, with the discovery of marketable quantities of natural gas in the Rovuma Basin, Quitupo joined the list of communities affected by the liquefied natural gas (LNG) production plant project, to be developed by TotalEnergies (formerly Total) in Palma. In the initial phase of the project, public consultation meetings in Quitupo were some of the most intense ever to be seen in the history of megaprojects in Mozambique. Indeed, the community of Quitupo hasn’t made life easy for gas investors. At the time, back in 2013, the process was led by Anadarko. The company came across a population that was, to some extent, informed about its rights, which resulted in local residents often walking out on meetings when the company failed to provide them with answers that satisfied their concerns. The community challenged the company – and the government – on the authenticity of the minutes of the public consultation meetings that paved the way for Anadarko’s acquisition of its land use title (DUAT) totaling 7,000 hectares (about 17,300 acres). The community of Quitupo even had to request emergency technical support and legal advice from civil society organizations such as Centro Terra Viva (CTV) and the Iniciativa para Terras Comunitárias (ITC), both of which already supported the community to build its capacity on legal issues. The village chiefs did not verify the signatures on the alleged minutes of the community consultation meetings2, instead claiming to have signed an attendance sheet of a meeting they were summoned to with the sole purpose of informing them there were investors who were interested in working in the district, offering employment and developing communities. Around 7,000 hectares (some 17,300 acres) were alocated to the project without the communities’ knowledge and consent. Clearly, the process was riddled with glaring irregularities and illegalities which the government has gone to great lengths to prevent from coming to light – irregularities that should put the government to shame. In a clear attempt to discredit and belittle the excellent work that was done on behalf of the communities, it was claimed that those civil society organizations involved in the process were against development, among other unflattering adjectives3. In a desperate attempt to prove that the process complied with legal requirements, the then Ministry for the Coordination of Environmental Action (MICOA), through the National Directorate for Environmental Impact Assessment (DNAIA) – the entity responsible for issuing environmental licenses –, even took part in a meeting which was most likely organized following a suggestion from the environmental consultants responsible for carrying out the environmental impact assessment study. Civil society organizations and other interested parties were invited to take part in the meeting, which was held at one of Maputo’s luxurious hotels. In a clear attempt to corroborate the transparency of the project, CSOs were summoned so that all the issues they raised could be addressed. Even so, it was not possible to clarify how the land use title was assigned before the environmental license process was completed. Through this meeting, it became clear that the process did not comply with legally defined steps. At one point in the meeting, it was impossible to distinguish who belonged to the government and who belonged to the company, given the need for both parties to justify and substantiate violations of laws approved and recognized by the government itself. During the consultations in Quitupo, the maps presented by Total were completely rejected by the communities. People said that the maps didn’t matter to them because they didn’t know how to read them, they would rather be shown the project’s boundaries on the ground4. The population did not feel intimidated by Anadarko’s technical teams boots and dark glasses, nor by the speeches of the then district administrator and not even by the elaborate speeches of the provincial directors for environment and mineral resources. The latter ones had to participate in the meetings to try to appease the feelings of the communities. None of these actions managed to convince the Quitupo community that they had to transfer their burial grounds and give up their fishing and farming areas in order to prioritize the exploration of natural gas. This process showed the strength of a community that was united and aware of its rights, and demanded to negotiate on its own terms. Regrettably, our communities are never given the opportunity to say NO; from an early age they are taught that what the government wants, the government gets – and if the government is our father, then we owe it respect even if that means overriding the respect that we are also owed. On the other hand, the communities are expected to pay eternal tribute to the ones who freed us from colonialism, which is why no decision should be challenged, only accepted. However, the reason why this whole situation was sorted out was when it was cleverly decided to create the famous ”resettlement committees” – groups that would represent the interests of the communities in the meetings with the project, and thereby avoid the “hassles” that were present in the initial meetings. These committees were initially made up of influential people who were respected by the communities and who played the role of mediators in the process of signing the agreements between community members and the company. The truth is that the idea of setting up these committees included the subtle courtesy of paying the members of said committees a monthly fee, the humble amount (for people living on the poverty line) of 7 thousand meticais, paid for by Anadarko. Many of the concerns expressed by the communities in the initial meetings quickly ceased to be of concern, without ever having been properly addressed. After receiving some of the fees paid for by the company, the committees started to no longer truly represent the interests of the communities. One of the first steps that were taken was to expel the members of the committees who insisted on raising questions considered to be from the past, especially questions relating to the submission of minutes from the community consultation meetings regarding the acquisition of the land use title, new fishing areas and transfer of graveyards. In addition to the exclusion of members who refused to be manipulated, complaints began to emerge about the committees’ inability to deal with the numerous complaints made by those who felt economically or physically impacted. Especially in cases where there were internal squabbles typical of small villages, people would not even bother going to the committees because they felt that, if one has personal issues with a committee member, your matter would not even reach the company, where the appropriate channels could be used to submit complaints and restitute rights as was often necessary. Stunned by the number of complaints that our focal point received, Justiça Ambiental actually tried, in August 2019, to contact the committee to better understand what was going on. We were surprised by the fact that, in order to see a civil society organization, the committee requested a government credential and that we be accompanied by a government official. At that moment, we realized that these committees no longer served the interests of the people who appointed them to represent them, which – unfortunately for the people of Mozambique – is nothing new. In a fuzzy way, and in Mozambican style, the comments regarding the legality of the minutes of the community consultation meetings that cleared the way for the attribution of land to the American multinational were muffled. The project kicked off and all the measures foreseen in the resettlement process were initiated so that the transfer of families could proceed according to plan. Then, in 2016, the Mozambican Bar Association (OAM) requested that the Administrative Court5 nullify the document, which was issued after project activities began. However, once again the government and the institutions that represent it came to the project’s defense6. Without apparently analyzing the essence of the application, the Administrative Court simply argued that the communities were satisfied with the resettlement process and the financial compensations; however, no reference was made to the illegality of the land use title. Anadarko’s original project, which is now owned by Total, provided for the resettlement of around 733 families from Quitupo. The community resettlement process started in July 2019 with the residents of Milamba village being the first to be resettled. The village’s 33 families were the first to receive the houses built by Anadarko. The resettlement process in Quitupo began in March 2020, but only 161 families from the community were resettled, with the majority remaining in the village awaiting their turn. While the resettlement process was under way, a fence began to be erected around the supposed limits of the production plant, leaving the Quitupo community trapped and without permission to develop farming and fishing activities within the fenced area. Currently, the community is forced to leave the fenced area to look for alternatives to their survival in areas where they are allowed to farm or fish in Senga, Maganja, Monjane, Macala and Palma Sede.

When questioned about the need to support the communities that remain in Quitupo without any means of subsistence and without support from the company while they wait for their resettlement, Total’s team replied there wasn’t much that could be done. They said that they don’t provide support and do not allow the land inside the fence to be used to avoid future conflicts with the communities as they fear that activities may resume at any time; if that happens, families which have crops in the fields will demand compensation for the loss, whereas Quitupo has already gone through the compensation process and people already received compensation up for their losses. They even expressed willingness to receive proposals to solve the problem that they recognize the community is facing due to the construction of this fence. Construction of this fence raised great concern on the part of the communities, and their greatest fear gradually materialized: the total loss of their land. However, after the attack in Palma on March 24, 2021, Total – which heads the Mozambique LNG consortium – suspended its activities by issuing a declaration of force majeure, thus also suspending the ongoing resettlement process. This interruption left at least 572 families from the community of Quitupo fenced in and trapped within their own village. In addition to losing their land, these families have not yet received the lands they were promised as compensation. In fact, it is clear that farming land compensations are the great Achilles heel of megaprojects in Mozambique and the giant Total doesn’t have much room to guarantee land to the resettled communities. Those few who managed to secure land compensations in Senga and Macala are engaged in conflict with the host communities who complain about irregularities in the compensation process. Families who remain in Quitupo are living in total uncertainty, without even knowing if they will receive a house given that some of the houses are still under construction; they also feel restricted about making improvements to the houses they currently live in since a moratorium was declared in 2017. Following the attacks that took place in Palma on March 24, 2021, Total declared force majeure7, which covers the occurrence of unforeseen events. However, considering the area has been under attack for the past five years and one of the attacks in 2019 took place about 7km from Total’s camp, it seems a bit simplistic to regard the attack on the village of Palma as unpredictable. The reality is that, once force majeure was declared, activities in Palma, including the resettlement process, were suspended. While Total decides whether or not it is safe to return to Afungi, families from Quitupo and other families already resettled in Vila de Quitunda who find themselves in a similar situation – with no land, no compensation (especially due to complaints) and no support – have no option but to look for other ways to survive and to guarantee adequate food for their families, not to mention the situation of constant insecurity they live in. More than two years after they lost their land, and more than a year since they started living in a fenced area, the families of the community of Quitupo have not yet seen and do not see the alleged benefits of gas exploration projects in Cabo Delgado. Their suspicions and resistance proved right. Despite their union and courage, they are still trapped by a development model that disregards the rights and wishes of the people, and leaves the door wide open for large multinational companies.


Mário, T.V e Bila, I.M (2015), Indústria Extractiva e Comunidade: Questões sobre comunicação, Consultas Públicas, e impactos económicos, sociais e ambientais sobre comunidades rurais em Tete e Cabo Delgado - sekelekani.org.mz

Salomão, A. (2021), Governação Participativa de Terras em Moçambique: Breve Revisão do Quadro Legal e Desafios de Implementação, Revista Ambiente & Sociedade, São Paulo. Vol. 24.

Oliveira, L.T (2018), “Na República de Moçambique temos a lei” Política de terras, sentidos da terra e conflito no litoral norte de Moçambique, Universidade de Brasília, Centro de Estudos Avançados Multidisciplinares.

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Petition to stop the Mphanda Nkuwa dam project submitted to the Assembly of the Republic

Mozambican organisation Justiça Ambiental (JA!) last Wednesday (December 21st) submitted a petition with more than 2,600 signatures from Mozambican citizens to demand that the controversial Mphanda Nkuwa dam project, proposed for the Zambezi River, cease immediately.

The terms under which the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric project was conceived, and under which it is proceeding, do not comply 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 equitable development. Furthermore, this project entails very high environmental, ecosystem, climate, seismic, social and economic risks, which have not yet been properly assessed and studied by the Mozambican government. Despite these risks, and the numerous requests for clarification and information submitted by Justiça Ambiental to the government and to the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office (GMNK), the project has been moving forward, in this new phase, since 2018, in an accelerated manner and without due public scrutiny.

Furthermore, the project is also in violation of articles 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which establish peoples’ right to the free disposal of the use of natural resources and prevent them from being deprived of their use; the right to choose the model of economic development, social and cultural with strict respect for their freedoms and identity; and the right to a balanced environment conducive to their development.

It should be noted that, although the project has been under way for 4 (four) years in this new stage, no public consultation related to the project has yet been carried out, nor has any consultation taken place with the local communities that will be directly and indirectly affected by it. This is in clear violation of several guidelines and principles followed by Mozambique regarding the protection and promotion of the right of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

With this petition, the more than 2,600 undersigned Mozambican men and women demand that an open, inclusive and comprehensive dialogue is promoted and that the Mozambican government fully clarify the outlines, objectives and rationale behind this “priority” project, including:

• Where does the investment come from and what is the trade-off?

• Why is this project a priority for the country, considering our levels of poverty and inequality; that thousands of children have no place in school, and that there aren’t adequate health services for everyone?

• What is the reason for insisting on this project, which has already been abandoned so many times? What other interests exist behind a project of this dimension?

• Have other energy alternatives been considered? If yes, which ones?

• Who will be responsible for compensating the communities that have had their future mortgaged for the past 20 years, unable to invest in their community and in necessary infrastructure due to 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 supposed gains do they believe the country would reap in the short and long term, including how do they intend to generate financial returns?

We also demand the elaboration of scientifically valid and impartial studies that respond to all the questions that have been raised since the approval of the environmental impact study in 2011, such as:

• Uncertainty about the flow regime under which the dam will operate (base-load or mid-merit);

• Lack of definition on the area chosen for resettlement of the communities directly affected by the dam;

• Poor sediment analysis elaborated with insufficient data, which does not allow for a valid scientific analysis;

• Weak seismic analysis, without concrete data and with results and conclusions that contradict other studies by renowned specialists;

• Weak analysis of the potential impacts of climate change and changes in upstream water demand, which will affect the project’s economic viability;

• The fact that the guidelines of the Worldwide 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 analyzing the respective benefits and impacts;

• How the project will ensure that the gains generated by the dam will not be appropriated by a small economic and political national elite, and by large multinational companies.

We furthermore demand that an open, inclusive and comprehensive dialogue be promoted around clean, fair and accessible energy solutions for all Mozambican men and women, so that we can embark on a sustainable development that ensures the protection of the important ecosystems that guarantee life on the planet.

Justiça Ambiental also calls for this matter to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, considering the growing and concerning scenario of intimidation and threats that we have observed in the context of our work in the District of Marara, including accusations of terrorism, demand for “authorisation to work on site”, and indication that local communities should not receive legal training on their rights or information on the impacts of dams. Several members of the communities that will have to be resettled to make room for this mega-project have also reported threats, intimidation and ‘warnings’ not to speak out against the project.

In addition to the signatures collected in the District of Marara, in Maputo City and throughout the country, more than 70 national, regional and international non-governmental organisations also signed the petition in online format, in solidarity.

It’s time to say STOP to a development model that enriches our elites and large multinational corporations, at the expense of most of the population and of nature. Let’s together demand clean, decentralised energy projects that benefit the Mozambican people!

Read the full text of the petition on the Justica Ambiental webpage:

In English: https://ja4change.org/2020/12/16/save-the-zambezi-river-from-the-mphanda-nkuwa-dam/

In Portuguese: https://justica-ambiental.org/2020/12/16/salve-o-rio-zambeze-da-barragem-de-mphanda-nkuwa/


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Communities threatened by the Mphanda Nkuwa dam project are accused of being”terrorist” for having traveled to a workshop in Maputo

Being labelled 'terrorists' is the latest strategy to intimidate, threaten, and arbitrarily detain people who hold anti-government positions. This is happening in various parts of the country, in Mozambique, and in particular in the district of Marara, Tete province, where the government intends to build the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric dam, a highly controversial project that has never responded to the numerous environmental, social, economic and climate change questions that have been raised by civil society organizations and experts from Mozambique and other countries.

Recently, from the 22nd to the 25th of November, the Mozambican organization Justiça Ambiental (JA!) organized its 6th Maputo Workshop on Corporate Impunity and Human Rights, which brought together representatives of various civil society organizations, government representatives, academics, lawyers, activists and people affected by megaprojects from across the country. Several participants came from the district of Marara in Tete province, including the community leader from Chirodzi-Nsanangue, one of the communities at risk of being resettled if the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam is built.

While in Maputo, the leader received several calls from community members warning him that the local authorities were very unhappy with his trip to Maputo and were mobilizing the community to elect a new leader.

A few days after returning home, the leader received a notification to report to the District Command of Marara in order to be interrogated. Arriving at the Command, the leader was retained for 10 hours, he was denied the right to be accompanied by the lawyer who was accompanying him, he was accused of being a terrorist and was questioned about his trip to Maputo by the District Commander of Marara, an agent of the National Criminal Investigation Services (SERNIC) and a representative of the Ministry of Defense. Finally, he was asked to list the names of all the members of his community who had traveled to Maputo to participate in the Workshop. The leader was released around 6:30pm without any further clarification.

JA! members who were on the site following the events were also accused of terrorism, and informed that they should not be providing information to local communities regarding the impacts of dams, or problems caused by other megaprojects in the country. All of this seems to be a strategy to intimidate members of communities that will be affected by the Mphanda Nkuwa dam project and prevent them from defending their rights.
A few days later, all the 10 other people from Chirodzi and Chococoma who had participated in the Workshop were also notified to report to the District Command of Marara on the 8th, including JA!’s focal person in the community, in order to be interrogated too.
A big movement of solidarity with the community members being threatened emerged, from several parts of the country and even other countries. By the time the 10 community members arrived at the District Command on the 8th, the news about this were circulating widely on social media and radio stations. They were brought inside to be questionned about the Workshop, but at this point, no further threats were made apart from the intimidating presence of armed police officers. JA!’s focal point was interrogated separately, and then asked to leave the room, and the rest of our team was not allowed inside. They were all released a few hours later.
It should be noted that these situations are not isolated cases, and are part of a series of other threats and restrictions that have been made to members of JA team! working in the District of Marara. On several occasions, the District Commander of Marara and the Heads of the Administrative Post and Locality of Marara requested JA!’s credentials and authorization from the police to work on the area, something that is not required by law. In addition, several other members of the Chirodzi-Nsanangue community who have raised criticisms or questions about the dam have reported increasing intimidation and threats since August 2022, when the government, its partners and interested companies began to visit the area in this new stage of the Mphanda Nkuwa dam project.
We demand clarification from the different State actors involved in these intimidations, including the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office: is this is how the local people are forced to accept 'development' projects?

We demand a positioning from government advisors, financiers and potential investors of the Mphanda Nkuwa project, such as the African Development Bank (ADB), the International Hydroelectric Association (IHA), the Norwegian Development Agency (NORAD), the Kingdom of Norway, the Government of Switzerland, the European Union (EU): are you willing to have your name on a project that is already contributing to the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of local communities?

For more information, please contact: jamoz2010@gmail.com
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Mphanda Nkuwa, the witch hunt and a government with no ears

After its ‘ghost’ phase between 2018 and 2021, when the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office (GMNK) had already been created but no one could find it (not even MIREME, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy), over the past year GMNK has been effusively communicating several advances made on the project. Most of these news concerns new partners, potential investors, and calls for studies that are necessary for the different stages of the project. The Jornal Notícias on the 14th of September 2022, however, brought an unprecedented report on a topic that until then had been treated as taboo by our government: the opinion of local communities regarding the project.

Entitled ‘Communities say yes to Mphanda Nkuwa’, the article reports that the population of Chirodzi-Nsanangue, one of the villages that will be resettled to make way for the project, welcomes the construction of this dam. A great deal of information contained in this article, and in a similar television programme broadcasted by TVM (Mozambique’s public TV channel) on the 7th of the same month, raises some questions that deserve to be debated and problematized.

A doctor’s visit

The above-mentioned article and report were produced as a result of the first meeting of the GMNK (accompanied by its consultants) with the Chirodzi community since the revitalization of the project in 2018.

Coincidence or not, this GMNK visit to Chirodzi came just a few weeks after the launch of the study ‘Mphanda Nkuwa Dam: a climate change millstone around Mozambique’s neck’, which took place on 21 July; an event during which the GMNK Director was questioned by some community members as to why no meetings had been held with local communities since the project’s revitalization. On this same occasion community members also asked Director Carlos Yum about what benefits this project would bring to local communities, about maintaining their subsistence activities (fishing, livestock and agriculture) and about the land that would be made available for their resettlement. Some of the responses given by the GMNK Director were considered ‘disrespectful’ by the people who attended the event, as he stated that local populations should not only focus on individual benefits, but believe in the ‘macroeconomic’ benefits that the project will bring to the country. Most of the questions raised by the local communities were answered evasively, ambiguously or unclearly by the Director, missing an opportunity to finally clarify some of the issues that have been troubling these people.

This mention of the macroeconomic benefits of the project and the disregard for the concerns of local populations is in line with a concept that has been presented by several scholars and specialists, in which they call ‘sacrifice zones’ those regions that are buffeted by high environmental impacts and social problems due to the existence of polluting industries or other megaprojects, projects that are usually justified by an alleged ‘greater good’ that supposedly will benefit the country as a whole. Some sociologists have observed that the existence of sacrifice zones is made possible by a culture of vulnerability of the human and environmental rights of marginalized or disadvantaged populations, through which it is evident that some people have rights and privileges, and others suffer the impacts.

Returning to the meeting on the 7th, it is important to mention that it took place during Victory Day, a public holiday, and a day of celebration in the community, which in itself is quite unusual. JA! was present at the meeting that lasted no more than 15 minutes, and consisted of only one person speaking, the representative from GMNK. Of the various communities that will be affected by the project, only the community of Chirodzi-Nsanangue (main neighbourhood) was present, and other communities were not invited (nor their leaders), such as Bairros 1 to 6 of Chirodzi, Chococoma, and Luzinga, among others. No time was given for questions, comments or concerns that the community might have, nor were their concerns documented: no one had the right to speak apart from the GMNK. As we observed on the ground, and according to reports we received from various community members, this first GMNK visit to Chirodzi seemed to have only two purposes: to inform the community that the project is moving forward at full speed; and to produce reports to let the rest of the country know that the communities support the project.

The siege on civil society

Both the Notícias article and the TVM report, media outlets known for being aligned with our government’s interests and agenda, also stated that there are some NGOs that have been instrumentalizing communities so that they do not accept Mphanda Nkuwa’s dam project.

However, Justiça Ambiental has been working with communities in the region for 22 years, with regular visits and activities during the ‘dormant’ phases of the project, and we have never known or come across such organizations. It is really deplorable that some civil society organizations tend to treat local communities as if they were their property, speaking on their behalf and controlling their opinions, but we were not aware that this could be happening in Chirodzi.

However, this persecution of organizations that criticize so-called development projects is already well known. They are referred to as anti-patriotic, anti-development, or even terrorist organizations. Now, the government is preparing to tighten its grip on civil society even further, seeking to pass a highly controversial law that gives the government excessive powers, including to extinguish non-profit organizations for failing to report on their activities. It is easy to imagine what kind of organizations would be the first to suffer such reprisals.

The fact is that certain truths about these megaprojects – their impacts on the environment, the appalling conditions in which local communities are usually resettled, or how promises of employment never materialize – when said out loud do not please the government. What if people discover that the words spoken during community consultations only serve to convince them to accept the project? Worse, what if they decide to organize themselves so that the project progresses only according to their requirements, respecting their wishes, and ensuring that they truly benefit from it?

Communities accuse manipulation of information

Having been present in the region since 2000, and having cultivated a relationship of friendship and solidarity with these communities that was maintained even when the project seemed to have been shelved, JA! has received numerous requests for support, legal training and advice from people who fear the loss of their land with the arrival of the dam. JA!’s activities in this and other communities threatened or affected by megaprojects has been based on sharing information and exchanging experiences on the environmental and social impacts of this type of project, on empowerment and legal capacity building actions so that communities are able to defend their rights and negotiate the terms on which they agree (or not) to give up their land, and in activities that seek to raise the voice and raise awareness of the concerns of local communities through interviews, videos and articles.

When the Jornal Notícias of 14 of September reached Chirodzi and the surrounding area, it caused a lot of indignation within the community. The JA! team began to receive phone calls, SMS and videos from various community members expressing their displeasure with the information portrayed there, and accusing Notícias of manipulating the information, spreading lies and not having asked community members what they think of the project. Several families from two of the neighbourhoods’ threatened by the dam wrote petitions where they ask for some honest, independent and impartial media agency to go to Chirodzi and neighbouring communities in order to listen to the real opinions of the communities. This avalanche of outrage seems to confirm what JA! observed in the field: that there was no interest on the part of the GMNK to hear and make known the real opinion of the local communities regarding this project.

Rights, justice and paths to peace

We will not mention here the numerous risks and potential impacts that we have been pointing out over the last 22 years, and which have been neglected at all stages of the project. It’s not even up to JA! to clarify whether the community is for or against the project. It is up to us, as a civil society organization, to present our position, justify it and bring it up for debate in the public space, with the government, with the actors involved, with the local communities, pressing for responses and policies that deal with the problems we face as a society.

The question that arises at the moment is another: why does the government insist on not listening to the local communities which will be affected by the Mphanda Nkuwa project? Why does it insist on belittling their concerns, and masking them with a large media apparatus, to make it appear that the project is moving forward with local support? If local communities put their needs and demands forward for the advancement of the project, will these be respected and fulfilled? And if communities say they are opposed to the project as it stands, and claim their right to say no, will the government be willing to listen to them?

We believe that dialogue, and the broad participation of civil society in these types of issues, can help us start to embark on a development model that meets the needs and desires of the majority of the population, consequently reducing the social tensions and wars that we have in our country which are also caused by the exclusion of the majority of the population from decision-making processes.

The path we have been following, as a country, neither serves nor benefits the people. The attack on civil society organizations and any critical voice reflects our government’s lack of commitment to democracy and broad public participation. It is urgent that we chart new paths that lead us to peace and to a model of a country that we can be proud of – something radically different from what we are experiencing today.

*This article was originally published in Jornal Savana in Portuguese on 30th September, 2022

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