Green from far, but far from green

“the hydropower certification scheme promoted by the Mphanda Nkuwa Office

In late October JA participated in a course on the new “Hydropower Sustainability Standards” (HSS), which reiterated the issues and concerns regarding certifications, guidelines, best industry practices and other non binding methods that try to address the devastating impacts of mega-dams. The benefit for the industry is that these methods are non-binding, optional and can be designed to fit the specific wants and interests of the sector. All this, while fashioning the illusion of being more “sustainable” or whatever new green-washing marketing terminology is fashionable.

The difficulties involved in attempting to regulate and improve any industry are understandable. If the standards, guidelines, and requirements are grounded in science, and honestly incorporate human and environmental needs and costs, it would pose an impossibly daunting task for corporations to even consider. If regulations were legally binding, it would impose a great risk on the corporation, knowing well they often fail to meet even the most basic standards. Groups involved in trying to improve industry standards, especially through certifications mechanisms, are left with the easy, inexpensive and inconsequential processes, that usually circumvent critical problems and impacts.

The HSS is a certification scheme that attempts to push hydropower projects to achieve the best industry standards. Herein lies the fundamental issue: In an industry where even the best industry standards can fall short of being sustainable, scientifically sound or just; achieving such goals is still something very far from adequately dealing with the real life impacts of dams. At the same time formulated goals grounded in science and true sustainability – measurably human and environmental – are continuously ignored by the hydropower industry. Despite these obvious obstacles at hand, at the very least with the HSS scheme there could be the possibility of moving the dial of hydropower projects in to a positive spectrum of the hydropower industry norms.

This article is not a comprehensive critique of the “Hydropower Sustainability Standards” (HSS) as that would result in a very long and technical document, and ultimately would only interest a very narrow audience. Instead it serves as generative feedback combining our experience with the HSS course and analyses of the information available on the HSS site, highlighting certain issues, trends and concerns with the certification, which is lacking in the current media coverage.

Transparency and access to information? Only when the client agrees.

Justiça Ambiental was invited to participate in this two-and-a-half day course, and several discussions around the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam project were included in the agenda. Given the lack of information on the latest iteration of the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam project, including lack of response to JA’s letters and emails since August this year, any information was welcomed.

While the HSS website lays out numerous claims of transparency, noticeably all project assessments required an annex where all documents used in the certification process are listed. In a country where accessing documents linked to mega development projects is a challenge, the hope was that increased access to information could be one of the positive outcomes of the scheme.

Unfortunately, the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam was not discussed nor any significant information about it was given, in neither of the first two days that we participated. Furthermore, all the documents supplied for assessments are listed, but not necessarily made available to the public. If the project proponent or government classifies any supplied document as restricted to the public, HSS respects that request and even makes claims of secure information management to instill confidence in their clients. At the end of the day, their clients are paying over $100.000 USD for the certification and so they must respect the client’s needs, and put their loyalty where the money is. There are certain documents that are required to be made publicly available for a project to achieve a pass in the “Communications and Consultation” section of the assessment, but the criteria is vague and seems to cover easily available documents that even a non-transparent country like Mozambique publicly releases anyway.

Other existing dams? Just ignore them.

During the introduction to the HSS it was positive to see the acknowledgment of the importance of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report, but sad to realize how minimally the HSS meets some of the fundamental recommendations of the WCD. HSS certifications are structured around specific projects and have no real mechanism to deal with accumulated impacts, intersectionality and externalities. Rivers are highly interconnected systems with complex inter-linkages, requiring potential solutions to be centered around accumulated impacts, existing dams and the complex interactions of the numerous ecosystem functions, and more. The strength of the WCD was exactly the focus on this complexity, inter-connectivity and accumulated impacts. In this way, certification of dam projects is highly problematic when approached on a project to project basis; and so hard to align with WCD recommendations. To better understand just look at the WCD recommendations on “Comprehensive Options Assessments” and “Addressing Existing Dams” and then look at how HSS fails to deals with these issues.

To start, the HSS fails to prioritize needs assessments and starts the process much later than what is recommended by the WCD. Secondly, the fundamental issues raised by the WCD in “Addressing Existing Dams” such as optimizing benefits from many existing dams; addressing outstanding social issues and strengthening environmental mitigation and restoration measures are completely lacking in the HSS. This is especially concerning in relation to the Mphanda Nkuwa dam, as it has been designed to function based on the Cahora Bassa dams flow, which is a dam that doesn’t meet environmental and social flow requirements. If Cahora Bassa dam suddenly decided to meet these flow requirements, the Mphanda Nkuwa dam would have high economic risks.

Project is too bad too pass? Try again with flexible methods and VERY weak requirements.

Many of the these weaknesses of the HSS are due to the tailoring of certification schemes to fit the needs of specific projects. Not only does it have to be simple enough to be cost effective and quickly – time is money – but it is structured to the benefit of the project proponents’ scope of interest and control. So the project’s shortcomings can actually be used in deliberate and strategic ways.

Breaking down climate change assessment and how the HSS defines good and best practices: first off, it is vague and the differences between good and best industry practices are small and inadequately defined. Secondly it uses weak methods or doesn’t specify/limit the use of certain problematic methods and their deployment. Thirdly it sets low standards, limits, upper bounds, etc.

For example, when assessing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to a project, rather than assessing the emissions based on their impact on the carbon cycle from both up and downstream of the dam site, it utilizes geographically limiting parameters, resulting in a lower estimate than the total measurement of emissions caused by a dam project. The HSS capitulates further, setting the GHG emissions upper bound to 100 gCO 2 e/per kWh, which is an extremely high amount and easy for most projects to achieve and report. In its own documentation, the HSS notes that the industry average is between 24-28 gCO 2 e/per kWh. Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends 50 gCO 2 e/per kWh limits and notable scientists and civil society groups have demanded further reduction. The HSS’s claim to good or best practices is deceitful.

Of further concern is the reality that HSS certification facilitates climate bonds financing; opening the door for offsetting, false solutions, carbon markets and delays in mitigating emission reductions, but that is a whole other (crucial) topic of debate.

Mphanda Nkuwa: always claiming to be what it’s not.

Not all performance requirements are as weak or easy to manipulate as the climate change mitigation and resilience requirements, but it is still common to find gaps, low standards, weak methods, vague terms and missed opportunities to set true best practices or follow scientific directives. When reflecting on using the HSS to assess the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam, these weaknesses become concerning. As with many dams, Mphanda Nkuwa Dam has complex interconnected impacts that could never be accurately assessed with the approach used by HSS, which expects a two to four person consulting team to somehow possess wide ranging expertise of an ecosystem that has been barely researched and so lacks foundational scientific data. Concerns around the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam’s impact on sediments, seismic risks, amongst other issues remain unanswered. For example, the HSS sediment analyses are vague and again highlight the project specific approach, focusing more on project specific erosion, sedimentation and water quality. The HSS does not seem to restrict known problematic methods, nor recommend scientifically sound basin level sediment modeling with sampling over time or seasons. As for the seismic risks, the situations has far graver implications.

When these more complex issues were raised to the facilitators, one reply was that we have to be careful of paralysis due to analysis. Someone else in the course mentioned the goals have to be approached in small enough steps so as to encourage the industry to try improve. If the HSS were just another set of tools that project proponents could use to assess their project it would not be a bad thing. The concern is in the name of the certification and what it claims “Certified Sustainable Hydropower”. It is a large and misleading claim precluding obvious inadequacies that lay dispute to any claim of sustainability. Too much effort is expended to satisfy and legitimate the dam sector, for example the basic certification requires that “Projects have undergone an independent assessment and have met the minimum requirements of the Standard, and have received a total advanced requirement score below 30%”. It is not very ambitious, to say the least. There is the silver and gold certification, the highest of which requires the project to “meet a minimum of 60%” on all 12 criteria.

Overall we strongly feel the HSS “Certified Sustainable Hydropower” is a self-fulfilling concoction by the dams sector for the dams sector. It has very good visuals, info graphics and strong worded claims that purport benefits to projects that achieve it’s certification. In addition, it provides entry for the dam sector players to enter carbon markets, which has far reaching and dubious implications.

Refined, objectively calibrated tools that focus on impact assessment, and developing solutions to fundamental issues related to dams development, and less on marketing unattainable promises. Many of these tool are cheaper and some are even free. For example Riverscope1 from TMP systems is a free geospatial tool, which used data from 281 dams to develop its methods and is very useful in identifying risks, alternatives and solutions for dam projects. It does not provide certification, claiming a project to be sustainable, but a functional tool for those legitimately focused on even development. Riverscope is not exhaustive in analyzing myriad issues and impacts resulting of dam development nor does it claim to be, yet still delves into more detailed analyses than the HSS. At the end of the day the biggest issue with the HSS is the claim of “Certified Sustainable Hydropower” – an ambitious claim that has not come even close to realization.

The Mphanda Nkuwa dam project continues to be how it has always been: wrapped in opacity and fraught with risks that have not been adequately analyzed nor discussed by the Mozambican society. But its next move will be to claim its “sustainable hydropower certification”.

1https://riverscope.org/

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PRESS RELEASE:

Global South states and civil society keep up momentum to regulate transnational corporations under international human rights law

2 November 2021, Geneva

From 25 to 29 October United Nations member states continued the negotiations to elaborate an international Legally Binding Instrument (LBI) to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs) including all entities in their global production chains. This historic process celebrated its seventh session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) hosted by the Human Rights Council in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet, opened the session remarking that the world is witnessing a “growing consensus on the need of binding regulations on business and human rights.”

The UN Binding Treaty – as it is commonly known – negotiations have taken a qualitative leap forward with a new methodology adopted during this session, bringing transparency and encouraging States to take a position on concrete language of the draft treaty. A total of 69 States participated during the week. Most importantly, some major and indispensable content was reintroduced and defended by some States, in accordance with the mandate of Resolution 26/9, to close the gaps in international human rights law that enable the impunity of transnational corporations. Of note was the constructive participation of South Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Cameroon, Namibia, Panama and Cuba, among others.

Julia Garcia, from the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) and coordinator of the Global Campaign said “We welcome the fact that many states are discussing direct and clear obligations for transnational corporations and other transnationally active entities, overcoming normative national limitations that contribute to impunity. We wish to highlight the importance of proposals that advocate the expressed inclusion of the primacy of human rights over corporate rights throughout the global production chain.”

As with every year, civil society played an essential role, defending the need for this process, driving its continuity and nurturing it with detailed analyses, strong arguments and concrete content proposals. The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign), representing 260 million people globally affected by Transnational Corporations, participated directly in the negotiations, partially resuming the physical presence that last year was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Access to remedy and justice has become a generational struggle rife with obstacles,” stated Joseph Purugganan, from Focus on the Global South and the Asian Task Force on the Binding Treaty. He continued saying that “in the face of the asymmetries of power that pervade in most countries, the protection of affected individuals and communities through the establishment of strong mechanisms of access to justice and reparation must be a priority of this process”.

Hugo Barretto, Trade Unions Confederation of Americas (TUCA) advisor, reiterated that the Global Campaign is aiming for “an ambitious and effective Treaty with binding rules for transnational corporations and the entities along the global production chains, which play a major role in the climate and biodiversity crises, labour exploitation and historic levels of inequality. Their reprehensible behaviour puts the future of humanity and the planet at risk.”

Raffaele Morgantini, from CETIM and coordinator of the Global Campaign at the UN, explained how, “Some western states and business-representatives repeatedly defend the relevance of the existing voluntary frameworks and even made unsuccessful attempts to suggest alternatives to the Binding Treaty, as part of a strategy, led by the US, to water down the process and foster the adoption of new futile frameworks. Nevertheless, the need to take a significant step forward and find innovative ways to close the legal loopholes that still exist at the international level was overwhelmingly felt during the whole week. It is also worth underlining that several states acknowledged the importance of civil society participation and the value of our proposals.”

However, there are concerns about the risk of a loss of transparency in the process, as Erika Mendes, from Justiça Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique explains, particularly in relation to, “ the immediate future of the negotiations as it continues through the so-called “Group of Friends of the Chair” during the inter-sessional period. The new inter-state negotiation methodology must ensure social participation, so that the voice of affected communities is heard and considered. We urge the Chair and States to protect the process from undue influence from powerful corporate actors who, instead of upholding human rights, lobby for the protection of their own economic interests.”

Fernanda Melchionna, federal deputy of the Brazilian National Congress and part for the Global Interparliamentarian Network (GIN) in support of the Binding Treaty declared, “The struggle for a UN Binding Treaty to regulate the power of transnational corporations and place human and environmental rights above the corporate power of transnational corporations is a strategic and fundamental struggle for the world. The Global Campaign’s role in not allowing countries to remove the essence of the text demonstrates that civil society, affected populations and social movements have a fundamental role to play in the process.”

The Global Campaign continues its commitment to ensure that the UN Binding Treaty process retains the spirit and ambition of Resolution 26/9. To this end, the Global Campaign will continue to mobilise at the national level to ensure that our governments actively participate in these negotiations, representing the needs and aspirations of the social majorities and the peoples of each country.

NOTE TO EDITORS

For further information or to arrange interviews you can contact:

Sol Trumbo Vila, Email: soltrumbovila@tni.org

Julia García, +55 71 9246-2696 Email: facilitation@stopcorporateimpunity.org

Erika Mendes, Email: erikasmendes@gmail.com

The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign) – a network of over 250 social movements, civil society organisations (CSOs), trade unions and communities affected by the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs), representing 260 million people globally. https://www.stopcorporateimpunity.org

This round of negotiations is revising the third draft of the binding treaty, published on August 17, 2021, which fits in the negotiation process started in 2014 with the adoption, by the Human Rights Council, of Resolution 26/9. UN information on the Mandate of the OEIGWG.

The global campaign published this statement in September 2021 in response to the release of the third revised draft.

The Global Interparliamentary network in support of the Binding Treaty is a global network of members of National Parliaments and the European Parliament supporting the UN Binding Treaty. https://bindingtreaty.org/

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Press Release: States resume historic UN negotiations amidst growing consensus on the need for binding regulations on transnational corporations and human rights

25 October 2021, Geneva

Today, United Nations member states resume negotiations in the seventh session of the Open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG) mandated to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michele Bachelet, opened the session remarking that the world is witnessing a “growing consensus on the need of binding regulations on business and human rights”.

Global South countries intervened in strong support of the Binding Treaty process – South Africa, Namibia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba and Palestine among others. For the first time delegates from all major global economies shared their views on the Binding Treaty process and content. All of which goes to show that after seven rounds of negotiations states cannot ignore the urgent need for an effective instrument such as the UN Binding Treaty.

The Ecuadorian Chair of the OEIGWG opened the seventh session by affirming that the negotiations must be “State-led”, which raises concerns about how civil society´s contributions will be included.

The continuous broad participation of communities affected by transnational corporations’ activities, civil-society organisations, trade unions and social movements makes it one of the most strongly supported processes in the history of UN OEIGWGs. The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign)1, representing 260 million people globally affected by Transnational Corporations has, once again, a strong presence in Geneva providing vital recommendations and critical analysis.

Tchenna Maso, from the Movement of Peoples Affected by Dams (MAB), La Via Campesina and the Global Campaign, remarked during the opening session, “Let me remind you of the basic problem that brings us together here. At the heart of the matter is the fact that, although the human rights violations committed by transnational corporations through their chains are obvious, States are usually unable to punish the culprits or to make reparations to the victims.”

Ubrei-Joe Mariere, from Friends of the Earth Africa spoke on behalf of the Global Campaign, “The climate, biodiversity and Covid crises are results of a socio-economic model that favours corporate profit over the protection of human rights and the environment. Travel restrictions due to the pandemic, unequal access to vaccines, financial barriers, digital connectivity and differing time zones limit the participation of the Global South, including States and affected peoples. For the Binding Treaty negotiations to be inclusive and fair, we must ensure that civil society – especially those most affected by the impunity of transnational corporations – are able to follow, intervene and influence the direction of the negotiations.”

Mary Ann Bayang, from the Indigenous Peoples Rights International in the Philippines, declared that, “The peoples, citizens, affected communities and social movements place great hope in the success of the process initiated in this OEIGWG to bring transnational corporations under the law. States also have an interest in the adoption of such a treaty that will allow them to recover their lost sovereignty. It is in this spirit that the Global Campaign has been engaged in the process of negotiating this Binding Treaty. We note with great regret that the current draft treaty falls far short of the OEIGWG’’s mandate. It is essential that this situation be rectified and the process put back on track.”

Participants in the negotiations emphasized the urgent need for binding regulations for Transnational Corporations in light of the Covid19 pandemic.

The Brazilian AIDS Interdisciplinary Association, member of the Global Campaign said, “Adopting a Binding Treaty is urgently needed to bring justice to people denied access to health technologies, and whose lives have been taken away by corporate greed. The treaty must include the primacy of Human Rights as a fundamental principle. Thus, interests included in trade and investment agreements must be subordinated and subjected to mandatory respect for Human Rights.”

A broad coalition of elected representatives, the Global Interparliamentary Network (GIN) supporting the UN Binding Treaty, also advocates for an ambitious and effective legally binding instrument.

Miguel Urbán, Member of the European Parliament for The Left and member of the Global Parliamentarian Network in support of the Binding Treaty added, “The absence of clear and binding international norms for the respect of human rights feeds the impunity and abuse of global corporate power.”

The Global Campaign will be in Geneva all week working to ensure that its proposals for the UN BInding Treaty are taken into account and included in the current drafting process.

NOTE TO EDITORS

For further information or to arrange interviews you can contact:

Sol Trumbo Vila, Email: soltrumbovila@tni.org

Julia García, +55 71 9246-2696 Email: facilitation@stopcorporateimpunity.org

Erika Mendes, +258 847713099 Email: erikasmendes@gmail.com

The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign) – a network of over 250 social movements, civil society organisations (CSOs), trade unions and communities affected by the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs), representing 260 million people globally.

This round of negotiations is revising the third draft of the binding treaty, published on August 17, 2021, which fits in the negotiation process started in 2014 with the adoption, by the Human Rights Council, of Resolution 26/9. UN information on the Mandate of the OEIGWG

The global campaign published this statement in September 2021 in response to the release of the third revised draft.

The Global Interparliamentary network in support of the Binding Treaty is a global network of National Parliaments and the European Parliament members supporting the UN Binding Treaty.

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France, Rwanda and Total:

a lethal threesome around Mozambique’s gas

For four years, the people of the province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, have been devastated by gas and violent conflict between insurgents, military and mercenaries. Eight hundred thousand people have become refugees from the violence, and thousands have lost their livelihoods and been displaced by the gas industry. To make things worse, they are now in the hands of the Rwandan army, which is notorious for horrific torture of Congolese and Rwandan alleged dissidents in military detention centres. And they have gone rogue.

According to Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi, the 1000-strong Rwandan army’s mandate since July has been to “restore peace and stability”.

But since the Rwandan state became involved, things have gone even further awry than they already were. Already, on 14 September, Rwandan businessman and chairman of the Rwandan Refugee Association in Mozambique, Révocat Karemangingo, who was exiled from Rwanda in 1994, was assassinated in Maputo.

Three months before, Rwandan journalist Ntamuhanga Cassien who had applied for asylum in Mozambique, was arrested by Mozambican police, and has not been seen since.

If experts and activists who have linked the murders to the Rwandan state are correct, even though the government has repeatedly denied it, this should not come as a surprise. The Rwandan government is known for killings of political opponents and journalists both inside and outside of the country, including South Africa and Kenya.

In July this year, Amnesty International and a consortium of journalists exposed that Rwanda was one of the countries using the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group’s Pegasus software. Since 2016, the Rwandan government has used the software to unlawfully surveil the phones of 3500 activists, politicians and journalists.

The Rwandan army itself has a terrible human rights record – in 2014 Human Rights Watch reported they had been fighting alongside the Rwanda- backed M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over three days in 2016, M23 soldiers killed 62 people in anti-government protests.

Even though locals around Palma have highlighted the more professional conduct of Rwandan solders in comparison to the Mozambican soldiers, the Rwandan operation relies on local intelligence and information in order to be effective. But they are not doing the dirty work of actually acquiring this intelligence themselves. It has been the Mozambican soldiers that have carried out the interrogations, arrests and intimidations to obtain information. This has been one of the causes in the increase of disappearances, unlawful arrests and torture, sometimes targeting outspoken and critical civilians within the gas affected communities.

So if the Rwandan government doesn’t care about its own citizens and civilians in the DRC, why would it put its money and army on the line for foreign nationals? And who else has an interest in them being in Mozambique?

One of the factors that can’t be ignored is Rwanda’s dynamic relationship with France, and that French company Total is one of the leaders of Cabo Delgado’s $50 billion gas industry. Total owns 26% of the Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Project.

It is in the process of constructing the massive Afungi LNG Park, which will house the offices and support facilities for its project as well as ExxonMobil’s Rovuma LNG project and their contractors. The gas giants are building an industry that is pushing the debt-ridden country further into poverty and not benefiting the people. Until now, it has only brought destruction.

The French government has over $520 million invested in the Mozambique gas industry through a loan from the French export credit agency (BpiFrance) for the third project, Eni’s Coral South LNG. The four largest French banks, Crédit Agricole, Société Génerale, BNP Paribas and Natixis are also involved in the industry as financiers or financial advisors.

It is the construction of the Afungi Park that has forced thousands of local people out of their homes, and away from their farmland and fishing grounds creating an angry and further disenfranchised population.

And now that the insurgency has ruined Total’s plans, it has just closed shop and stopped compensation payments to communities. After a brutal attack on Palma town on 24 March, Total decided to claim ‘force majeure’ and pull its staff out of the area, pausing the project indefinitely and saying they would return only once the area was safe.

Even then it was clear that the military had Total’s best interests at heart, not the people’s. On the day of that attack, there were 800 soldiers defending the Afungi Park while civilians have said there were only a handful of soldiers protecting Palma village. Currently, Rwandan soldiers have been using the Afungi Park as their base.

It certainly won’t be the first time that French interests, politics and violent conflict have gone hand in hand with a Total project. Some examples that come to mind include Myanmar, where the military junta is known for ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, and mass human rights violations including rape, sexual abuse, torture and disappearances of protestors. Since the coup of February 2021, Total has been directing revenues from its Yadana gas project in Myanmar to the junta, its biggest source of income.

Total has also been active in the Taoudeni basin of Mali in the Sahel since 1998. Since 2013, over 3000 French troops have been in Mali, and 4 other Sahel countries, with France using the same rhetoric as they and Rwanda have done in Mozambique: to rid the area of ‘jihadists’.

In Yemen, the Balhaf LNG site of which Total owns 39% was exposed for housing the base for the Shabwani Elite, an UAE-backed tribal militia since 2016. Officially a counter-terrorism group, they have unofficially become known as a group created to protect fossil fuel interests. The site also has also been exposed to house UAE notorious ‘secret prisons’ holding Yemeni detainees.

So, Cabo Delgado, where the gas region sits nearly on the border between Mozambique and Tanzania, fits neatly in Total’s mixture of politics, gas and conflict.

So back to Rwanda – Out of all potential pawns, or proxies, for France, why pick them?

France has been embarrassed, but not enough for a full apology, about the exposure of the severity of its role in the Rwandan genocide, after a March 2021 report claimed France bears ‘overwhelming responsibilities’ for the horrors that killed over 800 000 people in the Tutsi minority. However, in 2005 complaints laid by human rights groups pushed French prosecutors to open an investigation into French soldiers’ actual complicity in the genocide, which seemed like it was going to be dropped in May this year. No former French soldiers have faced trial.

While Rwanda claims this military mission to Mozambique is self-funded, others say it is Mozambique footing the bill, and yet others, say that this might be one of France’s covert means of reparations, or an olive branch trying to fix bad Franco-Rwandan relations, by offering Rwanda a crucial job: protecting French gas assets. When asked by a journalist, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, neither confirmed nor denied whether it is financing the troops, although financing does not always come in the form of cash. It could be through aid or other means that are harder to track.

It’s part of a pattern of Rwanda becoming France’s new darling: in 2019, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) signed a reported $11.6 million a year contract with French football club Paris St. Germain as its official tourism partner. ‘Visit Rwanda’ is boasted on the the back of the men’s training and pre-game warm up kits, in the club’s stadium and on the sleeves of the womens’ team kits, with the club having renewed its contract in 2019, also reported to be $11 million a year. A point to consider is that hospitality company Accor is paying PSG $58 million a year to be its official hotel partner.

There is the possibility that these teams are giving the RDB a friendly discount. What is more likely is that the sponsorships are being subsidized by a third party.

It is clear that there are a few parties getting something out of Rwandan troops being on the ground in the gas region – Total, Mozambique and Rwanda. But certainly the one gaining the most is France – its financial assets are being well protected on the ground and it is able to maintain the international ‘non-complicit’ image it wants to regarding the genocide while still nurturing a relationship with Rwanda. It would also be a way of having military protection of its assets while not being visible. This is definitely in their interests following France’s recognition of its disastrous mission in Mali by cutting the number of troops in June this year, and now, after the death of the 52nd French soldier in eight years, French President Emmanuel Macron has said they will have no more soldiers in the Sahel by the beginning of 2022. The deployment of Rwandan soldiers would mean they will have another army in public view and decrease the political risk of failed military interventions, especially ones linked to human rights violations.

But one group that is not benefiting, are the people of Mozambique, most of all – the communities of Cabo Delgado, who are pawns, dying and devastated so that local and international elites can save political face and defend their gas assets and bonuses by any means necessary.

I

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Public letter of the International Meeting

“How to Resist Monoculture Plantations”

21 September, 2021 – International Day of Struggle against Industrial Tree Plantations

We, about 60 members of rural communities facing industrial tree monocultures on their land, coming from the provinces of Manica, Sofala, Zambézia and Nampula in Mozambique and from the province of Iringa in Tanzania; together with allies who support these communities; met – due to the pandemic only in small groups and interconnected by computers and mobile phones – during the 21st and 22nd of September 2021 at the international event “How to Resist Monoculture Plantations”.

For years, these communities have resisted the eucalyptus monoculture plantations of the Green Resources company in Mozambique and Tanzania, and those of Portucel and Investimentos Florestais de Moçambique (IFM) in Mozambique, as well as the rubber tree monoculture plantations of Mozambique Holdings in Mozambique.

The members of the communities present decided to break the silence imposed by the pandemic and denounce once again that the eucalyptus and rubber tree companies arrived on their land – in some cases many years ago – with promises of development, a future with schools, hospitals, energy and bridges. However, they denounce that none of these promises were fulfilled. Worse still, eucalyptus and rubber trees occupied and destroyed the fertile farmland, and today families no longer have food and some have nowhere to live. If eucalyptus were food, it would be much better, but it is not. In addition, companies destroy native trees and use chemicals that contaminate the soil and water. Wells and rivers have dried up and drinking water has become scarce. Instead of building bridges, companies destroyed bridges with their heavy machinery, without concern they should repair them. Communities are afraid to cross plantation areas. Even already occupying large areas, companies want to take over even more land.

We see and analyse that this whole situation is causing a lot of suffering, a lot of hunger in the communities, and affects women in a particular way. The Government opened the door to foreign companies and investors, and closed it to the people. What is happening is a new form of colonialism where the company is the new colonizer of lands where communities have lived for many generations.

Even though the companies justify that they consulted with the communities, there was no consultation where they could accept or refuse the company; there was a lot of manipulation of information and broken promises. The promised jobs do not exist, just a few, but mostly seasonal and poorly paid. Compensation payments have been absolutely negligible, insufficient to acquire another farm outside the community.

When someone decides to farm on land that the company claims is theirs, the person is intimidated and threatened. This also occurs when someone lodges a complaint with their local leaders or officials. In this case, nothing is done because these authorities usually receive something from the companies or are equally intimidated and disrespected by the company. To make matters worse, in some cases it is not just the police and the company, but the community leaders themselves that intimidate and threaten members of their own community if they file a complaint. Nor are organizations that support communities spared from intimidation. Recently, the Suhode Foundation team in Tanzania was illegally detained by the police for 19 days. All their equipment was confiscated and remains in police possession to this day. Certainly, Green Resources is behind this, in an attempt not only to divide communities, but also to prevent civil society organizations from continuing to support them.

We demand that communities and organizations that support the communities have their rights – ensured in various national and international legal instruments – fully guaranteed; that our governments defend the people and not the companies; that intimidation and threats from companies and authorities as well as community leaders stop; that our governments, instead of protecting companies, order that they be investigated for the multiple violations they are committing; that officials discuss the future with communities, so that communities can actually participate in the planning that aims to guarantee their permanence on the land, today and in the future, and improve their living conditions going forward.

Even if companies do not stop expanding, even if they try to intimidate and threaten us, we are committed to continue to unite in the fight against monocultures and the destruction and encroachment of land; even if companies and governments insult us, we will continue to look for ways for communities to retake their territories – some communities in Tanzania have already done so; even if they threaten us, we will continue to raise our voices more and more, and together we will continue to expose the situation of communities and denounce the actions of companies; even if they won’t listen to us, we won’t give up calling on our governments to join with their communities, communities that they should defend and protect above all.

We believe that together we will be stronger to resist monocultures and all kinds of usurpation of our lands, especially on this 21st of September, the International Day of Struggle against Industrial Tree Monocultures.

September 21, 2021 – Plantations are not Forests!

Membros das comunidades Rurais

Ação Académica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais – Adecru

Associação de Jovens Combatentes Montes Errego – AJOCME

Fórum Carajás – Brasil

Fundação Suhode Tanzânia

Justiça Ambiental – JA! – Amigos da Terra Moçambique

Missão Tabita

Movimento Interestadual das Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu (MIQCB) – Brasil

Movimento Mundial pelas Florestas Tropicais (WRM)

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STATEMENT OF THE GLOBAL CAMPAIGN ON THE THIRD REVISED DRAFT OF THE BINDING TREATY ON TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

7th of September 2021

Re: Release of the “third revised draft” during the negotiation by the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with regard to human rights

The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign) notes the release of the third revised draft of the binding treaty, published on August 17, 2021. It is the result of the negotiation process started in 2014 with the adoption by the Human Rights Council of Resolution 26/9. This new draft emerges after the discussions held during the 6th negotiation session of October 2020 and the subsequent Matrix process of February 2021.

We are deeply concerned about the continuing hollowing out of key content, i.e., content that social organisations and affected communities view as critical. We hereby share our first impressions on the new draft and raise some procedural questions concerning the negotiation of successive “drafts”.

Although we note some positive changes in the third revised draft, these are mostly cosmetic, rhetorical and ineffectual. These superficial changes seek to increase the legitimacy of the proposed text, but, in reality, fail to solve the structural problems repeatedly highlighted by social movements and affected communities.


A change of direction in both content and procedure will thus be necessary to meet the objectives set out in Resolution 26/9 and to respond to communities subjected to human rights violations. It is unacceptable that the innumerable proposals for improving the draft presented throughout the negotiation sessions by representatives of the affected communities, social movements, as well as many experts and States to be omitted. The third revised draft is basically similar to the previous draft, despite the high number of concrete proposals that were made to improve it. This gives us the feeling of a lost year.


Moreover, the methodology used to revise the draft transparently considering the contributions of States and civil society organizations is a must. We appreciate the synthesis and mediation efforts of the Ecuadorian Chair Rapporteur. Nonetheless the negotiation has reached a point of maturity that requires a Member driven, open and transparent negotiation process facilitated by the Chair Rapporteur. This must ensure that the voices of civil society and affected communities are heard and taken into consideration by including the diverse text proposals in brackets during the session of negotiation. The objective of the session should be to achieve a new draft proposal of the IGWG and not just of the Chair. In short, to be true actors in the process, civil society must have both voice and influence.

In terms of content, we note once again that, following the approach presented in the previous drafts released by the Chair Rapporteur after the robust Elements Paper in 2017, and despite some positive elements, the new draft continues to present an ineffective and “toothless” instrument. We also note the use of vague, indeterminate and even non-legal concepts that may compromise the future interpretation and application of key articles.

As it stands, the draft instrument fails to meet the objectives established by Resolution 26/9, namely to regulate the activities of transnational corporations within the framework of international human rights law (in order to prevent human rights violations by TNCs and stop corporate impunity) and to ensure effective and comprehensive access to justice for affected peoples, individuals and communities. Furthermore, the current draft would not close the existing legal loopholes that allow and will allow TNCs to violate human rights with impunity and to escape liability for their actions. Without more innovative and ambitious provisions, the treaty risks becoming a new futile instrument aligned with voluntary frameworks that have already demonstrated their ineffectiveness.

Furthermore, the new text unacceptably continues a logic centered exclusively on States’ obligations, and fails to establish the direct obligations for transnational corporations, necessary to hold them directly accountable for the human rights violations they are responsible for. We are also concerned about the continued extension of the scope of the text to all business enterprises, including small and medium-sized enterprises. This dilutes the raison d’être of the binding treaty and the purpose set out in Resolution 26/9 (to address the particular obstacles to holding TNCs accountable), which clearly refers to transnational corporations and other business enterprises “with transnational character”.

Another element is the scope of prevention and legal liability of TNCs which focuses on weak provisions linked to due diligence, an inherently limiting concept. This risks a situation where TNCs escape liability as soon as they comply with due diligence processes.


We call attention to the lack of an unequivocal reaffirmation of the primacy of international human rights law over corporate, trade and investment law, the absence of a strong international enforcement and monitoring mechanisms (including an international tribunal) that would guarantee the effective implementation of the treaty, as well as the several remaining gaps in terms of inclusion and definition of global value chains, the piercing of the corporate veil, and addressing the bottom line of transnational corporate impunity.


At this stage, it seems clear that the Chair of the Working Group is steering the process towards the elaboration of a treaty emptied of its core content and focus on transnational corporations, with only generic provisions that rely on the capacity and political will of the States for their implementation and in line with corporate self-regulation. This confronts us with a text overly accommodating to the requests and interests of the corporate sector and their political allies.


This being said, the Global Campaign will continue its strong engagement in the negotiations with the unyielding intention to com up with a truly binding treaty worthy of its name and capable of becoming a bulwark against the power of transnational entities that lay claim to being the engines of our economies while they violate human rights and destroy our natural environment with impunity. In line with these commitments, the Global Campaign will, if necessary, oppose the adoption of a treaty whose content has been watered down and risks becoming a “normative trap” that closes the door on truly effective reforms in the coming years.


Contact:

Júlia García, facilitation@stopcorporateimpunity.org

Raffaele Morgantini, contact@cetim.ch

Erika Mendes, erikasmendes@gmail.com

Where is Ibrahimo?

7 September 2021

Today, the 7 September 2021 has been exactly 17 months since Mozambican journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco disappeared in Cabo Delgado. His last message was to a colleague saying that the army was coming towards him.

Ibrahimo worked for Palma Community Radio and had been reporting on the violence in the area. Since then, what effort has the government put into finding him and bringing him back to his family? Absolutely nothing.

Since 2017 Cabo Delgado has been ravaged by a fatal conflict between insurgents, the Mozambican military, Russian and South African mercenaries and now the Rwandan and South African armies as well, that has created 800 000 refugees. This violence is deeply linked to the gas industry that has exploded over the last few years. The industry is headed by Total (France), Eni (Italy) and ExxonMobil (US), and is one industry filled with a great amount of treachery in the Mozambican and other states involved, which forms part of the corruption trial currently in the Mozambican courts.

Over the last few months several media outlets have arrived in Cabo Delgado, after at least three years of the area being closed to international journalists.

It is a good thing that Mozambican and international media has finally been allowed there, since free media is a crucial part of any democracy. However, journalists who actually live in Cabo Delgado and were the first to report on the happenings since 2017, have not been allowed to work in the conflict areas, unless they are from state-owned media outlets.

In an article in O Pais 26 August, Cabo Delgado-based journalist Hizidine Acha wrote that journalists from the area are being humiliated by having to report on the topic from a distance, even though they are the ones who know the terrain and the local language. They fear that the lack of reporting in local languages might lead to disinformation among the communities. The article quotes journalist Emanuel Muthemba as saying, “Journalists from here have to be on the front line, because we have basic knowledge about the reality of the province, the people and the languages spoken by the population, which is very important,”; and journalist Assane Issa says “speculation grows that we are not capable of doing this type of coverage – that only those from the country’s capital are. But this is not true, because we are the ones who have been reporting on the daily life of the province.”

In fact, the article continues saying that recently 20 local journalists were invited to cover the conflict, but for reasons they were never told, were never actually able to leave Cabo Delgado’s capital and largest city, Pemba.

But even if they were able to report, the government has made it clear that they will not make it easy. On 11 April, on the ‘Day of the Mozambican Journalist’, even though his general rhetoric has been about free press, President Felipe Nyusi sent a document to O Pais, saying, journalists must report with “rigour, professionalism and patriotism”. He said “the Mozambican journalist should not be a reproducer of wishes contrary to our unity.” And he followed this in May saying that journalists have to be “disciplined”: “To have discipline is to report only the truth, to combat fake news and not to incite violence and hatred.”

This is not freedom. This is a threat. This is saying that journalists have the ‘freedom’ to write or to film or to record for radio, as long as this is in aligned with the state’s narrative. Or else.

The public media and many international journalists are reporting on the violence in the province as only a humanitarian issue created by violence caused by insurgents, and not on how many of these refugees were actually already displaced from their villages, and had lost everything, because of the Afungi Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Park that Total is building to house the support facilities for the industry. Reporting in this way allows the gas industry off the hook for the part they have played in this humanitarian crisis and conflict, including how Total has left the displaced communities who were relying on them for compensation and aid with nothing as they pulled out of the country when claiming force majeure.

International journalists are protected by having foreign passports. But who is protecting local journalists from non-state outlets, like Ibrahimo, or like Amade Abubacar from the Nacedje Community Radio who was arrested, tortured and held without charge for 3 months in 2019 after interviewing a group of displaced people? Or the journalists of Canal de Moçambique whose office was bombed in 2020 after exposing corruption between the government and gas companies?

In April 2020, Reporters Without Borders and 16 other press freedom organisations wrote an open letter to President Filipe Nyusi, who ignored it, just like the military and relevant government officials did not even bother to respond, and the police treated it like a joke. On 8 June 2020, Ibrahimo’s brother contacted the local police to inform them that he had called Ibrahimo’s phone and it rang. He reported it to the public investigators responsible for finding him, the National Agency for Criminal Investigations. They promised they would look into it, but since then there has been silence.

But we must not stop fighting!

In January, the African Union (AU) launched the Digital Platform for Safety of Journalists in Africa. At the launch, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was AU chairperson at the time said: Media freedom “requires that we rigorously defend the right of journalists to do their work, to write, to publish, and to also broadcast what they like, even if we disagree with some or all of it.. The digital platform for the safety of journalists in Africa is an important tool in promoting the safety of journalists and other media workers across Africa.”

Now they must put their money where their mouth is, by holding the Mozambican government accountable for its violent media oppression and pressurise it to stop, and they must recognise how part of this oppression is to protect the gas industry. The platform was supported by the United Nations, and both they and the AU have the responsibility to find out what has happened to Ibrahimo, and must use their power to do so.

It is clear that Mozambican journalists cannot rely on their state for their protection – the very people who are obliged to protect them, but sadly are reliant rather on non-governmental organisations and media groups – both international, and local, who themselves are putting their safety on the line just by speaking out. When journalists are told they need to report with “patriotism” and “discipline”, it is clear that, just as history has shown, they cannot know that they are safe. They cannot know their colleagues will not be arrested and tortured or that their offices won’t be attacked. They cannot know that they, too, will not disappear and be another Ibrahimo.

We must not stop pushing to find out, where is Ibrahimo?

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JA! at the AGMs, 2021

Our Say No to Gas! In Mozambique Campaign has many elements, but one of the crucial ones is confronting fossil fuel criminals involved in Mozambique’s gas industry, about the destruction, violence and devastation they have caused in Cabo Delgado province.

One way of challenging them and making demands for them to leave and stop their involvement in Mozambique gas, is attending Annual General Meetings (AGM) of several large international players in the Mozambique gas industry, which this year we did for the fourth year running. Attending these AGMs is a way to force the highest level decision-makers in these companies to hear our voices and the voices of the people whose lives they are devastating, to demand information and call them out on their crimes against the climate and peoples in a large public forum that includes their shareholders and employees. It is a way to prevent them from saying “we didn’t know” about the impacts – even though taking active measures to identify potential risks of human rights violations is part of their responsibilities. There is often media at the AGMs of the large companies, giving us another opportunity to bring to the international public the issue of Mozambique gas and the violence and destruction being perpetrated by those who profit from it tremendously.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, most of the AGMs were held online.

The AGMs we attended were of Eni (Italy) which is co-leading the Coral Liquid Natural gas project with ExxonMobil; Total (France) which is leading the Mozambique LNG Project; Shell (Netherlands), who was previously involved; Standard Bank (South Africa), one of the major financiers; and HSBC (UK), another massive financier. While there are some questions specific to each company, many of them are standard. This is because, while Eni, Total and ExxonMobil may be the companies leading the actual gas extraction and responsible for constructing the offshore and onshore facilities, every player involved in the Mozambique gas industry is to some degree responsible for the negative human rights, climate, environmental and socio-economic violations and impacts it has created. Companies and governments involved often try to wriggle out of their responsibilities and accountability by claiming that they are not ‘directly’ responsible for the impacts. This is utter nonsense – without financiers, contractors or confirmed purchasers, the Mozambique gas industry would not exist.

We demand to know why they continue to invest or operate in Cabo Delgado considering the horrific violence and conflict that has been taking place for years between insurgents, the military and private security companies, in which thousands of civilians have been killed and over 800 000 people displaced. We want them to recognise that they have directly created suffering and deeper impoverishment for the communities affected by the project, who have lost their homes and livelihoods, and received no decent jobs; and we ask what is their plan to make reparations. We want them to provide transparent information, something lacking in an industry which is so opaque and secretive.

Eni insists they are ‘providing support to the basic needs of local populations’, even when we tell them that the only jobs Mozambicans have received have been menial and unskilled. They say that a mere 370 permanent jobs will be available in total over the life cycle of the Coral LNG project, although they don’t say if these will actually go to Mozambicans.

All companies refuse to see a link between the gas industry and the violence, with Eni even saying they see no risk whatsoever, and denying any human rights violation by the military, even though this had been exposed in mainstream media and international human rights organisations’ reports.

Total, which claimed force majeure in April 2021 due to the violence, putting the Mozambique LNG project on hold indefinitely, made the contradictory remark that the safety and well-being of communities was a priority, but at the same time, “our mission is to protect the interests of Total’s shareholders and our partners”. These are obviously mutually exclusive, as continuing with the project will only continue the violence and dispossession that communities are facing. While they insist that the Mozambique LNG project has not been “abandoned”, they put the responsibility of the impacts on communities solely on the Mozambican government.

Standard Bank also believes that their investments are not at risk because of the violence. Even as people in Cabo Delgado are being killed every week, they carry on with business as usual, as though the militarisation and its accompanying human rights violations creating refugees and forcing displacement, do not matter to them at all. Clearly, even though they use an undisclosed “consortium” of civil society organisations in Cabo Delgado to do “monitoring”, the lives of the rural affected peoples means nothing to them.

HSBC on the other hand, just refused to answer the questions, except to say they cannot talk about private clients and very few jobs will go to Mozambicans because of the project’s “advanced technical requirements”.

Company AGMs can be very frustrating events. Directors often dodge questions or answer them insufficiently on purpose, or just pretend they didn’t hear them at all. But this year, as with most, these experiences and actions are more than confronting fossil fuel companies and financiers, they also strengthen civil society’s collective struggle against fossil fuels and the impunity of transnational corporations.

We use these as opportunities to work with other regional and international organisations and movements who are fighting against the same company or projects for crimes they are committing in the different countries. As partners, we support each other in asking questions, gaining access, publicising on social media and holding protests, and use the opportunity to exchange with each other about the different ways we are campaigning against the same culprits. When we attend as a group, our presence is powerful. As a team, we have more numbers and confidence in our actions inside and outside AGMs, more access to media and more impact if we choose to cause any disruption. If these companies do not want to take the time to talk to us and our comrades, this is a way for us to force them to listen. The strongest outcome of attending AGMs is that we are saying clearly, with a collective voice ‘we are watching you and we are not going away’, while we demand that they leave and stop their profit-mongering activities that are killing peoples and the planet.

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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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