On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, commemorated on 10 December, the date marking the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, JA! launched two important case studies. These publications expose some of the continuing human rights abuses and violations that agricultural communities are subject to in Mozambique, as well as the difficulties that they face in claiming their right to information, land, food and demonstration. They illustrate the difficulty in the exercise of the right to say NO, and above all, the right to a dignified life.
These case studies also highlight the difficulties faced by civil society in their legitimate search for information – a right provided and safeguarded by law. Through these two examples, we intend to denounce the banality and regularity of violations of the law, and the weak capacity and political will to implement them, in our country.
One of the case studies “Jindal – An example of Corporate Impunity” concerns the Indian company Jindal’s open-pit coal mining project in Tete, which began exploration in 2013 without making the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and its respective environmental license duly available to the public. The company began operating without relocating the Cassoca community, which found itself surrounded overnight by a Jindal fence. Their territories were usurped to make way for coal exploitation, and families were thereafter forced to coexist with the constant explosions and resulting dust, and polluted waters. Even their freedom of mobility was restricted as they were required to pass through a gate controlled by Jindal, sometimes even during restricted hours. If these are not serious human rights crimes, what are they?
JA! appealed to the courts to have the rights of these families recognized. It all began with a letter to the National Directorate of Environmental Impact Assessment (DNAIA-MICOA) unsuccessfully requesting copies of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and its respective Environmental License. Numerous requests, complaints and letters to various agencies followed, and after nearly 4 years of legal battle, in June 2018 and in response to the appeal submitted by JA! to the First Section of Litigation of the Administrative Court, Jindal was ordered to relocate the Cassoca communities by December 2018. The resettlement process only began in March 2019, and the new homes are not yet in suitable condition.
This case highlights the numerous difficulties and challenges faced by both local communities and civil society organizations seeking to protect and promote human rights. It shows how justice is not within the reach of all Mozambicans, and especially those in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable social strata.
The second case “Land and Conflict – Land-grabbing in the Cocomela irrigated area of Namaacha Village” deals with land conflicts in the Cocomela irrigated area in Namaacha village. JA! received a complaint and request for support to stop a peasant land-grabbing process being carried out by the Namaacha Municipality.
We have been working constantly with land-grabbing issues in rural areas, mostly related to foreign investment, and often with government sponsorship. But this case struck us as unusual – why was the Municipal Council grabbing land from its own citizens? When we started investigating the issue, we found that the complaints were indeed well-founded, and the case deserved seriousness and support.
In 2010/2011, JA! in conjunction with UNAC (National Peasant Union), made a preliminary analysis of the land-grabbing landscape in some provinces of Mozambique, and launched the study “The Owners of the Land”. This study confirmed several illegalities in the processes of peasant land-grabbing, as the Mozambican Constitution and Land Law provide the necessary tools to protect customary land rights. We believe that in addition to the huge difficulties in implementing the law, there is also a poor understanding of the law itself, especially at government level. Time and again we have heard that the land belongs to the State, and as such belongs to the Government. This is wrong: the State is the Mozambican people, not the Government. This false but surprisingly convincing premise is the starting point for many of the land conflicts in Mozambique today.
Human rights violations like these happen routinely in our country. We believe that we can only truly combat poverty and so many other problems that plague the country by reflecting on these conflicts, and seeking inclusive, effective and real ways to solve them. Our government denies that there are cases of land-grabbing in Mozambique. If we continue to turn a blind eye to serious human rights violations such as those described in these two cases, we will continue to foster an enabling environment for increasing inequality, violence and crime, unemployment, and environmental destruction. If we continue to deprive most Mozambicans of access to comprehensive and impartial justice, the promotion and protection of human rights in Mozambique will remain a mirage.
To access the studies email: firstname.lastname@example.org