Category Archives: Activism

REPORT RELEASE

Gas in Mozambique: A Windfall for the Industry, a Curse for the Country

Today JA!, Friends of the Earth France and Friends of the Earth International have released a report which exposes deep French involvement in the gas industry in Mozambique. The report, entitled Gas in Mozambique: A Windfall for the Industry, a Curse for the Country, details how the French government, its banks and corporations are part of a web of state corruption, arms deals, human rights violations and economic diplomacy, all in the interests of a $60 billion industry that has left destruction in its wake before a single drop of liquid natural gas has even been extracted.

The report shows how the French State, major private banks including BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, and fossil fuel giant Total, are some of the greatest beneficiaries of the devastating impacts of the industry in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

JA! works closely with local communities directly facing these impacts on a daily basis. We have seen entire villages uprooted from their homes, fisherpeople moved many kilometres from the coast, and their struggle and heartbreak at losing the land and sea that has been their livelihood for generations.

We have been present with them as they try to speak up in meetings where Total brings the news of their coming difficulties and losses, but have their voices suppressed. They have told us of their nightmarish fear of insurgents who have terrorised the region with violent and fatal attacks, and of the heavy-handedness of the military that has been deployed to protect the industry.

The report includes detailed and up-to-date information from the ground, and divulges the depths to which the French public authorities have gone to ensure their economy, bankers, fossil fuel and arms industry are the greatest profiteers of the gas exploitation, even it it means devastation of the local environment, lives, economy and climate.

With this report, JA!, Friends of the Earth France and Friends of the Earth International call for the French state, banks and fossil fuel companies to withdraw from their involvement in Mozambique, stop the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and cease corrupt diplomatic dealings which are leaving the Mozambican people, and the planet, in a state of hardship and chaos.

“France is determined to ensure that this gas windfall benefits first and foremost its own transnational corporations, even if this means sowing chaos for Mozambique and setting off a climate bomb equivalent to seven times France’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Neither the French government, nor Total and its bankers, seem concerned about the impacts this will have in fuelling climate crisis, local conflict, corruption and human rights violations.”— Cécile Marchand, Climate and Corporate Justice Campaigner at Friends of the Earth France

“The fossil fuel industry is peddling a lie that gas can be part of the clean energy transition. In reality, this so-called transition in Mozambique has meant a shift from freedom to human rights violations, from peace to conflict, from communities living well through farming and fishing to starving populations deprived of their livelihoods. The gas rush, which is exacerbating the climate crisis and benefiting only transnational corporations and corrupt elites, must stop.”— Anabela Lemos, Director of Justiça Ambiental (JA!)/Friends of the Earth Mozambique

LINKS TO THE REPORT

English Executive Summary: https://www.foei.org/resources/gas-mozambique-france-report

Relatório Português: https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Gas-Mocambique_Portuguese.pdf

French report: https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/De-l-eldorado-gazier-au-chaos_Gas-au-Mozambique_Amis-de-la-terre_rapport_FR.pdf

For enquiries

For press enquiries, please contact:

Cécile Marchand, Friends of the Earth France, cecile.marchand@amisdelaterre., +33(0)669977456

Daniel Ribeiro, Justiça Ambiental, daniel.ja.mz@gmail.com, +258842026243

Friends of the Earth International, press@foei.org

Justiça Ambiental (JA!) Celebrates Human Rights Day with the Launch of 2 Case Studies

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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.

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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: jamoz2010@gmail.com

JA! is taking on Sasol

Over the last month, JA! has been confronting South African energy company Sasol in several ways, interrogating them on what they’re really getting up to in Mozambique.

Most recently, last week JA! attended the Sasol 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Johannesburg, along with four other civil society organisations, to question the board and inform shareholders about what the company is currently doing, and planning to do, in Mozambique.PHOTO-2019-11-27-09-12-09

Leading up to the AGM, JA! sent the company questions to understand the technicalities of their present and future projects, followed by a meeting with five vice presidents at their headquarters in Johannesburg, with the support of a fellow activist from partner organisation groundWork.

JA! raised two issues at the AGM:

The first was about the Pande and Temane gas fields in Inhambane that Sasol has been operating since 2006 after removing many community members from their homes and creating only 300 permanent jobs. Sasol has been accused of transfer pricing in this operation – Sasol Petroleum International (now Sasol Africa) is the sole purchaser of the gas extracted here by its wholly-owned subsidiary Sasol Petroleum Temane, which it buys at a tiny percentage of the market value.

The second question was about Sasol’s planned shallow-water drilling off the coast of Vilankulos, also in Inhambane. The drilling will destructively affect fishing communities, endangered species of animals and plants, and the tourism industry, a huge income generator for the province. Accompanying JA! Was a member of the Protect Bazaruto Campaign, which is working to stop the project.

Here are the questions asked by JA!:

1. The first subject is the Pande and Temane project in Inhambane.

To give context, Sasol has regularly insisted that the fields have brought benefits to the surrounding communities since operations began in 2006. However, setting aside schools and soccer fields, the rate of literacy and employment has increased only in line with the rest of the country, including those provinces without extractive industries. Furthermore, 12 years later, according to the World Bank, only 25% of the population of Inhambane has access to electricity, which is less than the country as a whole, at 27%.

When communities were relocated from their homes in 2006, they were given once- off compensation of R 12 000. I emphasise, R 12 000. However, Sasol signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the government which promises annual benefits to the people. Note that this amount is a mere 2.75% of the 6% production tax that the company pays to the government.

JA! questions are:

  • Why has Sasol not paid the annual benefits to the communities as per the PPA for the last four years?

  • Does Sasol recognise that the amount it offers as benefits is too little to maintain the livelihood of a family?

  • And will Sasol renegotiate the terms of the PPA to increase the amount of the benefit, by using total revenue as a basis as opposed to production tax, now that it has the option to do so?

2. The second subject regards Sasol’s planned seismic testing and drilling for gas in the shallow waters off the coast of Vilankulos

Sasol plans to do seismic testing and drilling in ocean shallow water ocean blocks 16 and 19 in Bazaruto, a national park and IUCN Important marine mammal area. Block 16 is home to the only viable dugong species in the Western Indian Ocean as well as two important reefs for commercial and subsistence fishing for many communities.

The best case scenario for this drilling is impacting critically endangered species such as dugong; Fish stocks and livelihoods of fishing communities; sustainable tourism which is central to the economy and can outlast oil and gas.

While Sasol maintains that it is taking all necessary actions to avoid environmental damage, it has been well documented that mitigation of the impacts of gas drilling and seismic testing is impossible. Communities, too, have shown strong resistance to the project.

JA! question is:

  • As it is scientifically certain that seismic testing and drilling will diminish the last viable population of dugong in the Western Indian Ocean, why does Sasol believe it has the right to contribute to the extinction of an iconic species, violate national laws protecting national parks, and detrimentally affecting the livelihood of fishing communities?”

Responses:

At the end of the round of questions, we received a verbal response from Jon Harris, Executive Vice President: Upstream, who JA! has engaged with on previous occasions.

His response was vague, a public relations exercise and in it he repeated the same story of the great benefits that the company had allegedly brought, and that we need to look at smaller sections of the population of Inhambane, those in the immediate vicinity of the plant, and not the province as a whole. He said he was not aware of whether people had been receiving benefits or not, and did not answer whether they would renegotiate their PPA with the government, which would enable the people to receive more benefits.

Regarding Vilankulos, he said that seismic drilling has no impact on the environment, and that they are putting the utmost care into avoiding any impact on animals.

There are several aims of JA! Attending an AGM like this – to confront the board, to inform shareholders, to ask questions, to receive information and to alert the media. There is always the risk that the responses will not be helpful, or even relevant, but our presence there was imperative – were it not for JA!’s presence few people would have known about Sasol’s crimes in Mozambique.

Outside protesters, against Sasol, and same are about to hand over the memorandum to Sasol Vice President Marcel Mitchelson

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Plantations are not FORESTS! And in Africa we know what forests are!!!!

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Justiça Ambiental has been following, for about 9 years, with much concern and indignation, the promotion and establishment of eucalyptus monoculture plantations in the country. It has paid particular attention to the plantations of Portucel, Navigator Company and Green Resources, the size of the area granted, and the negative social impacts that both have caused, which are already evident and documented.

In recent years, JA! has maintained contact with the rural communities affected by both companies and has unsuccessfully denounced the irregularities and numerous conflicts that exist with the companies concerned and government authorities, through letters, petitions and requests for meetings. JA! has also requested access to the processes of acquiring Land Use titles (Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento de Terra: DUAT) and Environmental Performance Reports, which constitute information of public interest and nature, but these companies have never offered to share or publish these. Finally, JA! very recently obtained access to the numerous processes for the acquisition of Portucel’s DUAT by means of a court action through Judgment 09 / TACM / 2019. We remain without access to Portucel’s Environmental Performance Reports because it “refuses” to share these. In May of this year, Justiça Ambiental, the Academic Action for Rural Development (ADECRU) and the World Rainforest Movement organized the “Sharing of experiences and resistance among communities affected by Monoculture Plantations” in Quelimane with community representatives from Nampula, Zambezia, Manica and Sofala provinces affected by monoculture plantations and rural communities struggling to protect their forests and natural resources. This meeting was preceded by visits to the communities affected by Portucel, where those present, members and leaders of these communities, reiterated their dissatisfaction with Portucel’s actions, with the numerous promises made during the community consultations as a way deceive the communities into giving up their land, promises that remain unfulfilled until today. Portucel was invited to the meeting so that we could, together with representatives of the affected communities and representatives of the provincial government, share the numerous complaints and discuss possible solutions. However, Portucel apologized and did not send a representative to attend but made sure to send someone to report on what was discussed, so they have full knowledge of what was discussed and how dissatisfied these communities are. The provincial government was represented and heard all the complaints, but also evaded the matter.

It is quite despicable to note through a news article published in “Clubofmozambique” that World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a huge international non-governmental organization that works on environmental issues, recently organized a debate on “Planting sustainable forests in Africa” that no more than gives companies such as Portucel a green seal once again, despite numerous studies and reports demonstrating the numerous problems this type of plantation brings, and in this case the numerous impacts of Portucel in Mozambique. It is unacceptable that it gives a ‘green seal’ to plantations, with a masked and misleading speech that intends to spread the belief that they are planting forests, leading those most inattentive to even believe that they are supporting concrete action to mitigate the effects of climate change. It is indeed misleading and problematic to completely disregard the systematic appeals of the communities affected by Portucel, as it is unacceptable to use its brand and the image of the harmless Panda to lead people to believe that large-scale monoculture plantations are somehow beneficial for mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is also equally unacceptable for WWF to position itself in this way, giving the green seal to companies with so many complaints against them and that are causing so many impacts, knowing that so many NATIONAL organizations have been working on this issue for many years and that it is quite problematic, and that NATIONAL organizations do not have a unanimous position on monoculture plantations… this corporate act is shameful!!!

Why should Africa lead the fight against corporate power?

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After a brutal colonialism that lasted for tens of centuries, in recent decades Africa has become a stage for an intense land and resource grabbing carried out by the lethal alliance between large transnational corporations (TNC’s) and the political elites of the continent.

Thanks to it’s economic power – anchored in the political power of governments, elites, and financial institutions of the global North – TNCs have been able to shape markets, governments, communications and legislation to suit their interests. These corporations are already more powerful than many States and, in fact, out of the 100 largest economies on the planet, 69 are companies and only 31 are States!

Discussing the power and the impunity of large corporations is particularly important to our African context due to a number of factors:

First, because the corporate capture (or should we call it recolonisation?) of our governments by large TNCs of the global north is currently one of the main threats to our sovereignty. Often made possible by the policies of institutions such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (and their structural adjustment programs, austerity measures, and other neoliberal packages), this promiscuity between African rulers and TNCs results in very high costs for the environment, for the majority of the population and for our young and fragile democracies. A neo-colonialist dynamic prevails in Africa, as we continue to observe the same mechanisms of dependence on foreign capital, exportation of raw materials and importation of manufactured goods between African countries and industrialized countries + new emerging powers. Understanding the ways and means used by TNCs to interfere with and undermine the political agenda of African countries is, therefore, critical to understanding the broad phenomenon that is the corporate capture of our decision-making spaces.

Secondly, Africa’s historical, social, cultural and economic contexts make the impacts of corporate power in the continent particularly acute. In a continent where the vast majority of the population is rural (about 70%), and where small-scale farmers produce up to 80% of all the food, the land and resource grabbing by TNCs is a threat to our food sovereignty, to our traditional and millennial knowledge and customs, and a severe attack on the human dignity of millions of people already in vulnerable situations. Africa’s traditional rural populations are both mutually dependent and protective of nature. Numerous studies show that traditional practices and knowledge are most effective for protecting and restoring the environment while, in contrast, industrialized agriculture and extractivism are having an overwhelming impact on our rivers, forests and ecosystems. In the agricultural sector, foreign donors are exerting enormous pressure to try to convert Africa’s predominant family farming model into profit opportunities for the global agri-business sector.

Furthermore, as we examine the continent’s circumstances, it is essential to take a close look at the intrinsic dynamics of oppression and exploitation of certain social groups by others. In particular, patriarchy and gender oppression, which are well rooted in the social dynamics of most African countries, are a constant impediment to achieving a just and egalitarian society. It is in patriarchy that neoliberal capitalism finds fertile ground to proliferate as it feeds on and depends on these power imbalances within a society. A gender-based division of labor that makes women –particularly those of lower class – free providers of a variety of care services (for children, the elderly and the sick), is a convenient tool for the extractive economy.

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Thirdly, the climate crisis we are experiencing reminds us that in order to solve the greatest challenges of our time we need to address the structural and systemic causes behind these crises. It was the northern industrialized countries that, in their race for development, emitted the most CO2 into the atmosphere – the great catalyst for climate change. However, this crisis’ greatest injustice lies in the fact that the peoples of the global South (therefore those who have contributed the least to it) are the first to suffer its impacts, and those who will be hit the hardest.

In Africa, the climate crisis is not a problem of the future – it is happening now, in a brutal, oppressive and highly unequal manner. It is therefore crucial that African civil society demand that their governments be aligned with the real needs of their people, not with the unlimited greed of corporations profiting from the exploitation and burning of fossil fuels. This greed is fundamentally incompatible with the search for real, fair and inclusive solutions to this crisis.

And fourthly, we urgently need to deconstruct the narrative that Africa is a poor continent in need of help – a narrative that greatly benefits the maintenance of a North-South dependency status quo. This dangerous, long repeated and commonly accepted premise both inside and outside the continent, paves the way for all sorts of “market solutions” as corporations are seen as the major promoters of progress and development. Africa is not poor – it is a rich continent whose wealth has been historically assaulted by the great imperialist and colonialist powers, century after century. Recent studies indicate that illicit financial outflows from the continent total US$50 billion each year, a figure that has been growing since the beginning of the century. This is far more than the total of foreign aid that the continent received during that same period!

This capital flight can take many forms, from product or human trafficking, to tax evasion or price transfer, among others. This means that an absurd amount of wealth generated in Africa is being diverted off the continent without a trace and, therefore, without being subject to taxation that could be used to improve social infrastructure and the living conditions of the population.

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In general, the expansion of capitalism, especially in its neoliberal form, brought about an exacerbation of social inequalities and the deepened exploitation of certain social classes by others. Despite claims that globalization and free trade would be the solution to all problems, we are witnessing the exact opposite: the architecture of free trade is intrinsically contradictory to human rights legislation as it seeks to erode and weaken the role of the State – which by definition is primarily responsible for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights.

However, important movements have emerged as a counteroffensive to the supremacy of corporate power on the global stage, in a more or less articulate manner. Several organisations and social movements around the world have been denouncing and exposing the impacts of corporate encroachment on their territories, bringing criminal corporations to court, resisting free trade agreements, creating more just and egalitarian cities and societies, defending the right to say NO to destructive projects, and showing that the solutions to the crises we are experiencing cannot be built using the same logic of the market – they must come from collective constructions based on respect for human rights and nature.

An interesting response to this threat, posed by the power of capital, is the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. The Global Campaign – a network of organisations, movements and people affected by TNCs – has mobilized itself massively to take part in the process of drafting an international treaty to regulate the activities of TNCs and hold them accountable for human rights violations and environmental destruction. This process has been taking place at the United Nations (UN) and we have already written about it in various occasions.1

At this point, what is worth noting is that, at the last negotiating session over the text of this binding instrument, in October 2019, the African region has established itself even more sturdily as a driving force in this process. In addition to expressing itself as a regional union in support of the treaty (the declaration of the region was read by Angola, which chairs the African group this year), numerous African States have individually contributed with concrete and substantial proposals to improve the treaty and strengthen the instrument.

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For all the reasons explained above and many more, the African continent should be more than keen to push for a normative instrument such as this, aimed at ending the impunity of TNCs. One thing is certain, the message that African countries have been reverberating year after year at the UN in Geneva is clear: this binding international instrument must address the enormous asymmetries of power between TNCs and the people affected by their activities. In order for the materialization of this process to meet the needs of Southern countries – those most affected by corporate impunity – it is crucial that these countries take the reins of this intergovernmental process in order to establish the necessary legislation and mechanisms to reverse the current scenario, and that they do so in close cooperation with civil society and the populations affected by corporate crimes. In this last session, perhaps even more so than in previous ones, several African countries showed they were up to the task and willing to face the challenge.

Are the so-called developed countries prepared to provide the “foreign aid” that Africa really needs, and to punish their corporations for human rights violations worldwide?

Denunciation of Violence Against Activists

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On Monday, 7 October 2019, Anastácio Matável, Executive Director of the Gaza Province NGO Forum – FONGA, lost his life in the city of Xai-Xai, a victim of murder.

Anastácio Matável, who was also a member and focal point of the joint electoral observation platform “Sala da Paz”, was shot point-blank 10 times as he emerged from an election observation training in which he had given the opening address. Matavel was shot around 11 am and succumbed to his injuries two hours later at Gaza Provincial Hospital.

Matavel was committed to activism, and he advocated for environmental causes and biodiversity conservation for over two decades, striving equally for social justice and the protection and defense of the rights of local communities. That’s how, since 2011, Justiça Ambiental has been cooperating and working with him in close partnership in various cases of environmental and social injustice, especially the fight against the usurpation of community land (land grabbing) in Xai-xai by the Chinese rice production company, WAMBAO.

All of this has happened 8 days before the presidential elections to be held all over the country on the 15th of October. The campaigning for these elections have been marked by violence in all parts of the country, and particularly in Gaza province, where opposition parties have suffered aggression at the hands of the members of the ruling party. It is believed that this will be the most violent election campaign in the history of Mozambique. It should be recalled that Gaza province stood out for its manipulation of the voter registration process, which led to confusion between the CNE and INE, Mozambican election agencies, and there was lack of compliance with the number of registered voters and potential voters entitled to vote on October 15th.

Based on previous experiences of similar murder cases, Mozambican society does not doubt that Anastácio Matavel was murdered by the death squads, which for some years have been claiming the lives of people who oppose or criticize the regime’s performance. Death squads are believed to act under the regime’s orders to safeguard the interests of the ruling party as a way of intimidating and / or removing people who in one way or another try to rouse the people about environmental issues, human rights and bad governance in the country.

Unlike other cases, this time the killers were identified after being involved in a violent car accident in which two of them lost their lives on the scene, one was hospitalized and another is being held in police cells in Gaza. At the same time as the accident took place, a fifth member of the group managed to escape and so far is in an uncertain place. The police would later confirm that four of the alleged killers are in fact members of the police assigned to the Special Operations Group.

Justiça Ambiental wants through this press release to show solidarity with the family and colleagues of our fellow activist Anastácio Matavel, as well as vehemently denounce this barbaric act that took his life. Likewise, we denounce all forms of violence against activists, journalists, academics, political parties and all citizens in general, as no one has the right to violate or take another person’s life. We also denounce the violent acts that have been characterizing this election campaign at all levels.


It is important to remember that these are not the first cases of violence, attacks and murders of anyone who thinks differently from the regime and freely expresses his/her opinion, as this has been characteristic in the country in the past years, especially in election years, as we could testify it around the period of the 2014 elections.

It is not enough just to dismiss some “police chiefs” and set up alleged committees of inquiry, which never give us plausible and credible answers and explanations.

We demand that these crimes are clarified, including their motivations, as well as that those responsible are brought to court and punished for their acts.

The Mozambican people need to feel free and secure and that we are really live in a state governed by the democratic rule of law.

“n the aftermath of our last general elections in 2014, JA!, along with other organizations, raised serious concerns about the irregularities in the election process, you can see our blog from 2014 here describing the irregularities. But now in this elections, activists are being killed even before the elections take place, the undermining of democracy is getting scary!”

Big tech, money and the rampant undermining of democracy: Where are we headed?

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Recently a new film called The Great Hack was released by film makers Karin Amer and Jehane Noujaim, who also documented the Arab Spring movement in Egypt a few years ago.

Characters in the film describe how the “handmaidens of authoritarianism” like facebook are “playing with the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness… in the context of the democratic process.”

The Great Hack recounts the story of how Facebook sold the data of millions of people to a company called Cambridge Analytica, which is based in the United Kingdom. But this is not just about the undermining of personal data of millions of people. This is not just about my baby photos, our salad photos, our stories being used in ways we did not intend. The story is far grimmer. The data was used to undermine democracy in many countries across the world. This is the scary part of the story, which should give us all pause.

The personal data and personal preferences of individual people from Facebook, was used by Cambridge Analytica to sow division in countries across the world, with the sole objective of undermining democracy and allowing political wins. This definitely was the case in the US during the 2016 presidential election where data was used to identify the ‘not-sure’ people, called “persuadables” and they were specifically fed information that would increase their support for Donald Trump.

The same tactic was used by the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, in a process called Brexit, in 2016. Over three years later, the Brexit process continues to divide the people of the UK in terrible, democracy undermining ways. Just a few days ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson got the British monarch to suspend British parliament so that his Brexit deal could not be discussed and criticised in Parliament. This is a clear violation of democracy.

These democracy killing tactics were also used in many other countries. One such example was the meddling and undermining of democracy by manipulating young voters in the presidential election in Trinidad and Tobago in 2010, where facebook ads etc were used to suppress voting by a specific racial group in the country. At first the ruling party of Trinidad and Tobago just denied it, but since then they have been forced to admit that they did have conversations with Cambridge Analytica!

Although Cambridge Analytica personnel admitted to meddling in the US, Trinidad and Tobago and other countries, they never admitted to meddling in Brexit. The reason is probably that, since Cambridge Analytica was based in the UK at the time of these activities, admitting to have meddled in a UK political process would surely bring them severe consequences. But this is speculation. It is not clear why they always denied being involved in Brexit although their staff members are on tape being involved with members of the ‘Leave’ campaign.

What does this all mean? This is the new age of surveillance capitalism and the way it is undermining our human rights is frighteningly real. We fight the unmitigated power and impunity of trans national corporations (TNCs), we are fighting for a binding treaty where TNCs power and impunity can be controlled. TNCs push dirty and harmful energy across the world, they are accelerating deforestation and exacerbating food insecurity across the world. Now we discover a whole new nefariousness of TNCs- big tech corporations have so much power now that they are using our data to undermine our basic democratic rights. Representative democracy is a system where the decision-makers are elected by the people and hence people have a role and voice in the decisions that affect their lives. So decision-makers must be accountable to the people who elected them. However, we have been seeing for many years that our democratic systems have been slowly undermined. Often this takes place through the undue influence of money- those who spent more money in an election usually have been winning. But now this has been taken to a whole new level. Our political preferences which we share on social media are being tracked and used against us.

Our democracies and our societies are under attack. An article in the Guardian from 8 August 2019 revealed that “Nearly half the world’s people are living in countries where their freedom of speech and right to privacy are being eroded”. Our country, Mozambique, was listed as one of the countries where the freedom of expression in under extreme risk. This is very worrying.

So what happened to the corporation Cambridge Analytica? In end July 2019, the Federal Trade Commission of the United States levied a fine of $5 billion against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. This was prompted by the release of The Great Hack. This is already a useful move because it attacks the money of these dirty corporations. But its not nearly enough. Cambridge Analytica was shut down but its assets were bought by the influential Mercer family and their sub-companies. What does this mean? Will the cycle of impunity of the corporations just continue unabated? We need to fight these trends. It is sometimes said that if we live in the modern world today, it is like living in a glass house. Our data is much too public. But we as consumers, as activists need to fight back against the impunity of big tech corporations. Maybe this means we need to, at least, put up curtains in our glass house. We need to protect ourselves and help other activists protect themselves. Our democracies are at stake. The stakes are really high. We need to inform ourselves and fight against this manipulation of us and the killing of our democracies.

For more information, see the twitter accounts of these people:

https://twitter.com/carolecadwalla

https://twitter.com/WendySiegelman

https://twitter.com/profcarroll

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My point of view on premature marriage and early pregnancies

Namadoe Agro Agosto 19 (164)

By: Alana Sousa (10 years)

I had the privilege of being one of the only city children to visit Namadoe, one of the 4 communities JA works with, at the base of Mount Mabu.

One of the things I noticed first was how many girls already had babies, such as Mr. Cubaniwa’s daughter who already had a 2-year-old son and she is only 19, which indicates that she had the baby while she was only 17-year-old. In this community it seems normal for girls to marry at 16 years of age and to have children at 17. The case that struck me the most, was that of a 15 year old girl holding a baby she who claimed to be hers, it was clear that the baby was at least 1 year old, because the baby was already walking and walking fast. For example, my cousin is 15 years old already and no one in our family could even imagine her pregnant.

Namadoe Agro Agosto 19 (208)

And this child-mother is my friend, and it was evident that she still wanted to play, and that she was not at the right age to have a daughter, even though she was already a mother she was also still a child, a girl. Still I am sure she loves her daughter, but… she has a life to enjoy as a child, to play, to run, to clown, to do things that normal kids do.

This short text was written by a 10-year-old girl, who lived a very different reality from her own, who enjoyed a lot of what she saw and made many friends, but she also saw a lot that she did not like, that she could not understand or accept as normal… Out of this indignation this text was born, laden with the typical innocence of a 10-year-old girl!”

Limbue Agro Agosto 19 (176)

Namadoe Agro Agosto 19 (160)

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JA! speaks truth to TNC’s in Europe!

Lobby tour participants and organisers FoE Spain in Madrid

 

Over the past few weeks, JA! took part in a lobby tour organised in Europe, by Friends of the Earth Europe, where we met with current partners, made new allies, shared our anti-gas struggle and confronted the companies and banks who make up the liquid natural gas industry in northern Mozambique. This tour was imperative for the campaign, because so many of the companies and banks involved in the industry are based in Europe.

Lobby tour participants outside the EU Brussels

The tour, which went through Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels, was aimed at creating awareness about our struggle against the gas industry in Mozambique and demonstrating the critical need for a Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations (TNCs) at the United Nations. Currently, there is no accountability mechanism at the UN, only guiding principles which companies do not abide by, as they see them as an impediment to their greed and profit.

 

Our partners had arranged for JA!, along with activists from the DRC and the Phillipines to meet with current and new partners and allies, as well as industry players and state authorities.
Panel discussion with lobby tour participants and parliamentarians in the Hague2

Our confrontations with the industry were often met with blatant hostility, when we tried to hold them accountable for their actions, and when we raised questions they didn’t like. We attended four annual general meetings (AGM’s), those of Shell, Natixis, Eni and Total.

Intervention at natixis AGM

Natixis, the French bank which arranged for the entrance of three major French banks to finance the Coral LNG Project1, was so hostile at their AGM that when JA! attempted to ask a question about their negligence and ineptness in the project, they turned off the microphone and refused to answer the question. Shareholders were shouting “go home!” as JA! and partner organisations walked out of the meeting.

 

At the Shell AGM in Amsterdam, we were part of a large contingent of civil society organisations, mostly Dutch but also some European. Shell has a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Mozambique LNG to buy 2 million tonnes of gas per year for 13 years.

 

JA! and an organisation from Nigeria were the only attendees from the global South. The response to our questions was, as expected, vague, but our voice had been heard and carried in the Dutch media. Shell had little respect for activists – when the Nigerian activist raised the impacts that Anadarko’s project was having on their community in the Niger Delta, the Charles Holliday, Shell’s Chairman, responded that he should approach the ‘helpdesk’ in the foyer for assistance.

Interview with online news outlet madrid2

The third AGM we attended was that of Total in Paris, which is the new owner of the Mozambique LNG Project2, since May when it purchased Anadarko’s Africa assets. Anadarko, however, is still operating the project, and plan to hand over the lead to Total at the end of the year. After Greenpeace disrupted the AGM last year, there was a large police presence, and for some reason that was not properly explained to us, even though dozens of activists had arranged for access to the AGM, only JA! and an activist from Greenpeace were allowed into the plenary. JA!’s question was met with a dismissive answer, with Total evading responsibility for the impacts of the gas industry on the ground, claiming that responsibility lies with Anadarko.

 

This was a theme that came up in all AGM’s that we attended, including the fourth one, that of Italian company Eni, in Rome. Eni, along with ExxonMobil has the biggest stake in operating the Coral South LNG Project in Mozambique. We found that all the companies that we confronted, including during the one-on-one meetings we had with industry financiers BNP Paribas and BPI (French Public Investment Bank) put all the blame for the impacts on Anadarko. When we pushed them for answers, it became clear that none of these companies had even looked at the Environmental Impact Assessment that Anadarko had made in 2014, and yet were blaming them for all the climate injustices that were taking place. They are conveniently ignorant.

 

JA!’s partners had arranged for us to hold meetings with several authoritative bodies, including Michel Forst, UN Rapporteur on HRD; French parliamentarians from the working group on human rights and TNC’s; the deputy director of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a parliamentarian from political party ally in Spain, Unidas Podemos; Belgian parliamentarians, and party representatives at the European Union.

 

We also met with other organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Action Aid.

 

In each country we spoke at events, to full houses of activists, journalists and the general public, some meetings of over 100 people. Our partners organising the tour had built a media campaign around our visit. Here are links to some of the articles about our struggle in European media and blogs:

 

Publico (Spain)

 

Les Echos (France)

 

Basta (France)

 

Observatories de Multinationales

 

L’Humanite (France)

 

Banktrack

 

Foe Scotland

 

It was great to see the amount of interest in our campaign, once people were made aware of the issue, and on the flipside, frightening to see how little attention the industry had been given in European media. But we believe that this tour has taken us several steps forward in the following ways:

  •  We have made many new partners and allies in the campaign throughout Europe, strengthening our coalition
  • We have shared the campaign with people working on or interested in the issue of fossil fuels and climate justice, including activists, journalists, academics and students.
  • We have directly questioned industry players one on one, from which we received some crucial information
  • We raised the issue in large industry public platforms, AGM’s, leading to attention on written and social media, and making shareholders aware
  • We have brought the issue to the radar of high level individuals on an EU level, and on the level of political parties, parliament and ministries

Now that we have strengthened the foundation of the Campaign in Europe, we must continue to push for answers and accountability. Push for activists in Europe to take their power as European citizens to hold their companies to account, and push them to force their governments, at national and EU level, to take responsibility for those corporations from whom they receive their tax.

1 Area 4 is operated by MRV, a joint venture company comprising ExxonMobil, Eni and CNPC, which holds a 70% interest in the concession for prospection and production in that area. Galp, KOGAS and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Moçambique each hold 10% interest. ExxonMobil will lead the construction and operation of liquefied natural gas production facilities and related infrastructure on behalf of MRV, and Eni will lead the construction and operation of upstream infrastructure, extracting gas from offshore deposits and piping it to the plant.

2 The Area 1 block is operated by Anadarko Mozambique Area 1, Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Anadarko Petroleum group, with a 26.5% stake, ENH Rovuma Area One, a subsidiary of state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, with 15%, Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area1 Ltd.(20%), ONGC Videsh Ltd. (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique BV (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).

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JA! causes a ruckus at the Eni AGM

On Wednesday 14 May, JA! Attended the AGM of Italian oil and gas giant Eni, in Rome, where we put CEO, Claudio Descalzi, Chairperson Emma Marcegaglia and the board of executives on the spot in front of about 50 shareholders, by asking them questions about their work on gas in Mozambique and oil in South Africa that they really did not want to deal with. This was the first time we had been at the Eni AGM and we were able to go with the help of our Italian partners, Re:Common.

The meeting started at 10am and went on till 9pm, unusually late. After submitting written questions two weeks ago, we received the written answers, in Italian, literally as we walked into the meeting, and had to study them while the meeting was already in session, to see what they had or had not answered sufficiently before we were given a chance to speak.

JA! was given 10 minutes for an intervention. We first gave the context of the way Enis Coral Liquid Natural Gas Project was destroying endangered flora and fauna, and forcing people off their land before operations had even started, as well as their oil exploration in Block ER236, off the South Coast of Durban, affecting the livelihoods of at least 20 fishing communities and followed this with a barrage of questions about both of these issues, none of which were properly answered by CEO Descalzi.

While we asked many questions covering a range of topics, the main issues we raised were:

– Why did Eni begin operations in Mozambique in 2006, when they only received their license in 2015, and only completed their environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 2014? (This EIA was done in conjunction with Anadarko)

– Why is Enis gas project in Mozambique releasing greenhouse gases that will increase the whole of Mozambiques carbon emissions by 9.4% by 2022, when their main focus for the next ten years is decarbonisation?

– Why did Eni ignore the poor and marginilised communities of the South Coast of Durban, while only engaging with the wealthy communities at country clubs and upmarket hotels, to do their EIA?

Descalzi was extremely patronising in his responses, saying that Eni had not done any drillingin South Africa, so he is not sure about the forced removals of fishing communities that you (Ilham) are talking about.

He also interrupted JA, to say that Eni is not involved in Area 1 so the EIA for Mozambique But this is a lie, as Enis logo is on the front page of the EIA.

He did not answer the questions about them beginning operations in Mozambique before they received their license. He also claimed that the resettlement process of what we know to be forcefully-removed communities in Mozambique was in line with the EIA.

He said that the answers to the other questions were in the document of written responses, which will be released next month.

After the end of the AGM, Descalzi sought out JA !representative, and thanked JA! for the questions, to which JA! responded that none of the questions had actually been sufficiently answered, and that his so-called responses were offensiveas they contradicted what JA! Has seen on the ground, and which we are told by affected communities. He is basically, JA! said, saying that we are either ignorant or lying.

It was clear that we, and our partners Re:Common had an impact on Descalzi as he was answering our questions, he stumbled, saying Im well-cooked, an Italian saying meaning that he was extremely tired. That he sought Ilham out before anybody else was quite telling, offering her his personal contact details. Now lets see what happens

JA! will publish a more detailed post, the questions asked, and the verbal responses from Descalzi, as well as an analysis. Its important to note that Eni, and Descalzi, along with Shell, are currently defendants in a court case, charged with one of the worlds biggest corruption scandals, allegedly paying $ 1.3 billion in bribes, to Nigerian politicians for the purchase of an oil field in Nigeria. Lets see now, if he keeps his word by responding fully and personally to the questions he has offered to personally answer, while also remembering, Can we trust one of the most corrupt men in the world?

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