Tag Archives: Human rights

TOTAL’S 2021 15 BILLION EUROS PROFIT COMES AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PEOPLE OF THE GLOBAL SOUTH

This week, Total announced that in 2021 it made 15 billion Euros, the biggest profits any company has ever made in French history. They are unashamedly boasting about this money, money that will go to wealthy European shareholders, money that they have made at the expense of the climate and people and the environment in the global South.

Total is one of the biggest players in Mozambique’s gas industry, leading the Mozambique liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project and is constructing the onshore Afungi LNG Park, which houses the aerodrome, treatment plants, port, offices and other support facilities for all the projects. To make way for the 70 square kilometre park, the company displaced over 550 families, thousands of people, from surrounding communities.

Even though extraction hasn’t even happened yet, fishing communities who had been living mere metres from the ocean for generations were displaced to a ‘relocation village’ more than 10 km inland, with no way of getting to the sea. Farmers who had now lost their land, were given small, inadequate pieces of land far from the relocation houses they had been given.

Their ‘consultation’ process with these communities has been a joke. In meetings between communities and companies, community leaders – many of whom have developed financially beneficial relationships with the industry – are present, and people avoided speaking out for fear of losing their compensation, or of physical threats. This is exacerbated by communities’ lack of basic knowledge law, thereby unable to demand their rights.

JA! works closely with communities on the ground in the gas region, and have seen how the only jobs created for locals were menial, unskilled and temporary. Communities’ complaints to Total about irregular compensation payments were waved away. And now that Total’s project was paused in April 2021, they have stopped compensation payments completely.

The project will also have irreversible impacts on the climate and destroy coral reefs and endangered species of the UNESCO Biosphere, the Quirimbas Archipelago.

But Total’s crimes go beyond Mozambique, to many other Southern countries. One of their planned projects, the East Africa crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) has been the subject of major campaigns by civil society and even a lawsuit in France by Friends of the Earth France. According to the StopEACOP Campaign:

“Stretching for nearly 1,445 kilometers, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) would have disastrous consequences for local communities, for wildlife and for the entire planet – we have to stop it. The project threatens to displace thousands of families and farmers from their land. It poses significant risks to water resources and wetlands in both Uganda and Tanzania – including the Lake Victoria basin, which over 40 million people rely upon for drinking water and food production. The pipeline would rip through numerous sensitive biodiversity hotspots, and risk significantly degrading several nature reserves crucial to the preservation of threatened elephant, lion and chimpanzee species.”

To read more about EACOP see: https://www.stopeacop.net/

In Myanmar, Total was providing the oppressive military junta with the majority of its revenue, from its Yadana gas project. 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. Recently Total claimed it would stop its operations in Myanmar, but again, it will be getting away with the destruction it has left in is wake.

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.

For more see https://ja4change.org/2021/10/22/france-rwanda-and-total/

in the week of the announcement, many organisations from around the world held a social media storm, where tweeted about Total’s actions and ‘hijacked’ their twitter, facebook and linkedIn accounts.

It is inhumane that Total and its shareholders use their profits to have oysters and champagne in Paris’ restaurants, while this money comes by violating the rights of human beings, their bodies, the environment and the climate.

In Mozambique, Total must stop the gas exploitation entirely, but it cannot slink away from the mess it has already made. It must take responsibility and provide reparations for all the lives destroyed, all the lands grabbed, and the livelihoods lost.

Total must stop its destruction all over the global south, and the world, but that by itself does not erase years of abuse and dispossession overnight! Total and the fossil fuel industry gas industry must be held accountable for the impacts and human rights violations faced by affected communities and be obliged to fully compensate the communities and remediate the damage caused!

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It is a mistake to insist on extractive mega-projects”

Anabela Lemos says Mozambique should not move forward with gas projects

This interview was originally published in Jornal Savana in Portuguese on 10th December, 2021.

At the beginning of November, a great controversy erupted, mainly on social networks, as a result of statements made by Anabela Lemos, an environmental activist, who argued that Mozambique should not proceed with the natural gas exploration project. But what arguments support this position, at a time when most social sectors in Mozambique, including civil society, see gas as a great opportunity to develop the country and fight poverty?

In an interview conducted by Boaventura Monjane*, Anabela Lemos, founder of “Justiça Ambiental” and one of the loudest voices in the environmental movement, responds to the question, arguing that insisting on this type of extractivist mega-projects will always contribute to serious violations of human rights, will cause irreversible damage to the environment, and will deepen the climate crisis. She also claims that Mozambique’s position at COP26 was largely inadequate.

At the beginning of November, in an interview to a television channel, Anabela Lemos stated and defended that Mozambique should not proceed with the natural gas exploration project in Cabo Delgado. Her statements provoked several reactions, mainly on social media. Can you explain this position?

By choosing to explore natural gas, Mozambique is following the same path followed by other African countries such as Nigeria and Libya that have also tried to develop through the exploration of fossil fuels. In all the examples we have on the continent, these projects have led to an increase in corruption, conflict and militarisation, national debt, poverty and a general deterioration in the standard of living of local populations, without having generated sufficient benefits for the country. This is not a position of radical activists. Even the World Bank has acknowledged, in its Extractive Industry Report, that the oil and gas industries in developing countries have not only failed to improve the lives of the poorest people, but have made them even worse off.

Mozambique is one of the countries most affected by climate change, and is looking to boost one of the industries that contributes most to this crisis, in the midst of a global movement calling to end the exploitation of fossil fuels. This is a contradiction and therefore we have to fight for our right to say no to environmentally destructive and socially unjust projects.

What do you mean by the right to say no?

The fight for the right to say no aims to challenge the usual way in which mega-projects are allowed in our countries, where public consultations or negotiations are carried out in the final stages of the project only to agree on small details and compensations. The right to say no aims to bring about a drastic change in the way affected people and civil society are brought into these debates. If the option of saying no is on the table, it is an indication that the people have power, and this opens up space for creating real debates about the best paths for development for the country.

This right started being demanded in several popular struggles of communities directly affected by extractivist projects, whose negative impacts affect these communities. People lose their land, livelihoods, access to rivers and the sea, ability to support themselves and to survive. The environment is destroyed and the people who survive are harassed. When everything is exhausted, corporations leave, leaving a trail of destruction and a huge debt for the State and the people.

For us perhaps the greatest reference to the right to say no is an inspiring struggle of a community in South Africa, in the Eastern Cape province. The community association Amadiba Crisis Committee, together with a team of lawyers and a South African civil society organisation, took its Ministry of Mineral Resources to court. And they got the higher court to recognise that a titanium mining project in that region could not proceed without the consent of the local community.

Does JA! fight against any and all development projects? After all, didn’t the industrialised countries develop with these types of projects?

We say no to any project that we believe will bring more negative than positive impacts for the people and the environment. Unfortunately, we are part of a national and global context in which governments are captured by the interests of large transnational corporations, and therefore the projects that are coming to our country will invariably benefit local and global elites, as they are not intended to solve the needs of the people.

Regarding the argument that industrialised countries developed with these types of projects, this is a misconception. European countries, for example, controlled virtually every component of the global value chain. They got rich from patents, from research, from manufacturing the equipment, from exploring, processing, and transporting resources. They became rich because they controlled and owned all the significant companies and markets at that particular time. And they got rich mainly because they colonised and exploited countries in the Global South. No African country that is already exploiting its fossil resources has developed from the exploitation of these, as it controls absolutely nothing in the value chain or any other critical component of this industry. So, regarding the gas, we’re actually being exploited once again.

Regarding the climate crisis, there has been a lot of debate about the right of less developed countries, such as Mozambique, to exploit their fossil fuel reserves to boost their economic growth. Don’t you think that industrialised countries should have a greater responsibility to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, rather than countries that have contributed little to these emissions?

Certainly. That is why we speak of historical responsibility, because it was the countries of the North that created the climate crisis, and the countries of the South, such as Mozambique, are suffering the greatest impacts. This means that the past and present actions of industrialised countries are creating damage and losses as we saw with cyclones Idai and Kenneth, with direct and indirect economic losses projected at $3 billion.

As a country, we don’t have to lead the way in terms of climate action. But this does not mean that in Mozambique we should explore gas or any other fossil fuel, and contribute to global emissions. We can pretend we’re fighting for a right, but given the climate crisis and the other impacts I’ve already mentioned, we’re basically fighting for the right to jump into an abyss.

But we can be an example of a country that is looking to its future and the future of planet earth, by moving towards a more sustainable economic model, while demanding that the Global North drastically reduce its emissions and pay the South a climate debt. This financing will allow the country to develop and be able to provide clean, just and decentralised energy to the entire population.

In Mozambique, and in many other African countries, energy poverty still affects the majority of the population. Many families still depend on polluting energy sources that are very harmful to health, such as firewood and charcoal. How does JA! propose to resolve these issues in Mozambique?

In a country like ours, the priority is certainly to create a strategy of decentralisation and diversification of energy sources, analyse the country’s energy potential by different areas and geographies, and build a system based on justice and the right of everyone to have access to a safe, healthy and clean energy source. Part of these studies already exist, completed by JA! and other researchers, but they continue to be largely ignored.

In September 2021, Friends of the Earth Africa published a “Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa” which shows that it is not only urgent but completely feasible to reduce emissions, transform our energy system and make a just transition in our continent.

The plan, based on the work of renowned academic Dr Sven Teske of the University of Sydney, outlines how the continent can dismantle existing dirty energy systems and achieve 100% renewable energy for all by 2050. This plan would require more than 300 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy by 2030, as agreed by the African Union, and over 2000 GW by 2050. The plan also highlights the potential to create 7 million new jobs in renewable energy on the African continent. It is not just a technical plan, but a vision of how renewable energy systems can serve people and protect biodiversity.

Don’t you think that a lot could be done if each of us, individually, had greater environmental awareness? I’m talking about reducing consumption levels, not throwing garbage on the floor, saving water – with these types of actions wouldn’t we be able to achieve major changes?

It is always good for individuals to practice sustainable habits and protect the environment. But individual actions, as important as they are, must somehow aim at more structural changes in society, because if they are not intended to bring about a general change in how we understand the system and what attitude we take, they have no real impact.

Furthermore, we need to recognize the ecological footprint (a method of calculating the pressure that the human population, and each of us in particular, exerts on natural resources and the planet) of the majority of the Mozambican population; with the exclusion of our own elites, it is absurdly small. The huge ecological impact of industries makes any action at the individual level completely meaningless. Mozal, for example, consumes more water and electricity than all domestic consumption in the city of Maputo. And it is a company that did not even pay dividends to the Mozambican State throughout 2019.

So the big problem here is that industrial consumption and the linear model of extraction (production – use – disposal) are not compatible with ecological balance. We need circular systems that are capable of reusing all the components produced, as raw material in other processes. Of course, reducing consumption levels, especially in rich countries and our domestic elites, is fundamental for this to be viable.

Looking at the impacts of extractivist mega-projects in Mozambique, many claim that their positive impacts are not felt due to high levels of corruption. How do you see this issue of corruption?

The debate about corruption in our country is on the rise and we all see the impacts of corruption on a daily basis. This scenario must be urgently reversed and we need to fight it at all levels. But we also need to recognise that corruption is intrinsically related to the economic viability of extractive projects. If it weren’t for corruption, they wouldn’t advance. Buying off some government officials to sponsor this type of investment project will always be cheaper than bearing all the real costs of fair compensation for land expropriation, decent wages, damage to health, restoration of the degraded environment, and the impacts of climate change, among others things.

By solving the problem of corruption, would it be possible for Mozambique to be able to exploit the gas in a way that would benefit the country and the majority of Mozambicans?

The problem of corruption will not be resolved within the current development model that we have in the country. But beyond that, there are economic trends around fossil fuels that are undeniable, for anyone seeking to examine. Coal is a declining resource, with several countries (including China) already with divestment strategies and phasing out coal projects. Fifteen years ago when we started betting everything on coal, the scenarios were absurdly optimistic. We believe that gas extraction will follow a very similar path to coal. According to calculations by the Global Energy Monitor, there are already close to $100 billion in gas investments at risk of becoming stranded assets. Coal had a slow transition to become an unproductive asset, but with gas this risk will be faster and more abrupt, because it is a less labour-intensive industry.

As if this were not enough, current gas exploration contracts provide enormous benefits to private companies during the first decades, and only later will the country gain from exploration. All of this should be worrying for Mozambique, as we have major infrastructure problems, socio-economic instability and conflicts that are causing delays, putting gas projects even more at risk of becoming unproductive assets and having a minimal contribution to the country’s economy. Other studies such as those carried out by CIP, which do not focus on the risk of unproductive assets, still project weak gas contributions to the country’s economy, due to tax exemptions, tax havens, low gas prices, high operating costs, among others. And this, of course, without even counting the costs of militarisation and security that will fall on the State.

At the national level, some see environmentalists or human rights defenders as having anti-development agendas or accuse them of being manipulated by outside interests. How do you, Anabela Lemos and JA! deal with these criticisms?

The reason for the attacks on JA! because of our views is because our views are very upsetting to the interests of the elites – both national and international. There is no interest in having in-depth debates on these issues because then we will arrive at the undeniable facts that these projects do not bring development. There is a lot of information available and studies to be done that confirm our positions.

We are always available to debate views and alternatives, but we don’t waste too much time on strategies that are based on hearsay and misinformation and are intended to avoid deeper discussions.

What do you think of proposals like the one tried in Ecuador, in which more than 300 million dollars were pledged to stop the exploration of 846 million barrels of oil beneath the Yasuní National Park, one of the richest areas of tropical forest in the world. Do you think this solution would be viable for Mozambique?

Yes. With this kind of funding, and access to patents and technology that are unfortunately mostly owned by the Global North, countries like Mozambique can focus on energy transition.

It is very clear that funding for this exists. Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) state that around $50 to $100 billion USD are lost each year due to tax evasion. Data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) show that $89 billion USD are lost in illicit financial flows. Data from the Tax Justice Network shows that $600 billion USD are lost every year due to tax fraud. Friends of the Earth International figures show that the wealth of the 53 richest people around the world could provide 100% renewable energy for Africa by 2030. We clearly know that this money exists, so we need to fight to demand the political will necessary to make the changes we need. This fund could also come from the payment of climate debts by industrialised countries.

The UN climate summit in Glasgow, UK, has just ended. World leaders have pledged to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050. Do you find this goal realistic? What did you think of Mozambique’s position at that summit?

Mozambique’s position at COP26, given that we are one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, was largely inadequate. We should have brought a discourse relaying respective demands around the right to life, the right to develop our country without exploring fossil fuels, and the right to the climate debt. COP26 is a suicide pact for Africa that African negotiator Lumumba Di-Aping warned us about at the 2009 COP. Twelve years have passed and African leaders want to set the continent on fire.

The 2050 goal is completely unrealistic. As we often say at JA!, these negotiations are debating how many people we agree to let die, how many forests we accept to destroy, how many islands will be submerged, so that fossil fuel companies and captured governments can continue to increase emissions and their profits.

Rich countries do not take responsibility for creating the climate crisis. They also fail to meet the financial commitments for countries in the Global South to embark on a just transition. Furthermore, we are shocked that they have reached an agreement on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement – carbon markets. This undermines emissions reduction targets because it allows polluters to continue to pollute, giving them an escape route. A study published by the “Glasgow Agreement” during COP26 demonstrated how there are at least 800 new fossil fuel projects under exploration. COP26 was nothing more than an insubstantial conversation to safeguard the interests of those who want to continue to pollute.

A photo of an activist holding a sign that said ‘Stop funding gas in Mozambique’ also raised a lot of controversy and debate on social media. It is known however that a group of activists in the UK have filed legal action to force the government to withdraw from Cabo Delgado gas. Is JA! involved in this campaign?

The British agency United Kingdom Export Finance (UKEF) has pledged more than $1 billion for gas projects in Mozambique. The gas industry in Mozambique has already had irreversible impacts even before any gas has been extracted. People have lost their homes and livelihoods, and the climate impact of the construction phase, which is not even complete, is already significant. It is essential that people know this, because corporations, pension funds, investors and even governments of various countries (with tax money) are financing these projects. This is unacceptable and a big risk for the Mozambican people. And that’s why we support Friends of the Earth groups in the UK, who are working in solidarity with us, and challenging their own government in court to stop funding Mozambique’s gas because of its negative impacts. We need an energy transition. Instead of gas, we want people-centred renewable energy.

This interview was originally published in Jornal Savana in Portuguese on 10th December, 2021.



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SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

The partition of Palestine into a jewish State (55% of the territory) and a palestinian State (45% of the territory) that followed soon after the constitution of the United Nations (UN) was proposed and implemented by the the UN Special Committee for Palestine, then led by the United States of America and the USSR. This plan represented, to a great extent, the interests of the winning powers that emerged from World War II and it was justified by the genocide practiced against the jews by the nazi regime. In truth, it was a project of modern colonialism of the kind where foreign countries decide by themselves, with a ruler and set square, on the division of the territories and the future of their populations without consideration for their rights and aspirations.

In this context, in which the UN had only a weak participation from the nations of the South, the plan was approved, even though at the time the Arab states did not recognize the new State of Israel. From the war that followed, between Israel and the Arab states and Palestinian forces (1948-1949), Israel came out on top, gaining more ground, and amplifying the territory given to it by a near 20 thousand kilometres squared (75% of the surface of Palestine).

In reality, the conflicts on the ground, including the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, begun at and earlier date, in December of 1947, with a series of attacks on Palestinian villages carried out by zionist militias. 300.000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands and homes

This is the tragic sequence in which the Israeli occupation has, for seven decades, removed nearly everything from the Palestinians, let alone their dignity and just desire of being free.

The exercised oppression is systemic and the discrimination is institutional: expropriation from the land, forced change of residence, control of movements, management of water and electricity, denial of essential services. During this pandemic, even the access to vaccines has been calculatedly discretionary. In simple terms, it is pure and hard colonialism. If apartheid is recognized by the UN as a crime against humanity, why is Israel not judged for this very crime? Because ocidental values are only to be used when it is convenient for those who have power to benefit.

We, organizations from the mozambican civil society, manifest, through this declaration, our profound solidarity with the Palestinian people and believe that solidarity at the international level is fundamental for the advancement of our collective struggles for freedom, for human rights, and for justice. We echoe the words of Nelson Mandela and many other pan-africanists and affirm that we will not be free until all palestinians are free.

In the past month of May (2021), many organisations and civil society groups marched in the city of Maputo in solidarity with the people of Cabo Delgado and Palestine suffering the horrors of war and all types of direct, structural, and cultural violence.

We remember on this special date, the 25th of November – International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women – the Palestinian women that have suffered the horrors of this occupation as well as the violences that are specifically directed and practiced against them. We highlight their courage and their commitment to the fight for freedom of their people.

We renew today, with this manifesto, our solidarity toward the people of Palestine. We commit ourselves to being an active voice in the fight for the recognition of the inalienable rights of Palestinians and we reiterate our deepest desire to unite, by straightening the bonds of friendship between Mozambique and Palestine with the conviction that only the freedom of all nations, without any exception, is the guarantee of world peace and justice for all.

Maputo, 10th December 2021

Vasco Magoene Tembe Júnior

Terezinha da Silva

Alternactiva – Acção pela Emancipação Social

Associação de Amizade e Solidariedade com a Palestina (ASP)

Associação de Jovens Combatentes Montes Errego (AJOCME)

Hikone – Associação para o Empoderamento da Mulher

Justiça Ambiental (JA!)

Missão Tabita

Movimento Activista Moçambique (MaM)

Movimento Moçambicano das Mulheres Rurais (MMMR)

Mulher, Género e Desenvolvimento (MuGeDe)

Research For Mozambique (REFORMAR)

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Challenging the UK government in court: Stop financing gas in Mozambique!

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FoE EWNI) are challenging UK Export Finance’s (UKEF) decision to fund a mega gas project in Mozambique. They will be in court on 7-9 December. Below JA! explains the reasons for supporting this court case.

The $50 billion gas industry in Mozambique has created an irreversible mess before any gas has even been extracted. People have lost their livelihoods and homes, and the climate impact just from the construction phase, which has not yet been completed, has already been significant. It is crucial for the global public to know this, because corporations, pension funds, investors and even governments around the world (with taxpayers’ money), are financing these projects.

UKEF alone has agreed to finance over $1 billion of Total’s $24 billion Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Project, one of three already in construction.

Evicted and betrayed

Industry players are well aware of the issues the industry has created and will create in future: JA! and our partners and friends in the UK and around the world have told them several times, in letters, in parliament, at shareholder meetings and protests and now, in court.

To make way for Total’s Afungi LNG Park, which will house the support facilities for the industry, the company has displaced thousands of people from fishing and farming communities around the site, to a relocation village far from their land, and 10km inland from the sea, leaving them without livelihoods. Since the relocation plots were so small, many people opted for inadequate compensation, following a consultation process that violated several Free, Prior and Informed Consent principles. JA! works closely with communities on the ground in the gas region, and have seen how the only jobs created for locals were menial, unskilled and temporary. Communities’ complaints to Total about irregular compensation payments were waved away.

Sparking violence and death

Cabo Delgado, the site of Total’s project, is in the midst of a deadly conflict, and the gas industry has contributed to this violence. Fighting between the armies of Mozambique and Rwanda, insurgents and mercenaries has turned Cabo Delgado into a war zone. While the government and the industry insist that the cause of the violence is religious, the reality is much more complex. For years now, social tensions have grown as already-poor local communities see their province’s wealth being plundered by national, and international economic and political elites and extractive companies. All the while their complaints and basic human rights and needs are ignored and disregarded. This violence has made 800,000 people refugees, and thousands have been killed. Many of the people displaced by the industry have had to flee to other cities or nearby provinces, and do not know if they will ever be able to return to their homes. Journalists and activists have disappeared, some never to be seen again.

After a deadly attack on Palma village in March, Total claimed ‘force majeure’, pausing its project indefinitely and pulling its staff out of the area. It has since not made any compensation payments to community members and has stated that it will not be fulfilling its payment obligations to contractors, including local businesses.

Severe damage to global climate

The climate impact of the project will be extremely high and is totally misaligned with the Paris Agreement. The environmental impact assessment shows that just the construction phase of one LNG train (liquefaction facility) will increase the greenhouse gas emissions of Mozambique by up to 14%. There are plans to construct six.

The country’s record gives little assurance that gas, or any fossil fuel for that matter, will bring any benefit to the people. Even though the country has been a fossil-fuel exporter for many years, still only about 30% of the population has electricity access, and it remains one of the poorest in the world. 95% of the gas will be exported to India, France, the UK, China and Indonesia among other countries.

The Mozambique government have demonstrated before that they will not invest profits into the wealth of their country. Historically, they have provided tax relief to fossil fuel exporters and plan to do so again – costing Mozambicans around $5.3 billion. The Mozambique government cannot be relied upon to support the communities suffering at the hands of the fossil fuel industry.

What does JA! do to fight this?

JA! works closely with communities who are affected by the gas industry. We are watchdogs – watching what Total and the gas industry is doing to local people, and working with these communities to fight the industry at the grassroots level. We support communities with making complaints, maintaining communication with the industry and educating them about their rights.

We take these voices to an international level with our close partners where people around the world can hear – activists, the public, the media, the courts and those in power.  

What is the solution?

In March 2021, the UK government announced the end of overseas fossil fuel financing, but this came too late for the Mozambique LNG project, agreeing to funding in July 2020. Though it is heartening that during COP26, several countries involved in the Mozambique gas industry committed to end overseas fossil fuel financing after 2022, however, this doesn’t get them off the hook for the destruction they are already funding – they need to cancel their current financing agreements with Total and the gas industry, and with the Mozambique LNG project on hold, this is an ideal opportunity. But Total cannot just run away from what they have done. They need to make reparations for the mess they have already created.

Countries in the Global North need to pay their climate debt to Mozambique, cancel historical debts and provide sufficient climate financing for a move to alternative energy sources, renewable energy technology without intellectual property patents, and education on these technologies.

What can the UK people do to help?

You can support the court case, by sharing it on social media and following Fo

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FoE EWNI) are challenging UK Export Finance’s (UKEF) decision to fund a mega gas project in Mozambique. They will be in court on 7-9 December. Below JA! explains the reasons for supporting this court case.

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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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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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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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