Tag Archives: mozambique

Stop Gassing the Continent! – COMMUNIQUE OF OILWATCH AFRICA CONFERENCE 2022

Oilwatch Africa (OWA) held the 2022 Conference and Annual General Meeting at Accra, Ghana between 8th -12th August. The theme of the continental gathering was Stop Gassing the continent: Pipelines of Discontent. The Conference had presentations and representation from CSOs, activists, scholars, journalists, fisherfolks and Eco-defenders from fossil fuels-affected communities across the continent and provided another opportunity to deepen OWA’s mission as a network of peoples and organisations building solidarity to end expansion of oil and gas activities given its negative impacts on people and the environment in Africa.


Key observations made by delegates included:

  • That the current rush for Africa’s oil, gas and mineral resources amounts to a perpetuation of extractive modes of colonial exploitation, which condemned the continent to predatory slave trade, followed by the massive raping of agricultural and forest resources, before the current iteration with its focus on minerals and fossil fuels.
  • That the argument that Africa deserves to utilise its natural resources for energy sufficiency and development belies the fact that extraction of natural resources has historically been export-driven for the benefit of the consumption needs of the global north and scarcely targets the needs of the continent and the rhetoric by African leaders that fossil fuels could be utilised by the continent as a “less harmful” transition fuel is a delusion as gas contributes massively to climate change through its methane content.

  • That the continuous financing and development of massive pipeline projects such as the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, the West African Gas Pipeline Project WAGP, and the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline, among others constitute an aggression on the land rights of communities and portend massive livelihood disruptions, conflicts, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation across the continent.
  • That the current trend in which multinational oil and gas companies sell off their stakes in onshore oil and gas assets and move out of African countries or further offshore amounts to an abdication of responsibility for historical damage caused by their activities in these countries.
  • That the Paris Agreement and its 1.5 degrees Celsius target as driven by the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) is a huge betrayal for Africa as the continent warms at about 50% above the global average, meaning that going by the NDCs, Africa is condemned to literally burn at the best of scenarios.
  • That Africa is rich in renewable energies and given the growing competitiveness of clean energy technologies and has the potential to advance its energy transition along a zero-carbon pathway. For instance, Africa has the world’s highest solar potential but currently accounts for just one.
  • That industrialised countries have demonstrated insincerity by routinely spending close to $2 trillion annually on military hardware and warfare while foot-dragging on climate commitments, especially adaptation finance.
  • That emerging global and regional policy norms around a so-called blue economy revolution, constitute a massive threat to African coastal communities’ maritime and aquatic resources, and the continent’s environment, and will further incentivize illegal and overfishing in her waters.
  • That there has been a rise in the victimisation of Eco-defenders across the continent by oil companies and their state collaborators, and this repressive climate has been worsened in recent times by the proliferation of so-called oil and gas regulatory reforms (such as Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Act 2021) that shrink civic space by constraining the voice and agency of extraction-affected communities in decision making related to their natural resources and environment.


Oilwatch Africa denounced efforts to lock Africa in the exploitative fossil fuels pathway to meet the energy needs of polluting nations and to feed the greed of the fossil fuels industry. To ensure a just transition and secure climate justice for our peoples, the conference made the following demands:

  1. There must be a halt to all new coal, oil, or gas exploration and extraction activities in Africa in line with the imperatives of the energy transition. We specifically demand the stoppage of oil exploration and expansion plans in the Virunga basin of the DRC, the Keta region of Ghana, the Okavango Delta of Botswana, the Orange River Basin in Namibia, and a halt on all plans for the West African Gas Pipeline Project, the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline Project, and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project, among others.
  2. That African governments must leverage the hosting of COP27 this year to demand far-reaching measures on climate adaptation and finance, including emissions cut at the source.
  3. African governments should demand from polluting industrialised countries an annual climate debt of $2 trillion being the amount they currently spend on military hardware and warfare annually. This will pay for loss and damage and serve as partial reparations for historical harms.
  4. That oil and gas multinationals currently planning to divest and escape responsibility for their historical damage to African communities (such as Shell and Exxon Mobil in Nigeria’s Niger Delta) should restore the environment and compensate communities for ecocide committed in their territories before their exit.
  5. African states must develop Africa-centred and just energy transition plans where such do not exist and where they do, to mainstream such plans into broader national development plans in ways that take cognizance of Africa’s huge renewable potential.
  6. African countries and the African Union must tread with caution to the so-called blue economy, and especially denounce unconditionally all attempts to normalise Deep Seabed Mining (DSM) within the continent.
  7. International Financial Institutions, including the African Development Bank and export credit agencies to cut all financing to fossil fuel projects in Africa
  8. African governments and international organisations to respect the right to life of human rights and Eco-defenders in the continent who are increasingly repressed.

Adopted on the 11th of August 2022, by Oilwatch Africa members and organisations from:

  1. Côte d’Ivoire
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo
  3. Ghana
  4. Kenya
  5. Mozambique
  6. Nigeria
  7. Senegal
  8. South Africa
  9. South Sudan
  10. Swaziland/Eswatini
  11. Tchad
  12. Togo
  13. Uganda

Organisations/Networks:

  1. FishNet Alliance
  2. Policy Alert
  3. We the People
  4. Peace Point Development Foundation
  5. Oilwatch Ghana
  6. Oil Change International
  7. Host Communities Network, Nigeria
  8. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
  9. Kebetkache Women Development Centre
  10. Foundation for Development in the Sahel (FDS)
  11. Health of Mother Earth Foundation
  12. Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)
  13. Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE)
  14. Justiça Ambiental (JA)
  15. Ground Work
  16. Friends of Lake Turkana
  17. Femmes Solidaire (FESO)
  18. Centre for Research and Action on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CRADESC)
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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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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.

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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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The Despair of the people of Cabo Delgado

A week after the insurgents attacked the district headquarters of Palma, the people of that district continue to arrive in Pemba city, with faces full of fear, sadness and, above all, uncertainty. Although about 9000 displaced people have been accounted for so far, there is information coming from those same displaced people, and also confirmed by the Ministry of National Defense, that there are still people hiding in the fields.

The displaced persons tell how it was on 24 March, a date that will never be erased from their memories. Reports say that rumours had been circulating since the morning of that Wednesday that the Al-Shabaab were going to attack the district. But it was not taken into account because of previous rumours circulating in that district two weeks before the attack, which said that the insurgents were in the fields near the village preparing for an attack. The frequent shootings that already characterised the daily life in the village of Palma, also contributed to these rumours falling into disregard on the part of some people. On the other hand, people placed trust in the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) of Mozambique that seemed to have a heavy presence in Palma.

However, according to reports from the displaced people who actually experienced the attack, at around 4pm the attack began in the village of Maʼguna, 800 meters from the village of Palma, when most of the population of that village fleeing the armed confrontation in Ma’guna, came into Palma. Two shoot-outs started simultaneously in the Quibuidi neighborhood, via Nhica do Rovuma and at the Aerodrome of Palma. At that time, everyone abandoned their homes and possessions and ran for their lives in an uncontrolled way. The insurgents appeared from different parts, and since they use a uniform identical to that worn by our Defense and Security Forces, the only thing that differentiates them are the scarves tied to their heads and their bare feet. It was clearly noted that their initial intention was to destroy the government infrastructure. The only safe area to escape was to the sides of Palma beach but at some point, certain points on the beach also became unsafe.

We heard moving and frightening stories from those who lived that Wednesday under fire and the days that followed. There were several kilometres walked on foot and under fire, with fear, hunger and thirst. Mothers ran carrying their young children on their backs. One of these children was hit by a stray bullet, but luckily it entered the buttock and lodged in the leg. That is the little one, Cadir Fazil, 1 year and 2 months old, born on February 21, 2020.

On Monday, 29 March, due to the fact that the baby was wounded, his mother and aunt were given priority on one of UNHCR’s humanitarian flights and were treated urgently at the provincial hospital in Pemba. There have been situations of despair of men refusing to board humanitarian flights and ships because they were unable to locate their wives and children or any other member of their family; children begging for their parents’ lives and yet, being forced to witness their cruel murders. In spite of all this climate of terror, the class difference did not cease to prevail among the victims of Palma. At the Amarula hotel, where government officials and some foreigners took refuge, a helicopter landed twice, the first time to evacuate the district administrator and the second time to evacuate the owner of the Hotel, leaving behind the various people who only had the option of joining the caravan, which was unfortunately ambushed along the way.

The Quiwia and Quirinde forests are still home to people who struggle for their lives because of hunger and thirst. Every day we received unclear information about events in Palma, as the total break in communications remains in that district still, and it may remain so until the crossfire between insurgents and the military ceases.

After several complaints about the silence of the President of the Republic, he took the opportunity to comment on the matter, at the launch of one of the headquarters of the National Social Security Institute (INSS) in the southern district of Matutuíne, Maputo province, where he made a brief mention of what happened in Palma in a simplistic way, and minimised what happened. From the speech made by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, two questions arose. Firstly, for having stated that there have been worse attacks to Palma and that it was not even very intense, the following two questions remain:

– What was the worst attack that has occurred from 2017 until today?

– Why after the worst attack took place, were there not measures taken to prevent a new attack from occurring?

Another statement by the President that drew attention was when he said that we should not lose focus, that Mozambicans should not be “disturbed”. However, it is revolting to hear this when, in one week, about 9000 people were evacuated from Palma by land, air and sea, many of whom do not know how they will survive, since they have abandoned everything they had in their village of Palma.

– What should these people now be focusing on?

– Is it wrong for these displaced people to be disturbed, after having to focus only on surviving?

We must not forget that there are already about 300,000 displaced people living in transition reception centres and resettlement centres so far.

The first displaced persons of this war are being resettled practically permanently in the surrounding districts of the city of Pemba and now with the attack on Vila de Palma, many more arrive, although proper conditions are still not created for the displaced people of Macomia, Quissanga, Mocimboa da Praia and Muidumbe. Should we not be disturbed when we have no answers for the hundreds of people who arrive in Pemba and other parts of the country, coming from the attacked districts without even knowing if they will ever be able to return?

Should we be undaunted and serene in the face of the massacres that we have been experiencing since 2017?

So, Mr. President, since 2017, we have been ‘disturbed’, since 2017 we have howled and called for an end to the attacks and demanded that concrete measures must be taken, but because perhaps Mr. president has a different focus than ours, so tell us, in desperate situations like this, what should we do to not lose focus?

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

countries where cambridge analytics meddled

countries where Cambridge analytics meddled

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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