Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa Launched by Friends of the Earth Africa

Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa Launched by Friends of the Earth Africa



Friends of the Earth Africa

Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa Launched by Friends of the Earth Africa

50 organisations endorse the Plan 


Friends of the Earth Africa today launched ‘A Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa’ which offers a practical and much-needed opportunity to change the trajectory of energy development, distribution and access on the African continent. The report stresses the urgency to democratise energy systems, reduce the power of transnational corporations and enable peoples and communities to access sufficient energy to live a dignified life. 

The report which was launched during a webinar with key climate justice voices demands a complete shift from current dirty energy systems to achieve 100% Renewable Energy in Africa. The plan found that it is technically and financially feasible, with an annual investment requirement of around US$130 billion per year. It lays out clear targets for this vision, with over 300GW of new renewable energy by 2030, as agreed by the African Union, and over 2000GW by 2050.  It also shows that the finance and investment needed to achieve the 100% renewable energy goal can be done through public finance from the global North, ending tax dodging and dropping the debt. 

Providing key insights of the report, Dipti Bhatnagar, the coordinator of the Climate Justice and Energy program for Friends of the Earth International, said: 

People are facing multiple crises on this continent. We need to stop the climate crisis and bring about a just and feminist energy transition that actually serves the need of people and planet. This report shows the way to power Africa with renewable energy while also trying to stem the climate crisis, supporting employment, gender justice, reducing inequality and pushing for a just recovery. The finance for this exists. We demand our leaders show the political will for this urgent transition.”

This view was shared by another panellist, Kwami Kpondzo of Friends of the Earth Togo, who said:

 “It is time for African governments, public and private financial institutions to end their interest and investment in dirty energy in Africa and open the doors further for democratised, low-cost renewable energy accessible to all including women, youth, local communities and indigenous peoples”.

The discussions and comments during the launch highlighted the importance of understanding the potential of RE to affect different sectors and groups of society, specifically women. Trusha Reddy, Programme Head for Energy & Climate Justice at WoMin African Alliance stressed that “our governments can either go with increasing energy access through clean energy that supports and is led by women or to get locked into dirty energy and drive us to climate and ecological crisis.”

The report explores the loss of human life and the damage to African economies wrought by Covid-19 that has exposed the chronic weaknesses and injustices in the continent’s energy and health systems. The challenges of renewable energy are being experienced throughout the continent. Hamza Hamouchene of Transnational Institute shared the experiences in North Africa and stated:

 “a swift energy transition to renewables is becoming inevitable even in mainstream discussions and policy fora. What the FoE Africa report highlights is the need for political will from those who are governing us as well as the necessary funding. This would entail stopping the wealth drain from Africa, the ending of debt servitude and the payment of ecological and climate debts owed to countries of the global South. The report also aptly grapples with one fundamental question which is how we make sure that this transition can be just, inclusive and democratic without reproducing the same patterns of dispossession and enclosure.

Similarly, Omar Elmawi, the campaign coordinator of the Stop East African Crude Oil Pipeline and deCOALonize campaigns, from Kenya, made an appeal to elected officials. Elmawi said: “to see avoiding emissions as an opportunity and not a burden. It is time to shift gears and move away from this path that is leading us to destruction.”

The Plan would bring electricity to hundreds of millions and create over 7 million jobs in order to drive a Just Recovery from COVID, address climate change and reduce inequality. It includes a political statement that has been signed and endorsed by 50 organisations across the continent – all echoing the demand for clean and affordable energy for hundreds of millions of Africans, that governments must take effective measures to prevent the Corporate Capture of democracy and stresses the possibility of a Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for a 100% Renewable Energy in Africa.


The report can be accessed at the links below:

ENGLISH : foeafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/FoE-Africa-Just-Recovery-Energy-Plan-for-Africa-ENG.pdf

FRENCH: foeafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/FoEI-Africa-Just-Recovery-Energy-Plan-for-Africa-FR-mr.pdf

PORTUGUESE: foeafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/FoEI-Africa-Just-Recovery-Energy-Plan-for-Africa-PT-mr.pdf

The Political Statement on the Just Recovery Renewable Energy for Africa via the links below:

ENGLISH : http://foeafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/FoEI-Africa-Just-Recovery-Energy-Plan-for-Africa-political-statement-ENG-rhr.pdf

FRENCH: http://foeafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Declaracao-Politica-Plano-Renovaveis-Energia.pdf

PORTUGUESE:  http://foeafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Declaracao-Politica-Plano-Renovaveis-Energia.pdf

For media enquiries contact:

Ekue Assem, Friends of the Earth Africa Communications Coordinator: +228 93 84 19 30 or info.com@amiterre.org

Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International: +258 84 035 6599 or dipti@foei.org

Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa: +234 803 725 6939 or jakporphilip@gmail.com

Media Advisory: FoE Africa to Launch Report on Renewable Energy Plan for Africa

Media Advisory: FoE Africa to Launch Report on Renewable Energy Plan for Africa

Friends of the Earth Africa

Friends of the Earth Africa to Launch Report on Renewable Energy Plan for Africa

Friends of the Earth Africa will launch a new report titled ‘A Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa’ on Wednesday, 1 September 2021 by 12pm (GMT/UTC).

The report looks at the reality of renewable energy options in Africa and is based on the research and modelling of renowned academic Dr. Sven Teske shows that it is feasible to achieve a 100% renewable energy goal for Africa by the year 2050.

Africa will be hardest hit by climate change that threatens the poorest and most vulnerable people on the continent. The 6th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released 9th of August 2021 exposed the fact that global warming has been more rapid in Africa than the rest of the world and the average annual maximum temperature in northern and southern Africa is likely to be close to four degrees Celsius above normal. The time to move away from harmful fossil fuels towards a transformed energy system that is clean, renewable, democratic and actually serves its peoples, has never been more urgent.

The ‘Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa’ provides an analysis based on the importance of preventing the worst impacts of climate change and limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels. It uses modelling to build a series of demands around building a just recovery based on a 100% renewable energy system for the peoples of Africa. This recovery plan addresses the triple crises of climate change, energy poverty in Africa and need for COVID recovery together.

The recovery plan pushes for urgent action and suggests that the one thing that stands in the way of achieving a 100% renewable future for Africa is the political commitment and funding and is why this plan is so important – it provides a pathway to get the funding and achieve 100% renewable energy.

The report shows that Africa needs approximately $130 billion a year between now and 2050 as investment towards achieving the 100% renewable energy goal. It has identified three funding sources that could enable the continent to achieve the goal and produce enough energy to meet demand and eliminate energy poverty. A Just Recovery can be financed by public finance from the global North, ending tax dodging and dropping the debt.

The report stresses that achieving 100% renewable energy is the only way to prevent a climate catastrophe and unlock immeasurable employment opportunities in equipment manufacture, operation and technical support for the sector. It states that a 100% renewable energy goal for an independent Africa by 2050 is not just aspirational, it is possible.

The report will be released on 1 September 2021 on these websites: www.foeafrica.org and www.foei.org.


Dipti bathnagar, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International: +258 84 035 6599 or dipti@foei.org

Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa: +234 803 725 6939 or jakporphilip@gmail.com

Ekue Assem, Friends of the Earth Africa Communication Coordinator: +228 93 84 19 30 or info.com@amiterre.org

The Big Con Report

The Big Con Report

On 9 june 2021, Friends of the Earth International launched a new joint report with Corporate Accountability and Global Forests Coalition. The report, entitled, “The Big Con: How Big Polluters are advancing a “net zero” climate agenda to delay, deceive, and deny,” comes following a year packed with record announcements of “net zero” pledges from corporations and governments, and builds on a growing body of research that calls the integrity of “net zero” as a political goal into serious question. As more and more “net zero” plans have been rolled out, the scientific, academic and activist communities have all raised grave concerns about the inability of these plans to achieve the commitments of the Paris Agreement and keep global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Read full report





On Thursday 23th June 2021 the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) made a decision to refuse all three Karpowership Environmental Authorisation (EA) applications for gas to power at the Ports of Richard’s Bay, Nqgura and Saldanha Bay.


South Africa: Karpowership SA (Pty) Ltd is a Turkish company that received preferred bidder status in the Department of Mineral and Energy’s (DMRE’s) Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Program (RMIPPP), as announced by Minister Gwede Mantashe on 18th March 2021. The company applied for three environmental authorisations for the ports of Richard’s Bay (KwaZulu Natal), Nqgura (Eastern Cape) and Saldanha Bay (Western Cape). The commenting period for the Environmental Impact Assessments closed on 31st March. After consideration of shortcomings in the EIA process, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)’s Chief Director of Integrated Environmental Authorisations, Mr Sabelo Malaza, issued letters for the refusal of all three Environmental Authorisations.

The decision followed warnings, comments and correspondence submitted by specialists, government authorities and civil society organisations. Several organisations including Richard’s Bay Clean Air Association (RBCAA), BirdLife South Africa, SANPARK, Oceans Not Oil (ONO), South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), Masifundise Development Trust, Green Connection, Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and groundWork submitted comments to the EIA. Several irregularities and deficiencies were picked up by the organisations. 

Lawyer Angela Andrews representing Green Connection noted that important specialist studies including noise impact studies and their impacts on marine life and its subsequent impact on small scale fishers was excluded. Green connection submitted a Complaint’s letter dated 30th May 2021 (attached) requesting for the suspension of the EIA process for Saldhana Bay.  DFFE responded with a suspension letter dated 8th June 2021. Similar deficiencies were noted in the Richard’s Bay and Nqgura applications. Other issues included the inadequate public participation processes and significant new information and changes to the final EIA which were not made available to the public for comment before submission to the Department on 26th April 2021.  On 17th June 2021 groundWork, represented by Attorney Michelle Koyama of CER submitted a letter noting that the similarities in deficiencies that were identified for Saldanha also applied to the other Karpowership EIAs. The letter submitted reasons for the department to investigate these further and requested for the suspension of EIA processes for Richard’s Bay and Nqgura as well.

The Department issued a Media Statement on 24th June that it “has reached a decision on the three applications which were submitted in October 2020 by Karpowership (Pty) Ltd” that “after due consideration of all relevant information presented” that it had adequate information at its disposal to make an informed decision and to refuse the applications for the environmental authorisations.

 Various reasons were listed in the Departments letters for each of the Karpowership applications (attached), which are summarised by DFFE below:

Karpowerships responded with claims of a “misinformation campaign to derail the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE’s) strategic plan to end loadshedding and address South Africa’s  economic and energy crisis”. However, this is Karpowership’s public relations spin to divert attention from its own internal midemeanours including including witholding information about explosion incidents and the mishandling of critical information during the environmental impact assessment processes conducted by their appointed environmental consultants Triplo4. The environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) Hantie Plomp downplayed serious potential impacts, added new information to the EIA after the Public Participation Process had closed and ignored several specialist, environmental and government authorities’ warnings to fully investigate these impacts, conduct critical site specific studies and to specify implementable actions to mitigate impacts.

Despite these shortcomings, Karpowerships did not appoint a new environmental consultancy or specialists to conduct these studies or extend the consultation process to allow time for the public to comment. Instead,  they embarked on a massive public relations campaign in the past month to ‘consult’ with business groups and interested and affected parties within the affected areas. This happened after the EIA was submitted and public participation processes were finalised, so it did not fall within the regulatory requirements of the EIA process. Their post EIA consultations are therefore misleading the public and it is unclear why their funds were used for a public relations campaign rather than conducting a thorough environmental impact assessment.

The RMIPPP was supposed to fill a short-term gap in energy supply with Karpowership taking more than half of the allocated 2000MW allocation. Instead Karpowership will operate for 20 years, emitting collosal amount of GHG during its operation. With Karpowership environmental authorisation refused, it is unlikely to meet the financial closure for the RMIPPP deadline in July. An alternative plan for energy supply is needed and we hope that the DMRE is reviewing the RMIPPP which has been plagued with controversy, and relooking at additional renewable energy generated power in addressing both our energy requirements and the just transition to a socially inclusive low carbon economy.


  1. Comments to the EIA: Birdlife South Africa, SANPARK, groundWork, Green Connection, ONO, Masifundise, SDCEA etc
  2. Green Connection Letter dated 30 May 2021
  3. DFFE letter of suspension dated 8 June 2021
  4. CER-groundWork Letter dated 17 June 2021
  5. DFFE letters dated 23 June 2021
  6. DFFE Media Release 24 June 2021: https://www.environment.gov.za/mediarelease/karpowershipEIAdecision


Michelle Koyama, CER:

“We are pleased with this decision, highlighting the importance of un-biased scientific information being available, not only for the decision-makers to make an informed decision, but particularly for communities which may be impacted – this is also what environmental legislation requires.  The Karpowerships at Richards Bay, Saldhana and Ngqura together would result in high climate impacts, with approximately 46 million tCO2e of greenhouse gas emissions over 20 years. These emissions can and must be avoided, as South Africa’s government is constitutionally obliged to implement measures to reduce emissions and tackle the climate crisis, in order to avoid its impacts like droughts, floods, crop and livestock failures (food insecurity), economic loss”.

Liz McDaid, Green Connection:

We are incredibly happy about this decision, which supports our views that the concerns of local affected communities should be properly taken into account and their issues properly studied. And we hope that the DFFE will, going forward, always make the effort to continue to check that all the relevant information is presented in EIAs – especially for those projects that will have a high impact – and hold consultants accountable for anything less.”

Sandy Camminga, RBCAA:

“ The RBCAA welcomes the decision made by DFFE. It sends a message to EAPs that the Public Participation Process is NOT a “tick-box” exercise,  and that a flawed process and deficient specialist studies will not be accepted.”

Dr Alistaire McInnes, BirdLife South Africa:

“BirdLife South Africa welcomes the decision by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. Algoa Bay and Saldanha Bay hold important populations of South Africa’s most threatened seabirds. The African Penguin has its largest population in Algoa Bay and development decisions that are likely to have negative impacts on their habitat here will have a direct bearing on the survival of this species and other marine top predators that utilise these waters. We are becoming increasingly concerned about marine noise pollution and the impacts that this will have on predator populations so the decision is most welcome.”

Sherelee Odayar, SDCEA:

SDCEA welcomes the decision made by the DFFE, considering that this particular development failed to inform surrounding communities and include them in the public participation process

knowing fully that they will be directly affected by Karpowership. We hope that this decision sets a precedence for more inclusive and transparent public consultation in South Africa. “

Naseegh Jaffer, Masifundise:

“Masifundise acknowledges the timely decision by the DFFE to deny the substandard EIAs for the three proposed Karpowerships around South Africa. This largely results from an acknowledgement that the public participation processes were flawed and unsatisfactory. This is a great victory for fishing communities, who have strongly opposed this development on the grounds that prolonged presence of these monstrosities on our ocean shores will negatively impact on fish and marine life. Thus impacting on the sustainability of their livelihood. It shows that small fishing communities can take on big companies who want to exploit our oceans. South Africa needs to focus on renewable and clean power supplies rather than investing in environmentally damaging energy sources that jeopardize the health of the ocean and ocean resources for fishers’ lives and livelihoods.”

Janet Solomon, Oceans Not Oil:

“ Oceans Not Oil affiliates are pleased that the DFFE have taken the significant sound pollution of the projects into consideration. What is worryingly absent from the department’s decision is a review of the carbon footprint of the project, in any form, but especially in terms of the South Africa’s GHG emission reduction needed urgently.”

Judy Bell, Frack-Free SA:

“I think it is a wake-up call for the Environmental Assessment industry – they have to do more to represent the environment (which includes people) in their work and not just do a tick-box exercise.  There are consequences.”

Avena Jacklin, groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa):

“Environmental Assessment Practitioners need to act independently and ensure that proper process is followed, that impacts are assessed adequately and that people’s democracy and rights to an equitable and effective participation are not violated.”


Mozambican journalists’ lives are on the line in Cabo Delgado

Mozambican journalists’ lives are on the line in Cabo Delgado

The AU has stood by as Mozambique aggressively represses journalists covering the violence in the north.

On April 7, 2020, Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco, a reporter for the Palma Community Radio in Mozambique’s northernmost province Cabo Delgado, left work for home at about 6pm and shortly after texted a colleague to say he was “surrounded by soldiers”. He has not been heard from since.

For years, Mbaruco has been covering the violence in Cabo Delgado, where armed groups have been terrorising civilians since 2017. The violence has left hundreds dead and forced more than 565,000 people to flee their homes and villages.

Sadly, Mbaruco’s story is not an anomaly. Many local journalists reporting on the violence, and its links to Cabo Delgado’s $50bn multinational liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, have been subjected to random arrests, unlawful detentions, torture and assaults by Mozambique’s military and police since 2018. Just a month before Mbaruco’s encounter with “soldiers”, another local journalist, Roberto Abdala, had disappeared in the same region.

The international community did not pay much attention to the plight of journalists in Mozambique until the government targeted a Western journalist working in the country. On February 16, British journalist Tom Bowker, who has been covering the violence in Cabo Delgado as the editor of Maputo-based news website Zitamar, announced on social media he has been expelled from Mozambique, and banned from entering the country for 10 years “for political reasons”.

The Mozambique government argued Bowker was expelled merely due to “legal discrepancies” around Zitamar’s status and denied his assertion that he has been targeted because of his journalism. Nevertheless, Bowker’s ordeal made headlines across the world and brought some much-needed attention to the abundant human rights and press freedom violations in the region.

Media persecution is not new to Mozambique. November 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of journalist Carlos Cardoso’s assassination over his investigation of a major financial scandal involving several influential names including the son of then-President Joaquim Chissano. However, the attacks on journalists and attempts to intimidate them into silence gained an unprecedented pace in recent years. Since 2015, Mozambique has dropped 19 places on Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Press Freedom Index.

The Mozambican constitution has provisions for freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information, aimed at protecting journalists and citizens from state persecution. But Cabo Delgado’s natural resources are precious to those in power, and they are willing to ignore their constitutional duty to protect press freedom to continue benefitting from the region.

Not only transnational fossil fuel giants, private banking institutions and foreign security firms, but also many Mozambican elites hold stakes in the province’s lucrative gas industry. This means anyone raising inconvenient truths and asking questions about the possible links between the industry and the ongoing violence is a threat to their interests.

Journalists can only safely report on the region if they agree to tow the government’s line – that the violence is a simple case of “foreign Islamist terrorists” trying to gain a foothold in Mozambique. The truth, of course, is not that simple.

Since the discovery of a vast quantity of natural gas off the coast of Cabo Delgado in 2010, transnational energy giants all but took over the province. Thus far, more than 550 families have been displaced from their lands and fishing grounds to make way for the Afungi LNG Park which will house onshore support facilities for industry players in Africa’s three biggest LNG projects – Mozambique LNG led by Total, Coral LNG led by Eni, and ExxonMobil and Rovuma LNG led by ExxonMobil.

The locals were initially promised jobs in the LNG industry, but these promises by the state and the energy companies did not materialise. As a result, those who have been displaced and lost their livelihoods because of the construction project grew angry and frustrated. They have been forced to watch international corporations and foreigners benefit from the lands they once called home as they struggled to make a living. Moreover, the Mozambican government neglected them and focussed, instead, on pleasing the foreign investors. All this stirred anti-government sentiment in local communities and created a breeding ground for extremism.

The Mozambican army’s actions in the region exacerbated the problem. It has been used by the state to protect the interests of the gas industry in Cabo Delgado and has committed human rights abuses in the process. In its 2021 World Report, Human Rights Watch said the state’s security forces have been implicated in grave human rights violations during “counterterrorism operations” in Cabo Delgado, “including arbitrary arrests, abductions, torture of detainees, excessive force against unarmed civilians, intimidation and extrajudicial executions”.

These abuses, however, have not been covered widely by the international media and local journalists faced severe intimidation attempts whenever they tried to expose the links between the gas industry, the state, the military and the ongoing violence in the province.

A March 2020 report by journalist Matias Guente published in Canal de Moçambique, a newspaper critical of the state, for example, alleged that Anadarko, the now non-existent US company that led the Mozambique LNG project before Total, had paid the government to deploy more soldiers to the area to protect its interests. Guente also alleged that this money did not go into the state coffers as it should have, but was deposited into the personal bank account of the then minister of defence, Atanásio Salvador Ntumuke.

The government, as expected, reacted to the report with fury. In June 2020, Guente, alongside Canal de Moçambique’s executive director, Fernando Veloso, were charged with “violation of state secrecy” and “conspiracy against the state” for publishing the article. In August, the newspaper’s offices were petrol-bombed. Canal de Moçambique had faced this intimidation before – another of its journalists who regularly reported on state corruption, Ericino de Salema, was kidnapped in March 2018 in Maputo, beaten and left unconscious on the side of a road.

Today, people in Cabo Delgado are suffering not only because of the massive LNG projects on their lands and armed groups attacking them, but also because of their government’s apparent decision to prioritise private interests over their wellbeing. The relentless oppression of the media is sending them a clear message: Anyone who attempts to tell what is happening in Cabo Delgado to the outside world will be punished. As a result, many of them are now too scared to speak out, even anonymously, to human rights organisations.

The efforts by the state and the gas industry to hide what is happening in Cabo Delgado from the world has not been fully successful. Some crucial information has managed to come out in the open through social media. In September 2020, videos and pictures emerged showing torture and other ill-treatment of civilians by Mozambican soldiers and armed fighters in Cabo Delgado. Also in September, a video showed men in army uniform beating and summarily executing a naked woman. The Mozambique military called the video footage “shocking and disturbing” in an official statement, but did not confirm or deny that the men in the video were soldiers. Later, rather than working to bring those responsible for these atrocities to justice, the state carried out arbitrary arrests of civilians that it suspected of sharing these images and videos.

The majority of incidents of media oppression in Mozambique have been extrajudicial. But with no other states, or international bodies such as the African Union (AU) calling it out, the government is acting with impunity.

Not a single leader in the region or around the world, for example, issued a statement in January 2019 when Amade Abubacar and Germano Adriano, journalists from Nacedje Community Radio in Cabo Delgado, were arbitrarily arrested over their coverage of the violent attacks in the region and accused of “inciting the public using electronic media”. Both journalists were held for three months without facing any official charges. Amnesty International said Abubacar, who was critically ill during his detention, has been subjected to ill-treatment, “including denial of food, family visits and medical treatment”.

The world leaders and international bodies also did not say or do anything after journalists Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco and Roberto Abdala disappeared last year. They also had no comment when Mateus Guente and many others like him were targeted for their journalism.

Just last month, AU Chairperson and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a speech at the launch of the Digital Platform for Safety of Journalists in Africa and said: “We look to this digital platform to contribute to an enabling environment for the media to operate in AU member states through respect for the rights of journalists and media workers and an end to impunity for crimes against journalists.”

But as Ramaphosa and other leaders of the AU remain silent about the ongoing oppression of the media in Mozambique, such pledges to “end impunity for crimes against journalists in Africa” ring hollow. By continuing their friendly relations with Mozambique and investing in its gas industry, the AU leaders are enabling, normalising and even rewarding the state’s violent oppression of the media. Their silence makes it possible for extrajudicial disappearances, assaults and imprisonment to take place. At best, they are hypocrites. At worst, they are complicit in tyranny.

African Peoples Tribunal Carpets Transnationals Operating in Africa

African Peoples Tribunal Carpets Transnationals Operating in Africa

…Demand UN binding treaty on business operations.

The African Peoples Tribunal organised in Lagos by Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA) ended on Friday November 27, 2020, with a call on governments of 10 African countries to urgently ensure that the human rights of freedom of speech, expression, and association of citizens and persons who brought cases of abuses before the tribunal are respected and protected.

The three-day event which started on November 25 witnessed testimonies on cases of human rights violations and environmental degradation connected with monoculture tree plantation expansion from ten countries across Africa was attended by affected communities and civil society. Among the accused companies are Socfin, Green Resources AS, Golden Veroleum Liberia (controlled by Golden Agri-Resources), SIAT SA, OLAM and PZ Wilmar.

The Tribunal received and reviewed ten (10) cases from ten (10) countries. The companies found wanting are SOCAPALM (Cameroon), SIAT (Cote D’Ivoire), GOPDC – SIAT (Ghana), OLAM (Gabon), SOCFIN (Sierra Leone), and Golden Veroleum Limited, GVL (Liberia). Others are Green Resources (Mozambique), Okomu Oil Palm PLC, PZ Wilmar, Green Resources, and Wilmar, Green Resources

In all of the ten cases, international financiers, including development banks, private banks, investment funds and pension funds from all corners of the world, are found to be controlling and financing controversial rubber, palm oil and timber plantation companies.

The jurors who heard the cases are Nnimmo Bassey, director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) from Nigeria, Ikal Angelei from Kenya who won the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa and is involved in campaigns against dams, and Prof. Alfred Apau Oteng-Yeboah – a Professor of Botany at the University of Ghana.  Makoma Lekalakala, a South African activist and Executive Director of Earthlife Africa who has long been active in social movements tackling issues from gender and women’s rights, social, economic, and environmental justice issues was also one of the jurors.

On landgrabs perpetrated by the companies, the jurors concluded that in all the cases there was connivance between governments and transnational corporations to grab community lands. They cited Ministry of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (of Ghana) which they alleged, allowed the complete destruction and conversion of 13 villages into an oil palm plantation. Destroyed along with the communities were schools, markets, churches, and other social facilities.

They noted that in Cote d’Ivoire, government took community land, abandoned it after some years and then returned to hand the land over to a transnational corporation without recourse to the communities who had reclaimed their land. In the case of Sierra Leone, government leased land from the community and handed the land over to the transnational corporation, SOCFIN, on the same day.

On Violation of Rights, they said there is general reign of systemic oppression and use of state security forces against the affected peoples, in all cases brought before the APT. Cases of threats, denial of labour rights and the right to protest, arrests, imprisonments and murders were heard.

The APT heard cases of labour exploitation with a high level of casualization of labour. In the case of Wilmar (Nigeria) they said evidence showed that the company pays workers less than $2 for 12 hours work.

Inhuman and discriminatory work and housing conditions were recorded in most of the cases (Cameroon, Nigeria). It was also revealed that workers, including pregnant women, are ferried on tractors to work locations, with accidents and deaths recorded. Injured workers are sacked without compensation and others are sacked for speaking up at public hearings thus sending chilling signals to workers and organisers.

On Socio-Economic Dislocations they said that the grabbing and conversion of community lands into plantations directly deprive communities of fertile lands. Companies make false claims of using degraded and non-forested lands while they grab fertile lands and forests and valuable water sources that the communities depend on, they insisted.

“In Gabon, when the corporation (OLAM) designates forests and territories as having High Carbon Value (HCV), they effectively cut the communities off the use of such forests or resources. In this manner, community forests including sacred ones are now valued as carbon sinks for carbon credits in false climate marketization.”

The APT also received disturbing reports of industrial tree plantations building ditches as deep as 16 metres (50 feet) and with a width of 13 metres (40 feet) in the case of Wilmar (Nigeria) around the plantations. These ditches pose danger to humans and to wildlife, but significantly block communities from having access to their farms, to forests, to fishing and water sources and forces them to only use roads policed by these companies. Community members are required to obtain passes (visas) to gain entry to their communities and only within certain time slots (Gabon).

“These ditches or moats have damaged water bodies that communities depend on (as in the case of Gabon) thereby exposing them to avoidable stresses. Heavy burdens are placed on the women as the struggle for water, fishing and fuel woods”.

The use of harmful chemicals, including those made with glyphosate (a carcinogen) in the plantations have caused damage to soils, water sources and the health of both communities and workers who are often not provided with personal protection equipment (PPE).

The cases confirmed a lack of acceptable environmental impact assessments as well as a lack of social impact assessments.

The replacement of rich biodiversity of forest with foreign exotic trees have dramatically damaged the local environments. Although the FAO recognises industrial exotic tree plantations (including those with genetically engineered trees) as forests, communities reject such classifications.

They recommended among others, that governments in the relevant countries should immediately set up a mechanism to review existing arrangements with plantation corporations, openly and transparently engage with communities and revert wrongfully acquired lands and forests to the communities. They also stressed that governments should uphold and protect the dignity of communities and adequately sanction corporations that violate human rights or destroy the environment in their territories.

They also want governments to actively and constructively engage in the current negotiations for the elaboration of a UN Legally Binding Instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and ensure this becomes a meaningful instrument to stop corporate impunity.