PUSHBACK ON EXTRACTIVE ACTIVITIES IN AFRICA BY FRIENDS OF THE EARTH GROUPS

Kampala, Uganda & Pietermartizburg, South Africa, 26 May 2015 – Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA) [1] groups have decried the impact of extractive companies’ operations across the African region, cautioning that if communities are not adequately empowered to advocate for and defend their rights, more of them will be displaced leading to conflicts.

The groups made the call during a solidarity mission to oil host communities in Bunyoro sub-region (Albertine Region, Uganda) currently grappling with the challenges associated with the developing oil industry in the country. Participants in the solidarity visit were Friends of the Earth International, FoEA member groups from Uganda, Nigeria, Togo, Tanzania, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Tunisia and South Africa.

Community representatives in Uganda affected by unsustainable development projects were also part of the team. The FoEA team was particularly concerned that residents of Kabale parish who have been asked by government to vacate the place to pave way for the oil refinery have received inadequate or no compensation at all for their lost properties.

Allan Kalangi of Friends of the Earth Uganda who conducted the team around the so called oil region of Uganda said, “The Government needs to open its eyes to the suffering of the communities affected by oil extraction related activities.  Any development that does not put people first is undesirable and unsustainable”

Affected communities in Kyapalooni and the whole of Kabale parish in Buseruka sub-county who have not received their compensation packages are experiencing severe food shortages after they were asked by the government not to grow any crops while the sanitation situation within the communities is appalling.

The education of children in the affected communities hangs in balance and Kyapalooni Primary School has now been turned into a police post even before the government completes settling the disputes of the affected communities. Away from the refinery area, other communities in the region such as that of Kaiso-Tonya in the Hoima district have had their traditional fishing activities significantly affected by the drilling of oil wells in Lake Albert.

Stemming from the visit, the groups observed that the increasing extractive activities on the continent have spurred land grabs and displacement of local communities even as they noted that these developments have contributed largely to the food sovereignty challenges on the continent.

South African environmental justice NPO groundWork [2] (Friends of the Earth South Africa) was part of the visit. Director, Bobby Peek states:  “Blood has been shed and many lives lost since South Africa’s colonial history as a result of mining. Today, little has changed, as we witness new conflicts between mining companies and those who stand to be displaced from Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape to Fuleni in KwaZulu Natal. Look across the continent and the evidence that extractive industries create more social and environmental harm than good is clear.”

The groups were of the view that extractive companies, through their activities threaten and drown community voices in their propaganda rhetoric in concert with governments across the continent in the push for profits. Some of the elements of the propaganda rhetoric are misinformation and deliberately keeping communities in the dark about projects that may have far-reaching implications on their livelihoods and well-being. The situation has been made worse by the fact that the profit oriented companies and the government which is supposed to be on the side of the people all seem to speak the same language.

The members  stressed that there was a need for richer understanding and definition of the concept of 'Sustainability' which FoEA believes should be built upon in the needs and experiences of people at the grassroots  level, this being at variance with the way corporates and governments in Africa perceive it to be.

The FoEA groups urged that the narrative of keeping resources in the ground and investment in sustainable alternatives be vigorously promoted in all spaces – government, communities, in the media. It was also recommended that communities have ongoing access to information relevant for their efforts to advocate for the respect and recognition of their human rights.

In solidarity,

Friends of the Earth - Togo
Friends of the Earth - Ghana
Friends of the Earth - Tunisia/l’Association Tunisienne pour la Protection de la Nature et de l’Environnement (ATPNE)
Friends of the Earth - Mali/Guamina
Friends of the Earth - Nigeria/Environmental Rights Action (ERA)
Friends of the Earth - Tanzania/Lawyers' Environmental Action Team (LEAT)
Friends of the Earth - Cameroon/Centre pour le Développement et l'Environnement (CED)
Friends of the Earth - South Africa/groundWork
Friends of the Earth - Uganda/National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE)

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Friends of the Earth Africa is a regional grouping that forms part of the federation of Friends of the Earth International. Friends of the Earth Africa brings together groups throughout Africa to participate in international programs and develop initiatives to strengthen campaigning in the region. African member groups are particularly active in community-based forest management; extractive industries and African peoples’ need for access to clean renewable energy; food sovereignty and the struggle against GMOs; and the dangers of agrofuels expansion in the region http://www.foei.org/member-groups/africa
[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International.

CONTACTS

groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa):
Bobby Peek
Director
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 082 464 1383
Email: bobby@groundwork.org.za

Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Manager
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 083 450 5541
Email: megan@groundwork.org.za

National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Friends of the Earth Uganda):
Allan Kalangi
Director
Zana-Entebbe Road
P .O. Box 29909, Kampala, UGANDA.
Tel: +256-414-534
E-mail: nape@nape.or.ug; at.kalangi@nape.or.ug /at.kalangi@gmail.com
Website: www.nape.or.ug