By Agbonkhese Oboh
The African Peoples Tribunal, APT, set up by Friends of the Earth Africa, FoEA, has indicted governments and multinationals in the exposure of African communities to adverse social, gender and environmental impacts of industrial agribusinesses.
APT passed the verdict at the FoEA first session on industrial plantations held in Lagos from November 25 to 27, where cases of affected communities from 10 African countries were reviewed.
The jurors were Ms. Ikal Angelei, Kenya; Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria; Professor Alfred Apau Oteng-Yeboah, Ghana, and Ms. Makoma Lekalakala, South Africa.
The cases, presented through written and oral submissions, were from Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria.
According to the verdict, “While promoters and financiers of agro-commodity plantations treat tress as commodities and carbon sinks, forest-dependent communities see trees and forests as supporting their culture and food production, having intrinsic values, spiritual significance and spaces that define their identity.”
They held that aggressive land grabbing and deforestation for the expansion of industrial agro-commodity plantations was causing a new wave of oppression in Africa.
The impact, APT noted, was devastating on the rural people, “including differentiated and aggravated consequences for women.”
In all 10 cases, APT saw connivance between governments and transnational corporations in grabbing communities’ lands; violation of rights via systemic oppression with the use of state security forces; socio-economic dislocations; environmental harms; corruption and use of phony CSR mechanisms to access funds from international financial institutions.
The way forward, according to the African Peoples Tribunal, was for governments at all levels to see their duty of ensuring environmental protection and defending human, environmental and other rights of the people as vital.
International organisations needed to stop funding or backing activities that oppress communities; and other stakeholders (NGOs, social movements and the media) should work with communities, avoid being co-opted by corporations or governments, but to work towards decolonising the environment.