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Repression for land and profits



Over the past five years, at least two people from rural communities have been killed weekly in the struggles against land grabs, based on estimates by the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP). More than eight are arrested and detained weekly, and more than two are harassed or assaulted.

On Sept. 2, Nigerian security forces and police arrived on a boat in the village of Agbede. They fired in the air to scatter the villagers and then burned at least nine houses.

On June 15, a violent confrontation between the Paraguay police and farmers in the town of Edelira ended with the killing of Édgar Centurión, a local farmer.

On June 12, the police arrested 91 people, including several members of a local peasant group, in Hacienda (a large estate or plantation) Tinang in a Philippine province. Eighty-three were detained and charged with trumped-up cases of illegal assembly and obstruction of justice, among others.

Systematic attacks

These attacks on rural communities are not isolated incidents of violence. They form part of the systematic repression of peasants fighting land grabs by big foreign corporations and the local elite.

The Agbede case, for instance, is tied to the ongoing land conflict between the local people and the Okomu Oil Palm Company (OOPC). The people claim that OOPC grabbed their lands and blocked their villages’ only public road. OOPC is a unit of the Socfin Group, a Luxembourg-based palm oil and rubber plantation operator notorious for its ruthless methods against local communities. Aside from Nigeria, Socfin units operate in Cameroon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Cambodia, among others.

Meanwhile, a land dispute between some 80 farming families and an agro-livestock firm is the backdrop of Centurión’s killing. Armed with shotguns, the local police destroyed the homes and crops of the settlement where Centurión lived to clear the land for the company. When the farmers resisted, the police opened fire, resulting in the 29-year-old farmer’s death.

The mass arrests in Hacienda Tinang happened amid a nearly three-decade dispute over 200 hectares of land between 236 peasant beneficiaries of the government’s land reform program and an influential political clan, which includes the incumbent town mayor. The farmers and their supporters were doing a collective farming activity as part of the assertion of their right to the disputed land when the police dispersed and arrested them.

Two killings a week

Over the past five years, at least two individuals from rural communities have been killed weekly in struggles against land grabbing, based on estimates by the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP). More than eight are arrested and detained, and more than two are harassed or assaulted weekly.

Under its No Land, No Life! campaign, PANAP has been monitoring cases of human rights violations (HRVs) against farmers, farm workers, indigenous people, and land activists. From January 2017 to the latest available data (as of Oct. 20, 2022), PANAP has monitored 417 cases of killings that resulted in 610 deaths. Of the victims, 238 or 39 percent were farmers.

During the same period, there were 260 cases of arrests and detention, with 2,565 victims, and farmers comprised 45 percent of the total. For threats, harassment, and assault, PANAP has monitored 127 cases with 719 victims, of whom 60 percent were farmers.

As the village of Agbede, the farming settlement in Edelira, and Hacienda Tinang show, these numbers represent the lives and aspirations of rural peoples violently crushed by powerful forces with vested interests in their lands.

More alarming is that, as these particular cases of political repression against peasants show, state forces are often involved. Of the land conflict-related human rights abuses where reports or accounts identified the perpetrators, the police, military, and state-sanctioned paramilitary groups were implicated in 133 cases of killings, 258 cases of arrests and detention, and 49 cases of threats, harassment, and assault.

Greater unrest amid crises

Peasant repression in the context of land conflicts and struggles is a global phenomenon that intensifies amid the worsening crises of the world economy and politics, hunger and food insecurity, and climate and environment.

As global monopoly capitalism navigates its latest bout with an economic crisis lingering since 2008, the world’s wealthiest capitalists are looking for ways to protect their investments and make more money. The financialization of the global economy allows them to turn to assets such as farmlands, even when the likes of giant property holder BlackRock or mega-billionaire Bill Gates have no interest in producing food or engaging in agriculture but merely hedge their other investments or squeeze profits from the land’s value and rent. Through various financial firms, Gates has amassed almost 98,000 hectares of farmlands in the US alone, worth more than USD 690 million.

These financial groups and the capital they manage and represent invest in massive corporate plantations that concentrate lands, displace farmers, and commit violence against rural communities. For example, BlackRock and JP Morgan, along with other financial firms, have almost USD 13 billion in palm oil investments globally. Through his capital management firms, Gates also invests in palm oil, which one study shows is the commodity most exposed to land grabs.

These giant corporations even use the climate crisis they caused to justify more land concentration. They peddle so-called nature-based solutions (NBS) to address the climate crisis, such as through investments in biofuels, green finance, carbon credits, ecotourism, profit-driven conservation, and large-scale infrastructure supposedly for renewable energy.

PANAP has compiled 32 cases of NBS (ongoing or planned), which cover almost four million hectares, to highlight the extent of land grabbing and mass displacement among rural communities worldwide due to the supposed climate actions of monopoly corporations and their local agents. In just five of the NBS projects compiled from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Tanzania, the number of displaced or potentially displaced farmers and indigenous people could reach almost 300,000.

Land concentration is already very severe. In its 2020 report, the International Land Coalition noted that while small-scale farmers run 80 percent of farms, the largest one percent of farming enterprises manage more than 70 percent of farmlands worldwide.

With the wave of more monopoly capital pouring into farmlands through financialization and greenwashing, such concentration can only get even more intense in the coming years and fuel greater rural unrest. (RVO)

Original Source: Farm Land Grab

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Statement- Uganda: Seven Environmental activists brutally arrested, charged and released on police bail for protesting against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project



On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala, Uganda and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. This was reported by the Stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (StopEACOP) campaign on 29 May 2024.

The seven human rights defenders were peacefully protesting against the intended financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) by the Chinese government. According to the environmental human rights defenders, EACOP has caused severe human rights violations, poses significant environmental risks, and will contribute to the climate crisis. The EACOP is a project led by Total, spanning 1,443km from Kabaale, Hoima district in Uganda to the Chongoleani Peninsula near Tanga Port in Tanzania. It aims to transport oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to global markets via the port of Tanga.

On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. The seven environmental activists were sitting outside the Chinese Embassy in Kampala in an attempt to present a letter of protest to the Chinese Ambassador expressing their complaints and demanding that his government refrain from funding an unfavourable project for them. Due to their arrest occuring before they had any chance of interacting with embassy representatives, their letter was not delivered. The peaceful protesters were violently rounded up by the police, who subsequently packed them in a vehicle and brought them to the Jinja Road police. The seven activists were released on police bail and were due to report back to the Jinja Road police station. On 18 May 2024, following several banks and insurance companies’ withdrawal from EACOP, Civil Society Organizations supporting energy just transition, climate and environmental conservatism, and land justice addressed the media and urged the Chinese President to rescind his interest in funding the project.

Local organizations have been denouncing that, in order to stifle complaints, silence protesters, and maintain pressure on those who defend climate, environment, and land rights, Ugandan authorities have turned to attacking and criminalising environmentalists, climate activists, and defenders of land rights. Uganda has recorded the most number of cases of violations against these human rights defenders, with 18 incidents documented in Africa, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s 2023 in their report titled People power under pressure: Human rights defenders & business in 2023. The majority of these attacks seem to center around the EACOP and the environmental human rights defenders campaigning against the project, which the State regards as a significant infrastructure initiative.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern for the safety and security of the seven environmental human rights defenders and strongly condemns the recent instances of intimidation, criminalization and police harassment they have been subjected to, as it believes are an act of reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of environmental and land rights in Uganda.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security and protection of environmental human rights defenders during peaceful protests. The organisation also demands that the brutal arrest of these seven human rights defenders be condemned. Front Line Defenders calls Ugandan authorities to guarantee that all environmental and land human rights defenders, including human rights organisations working on environmental rights, are able to carry out their legitimate activities and operate freely without fear of police harassment.

Source: Frontline Defenders

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TotalEnergies African legacy: 100 years of environmental destruction.



TotalEnergies, the French petro giant company with a legacy of destruction on the continent, this year celebrates 100 years. To be clear, that is 100 years of profit, environmental destruction and damage to people’s lives.

The company’s damage is widespread, extensive and well-documented.

In 1956, TotalEnergies entered Africa, exploiting natural resources as it went along. In chasing down oil and gas, it has wreaked havoc on communities, land, and the environment.

A 2022 study by the Climate Accountability Institute found the total emissions attributed to the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline totals 379 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, making TotalEnergies a key contributor to Africa’s carbon footprint.

As Charity Migwi, a senior campaigner at Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organisation, notes, the company has its hands on various projects on the continent.

The project noted above will have about 460km of pipeline in the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region. On top of this, there are plans to extract oil from the fields in Uganda as well as the company’s prominent role in the Mozambique LNG Project, which is a major cause of carbon emissions

Closer to home, TotalEnergies has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil and gas off the south-west coast of South Africa, which sparked protests. As the company held its annual general meeting in Paris, France, protests by affected communities, civil society and activists in both countries took place.

Environmental justice group The Green Connection’s community mobilisation officer, Warren Blouw, said in a press release: “TotalEnergies and other oil and gas companies must consider the livelihoods of small-scale fishers, whose economic wellbeing is jeopardised by offshore oil and gas exploration. We must unite to protect Africa and its resources from those who only seek profit, at the cost of regular South Africans.”

Zinhle Mthiyane, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said: “We are protesting to protect the environment and prevent ocean pollution. Drilling for oil and gas in South African waters could degrade the environment, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices.”

One of those affected by TotalEnergies and its hunt for fossil fuels is Sifiso Ntsunguzi, a small-scale fisher from Port St Johns, on the Eastern Cape coast. Ntsunguzi made the trip to France to protest.

“We are in Paris to support the court case against TotalEnergies’ oil and gas projects. As a small-scale fisher and member of a coastal community, I do not support the exploration of oil and gas in the ocean. We use the ocean for cultural practices and as a means to sustain our livelihood. We are against exploration of gas and oil, as it may risk degradation of the environment and marine ecosystems, our livelihood and our health. I come from a fishing community and have become a fisher myself,” he said.

In another press release, environmental justice group Bloom wrote that TotalEnergies has been well aware of its climate harms as far back as the 1970s, yet the company still goes ahead with its oil and gas initiatives.

Initially, its strategy was to deny climate change, wrote Bloom. Now that it can no longer do so, it has changed tact and resorts to greenwashing, described by the United Nations as follows: “By misleading the public to believe that a company or other entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, greenwashing promotes false solutions to the climate crisis that distract from and delay concrete and credible action.”

Total Energies portrays itself as a serious player in the renewable energy space and constantly punts its renewable efforts while going full steam ahead with its fossil fuel projects.

For example, it said of its project in the Northern Cape: “TotalEnergies and its partners are launching construction of a major hybrid renewables project in South Africa, comprising a 216 megawatt solar plant and a 500 MWh battery storage system to manage the intermittency of solar production.”

Bloom explained that chasing renewables is profitable but nowhere near as profitable as oil and gas, and it in no way negates the harmful search for and use of fossil fuels. For this reason Bloom and two other climate justice groups took TotalEnergies to court.

This case also hopes to halt the expansion of fossil fuel extraction. As The Guardian reports: “A criminal case has been filed against the CEO and directors of the French oil company TotalEnergies, alleging its fossil fuel exploitation has contributed to the deaths of victims of climate-fuelled extreme weather disasters. The case was filed in Paris by eight people harmed by extreme weather, and three NGOs.”

Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist at the University Of Cape Town, said: “The fossil fuel industry will continue to undermine science, they will continue to expand their businesses,

they will continue to cause suffering to the people as long as they know that the law can’t hold them accountable.”

Whether the case will yield anything remains to be seen, but the important thing is people are standing up and fighting the harmful practices of these fossil fuel companies. International bodies like the UN climate change conferences yield very little results. It is up to us, the people on the ground, to unite for the good of our planet.


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Incredible WIN! European Union withdraws from Energy Charter Treaty



The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is an international agreement originally created with a focus on growing fossil fuel energy cooperation after the Cold War. Today, the Treaty is a major obstacle to effective climate action because it protects fossil fuel investments. By including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the Energy Charter Treaty allows fossil fuel corporations to sue States that act to protect our climate when that action could impact a company’s profits.

Today, we celebrate because the European Council overwhelmingly adopted the EU’s proposal to exit the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), an outdated international investment agreement that protects and promotes fossil fuel investments.

CIEL and other organizations across Europe have worked tirelessly to educate European decision-makers about the dangers of the Energy Charter Treaty. Together, we proved how the treaty prevents effective climate action and is fundamentally incompatible with EU law.

This pivotal vote follows up an EU Commission’s proposal for the EU and European Atomic Energy Community to exit the Energy Charter Treaty.

The Commission found the ECT incompatible with the EU’s laws, investment policy and law, and energy and climate goals. Its proposal broke months of deadlock by offering EU countries the option to remain in the treaty while allowing other countries to exit. The European Parliament also adopted a resolution in April 2024 calling on the EU to withdraw from the ECT.

Today’s vote proves that people power can win critical victories!

Join us in celebrating this victory for the people, the environment, and the climate!

Demonstrators wear masks with the EU leaders under a sword that reads Energy Charter Treaty.

Why does this matter?

Fossil fuel investors have used the Energy Charter Treaty to sue States when they take climate action, claiming a right to compensation for alleged loss of investments. If they are serious about climate action, States must disentangle themselves from investor protections that allow fossil fuel companies to sue them in private courts when States act in the public interest to phase out fossil fuels. States could be squeezed from both sides: sued by communities for their climate inaction with ever greater frequency, and sued by investors when they do act to phase out the fossil fuel drivers of the climate crisis and accelerate the energy transition.

CIEL has worked for a long time to dismantle ISDS and ensure that the perspectives of communities inform ongoing arbitration.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'Exit the Energy Charter Treaty'

Policymakers in Europe, and beyond, now have a duty to end their dependency on fossil fuels, exit the ISDS system that allows industry to sue States for enacting public interest policies, and accelerate the clean energy transition.

This win in Europe is a milestone in the fight against investor state dispute settlements. Now, we are leveraging this momentum for other States and clearing the way for effective climate action around the world.

Today we celebrate this victory with you. Tomorrow we will continue working to uproot the fossil economy driving the climate crisis, and the trade and investment deals that stand in the way of a renewable energy future.


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