Over 45 African and international organizations call on the AfDB to open spaces for civil society and communities during the Annual Meetings and beyond.
From May 22 to the 26, the Board of Directors and other key management staff of the African Development Bank (AfDB) will be gathering for the 58th Annual Meetings in Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt). Once again , though, civil society and communities directly affected by AfDB-funded activities will not have a chance to participate.
The AfDB, despite its mission to spur sustainable development and help the most marginalized across the African continent, remains an institution where decision-making processes tend to happen behind closed doors and with a top-down approach.
During the Annual Meetings, Bank Directors will be speaking among themselves and with some stakeholders from other institutions and the private sector. Those who should be the primary beneficiaries of AfDB projects – and who are most directly affected – will not have a seat at the table. Community members and civil society activists will not have the opportunity to have their say, to express their needs, and to raise their concerns around the negative impacts of some of the Bank’s activities.
While the recently updated AfDB’s Integrated Safeguards System (ISS) includes a commitment not to tolerate reprisals, the fact that the Bank decided to hold its Annual Meetings in Egypt sends a contradicting and worrisome message. Egypt is currently infamous for its closed civic space. Thousands of people – including human rights defenders and journalists – are still arbitrarily detained, simply for peacefully defending human rights or speaking truth to power. Because of the regime crackdown on any critical voice, citizens exercise self-censorship for fear of retaliation. Foreign activists are also a target: just recently, the Egyptian regime denied entry, without providing a reason, for an Italian human rights activist who had a valid visa and accreditation to participate in the COP27.
The Annual Meetings can be a crucial advocacy and lobbying platform for civil society organizations. Similarly to other development banks, the AfDB should reintegrate the Civil Society Forum as part of the programme of the Annual Meetings. It should also reform its design, to make the forum more inclusive, accessible, transparent, and open to a diverse range of civil society groups, without limiting the number and types of topics addressed in the agenda.
Unfortunately, the lack of opportunities for participation during the Annual Meetings is only the tip of the iceberg. Civil society organizations have long been advocating with the AfDB to open up spaces for participation.
Civil society groups have also repeatedly raised concerns about the shortcomings of the policy review processes , which tend to lack transparency and have limited opportunities for civil society participation, and about the actual implementation of the Bank’s safeguards.
For instance, the inclusion of language on reprisals in the new ISS – where the bank commits to ensure people can safely speak out in the context of its projects – is a welcome and long-awaited step. But it will remain nothing more than a piece of paper that can easily be ignored, if the AfDB doesn’t take concrete actions to change processes, incentives, and culture to adopt a human rights-based approach, to prevent reprisals before it is too late, and to react quickly when cases of reprisals are raised.
As we write this letter, there are dozens of human rights defenders facing threats and attacks simply for speaking out against the negative impacts of AfDB-funded projects and peacefully defending the rights of their communities. Their voices are crucial: the Bank should stand up to ensure they are not silenced.
This week, as the AfDB is holding its Annual Meetings, it must keep African communities at the forefront. Sustainable development is impossible without the voices of those most affected by development. The AfDB should be for the African People and not African Governments.
The signatories are calling on the AfDB to do the following:
- Ensure meaningful participatory processes in policies, programmes, and projects, including through reprisal-sensitive consultations and engagement;
- Open spaces for civil society and community engagement, including at the Annual Meetings, and consider the implications of holding AfDB events in contexts where civil society cannot freely operate;
- Engage with clients to emphasize the importance of independent civil society and open civic space in achieving sustainable and inclusive development;
- Prioritize community-led development and human rights-based approaches;
- Raise the bar on access to information, transparency and accountability;
- Take steps to assess reprisal risks, prevent reprisals, and adequately respond to them when they occur.
- AbibiNsroma Foundation – Ghana
- Accountability Lab Liberia – Liberia
- Action For The Protection Of Endangered Species (ACES) – Cameroon
- African Law Foundation (AFRILAW) – Nigeria
- Appui aux Initiatives Communautaires de Conservation de l’Environnement et de Développement Durable (AICED) – Democratic Republic of Congo
- Association Burkinabè pour la Survie de l’Enfance (ABSE) – Burkina Faso
- Bank Information Center (BIC) – United States
- Both ENDS – The Netherlands
- Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO ) – Uganda
- Centre de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et Démocratie (CDHD) – Democratic Republic of Congo
- Coalition des OSC sur la transparence à la BAD – Mali (for Africa secretariat)
- Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy – Liberia
- COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding – Nigeria
- Foundation For Environmental Rights,Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) – Nigeria
- Gouvernement des Amis de Yadio et Assangbadji (ONG GAYA) – Côte d’Ivoire
- Green Advocates International – Liberia
- Green Development Advocates (GDA) – Cameroon
- Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyzstan
- IBON Africa – Kenya
- IFI Sinergy Group – Cameroon
- International Accountability Project (IAP) – Global
- Jamaa Resource Initiatives – Kenya
- Le Monde Des Enfants – Guinea
- Lumière Synergie pour le Développement (LSD) – Senegal
- Network Movement for Justice and Development – Sierra Leone
- Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU) – Nigeria
- Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale (OEARSE) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization Public Union – Azerbaijan
- ONG Coeur d’or d’Afrique – Côte d’Ivoire
- ONG Environnement et Comportements Sains en Côte d’Ivoire (ECOSCI) – Côte d’Ivoire
- ONG-OPV (Ordre pour la Paix et la Vie) – Côte d’Ivoire
- Pain aux Indigents et Appui à l’auto Promotion (PIAP) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Peace Point Development Foundation (PPDF) – Nigeria
- Public Interest Law Center (PILC) – Chad
- Réseau Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (RAME) – Burkina Faso
- Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Développement du Tonkpi (ROSCIDET)pour le Développement – Côte d’Ivoire
- Sightsavers – Ghana
- SOS Jeunesse et Défis – Burkina Faso
- Sustainable Holistic Development Foundation (SUHODE) – Tanzania
- Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA) – Uganda
- United Youth for Peace Education Transparency and Development in Liberia – Liberia
- Witness Radio – Uganda
- Women with Disability Self Reliance Foundation – Nigeria
- Women’s Health Development (FESADE) – Cameroon
- Youth for Promotion of Development – Cameroon
- Youth Transforming Africa Narrative (YOTAN) – Liberia
Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.
From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.
The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.
In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.
The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to
- fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
- avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
- strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.
Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf
Witness Radio Condemns Violent Gunfire Incidents during State Land Minister’s Visit.
By Witness Radio Team.
Date: August 29, 2023.
Witness Radio, an advocate for land and environmental justice in Uganda, vehemently condemns the shocking and reprehensible act of gunfire that transpired during the visit of State Land Minister Sam Mayanja to the disputed land in Hoima district. The incident, which occurred on the evening of August 24, 2023, serves as grim evidence of the prevailing impunity surrounding land disputes in the country.
The events of that fateful evening in Rwabunyonyi village have laid bare the deeply unsettling reality of a land crisis that has engulfed the lives of countless innocent citizens. The State Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, tasked with upholding the principles of justice and legality, was subjected to a perilous situation by a barrage of gunfire emanating from security personnel associated with Pyramid Private Security. These armed guards, aligned with the interests of businessman Fred Mugamba, unleashed a torrent of bullets into the air in a brazen attempt to deter the Minister from carrying out his official duties.
The backdrop to this horrific incident can be traced back to a series of harrowing events that commenced in 2022, causing upheaval in the Rwobunyonyi and Kirindasojo areas of the Buraru sub-county in Hoima district. A land dispute, centered around 810-hectare parcel of land, has ignited a firestorm of displacement and anguish, displacing more than 2000 residents and plunging them into a state of distress. The chief orchestrator of these violent evictions, businessman Fred Mugamba, has heartlessly disrupted the lives and livelihoods of these innocent families who claim ownership of land, that has been a home to many since the 1940s.
Throughout this agonizing saga, the affected communities have borne the brunt of a relentless campaign of intimidation and violence, orchestrated by casual laborers and armed security guards in the service of Mr. Mugamba. Tragically, the situation escalated to a point where two lives were lost. Furthermore, those brave enough to raise their voices against this land grab were met with unjust arrests, perpetuating an atmosphere of fear and tension.
In a bid to stem the escalating turmoil, the State Lands Minister, guided by a sense of responsibility to restore peace, intervened in this crisis. Accompanied by Deputy Resident District Commissioner Mr. Michael Kyakashari and District Police Commander (DPC) Jackson Bogere, the Minister embarked on a mission to engage both the affected residents and the purported landowner, Mr. Mugamba. However, the hunt for peace was thwarted by the menacing presence of private security guards, who callously obstructed the Minister’s path and resorted to gunfire, causing panic and chaos.
Witness Radio’s records have documented a disheartening pattern of eviction cases, where private security entities have consistently perpetrated violence against vulnerable communities. These entities have acted with impunity, leaving the marginalized with no means of defense except vacating their own land.
In the face of escalating violent evictions, a directive was issued in March 2023 by the Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba Nalule. This directive explicitly forbade armed groups from participating in evictions, emphasizing the government’s capacity to conduct lawful evictions through its security agencies. Regrettably, the distressing surge of violent evictions has displayed a blatant disregard for this directive, persisting at an alarming rate.
While a handful of suspects have been apprehended in connection to the Minister’s shooting incident, and charges of threatening violence have been imposed against them, these actions must set a precedent. The police must intensify efforts to enforce the recent ministerial order, presidential orders aimed at curbing the menace of armed thugs, and security guards committing unlawful evictions under the directives of land grabbers.
Witness Radio is deeply concerned with the distressing surge in unlawful land evictions, often executed with the complicity of government forces, armed individuals, and private security guards.
This concerning trend continues unabated, inflicting severe harm upon local communities. The incident involving gunfire during the Minister’s presence serves as a stark reminder of the undue influence wielded by land grabbers, who exploit their power to destabilize communities.
It is glaringly evident that these orchestrated land evictions are the handiwork of influential interests that openly defy legal mandates and employ violent means to advance their agendas. Such actions not only infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens but also pose a dire threat to the security and stability of the communities affected.
In light of these deeply distressing developments, we urgently beseech the President of Uganda, Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa, to take decisive and resolute action. We implore him to rein in the actions of individuals associated with land grabbers and to ensure the unwavering protection of citizens’ rights.
Accountability must prevail for those responsible for these heinous acts, and robust measures must be instituted to prevent further harm to vulnerable communities. Witness Radio stands steadily committed to the pursuit of justice and the safeguarding of the land and environmental rights of all Ugandans.
EACJ TO GIVE A RULING ON THE PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS RAISED IN THE EACOP CASE
By Witness Radio, AFIEGO and Cefroht under the Hotpots program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Kampala, Uganda
EACJ TO GIVE A RULING ON THE PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS RAISED IN THE EACOP CASE
On April 5, 2023, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) First Instance Division at Arusha-Tanzania closed the hearing on the preliminary objections. The preliminary objection had been raised by the governments of Uganda, and Tanzania and the secretary general of the East African Community (EAC) in response to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) case filed by civil society groups from Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya who are challenging the construction of the EACOP.
The preliminary objection raised by the respondent sought to dismiss the case before the main hearing, claiming that the court does not have the power to hear the case because it lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the human rights violations.
The respondents also claim that the EACJ does not have the power to entertain the case since it was brought outside of two months contrary to the East African Community Treaty (EAC).
Lastly, the respondents also argued that the pleadings in the main case were not verified.
At the hearing, both parties were given chance to make summary oral submission. In response to the objections, the applicants (Natural Justice, Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Centre for Strategic Litigation and the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), CEFROHT, Natural Justice Kenya (NJ) and Center for strategic Litigation limited (CSL) presented evidence to show that the EACJ had jurisdiction to hear the case. They submitted that the case was filed in time and the question of limitation could not be entertained.
The applicants further asserted that the pleadings were verified and, in any case, there was no formality for verification of pleadings.
After the submissions by the parties, the court indicated that the ruling would be delivered on notice and at a later date.
“We are hopeful that the objections will be dismissed because the EACOP project is critical in terms of environmental, social, and economic survival for the people of East Africa and it would be unfortunate for a regional court to allow baseless objections to stop the main case from being heard on its merits.
Nearly three years since filing, the case has not advanced beyond the preliminary stages. The affected community’s situation and the emerging science from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on worsening climate impacts on vulnerable countries, we hope the court will make a swift determination and consider this important case on its merits.” Dickens Kamugisha CEO at AFIEGO states.
In the main case which was filed in November 2020 by the applicants, there is sufficient evidence indicating that the EACOP project violates several provisions of the EAC Treaty and other national, regional, and international laws, treaties, and conventions. The project impacts critical ecosystems including forests, wetlands, national parks and game reserves, lakes and rivers, communities where families deliver their sustenance, and others.
The project is also a danger to climate change and its negative impacts far outweigh its project economic benefits.
Specifically, the main case seeks the following remedies:
- A declaration that the sighing of the HGA and IGA by Uganda and Tanzania violates both national and international laws.
- A declaration that the execution of the EACOP project in legally protected areas contravenes the EAC Treaty.
- A permanent injunction against the respondents from constructing the pipeline in protected areas in Uganda and Tanzania.
- An order that the respondents compensate all the project-affected persons (PAPs) for the loss already incurred due to the restrictions issued on their property by the EACOP project developers.
“Often, the push by CSOs to challenge their governments to refuse global north companies keen to invest in harmful projects is a David vs Goliath affair that can only find justice in courts. We, therefore, trust the litigation process to give the vulnerable communities an opportunity to be heard – give facts about why they’re opposed to this project, the potential harm to their biodiversity, and why it would be in everyone’s best interest to divest to renewable energy projects.” David Kabanda CEO at CERFROTH says.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Tonny Katende,
Research and Media, Witness Radio.
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