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Implement Strong, Justice Mechanisms to Tackle Exploitation in Africa: Catholic Entities

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Officials of various Catholic entities with presence in Africa are calling for the establishment of “strong and effective mechanisms” that would allow easy access to justice in cases where foreign large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) violate the rights of Africans.  

In a report published Thursday, February 24, officials of Catholic agencies including the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) say LSLAs, often carried out by foreign investors and multinationals, have coincided with human rights violations and conflicts, leaving local communities bearing the brunt of the harm generated.

They further say that the agricultural projects associated with the LSLAs replace small-scale agriculture, leading to loss of jobs and decreased food production at the household levels.

In the report titled, "Large-scale Land Acquisition in Africa: Impacts, Conflicts and Human Rights Violations", officials of the Catholic entities call on African governments to implement "strong and effective mechanisms that provide communities with access to justice in cases of adverse human rights impacts or social and environmental damages caused by public development bank investments." 

Officials of the 23 entities also call for “the creation of fully public and accountable funding mechanisms that support peoples' efforts to build food sovereignty, realize the human right to food, protect and restore ecosystems, and address the climate emergency.” 

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“We call for the recognition of small-scale farming as a viable structural model for agricultural development and to promote labor-intensive means of small-scale farming and agroecology," they say. 

They further urge governments to “secure communities’ rights and access to and control over land, seeds, and water, with a specific attention towards access for women and young farmers."

In the report, officials of the Catholic entities highlight the Democratic Republic of the Congo- (DRC) based Plantations et Huileries du Congo S.A (PHC), a palm oil business owned by the Canadian agribusiness, Feronia Inc, as one of the businesses that has been marred by severe allegations of severe human rights violations against local communities.

They express their concern about human rights violations, which include the killings of nearby residents, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and the detention of community members without trial, late and below minimum wage payments, as well as violations of the right to food, and healthy environment.

These injustices, they say, “have coincided with continued financing and without meaningful investigation by the Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) financing the project.”

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They say efforts of the local community members to address the injustices by the Feronia Inc. have been futile as a process initiated through the Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICM) has been stalling for over two years.  

The officials of the Catholic entities add that the process “has coincided with accounts of repression and violence, mistrust, and lack of transparency following visits by the ICM’s Expert Panel.”

To address the violations that have been allegedly perpetrated by the PHC, officials of the Catholic entities call on DFIs to identify and plan a viable exit strategy from financing the Feronia project in DRC, including how this exit will affect communities upstream."

Further, they call upon the DFIs “to formally investigate all reported incidents of human rights violations and abuse linked to the Feronia’s case.”

“Reports of these investigations must be made public and be followed by concrete actions to sanction the wrongdoers,” officials of the Catholic entities with presence in Africa say in the February 24 report.

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