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West Africa: Land and environmental rights defenders face continuing attacks by corporations; three-day regional conference calls for documentation of abuses

'West Africa Grassroots Frontline Human Rights Defenders End Regional Conference: Call for Protection', 08 April 2021

A three-day Conference on the situation of Grassroots Frontline Environmental, Land and Human Right Defenders in West Africa opened on Monday, 29 March 2021 by way of the zoom technology... Multinational companies operating concessions and grabbing lands in the region, mostly without free, prior and informed consent, have since witnessed an upsurge in the number of grievances against them... The affected communities and indigenous peoples ... have added a legal dimension to their advocacy. Companies extracting natural resources and their host governments in the region (that fail to humanize the poor people), are being arraigned before the regional ECOWAS Court of Justice, national courts, grievance mechanisms and the legal systems of their (companies) home countries...

In Guinea, the people of Zoghota, fought for more than eight years to demand justice for a night time massacre carried out by the Guinean army at the urging of Vale-BSG Resources, a transnational company with roots in Brazil and Israel... In Nigeria, farmers and fishermen in the Niger Delta battled the oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell for more than 12 years and recently won litigation in a Dutch Court in the Hague, Shell having contaminated land and groundwater there. Also, in Nigeria, Pastor Evaristus Nicholas led the campaign on behalf of his Aggah community from Rivers State, to file a complaint against the Italian energy company, ENI S.p.A with Italy’s grievance mechanism... In Liberia, 22 communities affected by the operations of the agriculture conglomerate SOCFIN, owner of the Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC) are at an advanced stage with their complaint before the International Finance Corporation...

The conference ended with calls for the launching of a systematic and comprehensive monitoring and documentation of attacks and abuses against defenders in the sub-region...