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16 Mar 2023

Joseph Hanlon, All Africa

Mozambique: District administrator tells environmental activists not to talk about rights and laws and mention impacts of projects to communities

'Don't Tell People Their Resettlement Rights' 13 March 2023

The planned Mphanda Nkuwa dam, just downstream from Cahora Bassa, will force 1400 families to move. Development projects take priority over lands rights, but people forced off their land must be properly resettled. This has not happened with coal mines in Tete, gas and rubies in Cabo Delgado, and other projects, causing conflicts and protests lasting decades. After so may bad experiences, including displaced fishers and miners joining the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, one might have thought it useful to try to settle the issue in advance. But Frelimo disagrees.

Officially, there is free movement in Mozambique and NGOs do not need permission to go into villages. But the NGO Justiça Ambiental (JA!) says it has been barred, and that community leaders were told by the locality chief that they should not allow members of the community to meet with JA!. Subsequently, the Marara district administrator said in a meeting with JA! that environmental activists cannot go to the project region to talk about rights and laws, or mention the impacts of other megaprojects. ''The dam project should not be crucified for the sins of Jindal's previous coal projects. We cannot be pessimistic and think that will happen here in Marara,'' he added.

…Mozambique's government is suing Credit Suisse and Privinvest in London for bribing public officials to enter into the $2bn secret debt. The case is now in pre-trial hearings and Judge Robin Knowles has ordered the government to provide documents from the State Information and Security Service (SISE) and the Office of the President. These are relevant because senior SISE officials have been convicted of taking bribes and because President Nyusi was defence minister at the time. Knowles has threatened to not allow the case to go ahead ("strike out" in legal jargon) if the documents are not provided.