In this interview, Devlin Kuyek, Senior Researcher at GRAIN, talks about a report that reveals how a Canadian agribusiness company, Feronia, financed by American and European development institutions, is involved in land grabbing, corrupt practices and human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ZAHRA MOLOO: Your recent report looks at what you call ‘agro-colonialism’ in the DRC, and in particular at a Canadian company that’s investing in palm oil plantations in the Congo. Perhaps we can start with some historical context. We think of agribusiness and land grabs more in a contemporary sense on the continent, but in the DRC there’s a whole history to palm oil. Can you go back a bit and give some historical context to palm oil plantations in the DRC?
An interview with Jacqueline Moudeina (transcribed and translated from French)
Jacqueline Moudeina is a Chadian lawyer and President of The Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH). She is a recipient of the 2011 Right Livelihood Award. Moudeina is pursuing justice for the survivors of former Chadian president Hissène Habré’s terror regime.
ZAHRA MOLOO: Can you give a bit of context about the regime of the former president?
JACQUELINE MOUDEINA: Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, was in power from 7 June 1982 to 1 December 1990, a period of eight years. Those were years of terror. Every Chadian was afraid of his or her own shadow. In a couple you would have a man who feared his wife, and vice versa, and both would be afraid of their own children. Uttering even a little sentence could mean risking your life. It was a reign of terror under Hissène Habré, and when he left power on 1 December 1990 – as a result of a coup carried out by the current Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno – when he left and the new government was put in place, the new government ordered an investigation. The results of that report, finalized in 1992, concluded that 40,000 Chadians had been killed and thousands were disappeared or became widows and orphans. But the investigation did not cover the entire country. The results came from samples which enabled us to come up with a figure of 40,000 people killed and thousands disappeared.
Avocate au barreau du Tchad, présidente de l’Association tchadienne pour la promotion et la défense des droits de l’Homme (Atpdh) et récipiendaire du Right Livelihood Award en 2011, Jacqueline Moudeina lutte depuis une quinzaine d’années pour que l’ancien président Hissène Habré réponde des accusations de crimes de guerre, crimes contre l’humanité et crimes de torture qui pèsent sur lui.
ZAHRA MOLOO : Est-ce que vous pouvez nous rappeler le contexte qui prévalait sous le régime de l’ex-président ?
JACQUELINE MOUDEINA : Hissène Habre, l’ex-président tchadien, a régné au Tchad du 7 Juin 1982 au 1er décembre 1990. Donc il s’agit de huit années de règne. Mais c’était des années de terreur, où chaque Tchadien avait peur de sa propre ombre. Dans un couple, vous aviez le mari qui craint sa femme et vice versa. Les deux avaient peur de leurs propres enfants. Parce que pour peu qu’on sortait une petite phrase, on risquait sa vie. C’était vraiment la terreur et d’ailleurs, quand Hissène Habré est tombé, le 1er décembre 1990, du fait d’un coup d’Etat perpétré par l’actuel président tchadien Idriss Déby Itno, le nouveau gouvernement a ordonné une enquête. Le rapport a été déposé en 1992 et selon ce rapport 40 000 Tchadiens ont été tués et il y a eu des milliers de disparus, de veuves et d’orphelins. L’enquête n’avait pas couvert l’entièreté du pays. C’était des échantillonnages qui ont permis de fixer les 40 000 personnes tuées et les milliers de disparus.
Mombasa, Kenya– It was 4am when Nadiya Ahmed awoke to a loud bang in her house in Floringi village near the southern Kenyan city of Mombasa. Ahmed cautiously walked into the living room to find heavily armed police officers dressed in military fatigues and bulletproof vests.
“They were so many of them. They looked as if they were going to war,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera. The police ransacked the house, turning mattresses upside down, and taking photographs of her. A few minutes later, she heard her son, Idris Mohamed, 26, call out to the officers from inside the house.
“I have surrendered,” Ahmed recalled him saying. She said the police then stripped her son naked, handcuffed Idris, and shot him three times, killing him instantly.
Nnimmo Bassey is the co-founder of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), a Nigerian advocacy NGO, also known as Friends of the Earth Nigeria. Bassey has been involved in the struggle against oil exploitation in the Niger Delta. In 2010 he was awarded the Right Livelihood award. This interview was originally broadcast on Amandla radio in Montreal, Canada.
NNIMO: I’m Nnimmo Bassey. I direct Health of Mother Earth Foundation in Nigeria, which is an ecological think tank. I also coordinate Oil Watch International, which is a global South resistance network. I am a poet, writer and architect.
AMANDLA: You trained as an architect. How did you start working on issues of oil extraction?
N: Well, oil in Nigeria is as old as I am. And the problem is not getting any better, although I am getting better as I get older! I am joking. I started out life as a human rights activist, after graduation from university. In those days Nigeria was under military rule. The military ruled Nigeria for over thirty years and that really affected the political structure of the country.
Nnimmo Bassey is a renowned Nigerian environmental activist, well known for his work campaigning against the practices of multinational oil corporations in Nigeria. It has been estimated that spills equivalent to the size of that from the Exxon Valdez have occurred in the Niger Delta every year over the past 50 years.
In 1993, Bassey co-founded Environmental Rights Action (ERA), a Nigerian advocacy NGO dealing with environmental human rights issues in the country. Environmental Rights Action is also known as Friends of the Earth Nigeria. In 2010, Bassey was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for his work, otherwise known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’.
In this interview, he talks about the impact of oil drilling and oil spills in the Niger Delta, the threat that GMOs pose to African agriculture and how Africans across the continent can create a front against the extractive industries as well as against neoliberalapproaches to environmentalism.
On March 31, a blast killed 6 people in the predominantly Somali neighbourhood of Eastleigh in Kenya. Following the blast, Kenyan police rounded up thousands Somali refugees and Somali Kenyans, detaining them in overcrowded conditions in makeshift camps and police stations. Those detained reported that people were beaten and raped by the police and required to hand over money and valuables. Some pregnant women had miscarriages or were forced to give birth while in detention.
Meanwhile, in the port city of Mombasa, on April 1st, Muslim cleric Sheikh Abubakar Sharif Ahmed, otherwise known as Makaburi, was assassinated after attending a court hearing. He is the third Muslim cleric to be killed in Mombasa since 2012. While many suspect police involvement, they have denied accusations that they are to blame for extra-judicial killings.
In this interview, Al-Amin Kimathi, a human rights activist and Executive Director of the Muslims for Human Rights Forum, talks about the crackdown on Somali communities in Eastleigh, the assassination of Makaburi, and how these events relate to counter-terrorism strategies and interests in the East Africa region.
In May 2009, toxic sludge from a gold mine operated by African Barrick Gold (a subsidiary of Toronto-based Barrick Gold) seeped into River Thigithe in North Mara, Tanzania. Reports from the surrounding villages alleged that the toxic material led to the deaths of about 20 people and to fish, crops and animals dying from the contaminated water. This radio documentary, produced for Norwegian Church Aid, features interviews with residents around the North Mara almost two years later.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Can you tell me very briefly what your book, ‘Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?’ is about?
SAMIR AMIN: The title of my book is indicative of the intention. The title, in a provocative way, is ‘Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism in Crisis?’ As you can see, these are two different visions and strategies of action. Capitalism is currently in a crisis. This is not just a financial crisis which started with the breakdown of the financial system in September 2008. The financial crisis is itself the result of a long, a deep crisis which started long before, around 1975 with as of that time, unemployment, precarity, poverty, inequality, having grown continuously. And this real crisis of really existing capitalism has been overcome by financialisation of the system and the financialisation of the system has been the Achilles heel of the system. Therefore I thought that, and I wrote in 2002 that financialisation, being the Achilles heel of the system, the system will start breaking down and moving into a deeper crisis through a financial crisis, which is what happened.
Ashraf Cassiem of the Cape Town-based Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign discusses the impact of the World Cup on South Africa. In his view, the country, and especially the poor, stand to lose as a result of hosting the World Cup. He highlights the vast amount of public resources spent on the tournament, the loss of livelihoods by traders and the eviction of the poor from public land adjoining stadium sites as prime examples of this.