Cabo Delgado needs our support and solidarity. The gas industry is ravaging the northernmost region of Mozambique, as transnational corporations and elites pillage its resources and devastate communities. Like all extractive industries, gas extraction in Mozambique is fuelling human rights abuses, poverty, corruption, violence and social injustice. It will have severe consequences for a country already vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as the two catastrophic cyclones in 2019.
Currently the sovereignty of Mozambique depends, not on the peoples of Mozambique, but on investors and other states. With internationalist solidarity we can fight to redress this wrong: Stop companies from signing exploration and concession contracts; stop financiers from investing; stop transnational corporations and countries from the Global North dictating Mozambique’s reliance on fossil fuels; stop local communities from losing their homes, territories, lands and livelihoods. Mozambique’s current development pathway of fossil fuel exploitation is resulting in the loss of communities’ livelihoods, human rights abuses, the destruction of the environment and exacerbation of the climate crisis.
This is why JA! (Justiça Ambiental/ Friends of the Earth Mozambique) and Friends of the Earth International are asking for support from our friends around the world.
Grabbing land and ocean for gas exploration
So far 150 trillion cubic feet of gas has been discovered off the coast of Cabo Delgado. Industry players include fossil fuel giants Eni, Total, Anadarko, Shell, ExxonMobil, Galp, Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, Bharat Petroleum, Korea Gas Corporation and Mitsui/JOGMEC, among others. The construction of onshore facilities to support the planned offshore gas extraction is impoverishing rural farming and fishing communities. Now the gas industry has made Cabo Delgado the COVID-19 hotspot in Mozambique.
Transnational corporations have already forced over 550 families from their homes, grabbed their land and cut off their access to the sea. They have razed entire villages to the ground, leaving communities without livelihoods, creating a food crisis. In compensation, companies have offered local communities land a mere tenth of the size of the original plots, far from their relocation houses – a clear violation of the rights of these communities to remain in their territories.
Attacks give way to militarisation and fear
For almost three years, communities in Cabo Delgado have been the target of increasingly frequent brutal attacks by insurgents and extremists. Over 100,000 people have been displaced, their villages burnt to the ground and young women have been kidnapped, some have been missing for months.
The government’s response of dispatching the military has only instilled more fear in the very communities they are supposed to protect. Soldiers are abusing their power by imposing random curfews and physically assaulting vulnerable peoples. People fear leaving the village to go to their farms, in case they are attacked by extremists, or mistaken for extremists by the military.
The military’s real role in the region is clearly to protect the transnational corporations not the peoples. Exxon Mobil and Total called on the government in February to deploy more troops for their protection.
Gas projects endanger peoples’ health and environment
These very same transnational fossil fuel corporations boast of their alleged concern for the environment, promoting ‘decarbonisation strategies’ and support for nature conservation. All the while they are signing new gas exploration concessions with the Mozambican government and working on this gas project that will irreversibly destroy endangered species of coral and fish of the Quirimbas Archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere off the coast of Cabo Delgado.
Mozambican journalists have been arrested or detained on contrived charges, for reporting on the gas industry and attacks. Journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco has been missing since April 7. His last message was one informing his mother that the military was arresting him. Many believe that he has since been killed. A very vocal community member, Mr Selemane of Palma, disappeared on 20 May, 24 hours after speaking out against the mistreatment and heavy-handed nature of the military in the area. He is still missing at the time of writing.
Cabo Delgado is now the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mozambique. The first confirmed case was a foreign employee at Total’s construction site and within two weeks Total employees constituted two thirds of Mozambique’s COVID-19 cases. Although Total’s infected employees are isolated on site, cooks, cleaners, security guards and other staff are brought in daily from the surrounding villages to serve them. While Total has started to test their own employees, inadequate efforts have been made to test and protect local communities.
Corporate impunity prevails
History has shown that foreign fossil fuel investment in the global South has only ever been detrimental for peoples and the environment. Mozambique ranked 180 out of 189 on the 2018 Human Development Index. Despite hosting an international fossil fuel industry for many years, only one third of Mozambique’s population has access to electricity and the majority of the new gas will be exported. The complicity and impunity continues even as a huge debt scandal erupted in recent years, including Credit Suisse, Russian bank VTB, mercenary Erik Prince and the Mozambican government.
JA! and Friends of the Earth International have argued for years that the global energy system is broken and unjust. The destructive impacts of dirty energy sources like gas fall disproportionately on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, while elites and transnational corporations reap the benefits of the system in terms of profits, power and access to energy.
When will the assassinations of activists, corruption, fraudulent elections, land grabs and human rights abuses become reason enough to put an end to corporate impunity in Mozambique and other parts of the world? It is time to demand an end to this impunity and put peoples before profits!
Call to Action – How can you help?
We are demanding that:
Demands to transnational corporations and investors:
- We demand that all transnational companies, all purchasers and all investors involved in gas extraction in Mozambique cease all activities right now.
Demands to the Mozambican government:
- We demand that the Mozambican government stops gas and fossil fuels exploitation in Mozambique: awarding no more concessions and choosing a path of peoples-based renewable energy instead, since the current energy path is destroying the peoples’ livelihoods, the environment and exacerbating the climate crisis. We demand that the Mozambique government ceases putting transnational corporations ahead of the well-being of its peoples.
- We demand that the Mozambique government releases journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco and community member Mr Selemane, and opens a transparent investigation into the reasons for their disappearances.
- We demand that the Mozambique government ceases all random arrests and detentions of journalists, activists and innocent civilians, ends media censorship and quells the atmosphere of fear.
Demands to the oversight bodies:
- We demand that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Working Group on Extractives, Environment and Human Rights) investigate the violent situation in Cabo Delgado and hold the Mozambican government and the fossil fuel corporations to account for their crimes.
- We demand justice and reparation for the peoples of Cabo Delgado and that the transnational corporations be held to account.
- We demand a strong and effective international legally binding instrument on ‘transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights’, that guarantees access to justice to victims of violations and holds these corporations accountable. We demand rights for people, rules for business.
Thank you to all those who signed on to our letter.
On 25 June 2020, Mozambique’s 45th Independence Day, we need your help to deliver this message to the criminals ravaging Cabo Delgado, by email and on social media.
We are asking you to deliver the letter by email to the Mozambique government and the target companies, and bombard them with messages on Twitter and Facebook.
Please find HERE a list of the target email addresses and social media accounts, along with an email template and social media texts.
We invite you to share posts by Friends of the Earth International and JA! on Facebook and Twitter, and follow the hashtag #NoGasMoz.
Real World Radio interview with Daniel Ribeiro, a Mozambican activist and member of JA!
The dire consequences of the gas expansion plans in Mozambique
“We don’t have to create another example in Africa of extractive industries causing conflicts and social instability”