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Draft resettlement policy in Guinea Conakry threatens to violate rights of more than 100,000 people, according to analysis by civil society groups

CONAKRY (March 21, 2019) – A group of civil society organizations in Guinea Conakry today asked the Guinean government to implement radical changes to the text of a proposed policy for relocating and compensating communities affected by major development projects, including hydroelectric dams and mines in a country thought to hold more than half the world’s supply of bauxite.

According to an analysis released today by the civil society group, the proposal developed by the South African consulting firm SRK, with funding from the German Agency for International Cooperation for Development (GIZ), has no grounding in Guinean law and fails to respect the economic and cultural needs of the communities in the path of the development projects. And rather than protecting local people, as envisioned by Guinean political leaders and German funders, the new policy could violate the human rights of more than 100,000 rural Guineans.

“The goal of this policy is to limit the devastating impacts of hydroelectric dams and mining projects in particular,” said Houdy Bah, mayor of the rural commune of Sangarédi. “As written, however, far from leading to fair and equitable compensation, the policy risks exacerbating the tensions and conflicts that are already occurring.” In its current form, according to the civil society analysis, the policy would prevent even GIZ from adhering to its own human rights policy.

Presented today by civil society organizations at a press briefing in Conakry, the analysis reports that the proposed policy is flawed, but it shows as well that that the government has presented the text of the policy on relocation and compensation to only 12 people outside of Conakry – and that in a country of more than 12 million people. The analysis notes that the government did not consult local authorities, elected officials and experts, such as mayors, traditional leaders, rural planners, agricultural engineers, environmental technical staff and sociologists, even though they should be key–not only to establish such a policy, but to implement it. Finally, the analysis charges that local communities, although they are at the heart of this process and will be the first ones impacted by it, have not had the chance to comment on this text and few know it is being developed. 

“Guinean rural communities are essentially dependent on access to land and natural resources for their survival, and therefore must be consulted on decisions affecting their access to these resources, in line with international human rights standards,” explains Mamady Koivogui, from the national NGO Association Mines Sans Pauvreté.

Civil society organizations are requesting a minimum period of six months to allow the Government’s Inter-ministerial Committee to conduct wide consultations in rural areas where the policy will be implemented.

In addition to these consultations, civil society organizations report that the current text of the policy does not respect several human rights. Among other things, it does not prohibit forced evictions of local communities nor does it ensure a last resort to resettlement when it is in the public interest. It also lacks mechanisms to secure the legitimate land rights of local communities, to allow them access to justice, and to ensure free consultation and the sharing of detailed information with communities.

A country rich in mining resources

Guinea’s massive stores of bauxite—an estimated 25 billion tons—and its potential for hydroelectric power, have captured the interest of investors from China, Russia, France, the United Arab Emirates, and the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation. The country also recently was selected to host the African Center for Mineral Development, which aims to support a strong role for minerals in ensuring the continent’s economic future. 

“The exploitation of bauxite is extremely invasive,” said Mamadou Maladho Diallo, from the NGO Convergence Globale des Luttes pour la Terre et l’Eau–Afrique de l’Ouest. “Land has been laid bare on surfaces of considerable magnitude and at an impressive speed, without any assessment of the long-term impact of these mines on local communities.”

Threats of displacement of thousands of rural villagers to make way for large development projects, particularly mining and hydroelectric dams, are increasing. In 2015, for example, about 380 families were forcibly evicted from their ancestral landsin Kintinian commune to expand an open-pit gold mine controlled by the mining giant, AngloGold Ashanti and supported by Nedbank (South Africa), an International Finance Corporation (IFC) lender. More recently, residents of 13 villages in western Guinea formally filed a complaint with the IFC for financing the extension of a harmful bauxite mine. The 540 complainants allege that the project seized their land, destroyed their livelihoods and damaged the local environment.

“After years of hesitation, the Guinean government has demonstrated unprecedented political will to regulate the compensation and resettlement of communities affected by development projects,” said the Honorable Saikou Yaya Barry, National Assembly deputy. “But the government will be judged by its actions and not by its intentions. Its commitment to sustainable development will be revealed as a fraud if the government adopts this policy as it is now and fails to align it with the laws of Guinea and the will of its people.”

“The fact that a country like Guinea, with the world’s largest known reserves of bauxite, has no national policy to protect people or the environment is very concerning,” added Saa Pascal Tenguiano, Executive Director of the NGO Centre de Commerce International pour le Développement. “That’s why this process cannot fail. Absolutely all mining countries need such standards. Not just for us, but for everyone. We are here to help the government to do this right.”

Analysis is available (in French only) at:

https://communitiesfirst.net/analyse-du-document-referentiel-reinst...

Annex to the analysis, including a technical note and proposed law is available (in French only) at:

https://communitiesfirst.net/note-technique-du-collectif-reinstalla...

Click here for more information.

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