For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

Nigeria, Ghana, Others  Demand Justice, End To Land Rights Abuses By Belgium SIAT

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

Reports in Nigeria have surfaced that Saroafrica, a leading African agribusiness, is negotiating to acquire an 86% stake in the Belgium-based SIAT.

This is even as other African countries, including Ghana and Ivory Coast, impacted by the operations of Belgium’s SIAT Group are seeking an end to a decade-long conflict tied to SIAT’s extensive plantation, a statement by Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) has revealed

The local communities who have alleged land grabbing, deforestation,  violations of humans and threats to food security which have affected communities have joined forces Against Industrial Plantations in West and Central Africa to demand that justice be done.

The SIAT Group, with its vast cultivation of over 76,000 hectares across five countries in Africa and Asia, specializes in rubber and palm oil production. Notable multinationals including Unilever (UK), Nestlé (Switzerland), Michelin (France), and Goodyear (US) source raw materials from SIAT.

In response, Nigerian communities have sent a letter to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) urging conflict resolution as a condition for the Commission’s approval of Saroafrica’s purchase of the Belgian family’s stake in the company. Communities warn

“We will continue to demand our land, our rights and the protection of our forests and local food systems whether from Pierre Vandebeeck, the Belgian founder and CEO of SIAT group, or from the managers of Saroafrica. if they confirm the takeover of the company that has grabbed our land!”

In Ivory Coast, the NSIA bank, a subsidiary of the pan-African financial group, recently seized the SIAT-owned Compagnie Hévéicole de Prikro (CHP) plantation due to financial default.

A representative for the Roi d’Andoh community, Sinan Ouattara states “This latest incident confirms the lack of respect shown to our communities. Nobody consulted us. In fact, we are the only ones who have the right to seize the plantation. We have been denouncing this land grab for more than 10 years” 

The communities affected by CHP’s activities have decided, with the help of lawyers, to assert their rights against the SIAT group. They believe that they have never been consulted or received compensation for the damage suffered since the company arrived on their land. In addition to the seizure of their land and the destruction of their crops and a sacred forest, they denounce SIAT’s complicity in the ongoing repression to which they have been subjected since 2013. In 2015 alone, this repression led to the death of 2 people, the arrest and arbitrary detention of nearly 70 people, and dozens of injuries.

Meanwhile, in Ghana, the streets echo community demands: land repatriation, fair employment conditions, cessation of violence, and a spotlight on the environmental degradation from monoculture practices. A major demonstration is taking place today at the Group’s plantations.

These communities, undeterred by corporate might, remain devoted to safeguarding their rights and eradicating unfair practices by SIAT. They appeal to the global community to rally behind them, advocating for a fairer, sustainable future.

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