DAKAR, March 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Civil society groups rejected Guinea’s first policy seeking to protect people displaced by mines and dams on Thursday, saying it would worsen poverty and conflict in the mineral-rich nation.
Seven human rights and development organisations asked the government not to adopt the proposed national standards for relocating and compensating displaced communities, and to spend the next six months consulting with local people instead.
“If the document is adopted like this, it means the problem will never be resolved,” said Mamady Koivogui, executive director of the Association for Mines Without Poverty, one of the groups which hosted a Conakry news conference on Thursday.
“The essential aspects that would prevent people from falling into poverty ... are not addressed in detail. This document will only create more conflict and confusion.”
The West African country has among the world’s biggest bauxite and iron ore reserves, which have attracted international mining firms, fuelling anger among locals who say they are evicted without fair consultation or compensation.
Few rural Guineans have legally registered ownership of their property and mining companies therefore often maintain that rural lands are state property, Human Rights Watch says.
“Since we don’t have a law at the moment, the mining companies apply whatever policy,” said Cece Noramou, a senior official in the mining ministry and president of the interministerial committee that drafted the text.
“This (policy) will not prevent displacement, but it will allow the people who are displaced to have rights that are at an international standard,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The document lays out steps including consultation with local people prior to land acquisition and their right to appeal at multiple stages, said Noramou, adding that members of affected communities contributed to its development.
But civil society groups said they identified over 20 gaps or problems with the text, such as a failure to prohibit forced eviction and the lack of a guarantee to receive detailed information about the development plans in advance.
Nearly 100,000 Guineans risk being displaced by mines, roads, hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure projects that are planned or underway, they said.
Noramou said the policy will likely be adopted in the next two or three months, and the government is too pressed for time to do another six months of consultations in rural areas.
"Better to have a text in hand with which to start, and as we go along if there are improvements maybe we can improve it," he said. (Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)