Karonga Civil Society Network: A call for justice in the extractive industries

Karonga CSO Network

Karonga Civil Society Network 

A CALL FOR JUSTICE IN EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES

30 May 2018

PREAMBLE

Noting that Malawi is endowed with variable Minerals, oil and gas, which if well managed can contribute to economic growth and reduce poverty. Karonga District, has more than 5 active mines and over 8 prospective investors.

Disturbed by the fact that, mining activities commenced many years back, yet the
majority of Malawians and, in particular the people of Karonga have hardly benefited
from wealth realized from the extractive activities;

Concerned that majority of Malawians agree about this sad situation, the legal
environment governing the extractive industry in Malawi remains weak. Yet government continue awarding new licenses to investors to further exploit Malawi’s natural resources.

OUR CONCERNS

The civil society in Karonga, met on 30th May 2018 reflected, discussed and resolved as follows;

The civil society greatly appreciate steps taken by the government in reviewing the Mines and Minerals Act (1981) so that it resonates with the current aspiration of Malawians. We have renewed hope in, the commitment made by the State President Professor Peter Mutharika during the recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament where he reaffirmed his stand to improving the mining legal framework in the country. Nevertheless, we are concerned with the snail’s pace at which the review process has taken. We are also horrified with the secrecy and exclusion that has characterised the whole process.

The history of extractive industry in Karonga District has demonstrated that the industry can be oppressive, exclusive and alienating leading to poverty of Malawian citizens especially. A vivid example of unfair processes of reallocation, resettlement and compensation of affected population has been recorded in Karonga District in which some of the affected people are in dire poverty today. We have learnt that in many cases, communities are not informed about the extractive activities prior to when investors come, and they do not give consent, and in case where consent is given; like the cases of Kayelekela Uranium Mine, it is not genuine, not free and many times coerced. Above all, there are no clear modalities for investors to share benefits with affected communities. We also reflected on the readiness and capacity of relevant government officials in enforcing extractive industry’s related legal framework and negotiation of beneficial ownership agreements for all Malawians. While the District Council is the most visible government institution at grass root level it plays a minute role, if any, in the management of extractive sector. However, the council is often presented with numerous grievances relating to human rights violations and other challenges from the community. It is recommended if the new mining laws clearly define the role of District Council in the extractive sector.

It is government’s obligations to protect its people by enacting and enforcing laws and policies that benefit all. We take it that those charged with the mandate to negotiate investment agreements on behalf of Malawians are aware of this obligation. We are however worried that none of the mining investment concessions we have reviewed, demonstrate this ingredient, as they tend to benefit just a few Malawians.

OUR APPEALS

Considering the short comings above, we members of the civil society working in Karonga District appeal for the following:

  1. That Government of Malawi hastens and completes the process of reviewing the Mines and Minerals Act of 1981. We believe that much of the suffering of the people hosting mining activities are as a result to the archaic statutes. Nonetheless, we call on government to ensure that, as it reviews the law, the process is open to the public where all are free to participate, or are aware at what stage the review process is.
  2. That Government of Malawi reviews the Mines and Minerals Act bearing in mind human rights and citizen’s participation. As such, we also implore government to incorporate Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in reviewed Act. FPIC is a global best practice in mining that respects and empower communities to claim their destiny within their locality. This can surely address many forms of alienation and suffering that we see among the people of Karonga District.
  3. That Members Parliament, being representatives of the people in government, should be emissaries of hope and also be genuine custodians of citizen’s trust. Furthermore, they should effectively present to government the concerns of Malawians they represent. It’s their duty to ensure that government transacts its business openly, fairly and accountably. We call upon members of parliament to push for speedy enactment of reviewed mining laws that give more benefits to Malawians.

CONCLUSION

We the members of civil society, working in Karonga District have raised these issues and made the demands above in the spirit of true, genuine and responsible citizenry. We are hopeful that government and other duty bearers stated will seriously redress above concerns.

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