Socfin-Bolloré plantations: Second factory blocked by local communities

A group of villagers block the factory of the plantation in Mbongo, Cameroon, 28 April 2015

International Alliance of Communities around the Socfin-Bolloré Plantations & ReAct | 29 April 2015 | [FR]

Socfin-Bolloré plantations: Second factory blocked by local communities

The movement launched in Cameroon by peasants deprived of their land by the oil palm plantations is spreading. Bolloré puts the responsibility for the conflict on the Belgian shareholders of Socfin.

While the Socapalm factory in Dibombarri, western Cameroon, is blocked by surrounding communities since last Thursday (23 April), the Socapalm plantation in Mbongo is now paralysed since yesterday morning (28 April) by local communities demanding the return of their confiscated lands. At 05:00 in the morning, several groups of villagers fanned out in the plantation. Three hundred people blocked the main entrance to the factory while three other groups of 100 people each obstructed the departure of workers heading out to the oil palm fields. As in the other plantation, the public authorities are trying to appease the situation and have refused demands of the company to use force to clear out the protestors. With the announcement of similar actions planned in other plantations belonging to the same group in Liberia, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, the peasant movement brought together through the international alliance is expected to grow in the days and weeks to come.

Bolloré skirts responsibility and puts it on Fabri

The Socapalm plantations in Cameroon belong to the Socfin Group, in which Bolloré is the largest shareholder (38.75%). According to their annual reports, Socfin’s rubber and oil palm plantations in Africa have grown by 24%, from 87,303 ha to 108,465 ha, between 2011 and 2014. According to representatives of the surrounding communities, this expansion is taking place on land used until now by the indigenous communities. When questioned following these actions, Vincent Bolloré distanced himself by stating that «the Socfin Group is majority-held and controlled by the Belgian Fabri family». He nonetheless tried to resolve the conflict by receiving representatives of the local communities from the five countries in Paris in October 2014. Hubert Fabri, for his part, rejected this initiative. He has refused to recognise the local communities’ organisations, and will only consider public authorities as legitimate interlocutors. Six leaders from villages surrounding the SRC plantation in Liberia were  arrested on 5 January 2014, sparking off solidarity protests in the other countries.

The power struggle may continue with the International alliance of villages surrounding the Socfin-Bolloré plantations, set up in 2013 by the NGO ReAct, which has brought together communities affected by the company in five countries. «Six thousand people are being deprived of their land by the Socfin plantations in Cameroon, 2,000 in Liberia, 1,000 in Côte d’Ivoire, 800 families in Cambodia and 200 in Sierra Leone,» says Emmanuel Elong, president of the Alliance. « Together, we denounce the non-respect of the principle of people’s consent, a basic principle of international law and jurisprudence relating to indigenous peoples. Bolloré is not keeping his promises and is shirking his responsibilities. Hubert Fabri has shown only contempt for local communities, never answering our letters. We have no choice but to fight to the end. »

Media contacts (EN/FR):

Cameroon: Emmanuel Elong, president of the International alliance of villages surrounding the Socfin-Bolloré plantations, +237674529387

France: Eloise Maulet, coordinator of ReAct, +33638012594, [email protected]

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