Cameroon: 145 local residents against the Bolloré group dismissed in France
Imedias with AFP | January 7, 2022

(unofficial translation of the original by GRAIN)

Cameroon: 145 local residents against the Bolloré group dismissed in France

Some 145 Cameroonians have been dismissed Friday by the French courts as they sought to force the Bolloré group to provide documents they hoped would show its links with a Cameroonian company that they accuse of violating their rights.

According to their lawyer, Fiodor Rilov, the exploitation of the palm groves by the Cameroonian company Socapalm "inflicts harm on them on a daily basis" by blocking access to land and burial sites as well as by polluting the water.

At the end of November, Mr. Rilov had tried to convince the court in Nanterre (Paris region) to order the Bolloré group to produce documents supposedly proving either the control it exercises over Socapalm, or the commercial relations established with it via a Belgian-Luxembourg holding company, the Société financière des caoutchoucs (Socfin).

If this were the case, the French giant would be subject to the "duty of care" regarding Socapalm's activities in Cameroon. A 2017 law obliges the largest companies to prevent serious human rights and environmental abuses by their foreign subcontractors and suppliers.

On Friday, the interim relief judge found that Socapalm's activities could be "likely to infringe on the fundamental rights" of local residents. But he concluded that the local residents did not bring "any element of a nature that would prove the existence of a direct or indirect control of the Bolloré SE company over Socapalm or Socfin".

The judge accepted the arguments of the Bolloré group's defense, namely its minority stake in Socfin, "up to 38.75%". The lawyer of the group, Mr. Olivier Baratelli, was pleased with this judicial victory and denounced to AFP a procedure aiming "to demonize and take advantage of the notoriety of the name Bolloré".

For his part, Fiodor Rilov told AFP that his clients would appeal. "We do not dispute the issue of capitalist participation," recalled the lawyer, who especially questions the "dominant intervention" of the Bolloré group in the appointment of the leaders of Socfin.

In May 2019, ten NGOs and unions filed a suit against Bolloré in France to secure the implementation of measures to improve the living conditions of workers and villagers around  palm oil plantations in Cameroon. This procedure, separate from that of the 145 local residents, is underway.
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Source: AFP

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