Last month, Global Witness released their 2018 report on land and environment defenders. Sadly, 14 land defenders were killed in Africa in 2018 and several others criminalised for defending their land and our environment.
With the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recording the highest number of killings totalling to 8. Kenya reported two, while Senegal and South Africa recorded one each.
Not only were land defenders killed but also threatened, arrested or thrown in jail for daring to oppose the authorities or organisations seeking to gain from their land.
This report comes at a time when land defenders are under siege in Africa. The situation is observed across continents, with attacks driven by destructive industries like mining, large agribusiness and logging. For example, a land defender, Mr Joël Imbangola was killed in DRC in July just before the release of the Global Witness report.
DRC witnessed the downing of 20 land defenders in 2017 and 2018, the largest in Africa.
The International Land Coalition (ILC) members have been working to ensure the safety of land rights defenders. For example, the Integrated Programme for the Development of the Pygmy People (PIDP) in Kivu, supported by ILC, fought against the criminalisation of Mr Mwarabu Mbula Jean Koko, a land rights defender when he was attacked. PIDP advocated for his release and provided him with medical attention.
PIDP is also working to defend Mr Kasole Kalimbiro, land and human rights defender, who was arrested in July 2019 while defending the rights of indigenous people in North Kivu. While PIDP’s efforts are yet to secure the release of Mr Kasole, it hopes that sharing information about the case and bringing it to the limelight will attract the support that can pressure the government to release the defender.
Another member Environnement, Ressources Naturelles Et Developpement (ERND) has been deploying an army of paralegals in the Equateur and Ingende territories since 2010 to record cases of abuse and protect land defenders from criminalisation. It also carries investigations on reported cases and seeks for justice.
Defending the Interests of land rights defenders is among the ten commitments of ILC. Besides, ILC set up an emergency fund that supports land defenders in distress.
For more information about the ILC emergency fund: https://www.landcoalition.org/sites/default/files/documents/resources/led_infonote_web_0.pdf