OXFORD, England (CNS) – Catholic Bishops in Africa have criticized the appropriation of land, natural resources and other economic assets by private companies and called on national governments to be more concerned with the rights and needs of local communities.
“For most Africans, land is neither a tradable commodity nor an individual possession – it is a gift from God and our ancestors, a common good,” said the Symposium of Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.
“Impunity for the capture of African lands and natural resources by businesses and elites and the damage this causes to African food systems, our environment, our soils, our land and water, our biodiversity, our nutrition and our health is a major concern. Land grabs force people to leave their land, fueling conflict and causing displacement, ”the statement said.
The bishops were joined by leaders of other faith-based and non-governmental organizations ahead of talks between African Union and European Union foreign ministers in Kigali, Rwanda, which opened on October 26.
The statement expressed concern that land deals in 2021, covering more than 62 million acres, had been concluded “by private actors encouraged and financially supported by governments and public development banks.”
Such business ventures, the statement said, continue to reflect European perspectives because of “the legacy of colonialism and the huge differences in power and capacity.”
“We have come together in solidarity and brotherhood to amplify the voices of African communities fighting for land justice,” he said.
The signatories urged the African Union and the European Union to ensure “meaningful community participation” in future development projects.
Foreign ministers met to discuss common challenges ahead of a sixth European Union-African Union summit, scheduled for Brussels in early 2022, including recovery from COVID-19, poverty, security, migration, education and Skill developpement.
They met as the United Nations climate summit was about to begin in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31.
In a separate October 25 interview with the Catholic News Agency of Poland, KAI, Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, president of SECAM, said that the growing Catholic Church in Africa was needed for “l ‘evangelization of the world’, but was held back by ‘scandalous structural poverty’. . “
He explained that Burkina Faso’s 17 gold mines are owned by international companies, leaving only 9% of profits to the country. He said a “new order” was urgently needed.
“African countries have gained their independence,” he said, “but it is only formal independence because we are still under domination.”