Local Communities Across Africa Demand Justice and Land Rights Amid Violations by Belgium’s SIAT Group
Press Release, 21 September 2023
21 September 2023. Local communities impacted by the operations of Belgium’s SIAT Group are rising up in unity against land and human rights abuses. From Ghana to Nigeria and Ivory Coast, these communities seek an end to a decade-long conflict tied to SIAT’s extensive plantations.
The SIAT Group, with its vast cultivation of over 76,000 hectares across five countries in Africa and Asia, specializes in rubber and palm oil production. Notable multinationals including Unilever (UK), Nestlé (Switzerland), Michelin (France), and Goodyear (US) source raw materials from SIAT. However, local communities level severe accusations against the company: land grabbing, deforestation and violations of human and threats to food security. Affected communities in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria have joined forces with others within the Informal Alliance Against Industrial Plantations in West and Central Africa to demand that justice be done.
In Ivory Coast, the NSIA bank, a subsidiary of the pan-African financial group, recently seized the SIAT-owned Compagnie Hévéicole de Prikro (CHP) plantation due to financial default.
“This latest incident confirms the lack of respect shown to our communities. Nobody consulted us. In fact, we are the only ones who have the right to seize the plantation. We have been denouncing this land grab for more than 10 years”,
states Sinan Ouattara, representative for the Roi d’Andoh community.
The communities affected by CHP’s activities have decided, with the help of lawyers, to assert their rights against the SIAT group. They believe that they have never been consulted or received compensation for the damage suffered since the company arrived on their land. In addition to the seizure of their land and the destruction of their crops and a sacred forest, they denounce SIAT’s complicity in the ongoing repression to which they have been subjected since 2013. In 2015 alone, this repression led to the death of 2 people, the arrest and arbitrary detention of nearly 70 people, and dozens of injuries.
Meanwhile, in Ghana, the streets echo with community demands: land repatriation, fair employment conditions, cessation of violence, and a spotlight on the environmental degradation from monoculture practices. A major demonstration is taking place today at the Group’s plantations.
In Nigeria, news surfaces that Saroafrica, a leading African agribusiness, is negotiating to acquire an 86% stake in the Belgium-based SIAT. In response, Nigerian communities sent a letter to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) urging conflict resolution as a condition for the Commission’s approval of Saroafrica’s purchase of the Belgian family’s stake in the company.
“We will continue to demand for our land, our rights and the protection of our forests and local food systems whether from Pierre Vandebeeck, the Belgian founder and CEO of SIAT group, or from the managers of Saroafrica. if they confirm the takeover of the company that has grabbed our land!”
These communities, undeterred by corporate might, remain devoted to safeguarding their rights and eradicating unfair practices by SIAT. They appeal to the global community to rally behind them, advocating for a fairer, sustainable future.
For more details, press inquiries can be directed to:
– Francesca Monteverdi, Entraide et Fraternité, T : +32 456152125 – francesca.monteverdi(at)entraide.be
– Florence Kroff, FIAN Belgium, T : +32 475845624 – florence(at)fian.be
– Sinan Ouattara Issifou (French), Representative of the local communities of Famienkro, Côte d’Ivoire, T : +225 0707364967 – lupote86(at)gmail.com
– Daleba Nahounou Pierre Lautti (French), Young Volunteers for the Environment, Ivory Coast, T: 225 0747272953 – nahounou24(at)yahoo.fr
– Wisdom Koffi Adjawlo (English), Youth Volunteers for the environment, Ghana, T : +233 249648407 – adzawlo01(at)yahoo.fr
– Rita Uwaka (English): Forest & Biodiversity Programme Coordinator, Friends of the Earth Africa, Nigeria, T: +234 8034553503 – riouwaka(at)gmail.com
One year ago, a delegation of communities from several African countries, accompanied by local and Belgian NGOs, denounced the grabbing of their land and the violation of their rights in front of the SIAT-Group headquarters in Brussels.
News article by two journalists, Magdalena Krukowska and Zuza Nazaruk, published in May 2023 by Unbias the News and iWatch Africa. A documentary is currently in production.
“SIAT’s silence in the face of demands from affected communities” Press release, 26 June 2023
Cover photo credits: Arnaud Ghys, CNCD-11.11.11