Madagate: Abidjan. Joint Declaration on land grabbing in Francophone Africa
Declaration of the Regional Conference of Francophone Africa on: “Land grabbing in Francophone Africa: Identifying and strengthening endogenous solutions" from 21 to 23 November 2017 in Abidjan.
"God created the heavens and the earth. The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it" (Gen 1,1; 2.15)
When creating the heavens and the earth, God intended that man should till the land for the common good. But out of selfishness, he fell into the sin of land grabbing with all the attendant consequences.
Standing on the Word of God and based on Pope Francis’ teaching on the Environment in the Encyclical Letter Laudato si (LS), and further to the conclusions of the November 2015 continental conference on land grabbing which was held in Limuru, Kenya,
We archbishops, bishops, priests, religious men and women, imams, traditional chiefs, village chiefs, pastoral workers, civil society actors and partner organizations gathered at the Regional Conference of Francophone Africa on "Land grabbing in Francophone Africa: Identifying and strengthening endogenous solutions", declare the following:
Land is life. Land grabbing is a serious issue that challenges everyone’s conscience.
The food, energy and financial crisis of the 2000s have accelerated the massive influx of capital investment in land, which is viewed as a financial asset and merchandise, causing a great surge in land grabbing in Africa.
Land grabbing has been disguised with expressions such as "economic growth", "development", "food security for Africa". The truth is that doors were opened wide to usher in local, national, international companies or institutions, who use traditional, religious, military, political authorities and politico-administrative elites in African countries to perpetuate economic models that foster land, waters and natural resources grabbing in Africa.
Land grabbing widens the gap between the rich and the poor in Africa where millions of people who depend on natural resources including land and water for survival, do not have the bare minimum they need to lead decent lives. Frequent war and conflict in Africa, terrorism, rural exodus, forced displacement, internal and international migration as well as the diminishing place occupied by civil society are some of the adverse effects of this system. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly recurrent situation that leads to the sin of indifference (cf.LS,14) even though its victims are human beings like every one of us and not mere statistics.
We note that all these threats to life are persistent and run contrary to basic human needs, internationally recognized human rights and African religious, evangelical, social and cultural values.
In the light of the foregoing, we declare that:
- Water, seeds and especially land are not and should be treated as commodities. Land is our mother (cf. LS,1).
- The concept of "developing land" needs to be fundamentally revised to integrate the environmental, traditional, spiritual and social dimensions of life in Africa. Human existence is about more than just figures or finances!
- There is an urgent need to halt land grabbing in all its forms in Africa;
- Our sympathies go out to the families and communities that are affected by this threat and are fighting against the seizure of their lands and resources, especially those who have lost loved ones and land rights activities who face constant persecution;
- We condemn the criminalization, arrests, imprisonments, persecution and assassinations of victims of land grabbing, land rights activists and defenders. We wish to assure the victims that they are not alone in their struggle and we pledge to use all the legal remedies available to encourage and support them in their noble struggle;