Knowledge to land defenders on how to stay alive when threatened

Tuesday, 11th September 2018

Two workshops skilled land defenders on safety during advocacy

“For their tireless work in empowering communities and protecting ecosystems, environmental defenders are killed in startling number," says John Knox, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment in a recent report. According to Global Witness, 19 land defenders were killed 2017 in Africa, among which 12 in DRC.

In sub-Saharan Africa, when land defenders succeed to escape death, criminalisation, death threats, arrests and abuse awaits them. From the DRC, Cameroon to Senegal to Tanzania, mountains of judicial and physical attacks overly stress land defenders. Staying safe is not an option, it is a priority.

Two ILC supported workshops skilled around 34 land defenders, including six women in Senegal and DRC between July and August 2018 with land defending safety strategies.

The most recent was hosted by Aide et Action pour la Paix (AAP) DRC on August 20-22 engaged ten local civil society organisations, eight ILC members (CICODEV from Senegal, FIANTSO from Madagascar, CED and MBOSCUDA from Cameroon, AAP, UEFA, PIDP, CODELT and ERND from DRC) and representatives from the provincial government in Nord Kivu.

Facilitated by Professor MANIKARIZA Pacifique, former Commissioner to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights of the African Union, the workshop shared African legal and paralegal instruments to protect land defenders. The greatest threat for land defenders in Africa is in DRC. To draw the attention of public authorities to what land defenders face, the workshop engaged Jolie Feza de la Lucha, Provincial Minister of the Administration of Justice, Human Rights and Community Reinsertion in North-Kivu and other dignitaries.

The first, organised by CICODEV in Senegal on July 25 2018, ended on the note that land defenders need special protection in their work. Dialogue, whistleblowing systems and special funds can help protect land defenders. But Mballo Madadou, land activist who facilitated the exchange in Senegal stressed on personal strategies and attitudes that can keep land defenders safe in conflict situations. In the face of danger, keeping traceable mobile phones, running, or negotiating your way out or cooperating can be life saving, says Mballo. ILC members present at the workshop included: CIVODEV, IPAR, AAP and the National Council for Rural Concertation (CNCR).