Greenpeace | 18 November 2015
by Amy Moas and Eric Ini
When Greenpeace and ally NGOs first introduced you to Herakles Farms and its palm oil project in Cameroon (known locally as SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon or SGSOC), the US company had grand and destructive ambitions. Even though it had yet to obtain a valid land lease and even though local residents and civil society opposed the plans, they were intent on destroying nearly 70,000 hectares of dense natural forest in the country’s Southwest region – an area that provided livelihoods to thousands of people and a home to endangered wildlife including the chimpanzee and drill.
More than three years on and the concession area is a fraction of the intended size, the company has closed most of its offices and resorted to selling illegally felled timber to raise revenue. But if its ambitions have changed or evolved, they are no less destructive and now SGSOC appears to be desperately using the courts, physical assaults and intimidation to attack citizens exercising rights guaranteed in their constitution and under international law.
Where peaceful protest is a crime
Nasako Besingi, a local activist who has won international awards for his peaceful protests against the Herakles Farms/SGSOC palm oil project was, last week, convicted of four charges including defamation and propagation of false publications. After many judicial delays and concerns over the fairness and validity of the Cameroonian legal system to adjudicate this case, he was ordered to pay a huge fine and legal costs or face three years in jail.