Guyana: the UN asks France to respect the rights of Indigenous people

A United Nations committee sent a letter to France’s representatives at the UN reminding them that their government must consult and respect the free and informed consent of the Kali’na people, indigenous people in French Guiana who strongly oppose the construction of a power station.

The Kali’na of the village of Prospérité have been fighting for months to express their opposition to the West Guiana Power Plant (CEOG) project, construction of which began in 2019 in this French department in South America.

In a three-page letter detailing the project, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination says it preoccupied by […] the fact that there was no consultation or free, prior and informed consent of the Kali’na people before the approval of the project.

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The CEOG project is expected to supply 10,000 homes with electricity in western Guyana.

Photo: Meridiam

He adds that he is also worried allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement, detention, prosecution and criminal convictions against leaders and members of the Kali’na people.

THE Yopoto (traditional leader) Roland Sjabere was himself placed in pre-trial detention and the demonstrations sometimes turned into violent clashes with the police, as shown by several videos filmed at the scene.

The project requires the deforestation of 78 hectares of forests which have cultural importance for the Kali’na.

Furthermore, the land granted for this project is located in areas over which they have had collective use rights since 2020.

Despite an agreement signed between the two parties in July 2021, which required those responsible for the project CEOG to recognize and honor the rights, customs and culture of the inhabitants of Prospérité, theUN believes that the company did not respect it. Roland Sjabere has even already traveled to Paris to meet representatives of the French government to present his points.

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A delegation from Guyana visited the UN forum held earlier this month (April 2024).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

The community is not opposed to the project itself, but to the choice of its location.

The committee CEOG until free, prior and informed consent is obtained from the indigenous peoples affected by this project”,”text”:”would like to receive information on the measures taken to protect the rights of the Kali’na people […]as well as on the measures adopted or envisaged to modify the location or suspend the CEOG project until the free, prior and informed consent is obtained from the indigenous peoples affected by this project”}}”>would like to receive information on measures taken to protect the rights of the Kali’na people […]as well as the measures adopted or envisaged to modify the location or suspend the project CEOG until free, prior and informed consent is obtained from the indigenous peoples affected by this projectwe can still read.

This letter was sent a little over a month after the residents of Prospérité contacted the committee.

Contacted by Espaces Autochtones, the representative of France at theUN indicates that elements of response to the questions raised by the Committee will be transmitted within the allotted time frame, i.e. by June 26.

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