Diamond Barons Sued for Destruction of Farmland
A ‘war’ between diamond mining interests and locals in northeastern Angola that has
resulted in the destruction of 402 privately-owned fields of assorted crops in the last year alone, has forced the area’s traditional chiefs, or Sobas, to file suit against the mining conglomerate and six named individuals.
The lawsuit, filed today, seeks redress for actions attributed to the Angolan diamond mining conglomerate, Sociedade Mineira do Cuango Lda. (SMC) and five of its managerial team: Artur Jorge Gonçales (President of the Board), Victor Nunes (Logistics and Security Manager), Filipe Luis (Administrative and Financial Manager), Mike Weir (Operations Director) and Firmino Valeriano (Deputy Operations Director).
The complaint alleges criminal behaviour, including extortion and theft, and the violation of individuals’ property rights under Article 37 of the Constitution, and demands action by the Attorney General’s office to institute criminal proceedings against those responsible.
SMC is accused of ordering the systematic destruction of hundreds of food crop plantations bordering waterways in the Cafunfo area (Cuango municipality) so they can extend their operations to prospect for alluvial diamonds in the area.
Those who own and work the land say they are powerless to resist these violent land-seizures, because the local authorities are working hand-in-glove with SMC and the powerful vested interests who control diamond mining in Angola, interests that reach all the way up to the President, José Eduardo dos Santos.
They accuse the conglomerate of enlisting the local MPLA administration to send in armed police in uniform to terrorise villagers, threatening them with physical harm or even death, to force their compulsory removal, destroying their homes, cash crops and vegetable gardens with little or no compensation.
The government argues that compensation is given to peasants compulsorily relocated. One of the plaintiffs, Soba Muamuxico, argues that any compensation is inadequate as their crops are their only means of subsistence for himself and the villagers and relocation without their crops condemns them not just to poverty, but starvation.