Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have hit back at veteran rights activist Undule Mwakasungula over his sentiments in which he accused the groups of failing Malawians in their advocacy about the extractive industry.
Mwakasungula recently alleged that the CSOs continuously exaggerate the dangers of the projects.
Speaking in a telephone interview Monday after the formation of Karonga Forum for Oil and Gases at the weekend, Mwakasungula said the Kayelekera Uranium Mine in the district did not benefit residents in the area because the CSOs lacked focus and ended up confusing the masses.
“What I am doing now is to ensure community preparedness on the impending oil projects on our lake because I do not want people of Karonga in particular to suffer the same losses they have suffered at the hands of Paladin at Kayerekera at the watch of CSOs who did not know what they wanted and also lacked focus,” said Mwakasungula.
He added: “The CSOs were good at introducing issues to communities for the sake of appeasing their donors but they failed to monitor progress, maybe they lacked capacity but I think they really did not do enough.”
He further faulted the rights groups for putting emphasis on the dangers of the extractive projects, an approach he said propagates phobia in the people against mining activities which are supposed to benefit them economically through job creation, among others.
“Unlike in the past, I want the committees to be an entry point for any development agreement or discussion that might be there between the people, government and investors. In this way people will claim ownership of the projects,” he said.
But Project Officer for Transparency Initiative within Our Natural Extractives (Tiwone) Project of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Karonga, Sydney Mwakaswaya, questioned Mwakasungula’s reasoning, calling it faulty and misguided.
“Everybody knows how instrumental CSOs have been in advocating for people’s rights when it comes to issues of mining and Mwakasungula was once in the forefront doing exactly what we have been doing all along.
“If anything, he is the one bringing in confusion because he is introducing a new subject matter to communities on oil and gases when there are a lot of outstanding issues on uranium and coal in Karonga,” Mwakaswaya argued.
Project Manager for Church and Society in the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP), Paul Mvula, wondered why Mwakasungula is spearheading issues on oil licences by government to potential investors in the wake of a fractured legal framework on mines.
“Mwakasungula’s comments are unfair. For instance, it was not easy for people to have access to Community Development Agreement but now they are able to get it all because of the CSOs and now we are grappling with legal matters just to get government to be transparent and accountable. I am left wondering on his actual interests after all, issues of oil exploration are still in the pipeline and government has been mum,” said Mvula.
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