KENYA: Transnational Companies on Watch as Bishops Ask Government to Support UN Treaty

By Arnold Neliba

NAIROBI, NOVEMBER 6, 2020 (CISA)-Following deliberations on the second revised draft of the United Nations treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) Justice and Peace Commission has ignited calls to have Transnational Companies with history of human rights violations in Africa, barred from operating in Kenya.

In a statement released November 4, the commission noted that some of these companies collude with senior actors in government to disregard environmental conservation while extracting natural resources.

“We have a responsibility to respond and work with all stakeholders to remedy the vagaries that the market expose most vulnerable members of the society to,” read the statement signed by Rt. Rev. John Oballa Owaa Chairman of the KCCB Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.

The bishops, “…strongly oppose the unending land grabs and displacement of communities without adequate compensation, national government should ensure harmonization of laws that govern land management such as community land in order to safeguard the interests of the poor and the marginalized.”

While calling on the government to make public the contracts it has with the Transnational Companies and for the support for the treaty, the commission urged that companies be held accountable for their activities which,“disregard environmental conservation while transacting their businesses.”

“Local authorities, regional and global social movements ought to work in concert towards effectively addressing climate change whose impacts undermines human rights especially of the poor,” the statement reads noting that as the world suffers from effects of Covid-19 pandemic, African countries are reeling from exclusion, extreme economic inequality, institutional capture and ethnic discrimination which collectively constitute the gamut of political development failure that leaves ordinary citizens disenfranchised.

“The capture of public and state interests by the elite through corporate interests should be condemned since it erodes the much-desired fruits of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) from Transnational Companies (TNCs).”

In reference to Pope Francis encyclical Fratelli tutti that talks of being essential and useful to each other through useful friendship, partnership, fraternity and brotherhood, the commission noted that it is possible by breaking the bonds of 21st century and focusing on uplifting quality of human dignity.

“Corporations and other businesses including government entities have a central responsibility to ensure that communities interests are prioritized, and free prior and informed consent principle is entrenched in the binding treaty. This will secure communities interests and protect them from manipulation and incitement that leads to conflicts within the community,” the statement said.

An October 26 statement by His Excellency Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 6th Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights General debate, the Holy See takes note of the second revised draft of the proposed legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.