For Freedom of Movement & Fair Development!

The Falea-Project in Mali

By Hannes Lämmler EBF France

In December 2008 I met my long-standing friends from Mali, Many Camara and Nouloum Keita. Many is a university professor in sociology based in Bamako and Nouhoum is a journalist at Radio Kayira, a free radio, „the voice of the voiceless“. Both come originally from Falea in Mali.

The French nuclear company Cogema (today called AREVA) discovered there uranium, copper and bauxite years ago. In 2007 the Mali government agreed on a secret contract with Delta Explorations Inc. about the resources’ exploitation. In the meantime this activity has been allegedly transferred to the Canadian company Rockgate Capital Corp.

In 2008 a landing runway was built in Falea. The possible raw material veins are explored every 200m by core drilling up to 300 m depth. A geological cartography for open pit- and underground mining is being developed. Every week the drilling cores are brought to the laboratory with Antonov planes.

The area of Falea touches the borderland to Guinea and Senegal and so far has been relatively untouched. The landscape is rather hilly – similar to the foothills of the Alps there is a great biodiversity – you can see there tigers, lions and even an authentic jungle. In the area of about 150 square kilometers there are living 15000 inhabitants. During the rainy season it is an enclave that is separated by the river Faleme from the Mali core region for several months .

At the end of April 2009 municipal elections took place. Faced with the imminent beginning of the exploitation of uranium in Falea Nouhoum wanted to become a candidate in the elections. However, he would have to have his official residency there at least six months before the elections. Therefore, he decided – in accordance with his party- to stand for the first city district of Bamako. As a co-organizer and communication director of The World Social Forum in Bamako and founding member of Radio Kayira 4 he had a good chance to get elected.

In January 2009 Many Camara, professor of sociology, could travel to Mali for the first time after his kidney- surgery in France in 2003. He visited Falea together with Nouhoum. Apart from seeing his big family there they discussed with many people, the municipal authorities and village elders about the situation in face of the imminent exploitation of uranium in Falea. As a result, an association of former inhabitants of Falea was established aiming to promote a different development than the one planned by Rockgate Capital Corp. and others.

Summary of an intrigue

But Nouhoum has never been elected. In the run up to the municipal elections he was arrested and put into prison on the basis of false charges. What had happened? In July 2008 Nouhoum Keita was informed that his passport’s copy was used under another name to receive a fraudulent payment from an Indian business man. In order to investigate the mysterious affair and rightly concerned about his reputation and integrity Nouhoum pressed charges against “a person unknown”. In an identity parade the Indian business man clearly emphasized that he did not know Nouhoum.

After Nouhoum filed a suit against “a person unknown” with the public prosecution a Mali lawyer sued Nouhoum for “aiding fraud”, entitled to do so by the subsequently untraceable Indian business man. Due to a hearing record falsified by the police the responsible judge issued an arrest order. Nouhoum got arrested on September 27, 2008, however, the same day got released “provisionally”.

On October 21, he sues now the police officer who had falsified his hearing record for “defamation and false testimony”. After waiting a month in vain, Nouhoum solicits an appointment with the Mali minister of justice who receives him on January 23, 2009. Unfortunately, the meeting does not have any effect on the lawsuit. Therefore, Nouhoum announces on February 25 in the free radio in Bamako that he will update his dossier to sue a new charge against “a person unknown”. The following morning he gets arrested and is imprisoned in the central prison of Bamako. Only on April 15, after 49 days, he is released again. On April 31 2009, the municipal elections take place in the first district of Bamako – without Keita as a candidate. Some days after the elections there was an attempt to buy Nouhoum’s silence. The political party SADI won 275 seats mainly in rural areas but has no representation in the capital’s municipal parliament.

The alternative Falea- project

  • a comprehensive stock-taking of the geological, climatic, social, historical and regional potential must be organized – a reference study about the status quo before the exploitation of uranium.
  • Falea should be integrated into an international network
  • partnerships with municipalities in other countries are to be established, preferably with those where the participating companies have got their seats or branches
  • At the end of January/beginning of February 2010 the opposition against the imminent exploitation of raw materials in Falea wants to invite a little delegation from different countries to have a discreet look at the current situation there (a runway for the Antonov planes ends only a few meters before a Falea kindergarten.)

Maybe an institution in Falea could be established which – in cooperation with the university – could develop guidelines for exploiting the local raw materials and respecting the environment, democracy, autonomy of the municipality and the inhabitants.
There are already many negative examples not only in Africa which do not consider these elementary criteria.

1)Delta is already exploiting the Mali goldmines
2)list of the companies involved: Cogema (AREVA), Prockgate Capital Corp., Delta Explorations Inc., Boart Longyear
3)Solidarité africaine pour la démocratie et l’índépendance
5)The call of the international campaign to free Nouhoum Keita contributing to his eventual release can be ordered.

Source: Edition of Archipel (11/2009)