Aker supports African executioners
By Harald Eraker
The entire world condemned the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni leaders in Nigeria last fall. Attention was also focused on Shell, Statoil and other companies that through their operations in the country support a brutal regime.
NorWatch can reveal that this particular case pales in comparison with Aker's widespread operations in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Congo, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Tanzania.
In several of these countries the company has been an active partner with regimes that according to Amnesty International are responsible for massacres, torture, extrajudicial executions, rape and imprisonment of opposition activists.
"I understand the problem. But I think Scancem should answer for themselves," says Øyvind Sten from Aker's Information Department to NorWatch - after Scancem has referred us to Aker.
"We do not regard politics as our job," is the brief comment made by Per G. Jakobsen, president of Scancem.
"So you haven't made an independent assessment of these matters as you have, say, in environmental matters?"
"The environment is a totally different matter, and in this field we set standards that we have to meet," says Jakobsen.
"But when you run an operation with states as partners, aren't you then supporting financially the same regimes that are responsible for abuses?"
"I've already said enough. We contribute financially in a positive manner, for example by creating jobs," answers Jakobsen.
"Amnesty International asks companies in Nigeria to put pressure on the authorities?"
"As I said, politics is not our job," Jakobsen ends.
Scancem will not tell us how much income these 9 African countries receive each year through Scancem's cement operations. But the Scancem Group, to which Scancem International belongs, turns a solid profit from this operation:
In 1994 the company had a turnover of some 4 billion Norwegian kroner (a 288 million kroner profit). Of the company's total earnings in 1993 the operations in Africa represented 52%.
Below is a brief outline of human rights abuses taking place in the said countries based on documentation from Amnesty International:
In spite of a peace agreement signed by the parties to the conflict in 1994: Thousands are dead as a consequence of the continued conflict between the army and rebels.
The army is responsible for arbitrary killings and massacres of civilians, torture and extrajudicial executions (also of children), imprisonment of prisoners of conscience, and for preventing relief supplies to reach civilians.
The authorities are forcing youths under 18 into the army although this is illegal. No response from the authorities on criticism from Amnesty. In 1994 Scancem entered into partnership with the state, and received a 20 million kroner loan from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).
Reports on named prisoners of conscience, held in prison since 1993, who have been subjected to torture and chaining. These prisoners are peasant farmers, members of political parties, and one journalist. Amnesty's demands concerning investigation and release have not been met. In 1991 Scancem entered into partnership with local private owners and Scandinavian aid organizations.
Reports on 10 prisoners of conscience arrested in 1995. In 1993 it was decided that extrajudicial executions at the beginning of the '80s would not be investigated. Hundreds of political prisoners imprisoned - often without a trial - in the '80s, 50 of these were sentenced to death. Scancem has been present since 1967 through a partnership with the state. The company has survived a number of military coups, especially in the period from 1967 to 1981, which saw a succession of military regimes.
The security forces and the army are responsible for torture, killings and extrajudicial executions. In the last half of 1993, 160 persons, mainly civilians, were killed in fighting between the army and opposition groups. At least 95 politically motivated murders only in December 1993. Family members of opposition politician massacred in November 1993. The violence in the country makes it difficult to look into violations of human rights, which are also not investigated by the authorities. Scancem entered into partnership with the state in 1987.
Since 1989, 150,000 people have been killed and 700,000 have fled during the civil war in the country. All parties represent grave violations of human rights: torture, massacres, rape, imprisonment, etc. The army is responsible for systematic killings of ethnic groups. Reports on fetuses cut out of the wombs of pregnant women still alive, ears being cut off, and massacres of women and children. Only on a few occasions have human rights abuses been investigated, and nobody has ever been sentenced for the atrocities.
Scancem entered into partnership with the state in 1965, and is one of few Western companies that have been present during the entire civil war.
Since the military coup in 1993: 180 people executed after being sentenced to death by a strongly criticized military tribunal. In November 1995, the writer Ken Saro-Wiva and 8 other Ogoni leaders were executed because of their fight against the oil company Shell's environmentally damaging activities in the country. Family members and friends of people sentenced to death are also imprisoned. In 1994; reports on abuses against union leaders. Scancem went into partnership in 1981 with local private owners.
According to public figures, 10,000 people have been killed and 850,000 have fled during the civil war since 1991. Conditions worsened as of 1994. Amnesty describes the latest conflict as a "campaign of terror".
Government forces responsible for torture and summary executions. Impossible for civilians to differentiate between soldiers and rebels. Scancem bought the enterprise from the military regime in 1994, the same year as the violence escalated, for NOK 50 million.
Strong accusations by Amnesty against the army, who forces refugees from Rwanda/Burundi back to terror and killings in their native countries. In April 1995: 300 refugees sent back to Burundi where they were all killed by soldiers with knives and machetes within one hour. The opposition on the island of Zanzibar are not allowed to assemble peacefully; several reports on politically motivated arrests. Scancem entered into partnership with the state and Scandinavian aid organizations in 1992.
Since 1990 a dramatic increase in human rights violations. The army responsible for extrajudicial executions and torture. August 1993: The army arrested 40 opposition activists, 21 of these died in custody. January 1994: 48 prisoners extrajudicially executed by the army following unrest in the capital. Political prisoners are still being tortured in spite of civilian rule having been introduced in 1994.
Scancem went into partnership with the state in 1984. Military regime until 1994.
Aker in Africa
Aker and the Swedish company Euroc each own 50% of Scancem International's cement operations in Africa.
Angola: Cimangola S.A.R.L. (Scancem 49% - state 51%). Scancem involved since 1994.
Benin: Cimbenin S.A. (Scancem 48.7% - Scandinavian aid org. 30% - priv. owners 22.3%). Scancem involved since 1991.
Ghana: Ghacem Ltd. (Scancem 59.5% - state 40%). Scancem involved since 1967.
Congo: Socico S.A. (Scancem 50% - state 50%). Scancem involved since 1987.
Liberia: Liberia Cement Co. (Scancem 63.7% - state 26%). Scancem involved since 1965.
Nigeria: Eastern Bulchem Co Ltd. (Scancem 40% - priv. owners 60%). Scancem involved since 1981.
Sierra Leone: Leocem Ltd. (Scancem 100%). Scancem bought the company from the state in 1994.
Tanzania: Twiga Ltd. (Scancem 13% - state 74% - Swedfund 13%). Scancem involved since 1992.
Togo: Cimtogo S.A. (Scancem 50% - state 50%). Scancem involved since 1984.
Norwatch Newsletter 2/96