New Report: AgriSol energy accelerating refugee eviction

On July 9, the Oakland Institute, a California-based human rights think tank, released an explosive report with Iowa CCI detailing potential human rights abuses that are occurring on the land where AgriSol CEO and Iowa Regent Bruce Rastatter plans to build his factory farms.

You can access the full report here.

What the Oakland Institute’s new report adds to the story is not that Bruce Rastetter’s collusion with Iowa State University for an attempted landgrab in Tanzania threatened thousands of refugees with forced displacement. That’s been the crux of the story for the last year, despite his company’s official denials.

What this new report demonstrates for the first time is that this landgrab is still moving forward, and that actual human rights violations are happening right now on the ground in the refugee settlements, including:

  • The burning of refugee homes and crops by state security forces,
  • Widespread intimidation,
  • Arbitrary arrests,
  • Lack of free speech,
  • Inequities in social services,
  • Loss of culture, and
  • An inability to plan and build for the future.

AgriSol reps are trying to spin this report away.  Their language is very crafty because it denies the claims in the report while still leaving loopholes big enough to drive a manure spreader through.  But as Anuradha Mittal, the executive director Oakland Institute, said, “This is not a case of our word against their word.  This is case of their word against their own documents.”

AgriSol moving forward with Tanzanian development

Rastetter and AgriSol Energy have claimed from the beginning that their land grab project in Tanzania is not responsible for any displacement of refugees from their 40 year old communities and that what the Tanzanian government does has nothing to do with them.

In the Daily Iowan July 9 :

“AgriSol has absolutely nothing to do with the refugees in Katumba and Mishamo,” said Henry Akona, AgriSol Tanzania’s director of communications.  “We were considering those areas a few years a few years ago, but we have suspended any plans because the land is occupied.”

This begs the question, what happens after the land is no longer occupied?  A critical reading of Akona’s statement leads to only one conclusion:  AgriSol still intends to move forward with its landgrab, the only thing standing in the way are the refugees.  As soon as they are displaced, the project will move forward.

Akona’s statement is even more revealing for its similarities to a statement posted on the AgriSol website FAQ, under the question “In what part of Tanzania will the AgriSol project take place”:

With the camps closed, the Tanzanian government wanted to restore the land, which has been depleted by decades of use, to a more productive state once the refugees were resettled.  However, that process has been delayed at Katumba and Mishamo and, while AgriSol has an open memorandum of understanding in place, it has halted active development efforts for those sites until the situation is resolved.”

Refugees only roadblock to AgriSol’s landgrab

If you read between the lines, AgriSol is clearly stating that they intend to take the land as soon as the refugees are displaced.

In addition, the Oakland Institute already rebutted this attempted whitewash last December 2011 in their fact sheet “8 Myths And Facts About AgriSol Energy in Tanzania”:

Myth #2: AgriSol Is Not Involved in the Displacement of Burundi Refugees

“…the decision to repatriate those who wanted to return to Burundi and naturalise those who wanted to become citizens of Tanzania was made before AgriSol ever became involved, and we were not involved in the decisions or subsequent activities.” – from a 2011 public statement by AgriSol


The Tanzanian government began a naturalization process in 2008 with a plan to grant citizenship to 162,000 refugees in April 2010. Yet, while the Tanzanian government has been celebrated internationally for this generosity, the refugees’ citizenship is contingent upon a coerced move from the places they have called home for the past 40 years.

A feasibility study for the investment in Katumba and Mishamo refugee settlements was commissioned and conducted on behalf of AgriSol USA as early as July 2008. This discrete study was done almost simultaneously with the announcement of the government’s plans to close down the camps.

AgriSol through its MOU and other demands has played a key role in determining the future of the current refugee inhabitants.

The former Minister of Home Affairs, Lawrence Masha, who was in charge of the refugee camps when the relocation plan was decided, has since been hired as a “legal advisor” to AgriSol.

The Oakland Institutes’ newest report also takes up this question and adds new evidence:

Based on an examination of AgriSol’s documents and OI’s fieldwork in 2012, it is clear that the agreement for the proposed land investment takes advantage of the ambiguity around the status of refugees and relocation plans. It is likely that AgriSol referred to the proposed site as an abandoned settlement knowing that their investment proposal would influence or accelerate the relocation.

The abuses happening on the ground in Tanzania today were set in motion in the last few years by the partnership between AgriSol, Iowa State University, and the Tanzanian government. Rastetter is set to make millions from the forced displacement of these refugees, plain and simple. He bears a tremendous amount of responsibility for the human rights violations that are being conducted on his behalf.

The question Iowans should be asking is, “is this the kind of person we want serving on the Iowa Board of Regents?

Iowa CCI members call for Rastetter’s immediate resignation or termination from the Board of Regents.

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to Fire Bruce Rastetter:

  • Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter —  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest. Click here to read more and add your name.


Join the fight


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