A coalition of several groups and non-profit organisations on Tuesday protested outside the London headquarters of two British banks they say do business with Bidco Africa, which they accuse of cutting down forests and “human rights and tax violations.”
The protest was organised by the Bidco Truth Coalition, whose Twitter profile says it is “an amalgamation of disparate groups, unions and NGO’s, come together through one common goal; to fight the injustice of Bidco Group.”
The protest, according to the coalition, targeted “banks that do business with Bidco Africa.” Members of the coalition picketed the headquarters of Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.
A representative of Bidco Uganda however said the protesters are “terribly detached from the situation on the ground.” Fred Okello, the Human Resources and Corporate Affairs Manager at Bidco Uganda Limited told Uganda Business News that the protesters should “come and we move to Kalangala to assess the situation on the ground.”
“If the demonstration is about what is taking place in Africa why should it be taken to London?” Mr Okello said.
The coalition accuses the Banking Environment Initiative based at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom for “failing in its mission to lead the banking industry in collectively directing capital towards environmentally and socially sustainable economic development.” Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank are among the nine member banks of the BEI.
“By signing up to BEI’s ‘Soft Commodities’ Compact, the nine banks have committed to only direct capital towards sustainable business models and achieve zero net deforestation among their client companies,” the coalition said in a statement released after the protest.
“Under BEI guidelines, member banks must drop clients that don’t measure up to socially and environmentally responsible policies.”
The coalition accuses Bidco of owning “an oil palm plantation that has deforested 18,000 acres of rain-forest in Uganda and has also grabbed land from over 100 smallholder farmers.” It adds that the World Bank “pulled out of Bidco’s Uganda project, citing violations of the World Bank’s anti-deforestation policies” in 2004.
Bidco Africa is headquartered in Kenya and has subsidiaries across East Africa. It is one of Uganda’s top 100 taxpayers.