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Coverage of COP17- Climate Change and popular struggles

Trans-African climate caravan hits Nairobi

, by Pambazuka, TWN Africa , Oloo Onyango

Onyango Oloo reports that, when the Trans-African Caravan of Hope reached Nairobi, there was song and dance, poetry and speeches on the theme of climate change and the need for African governments and the people to take appropriate action.

A sunny Sunday in mid-November. The hustle and bustle of bubbly, energetic young voices. Trumpets, saxophones and clarinets uniting in perfect harmony with the coordinated marching feet of the brass band in their green and gold uniform. Ugandan, Rwandan, Burundian and Kenyan flags fluttering, leading a peaceful procession of climate justice campaigners through the streets of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Those were the images and sounds which marked the Nairobi stopover of the Trans-African Caravan of Hope on 13 November 2011. Organized by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), working closely with its Kenyan chapter, the Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG), the arrival of the Trans African Caravan of Hope and its caravanites to the homeland of Wangari Maathai and famous world beating athletes was a historic occasion full of colour as Kenyans from all walks of life came out to welcome their East African. The activists were on the 10-nation journey through Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa to tell the African story of their united voice for climate justice.

Annette Linda Kagaaga from the Rwandan Environmental NGOs Forum said: ‘We are here as one East African voice. We are expressing our concerns how negative climate change is affecting our right to food.’

We spoke to upcoming Kenyan poet Joseph Gitonga and his friend Nelson Munyuawiki who were on hand at Nairobi’s Central Park where people had converged to welcome the caravanites before embarking on the procession and march to the Kenyatta International Conference Centre for a formal ceremony. They both spoke of the need to act in solidarity with all those fighting to protect the environment. Gitonga later presented an electrifying poem in tribute to the late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.

There was a very strong contingent of members of Bunge la Wananchi (the people’s parliament), one of Kenya’s most vibrant social movements.

Cidi Otieno, who was elected the president of Bunge in August, told us that the social movement had come to express its solidarity with the Trans-African Caravan of Hope because there was a need to take action to redress the negative consequences of climate change. Eric Omeny, another member of Bunge, said that ‘Bunge is interested in environmental activism and we see a link between our Unga Revolution — which is a campaign to reduce the prices of maize meal and other foodstuff – and the campaign by the broader climate justice movement for food security.’

Beatrice Karori, who serves on the Board of Bunge la Wananchi, told us that ‘I want to send a personal message to the Kenya government: It is time for climate justice! We must end the violation and pollution of the environment. Join us in telling the world that we must protect Mother Earth. Without the environment, there is no life.’

Later at the KICC ceremony to kick off the caravan journey from Kenya on its southwards trip to Tanzania, there were speeches, poetry, dancing, music and other presentations in front of a huge wall emblazoned with banners from Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

The main event was anchored by the Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG) and its funding partners Oxfam, Trocaire and Cafod.

There were speeches by John Kioli, KCCWG’s chairman, Leonard Habimana from Burundi and Charles Gahire from Rwanda. Gloria Najjuma from the Uganda Climate Action Network read out a joint statement with PACJA spelling out five demands: developed countries must provide adequate financial resources to address their climate debts and implement their commitments; global warming must be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius; the principle of a just transition must be strengthened and operationalised; developed countries must reduced their emissions by 50 per cent by 2017; and African countries must undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions.

Other speakers were Ali Dawood Mohamed, the Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of the Environment and Mineral Resources, Ms. Sibongile Mabasa, a senior diplomat from the South Africa High Commission and Prof. Philip Kaloki, MP, who stood in to give the keynote speech on behalf of the guest of honour Kenneth Marende, speaker of the Kenya National Assembly who could not make it to the ceremony because of other commitments.

Mithika Mwenda, PACJA’s coordinator also delivered an eye-opening message to the assembled caravanites and their Kenyan supporters. Apart from the speeches two cultural performances stood out.

Sylvester Ole Mpusya, a young Kenyan musician of Maasai heritage who is also a pastor, gave powerful renditions of socially conscious songs on climate justice in Kiswahili and English based on his lived experience in the Mau, the hub of Kenya’s water tower which of late has been threatened by the rapacious activities of politically connected corrupt private developers and land grabbers.

Achieng’ Abura, one of Kenya’s best known musical divas and a trained environmentalist in her own right, regaled her listeners with a powerful performance in celebration and defence of Mother Earth.

The ceremony wrapped up with the official flagging off of the caravan by Prof Kaloki.

For more information please contact: Onyango Oloo PACJA Media Team Continental Secretariat Madona House, 2nd Floor Rm 2G Westlands Road, WestlandsNairobi, Kenya P.O. Box 51005-00200Tel: +254-20-4443626/7, Email: onyango.oloo@gmail.com Blog: transafricancaravanofhope.blogspot.com/ Web: www.pacja.org

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