|Drumming Up Support for Climate Justice|
|Monday, 23 January 2012 16:55|
It was history in the making in Bulawayo on 23 November, 2011 as the country’s second largest city hosted the Trans African Caravan of Hope, a vehicle for mobilization and awareness creation for African civil society, highlighting the challenges that climate change poses to the continent’s efforts to overcome poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
From Zambia, the “We Have Faith: Act Now for Climate Justice” caravan, bringing together people from all walks of life crossed the Zimbabwe border point at Victoria Falls on the night of Monday 21 November 2011, as part of a ten-country tour to Sub-Saharan Africa, starting from Burundi. En route, other countries visited were Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
On Tuesday, 22 November they were welcomed into the country by the Victoria Falls leadership, and by a founder member of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Mr. Johannes Chigwada. At Victoria Falls, the Caravanites witnessed the successful signing of petitions on climate justice.
However, the major highlights of the caravan were in Bulawayo where the caravan started with a march from the Tradegold building in Bulawayo which is situated in the city centre, to the amphitheatre along the Masvingo highway. The march was almost three kilometers long and attracted hundreds of participants. It was lively and captivating with school children performing drum majorettes accompanied by beaming music from the caravan vehicle.
The event was punctuated by song and dance from one of the most celebrated dance groups in the Zimbabwe, IYASA a Bulawayo based group. The group performed a well choreographed dance and song for climate justice. They energetically dramatized some of the causes of environmental degradation which consequently lead to climate change among them illegal gold panning, dumping of rubbish and poor farming methods. They also waved placards as part of their public information campaign. Some of the placards read as follows: Africa is a victim, climate change brings hunger to Africa; no to pollution; change of climate brings diseases to Africa; polluters must pay.
On arrival at the amphitheatre, Caravanites were addressed by the Mayor of Bulawayo councilor T P Moyo. The mayor acknowledged climate change as a global phenomenon which Zimbabwe is inherently part of. He challenged people to think positively if they are sincerely committed to reducing the adverse effects of climate change, saying that “the challenges faced by human beings are actually problems caused by human beings.” The mayor stressed the importance of communicating to African leaders that the damage caused by the human beings to the environment has to be mitigated for sustainable development and future stability.
In his speech read by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Natural resources the Honorable Minister Francis Nhema acknowledged climate change as a serious issue. “The challenge for the country is how to develop adaptation strategies that can mitigate the diverse and complex impacts of climate change,” stated the minister adding that climate change-related disasters in Zimbabwe are gradually increasing in number and frequency. “The high frequency of the occurrence of droughts and floods is linked to global climate change.”
In her remarks, UNDP Programme Officer, Mrs. Daisy Mukarakate called for the reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other green house gases, as a mitigating mechanism in the battle to combat the impact of climate change. She urged the Caravanites to try and lobby the issue of climate change into a legally binding treaty at the Durban Conference of Parties (COP17) on climate change and also impress upon African leaders to adopt pro-poor climate sensitive budgets.
Caravan of Hope is a product of the Pan African climate justice alliance (PACJA). For the event to be successful PACJA received financial and technical support from many organizations among them UNDP, various government ministries from different countries and several community based organizations. Caravan members included journalists, bloggers, farmers, pastoralists and representatives of the civil society.
Conducted ahead of the UN 17th Conference of the parties ( COP17) held in Durban, South Africa from the 28th of November to 8th of December, the Caravan of Hope was organized to assist African countries come up with a common position on the issue of climate change in Africa. It facilitated the signing of petitions which were handed to African leaders at the COP17, asking them to fully commit themselves to climate justice in Africa.
After Zimbabwe, the Caravanites proceeded to Botswana and eventually, South Africa where they concluded their mission on 27 November, 2011. Meanwhile, another stream of caravan, spearheaded by VIA Campesina was organized to come from Mozambique through Swaziland to link up with the Trans African Caravan in Pretoria, while that from Lesotho arrived at the same time in Durban. In addition, solidarity activities were held in the rest of Africa during the Global Day of Action on Climate Justice to coincide with the PACJA Week of Action on 20-26 November, 2011.
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