As the rest of the country prepares for the Christmas season this year, something big will be happening down south - the Conference of Parties (COP) 17 Durban, South Africa that will run from November 28th to December 9th, 2011.
The COP to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) meets annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change. This conference serves as a meeting point for parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which also adopts decisions and resolutions on the implementation of its provisions.
In preparation to the COP, the Pan- African Climate Justice Alliance (PAJCA) has organized a series of activities to not only raise awareness, but to also lobby for governments to collaboratively come up with a fair legally binding deal. One of these activities is a Trans-African road show called, ‘The Caravan of Hope’.
By the time the road show convenes to its final destination in Durban, it will have covered over 4,000 miles across 10 countries. The caravan is packed with more than 200 energetic and brilliant ‘caravanites’, comprising of journalists, farmers and youth activists from different parts of the continent.
The convoy of buses was flagged off in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital for the Trans-African road trip and they are expected in Durban just before the opening of the ceremony. They have so far managed to collect thousands of signatures for the African People’s Petition which countries around the world are signing on, to call on wealthy governments- the biggest polluters- to take responsibility for curbing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change.
Rwanda is one of the countries with representatives in the Caravan of Hope. They include participants from different climate and environment non-governmental organizations in Rwanda like; Rwanda Youth Alliance for Climate Action(RYACA) and Rwandan Climate Change Network (RCCN), just to mention a few.
Dr. Landry Mayigane is the East African co-coordinator of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC), an umbrella network bringing together more than 600 youth-led NGOs in over 44 African countries. He is also one of the co-founders of the RYACA network.
On Rwanda’s involvement in the Caravan, he says, “Rwanda belongs to the part of the world that is mostly affected by the adverse effects of climate change.”
“All emerging problems attributable to climate change only aggravate poverty in this part of the world and impede our attainment of the MDGs and sustainable development,” Mayigane said.
For the above reasons he said Rwanda’s involvement in the climate change cause is necessary.
“It is the moral responsibility of a country like Rwanda to be part of the caravan and join other African countries to take the message that Africa is united for climate justice,” he explained.
Mayigane also pointed out that as far as awareness on climate change is concerned, a great gap still exists in the Rwandan population. He said the gap can only be bridged through awareness campaigns; organizing workshops, seminars, public lectures and trainings.
However, he emphasized the need to capitalize on the indigenous knowledge of communities about climate change. Saying it is the best way to offer sustainable solutions using a participatory approach.
Micheal Musoni, also a co-founder of RYACA, reiterates Mayigane’s sentiments.
“Rwanda as a country should not only contribute to global efforts in combating the effects of climate change, but also learn from other countries’ achievements and experiences as well as make known its good practices everywhere,” Musoni says.
He went on to explain the need for a well-structured system of climate change awareness in the Rwanda.
“What we need to do is implement a system where every region and group of people is informed and made part of the climate change process,” he added.
The Sahara Desert is currently expanding south at an alarming rate of up to 48 kilometres per year. Desertification, prolonged and more frequent droughts and heavy rainfall are just but a few of the challenges that Africa is facing today. These crises arise principally from unsustainable economic growth in developing countries as well as industrial practices, majorly of the already industrialized countries.
It therefore goes without saying that the poor and vulnerable people in Africa and other developing countries are the ones bearing the brunt of climate change despite being the least contributors to this happening.
The UN Climate Change Conference will serve as an avenue for the African Civil Society to push for a fair and equitable agreement with the international community. The conference has been hailed as one of the most crucial in the history of COP since the previous meetings only seemed to bring relative success to African issues voiced.
The Caravan to South Africa aims to take the message to the communities on the ground and hearing their side of the story – their experiences, hopes and sentiments. The caravanites will then galvanise the voices of these people making their demands known to fellow Africans and the world at large. Electrifying concerts have been held in the capital cities of the countries that they have traversed en route, uniting communities with a unique purpose- to end Climate Change.
African countries and poor communities globally remain expectant on the outcome of this forum; that it will mark a point at which a global climate agreement will be secured, an agreement that will bind all the parties in the convention to a cut on emissions.