Climate change campaigners turn to slave island for inspiration

A ‘people’s declaration’, strategy paper produced

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By Sanna Camara

Climate change campaigners from 40 Africa countries have on Tuesday retreated on slave island of Goree, Senegal to seek inspiration for the battle for climate justice ahead of conference of parties (COP) in 2015.

In Warsaw last year, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a network of African civil society organisations in the fight for climate justice, led the world to walk-out of the summit talks after it became clear that developed countries are reluctant to take responsibility and action to remedy the consequences of climate change on developing countries.

The purpose of this African civil society meeting in Dakar was to strategise on Post Warsaw and Post 2015 climate change negotiation process. Hence retreating to Goree Island where thousands of African were shipped into slavery, according to organisers, is to enable campaigners reflect on how far the continent has come in the fight against injustice from the time of ancestors.

‘We shall not falter in the fight for climate justice’

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“If our ancestors, without voice and power we have today, could win the fight against slavery; certainly, we in the 21st Century shall not falter in the fight for climate justice for our people,” said PACJA head of Technical and political Affairs, Mr. Augustine Njamashi.

“We hope that coming here will inspire you. You cannot come to Senegal without paying homage to our ancestors who pass through Goree,” said Lamine Ndiaye, Oxfam regional office in Senegal, whose organisation was the main partners of PACJA in this event.

Matika Mwenda, PACJA Secretary General, said coming to Goree was important for the campaign as it will help campaigners reflect on what’s to come.

Questioning the vision and our resolve

“When we started the fight for climate justice over ten years ago, ill-intended people began questioning the vision and our resolve to achieve the goals set out for ourselves,” he said earlier at the opening of the meeting on Monday in Dakar.

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“Perhaps what those people did not know is that a black man was to be president of the United States,” said Mwenda.

“Today, we do not want to remember the things that happened on this island centuries ago. We do not want to recall the suffering of our ancestors as we embark on this journey for climate justice,” said Mr. Mwenda to the delegates as he welcomed them from the tour of the slave sites on the island. 

CSOs commitment to global solidarity

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Delegates soon began work on what was to become known as ‘Goree Plan of Action’ and ‘The People’ Declaration’.

Mr. Mwanda said the two documents will build on the efforts made over the years; and as well underscore African civil society organisations’ commitment to global solidarity on climate change.

Ms. Azeb Gimani, representing the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Watch International, in her presentation argued that the climate change negotiations over the years have not produced any meaningful result for the African people.

Hence the means of mitigation and adaptation, which are Africa’s priorities in the negotiation, have to be addressed, she argued.

Financial pledges used to manipulate negotiation

Financial pledges made during the negotiations were only used to manipulate the negotiation, as they are hardly turned into reality, she further argued, noting that the continental civil society network should be alert to this.

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“Africa is in danger… there is no adaptation programme for Africa …. Africa’s agriculture, which is the livelihood for her people should not be attached to any carbon markets. There has not been any substantial discussion on energy either, despite its importance in the fight against poverty, posited Madam Gimani.

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