Mitigation of climate change can reduce region’s conflicts

Military officers patrol around Milihoi, Lamu County.

Military officers patrol around Milihoi, Lamu County. Analysts see a correlation between the increase in armed conflicts, violence and terrorist attacks to high temperatures.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Besides bearing the brunt of climate change with cyclic drought, devastating floods, unprecedented heat waves and biting famine, Africa also suffers resource-based conflicts.

That has mostly led to massive loss of human life, destruction of property and displacement of people. 

Analysts see a correlation between the increase in armed conflicts, violence and terrorist attacks to high temperatures. Climate change effects like hunger cause stress, triggering anti-social behaviour and a high propensity for crime.

The ongoing insurgencies in Nigeria, Tigray, Sahel and Dafur are largely a result of climate change. The Al-Shabaab exploit prolonged drought and hunger in Somalia to give citizens relief food and win them over as a strategy to radicalise and recruit them into terrorism.

The ongoing Somalia government operation against Al-Shabaab needs to be enhanced to prevent such exploitation. It ought to embrace the principle of liberating, securing and developing to support people with long-term solutions, which can incorporate climate change mitigation measures.

In its 2020 report, “When rain turns to dust”, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) concluded that countries experiencing conflicts are also largely impacted by climate variabilities due to limited adaptive mechanisms and government institutions overwhelmed with security challenges. It was based on countries like Somalia, Iraq, Mali and the Central African Republic, which are all facing the twin challenge of climate change and conflicts. 

Terrorism hot spot

The Somali war has sent its citizens into exile in countries like Kenya, which has for decades been a safe haven for its neighbours. However, some refugees, especially in Dadaab Refugee Camp, have engaged in crime and terrorism. Security agencies flagged the camp as a terrorism hot spot and the government even threatened to close it. 

The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, primarily due to climate change, with devastating effects. Pastoralists’ search for pasture and water for their livestock can create conflict with host communities.

The recent full-blown inter-communal conflict between Garissa camel herders and Kitui residents after the animals invaded farms is a case in point. Besides, pastoralists from counties like Garissa and Tana River have moved their livestock to Lamu’s Boni Forest, where a multi-agency security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants is ongoing, risking their lives.

As the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change chairman, President William Ruto must pressure the industrialised nations to fulfil their climate financing pledge for Africa.

At home, he should actualise his reafforestation promise as the government upscales its climate change adaptation measures—like investing in irrigation to stop over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

Mr Mugwang’a, a communications consultant, is a member of the Crime Journalists Association of Kenya (CJAK). [email protected].