In Nairobi, climate activists call out global north over ‘loss and damage’

Climate activists

Climate activists in the country took to the streets of Kenya’s capital demanding action against loss and damage due to climate change impacts.

Photo credit: Leon Lidigu | Nation Media Group

Climate activists in Kenya on Saturday took to the streets of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, demanding action against loss and damage due to climate change.

Under the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), the activists, mostly young people, pressed countries in the global north that are the biggest polluters to compensate Kenyan pastoralists and smallholder farmers for losses caused by the ongoing drought, described by locals as the “worst in 40 years”.

“It unimaginable that communities can lose livelihoods due to the climate crisis and yet governments are so incapacitated to intervene,” PACJA executive director Mithika Mwenda told the Nation.

Mr Titus Murithi, from Ntumbiri location, Buuri sub-county, in Meru County, said he grew up watching his parents plant maize and beans as it always rained in March.

“However, in my adult life, I can no longer predict rainfall. Over the last two decades, rainfall has reduced in frequency, duration and amount to enable residents to practise maize farming,” he said.

“This has forced me and my village mates to shift to onion farming as an alternative. We grow onions on a small scale due to scarcity of water.”

Among the protesters in Nairobi was Mr Kanyaman Lemeiguran, 78, from the small indigenous Ilchamus community in the Rift Valley.

Mr Lemeiguran said his father owned hundreds of livestock as pasture and water were readily available. When he came of age and was ready to marry, he inherited 3,000 sheep, 200 cows and 500 goats.

Rivers have dried up

“Some 40 years later, rivers have dried up, pasture is gone and Sintaan village of Nbambo location in Baringo County can no longer support my livelihood,” he said.

“This is thanks to inadequate and unpredictable rainfall, hot temperatures and farms that no longer yield much.”

The climate crisis, experts say, is the result of centuries of unsustainable exploitation of resources, particularly by the global north with little regard to emission control, and the consequences of their actions include floods and droughts.

This is why in September 2021, the Kenyan government declared drought a national disaster as about 3.5 million people became victims of extreme weather.

Over the same year, about 100 people died and floods displaced another 200,000.

“We are now at a point where we die either because of the rains or because of lack of it. I am an old woman, and I have lost my home. Where do I go?” said Everlyn Ajuang.

Young climate justice protesters thronged the streets of Nairobi with a radical proposal.

“We are calling for climate reparations now! Not as charity, but as a transformative justice process,” they said.

“The youth want the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations to ensure the financing of loss and damage. This should not be in the form of loans.

“We call for the one percent of wealthiest capitalist nations to be held responsible for their actions, inaction, and wilful ignorance. Their profit is our death. Their profit is our suffering.”

But Risper Asembo, a climate activist from Busia County, said money will be useless on a dead planet.

“It is time to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Let the polluters pay us for the loss and damage caused and help us transition into renewables now,” she said.

Public relations gimmick

Last week, responding to a speech by US President Joe Biden’s Special Climate Envoy John Kerry at the AMCEN conference in Dakar, Senegal, campaigners argued that he had chosen to play with “semantics”, calling his presence at the meeting a “public relations gimmick” that they said is a characteristic of the US government.

Mr Kerry did not come out strongly to deliver a bold commitment that would offer hope to families in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and the rest of Africa whose livelihoods have been turned upside down by a problem they did not create, Mr Mwenda said.