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Kenyan students join multi-faith action demanding clean energy for Africa

Students from several Kenyan universities on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, joined Muslim, Christian, Hindu and tribal leaders in a march in Machako, demanding that COP27 deliver commitments for universal access to clean, affordable energy for Africa. They also called for an end to persecution of Ugandan students opposing the proposed East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

Marching students
The marching students

“African governments choose to believe that fossil fuel projects will deliver wealth and energy access for Africans,” said Meryne Warah, the Global Organising Co-Director for GreenFaith. “In reality, fossil fuel projects displace communities, destroy local livelihoods, spew deadly pollution, and enrich corrupt elites. Women-owned, community-led clean energy solutions deliver far more equitable outcomes. Africa’s leaders should stop salivating over oil and gas and become serious about our continent’s clean energy future.”

During the march, dubbed “Kick Fossil Fuels Out of Africa”, people of diverse faiths joined Kenyan students in expressing solidarity with Ugandan students recently arrested for peacefully opposing EACOP.

“Our fellow students were expressing legitimate concerns in a peaceful manner,” said Philbert Aganyo, a Seventh Day Adventist and GreenFaith member. “They want a sustainable future for themselves and their communities. They know this requires a just transition to renewable energy and green jobs – not a huge new pipeline.”

Samora Leone Mureithi, a student at the Machakos Institute of Technology, said the untamed appetite for fossil fuels profits threatened efforts to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of a 1.5-degree Celsius warming, to protect against devastating effects of climate change.

“The pain of watching a fellow Kenyan lose their life to hunger because of drought or unpredictable rainfall caused by climate change is unbearable. I take this as a challenge to lead the way in locally led climate action and demand that if anyone invests in Africa, it must be through renewable energy,” he said.

Faith Mueni Mutuku, a student at Machakos University, called for sustainability for the next generation and advocacy for clean energy to ensure sustainable development. “We shall not grow by destroying God’s creations to make money,” she said.

Diana Rose, a youth climate activist, encouraged participants to “use your phone and your knowledge to encourage a just transition to renewable energy”. “We cannot continue to live like this. We Africans are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. And now whenever we oppose fossil fuels projects, we are also arrested,” she said.

Also actively participating in the event was Pastor Sam Kaloki of Gospel Confirmation Centre, who called upon the Kenyan government to lead by example in shunning new fossil fuels projects.

“I am saddened that EACOP is being forced down the throats of East Africans because several large corporations and government officials are seeking profits. EACOP is immoral. Our faiths teach us to be stewards of God’s creation, and this is not the way to do it. We cannot increase our carbon footprint from EACOP. The effects it will have on the ecosystem and people’s social fabrics and livelihood will not be contained in Uganda and Tanzania, but will affect even the most innocent Kenyan,” he said.

He called upon Kenya’s President, William Ruto, to make true his promise to lead the country to a fast but just transition to renewable energy for sustainable economic development.

According to Lynet Otieno, the Interim Communications Manager at GreenFaith, research has shown that at least 100,000 people risk displacement due to the EACOP project. She said respected international scientific bodies and the International Energy Agency had declared “enough times that new fossil fuel projects will derail achievement of the Paris Agreement goals.”

Ms. Warah said the climate and human rights concerns of grassroots people of faith along the EACOP 1,445km route in Tanzania and Uganda were genuine, and must not be ignored.

“The oil transported by the proposed pipeline would create greenhouse gas emissions many times greater than the combined total of Tanzania and Uganda, while almost all this oil would be exported,” said Ms Warah, adding: “This project will worsen the lives of everyday East Africans, line the pockets of a few elites, and degrade the wellbeing of God’s people and planet. It is wrong.”

The EACOP’s stakeholders are TotalEnergies (with 62 percent), Uganda National Oil (15 percent), Tanzania Petroleum Development Corp (15 percent), and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (8 per cent). Ms Warah urged them to stop the project and instead invest in universal access to affordable, renewable energy for all Ugandans and Tanzanians, and protect biodiversity along the proposed route of what would be the world’s longest heated oil pipeline project.

Efforts by GreenFaith and other religious partners in East Africa and France to block EACOP have included educating people of diverse faiths about the dangers posed by the project, organising peaceful public demonstrations, and highlighting the intimidation of EACOP opponents.

During the march in Kenya, participants chanted: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! Now!”

The walk was part of GreenFaith’s international month of action dubbed Faiths for Climate Justice, which runs from October 2 to November 6, before the COP27 climate negotiations in Egypt.

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