By Zakari Usman
The continued dependence on fossil fuels has been identified as a major driver of corruption and conflicts which distort the value base of African communities. Members of OilWatch Africa made this known recently in a declaration released in Lome the Togolese capital.
With participants drawn from Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Mozambique and Uganda, the conference which examined the environmental and socio-economic impacts of oil, gas and coal extraction on food production, water and forest resources noted that the current level of fossil fuel consumption is in denial of the demand not to burn 80% of known fossil fuel reserves without raising global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and triggering catastrophic climate change.
The conference also frowned at the trend where corporate interests and international groupings such as the G7, with focus on polluting African biodiversity, grabbing lands, water and seeds, are being promoted under the guise of feeding hungry Africans whose growth is stunted and malnourished.
Describing the activities of these groups as unacceptable ploys to destroy agriculture, subvert economies, and recolonize the African continent, Oilwatch Africa members lampooned African governments that are toying with the false hope of building their economies on the extractivist path.
Aside the fact that the rise of new fossil fuel reserves being found and extracted across the continent comes with no respect for pristine areas of high cultural and world heritage value, the conference considered the serious impact on agriculture by the pollution of lands, salinization of fresh waters and the destruction of fisheries as inimical to the economy and overall wellbeing of Africa.
With a resolve that urgent actions must be taken to save the African continent from being wholly degraded, grabbed and burnt, Oilwatch Africa demanded the immediate and urgent reversal of global distortions brought about by excessive consumption of fossil fuels and the externalisation of costs to parts of the world that consume less energy and fossil fuels.
The conference also urged the world to wake up to the fact that at least 80% of known reserves of fossil fuels must be left unburned and this should be the core of climate negotiations if the Planet is not to be burnt on the altar of profiteers who do not care about future generations and other species on the planet. Also on the list of demands is the call on African governments to reject false solutions to global warming including those pushed though REDD, geoengineering and other strategies that are threatening to elevate the currently intolerable levels of land grabbing to that of a whole continent grab.
The group also demanded immediate stoppage of obnoxious activities such as pollution and gas flaring which alarmingly subsist in the oil fields of Nigeria, Angola, Algeria and elsewhere and advocated that energy needs be met with abundant renewable alternatives. Oilwatch particularly called on the new government in Nigeria to implement the almost 4-year-old UNEP Report on Ogoni environment and give the people a chance to enjoy a healthy environment.
OilWatch believes that Africa can feed Africa through uncontaminated lands and adequate support for local agricultural production without resorting to commercially and politically driven genetic engineering of staple crops for enhanced vitamin levels. Insisting that nutrition cannot be manufactured in laboratories, the conference demanded unhindered access to land and security of land tenure for women
Oilwatch members and communities at the conference declared that Africans must stand together in the global struggle for food sovereignty, stand with the movements that say Yes to Life and No to destructive Mining and pledged to remain active in the movement for climate and food justice all aimed at building a well-being economy inspired by the African spirit of solidarity and Ubuntu.