RAPAR members from Southern Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Democratc Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone are taking part in Extinction Rebellion's climate crisis events in Deansgate, Manchester, today and over the weekend.
The crisis is leading to a huge increase in the numbers of displaced people who have been forced to leave their homes and are now being termed "Climate Refugees".
RAPAR will be taking part in the Connecting Global Movements for Social Justice session at 4pm on Deansgate today.
Currently, this climate emergency and ongoing refugee crisis is set to worsen: the shape of Bangladesh is rapidly changing; the Maldives will submerge if seas levels rise 1.5m; Kiribati and Tuvalu are likely to lose islands. Around 21.8 million people are being displaced annually by weather related disaster: 41 people every minute since 2008 (UNHCR). These people - and countless more – are becoming dubbed Climate Refugees who fall outside of current legislation, being unable to prove persecution and therefore ineligible to claim asylum under the Geneva Convention.
The term Climate Refugee may be new but the crisis is not. The Global North’s pattern of mass consumption, manufactured by Capitalism and the colonial mindset of exploitation and oppression, have created this moment of ecological collapse and rapid climate change where hundreds of thousands of people are compelled to leave their homes for inhumane refugee camps, mostly on their borders, and dehumanising asylum systems around the world.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The DRC has some of the richest mineral deposits in the world, and multinational companies exploit these resources for commodities, like the Coltan in every single mobile phone. These same companies also finance and arm Militia’s, creating intense insecurity – over 1,150 women are raped every day and 4.5 million people have been displaced – and continuously undermining the DRC peoples’ efforts to realise democratic government. Mass media silence about the massacres and violations in DRC is inextricably linked to the interests of those multinational companies who extract DRC’s natural resources.
With teachers paid as little as $30 a month, the people here live in poverty. People work in the mines for very, very little and in incredibly dangerous conditions. The electricity is so rarely working, because of the government’s failings, that the people are forced to chop down their forests for fire wood. Leaders here have large shares in the mining companies (such as Rio Tinto). The Government, led by Zanu PF, siphons off huge amounts of money (enough to pay the current Zimbabwean humanitarian aid appeal).
French North Cameroon, independent since 1960, and British South Cameroon, independent since 1961, decided to run the country together as a Federal System, but France appointed a President, Amadou Ahijo who changed it to a centralised system, making the national, legal and educational language French – despite South Cameroon having English as their main shared language. The country is still using the French CFA which means the money spent in Cameroon pays tax in France. In 2016, the President declared war on the South Cameroon. Since then thousands of people have been displaced, homes burned to the ground, people killed and whole villages lost – a direct and ongoing result of Europe's colonisation of Africa.
It’s now been a year of Ebola on the border of DRC and Rwanda, the second largest Ebola epidemic on record. Since 1st August 2018, more than 1,900 lives have been lost, with 2,900 people infected. On average, 81 cases of Ebola have been reported each week for the past six weeks. When the Ebola outbreak happened in Sierra Leone in 2004, companies such as Golden Petroleum were (and still are) buying up land to grow palm oil, forcing people off their land, leaving them without the means to grow food, and rendering them reliant on bush meat. There was a tangible correlation between the location of the palm oil plantations and the peaks of the Ebola outbreaks. This same pattern is currently reflected in the DRC: the people being driven off their land by multi-national industries who manufacture western consumption patterns, are themselves being forced to eat bush meat and endure the consequences of systematic negligence and indifference.
Together, we will change this world and make a future, Together.
Written by RAPAR members: Vitalis Mbua (Secretary General SCNC), Noah Zvinavashe (Organisational Secretary MDC Manchester Branch), Barly Koyangabwa (Deputy Representative APERECO North West), Maddie Wakeling (Community Development Lead, RAPAR)