My friend Frank Muramuzi, Uganda’s leading environmentalist, was apparently arrested today for his role in a demonstration against the government’s plan to convert part of a “protected” hardwood forest into a sugar-cane plantation. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has long practiced a variant of state-capitalism whereby he personally gives large parcels of land to favored foreign investors and home-grown cronies.
The protest over Mabira Forest is therefore not new in principle but reflects growing discontent with Museveni’s leadership. Muramuzi is a soft-spoken, cerebral man who heads an environmental group in Kampala, NAPE and is among the leaders of a coalition to halt the forest giveaway.
Thursday’s protest in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, appeared peacefully until, according to Muramuzi, government forces attacked the protesters. The subsequent violence left at least three people dead. An embarassed Ugandan government, already highly sensitive to public protests, is now scurrying to put a responsible face on the situation — by blaming the protesters.
“The triumph of politics over economics is not that money is being lost in Africa, it is that money is not going in.” — Jeffrey Sachs
For Africa, a new approach to grappling with climate change, could mean more money and technical assistance, especially in the area of agriculture. With roughly half of Africa’s population chiefly engaged in farming, finding ways to maintain food output in the face of changing climates will be a super-important objective at all levels of African society for years to come. The new emphasis on “adaptation” to climate change is welcome, since efforts to “mitigate” the causes of global warming remain focused on longer-term remedies. Even if greenhouse=gas emissions were vastly reduced immediately, forces already unleashed virtually guarantee significant climate changes, especially in tropical regions, where poverty already grips hundreds of millions of people. In Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, I briefly explore the challenge of adaptation and the uneven effects of climate change from the Andes to Africa.
“When it comes to fighting AIDS, our greatest mistake may have been to
overlook the fact that, in spite of everything, African people often know
best how to solve their own problems.”
— Helen Epstein
In the book review section of The San Francisco Chronicle, I take issue with a legendary CIA agents defense of his dirty tricks in defense of Africa’s most infamous coup — and the long night that followed. The story of America’s involvement in the Congo’s politics in the 1960s is more than a cautionary tale.