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Climate change raises risks of conflicts and insecurity in Africa, say CSOs

Increased migration and displacement, heightened political tensions within and between countries, as well as the risk of violent conflicts are problems facing Africa due to climate change, climate campaigners coalescing under the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance have said in Kigali, Rwanda.

Speaking on the sidelines of the eighth African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) noted that climate change has exasperated conflicts and that women, the youth and elderly bear the brunt of these conflicts and displacements.  

He said examples in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi have shown when climate change is unchecked, human suffer. They lose livelihood, or get displaced or simply turn to the neighbours they consider as competitors to reducing resources.

Mwenda urged governments to act quickly and tackle climate change or risk rising instability due to climate-related conflicts and migration.

According to Dr. Nicholas Orago, Senior Lecturer, University of Nairobi’s School of Law, all regions of Africa are experiencing one form of climate-related displacement or migration due either flooding, droughts or conflicts due to dwindling resources.

He noted that climate-related security risks increase the challenges for conflict prevention and resolution.

Dr Orago said due to resource-based nature of our economies and livelihoods, their degradation by climate change leads to resource scarcity and generates competition for available resources is bound to create tensions that may break out into conflicts due to contestation on access, use and ownership of natural resources.

According to the World Bank, over 200 million people are likely to migrate or displaced within their own countries due to climate change.

“The worst part of this is that 50 per cent of the losses people suffer due to climate change go unaccounted for, and neither victims nor survivors ever get compensated,” said Dr Orago.

Lere Shaba, World Green Building Council said when people leave climate -affected areas into other, new promising areas, this often leads to competition and tension with host communities, further compounding conflicts, particularly in Africa with its ethnic polarisation.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that countries with challenges with governance issues are more vulnerable to climate-trigger conflicts.

While firm opinion is still shaping on the nexus between climate change and conflicts, there is shared consensus that Climate change is a conflict risk multiplier.

They noted that climate change may trigger or aggravate conflicts through the sudden- and slow-onset events as they threaten livelihoods.

Dr Nicholas noted that a 0.5°C increase in local temperatures increases risk of armed conflict by 10-20 per cent adding that the links between climate change, migration and conflict are heavily dependent on local conditions.

A case in point is what is happening in the Sahehl, horn of Africa and parts of Southern Africa.

According to Mamadou Oudrago, PACJA Burkina Faso platform noted that the Sahel region has in the recent years been experiencing rising cases of the climate-related conflicts.

He noted for example scarcity of water and pasture often leads to competition and conflict either between pastoralists themselves, pastoralists and agriculturalists, or pastoralists and conservationists. 

He said while certain conflicts may not be directly related to climate change, for communities who depend only on meagre weather-dependent natural resources, conflicts often arise.

Now for the Sahel communities, most are now turning to their young people who they perceive as defenders of community interest. The Sahel region is seeing more youthful becoming more radicalised,” said Mamadou.  

In Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, there are rising cases of conflicts between pastoralists and farmers. The same situation obtains in Gaban, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya among others.

Jean Claude Kubwimana

Jean Claude Kubwimana

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