Making the Environment a thematic issue in African Politic

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By Abdoukarim Sanneh, London, United Kingdom

United States Politician Bernard Sanders stated that election come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one percent-a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice-that struggle continues. This reality is a reflection to democratic politics all over the world. African Leaders are easy with carried by international environmental issues and signed conventions but when it comes to national and local government politics issues such as air quality, water pollution, solid waste disposal, loss of species and habitat, resources hardly feature in political discourse or written political manifestos. Many African politicians did not see or understand the link between biophysical environment and resource use and conservation, economic and social development for livelihood diversification quality of life and healthy society.

Few months ago BBC World Service carried a story about fuel too dirty for Europe sold to Africa by multinational petrochemical companies. Living in major African cities you don’t need to be a scientist to be aware that the people are exposing to unacceptable poor air quality mostly for dirty fuel that does not meet the required standard to be sold in European Market. People in Urban cities from Banjul to Dakar, Bamako, Abidjan, Lagos Abuja, Accra etc. are exposed to health hazards of unacceptable level of exposure to sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter pollution.

From Stockholm in 1972, Rio summit in 1992 and Johannesburg in 2002, today many African countries had established environmental agencies but still failed to address transboundary environmental legislations such as air pollution at regional or sub regional level such ECOWAS or AU level for standardisation and regulation. In many African cities, there are no record of air quality monitoring either on regular basis- daily monthly or yearly to shape policies and environmental taxation regime to address exposure to unacceptable level of dangerous air pollution. Air pollution is the silence killer in urban cities in African. Air pollution does not feature in parliamentary questions and debates and so our biophysical environment is exposing to all kind of dumping waste.

It is about time for African Governments to put their act together and act on issues of environmental governance to challenge irresponsible Corporation using the continent as a dumping ground in making profit for their shareholders in Europe and North Africa. Air pollution is the major public health crisis in Africa. Citizens need to be informed and use their democratic voice to make environmental politics issues within domain of the political discourse. Environmental awareness is more than national tree planting. Political ecology of environment embodies issues such climate justice, social justice and governance, poverty and economic inequalities, national and international political economy such as debt and its impact on poverty and environmental resources etc.

Africa cannot remain as a dumping ground. The BBC story was a good piece of journalistic information for the citizen of the country stand up for human rights and environmental injustice from powerful corporation such a Trafigura-the multinational corporation behind dirty fuel story. This is the second time this company allegedly involved in dumping in Africa. In 2006, it was the same Dutch Company with a revenue income of 127.6 billion US dollar that was involved in the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast. This company even with the dynamic of corporate world in corporate social responsibility and environmental governance it shows no responsibility and continues to commit environmental crimes using loopholes in its operation such as corruption and lack of democratic accountability in the continent.

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