“Where are you going?” a passerby shouted at the PACJA Caravan of Hope when it left Bujumbura Stadium heading into town. “South Africa”, the driver shouted back in a loud voice. And to make sure everyone heard, he repeated it even louder “South Africa”. Then he lifted his right hand for a farewell wave. In front of him was a row of about 50 cyclists dressed in white PACJA T-shirts and caps.
The journey has begun. The Caravan of Hope took off from Burundi on 9 November to embark on a 10,000km drive to COP17 (28 November – 9 December).
The Caravan of Hope symbolises Africa’s civil collective voice asking for a serious legally binding commitment to an international climate change treaty at COP17. A treaty that is responsive to the African realities and the fact that the continent that pollutes the least suffers the most from the changing climate.
A colourful launch at Bujumbura Stadium marked the beginning of the journey.
A group of rural women farmers presented the charter they had developed during the last two days to the guest of honour the Vice President Thehemee Sinunguruza. They asked him to put an immediate stop to the construction of modern housing in fertile farmland and to make sure to allocate more resources to train farmers in adaptation techniques.
The Vice President responded by saying:
On behalf of Burundi I am honoured that Burundi was chosen as the country of departure for the Pan African Climate Caravan of Hope. It shows that we are recognised as a country that is taking action on the global climate change problems
Burundi’s budget for climate change measures has been increased from 60 Million Burundi Francs in 2008 to 4 Billion in 2010 especially focusing on reforestation.
The Burundi governments view at the COP17 negotiations is clear. We will back the collective African position of reducing carbon emissions to below 2%
Next to me at the venue sat Mithika Mwenda, Coordinator of the Pan African Alliance of Climate Change, PACJA that is organising Caravan of Hope. The last sentence by the Vice President made Mithika’s face light up in a big smile.
“This is exactly what we have wanted all along. Our aim is to raise awareness all over Africa and pressurize the African leaders to speak with one voice at Durban”, he whispered to me.
While the caravan slowly climbed the steep mountain roads towards the Rwandan border carrying the Burundian caravanities and representatives from the Kenyan and the Ugandan teams an atmosphere of excitement rose.
We were on our way to South Africa!
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