I am a 23 year old climate activist from Kampala, Uganda. In January 2019, just before graduating from university, I began a solo climate strike outside the Ugandan parliament. I have been striking ever since, and I’m now an organiser for Fridays For Future Uganda, Save the Congo Rainforest Strikes, and the Africa-based Rise Up Movement. I was driven to strike because our country relies so heavily on the agricultural industry, and I was shocked by the visible impact of climate change on Ugandan people’s lives, while world leaders continued to do nothing and delay action.
How are you striking in April?
Covid-19 has changed our plans a lot. In Uganda, the lockdown has been extended until May, so of course we cannot be on the streets. But that doesn’t mean we won’t do anything. At this point, the media are, understandably, directing their attention to the Covid-19 crisis. It is difficult for our climate message to be heard at this time, but the climate crisis hasn’t gone away, and we activists are doing as much as we can to keep up momentum, to hold governments to account to deal with all crises. I started a podcast, and a YouTube channel, to help us continue to tell people’s stories of the climate crisis during this time.
This is also a time for building international links within the youth climate movement, because everyone is marching on the same streets when we are striking online. We are coming together on international zoom calls to learn more about the movement in each other’s countries, we’ve been posting daily videos in the run up to Earth Day, and I’ve done a webinar with Fridays For Future Germany. We are keeping the momentum by moving to Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and many other platforms.
What is distinct about the strikes in your country?
The issues we are focusing on are the same as what everyone else around the world is focusing on. For us in Africa though, we need change now. For us it is not Fridays For Future, it is Fridays for Now. The suffering from the climate crisis is upon us, and the moment people started losing their homes, their farms, the moment people started losing their lives and families, that is when it became unavoidable for us to act.
We do face some real difficulties in Uganda though. It is very hard for students to walk out of school – schools have tight security, and missing school can lead to expulsion. Also, strikes are not something that the government easily permits. In over a year of striking in Kampala, I’ve never been able to get a permit for a large strike. They’re not given out easily, so our numbers are usually not as big as the numbers you see in some countries, like in Europe.
But, many of those that do come out, are on the front line of the climate crisis. They have seen the impacts themselves, and their families have been affected by droughts, flooding, landslides, and locusts. That is why, even though the numbers are small, it feels equally powerful.
Although our digital channels may give us a platform in these times, many people in my country don’t have reliable access to a phone or the internet like I do. These are also often people that are already most affected by the climate crisis. So, it is up to those of us who have platforms during this time of lockdown, to use our voices to speak for them.
What do you expect to see from governments in the next year?
I would like to see my government do so much much more. Some of the investments that are made by the leaders in my country, heavily impact the environment. But, my protests are mainly directed towards the global leaders who have the power to create change. If they don’t help bring sustainable investment into countries that are just developing, we will follow a path of reliance on dirty industries. When global leaders choose a more sustainable path, it will be easier for countries like mine to follow. It is sad to say, but our path depends on the path that global leaders take. At the end of the day, they have the money and their countries own the fossil fuel companies that operate in African countries. I expect our leaders, and global leaders, to value our lives in the global south more than these profits.