(By Julius P. Kessy)
We live in the universe where global warming takes place at an ‘alarming rate’, carbon foot prints are vivid and space tourism could be the next big thing. Our inaction is costing billion lives, biodiversity and jeopardising the lives of future generations and with the Americans’ ambitious project to establish a human colony on Mars, these people might go to Mars and never come back. That’s the reason my pen this month completely advocates for environmental justice not just for the recognition of World Environment Day(WED) but simply because beyond that; I’m concerned about protecting the only earth we have, we can’t all leave the earth and there is neither plan B nor planet B for us. Therefore, you too are concerned. This year’s slogan “Go Wild For Life” shifts our attention to “wildlife crime” which is the most dangerous threat that silently erodes the precious biodiversity and strains the earth’s natural systems to the breaking point. We are in the era where our grandchildren might rare if not at all see the iconic elephants, rhinos, tigers, golliras, sea turtles and many other extincting species. Without putting efforts right from the local, national to the global scale to protect them even the lesser-known species will get lost and gone forever. Whoever and wherever you are, World Environment Day is an opportunity to celebrate all the species at risk and see the inborn responsibility of safeguarding them. To make the task easier, we need to understand that this booming illegal trade of wildlife products in Asian and Western markets robbs Africa by demaging the environment, undermining economies, fueling corruption, organised crimes and insecurities and despite international campaigns poaching gangs are still willing to slaughter elephants and hack off even more tusks. We are therefore obliged first to observe our habits and behaviours that increase the need for wildlife products but second to be environmental advocates and raise more awareness that will put pressure on governments and international bodies to introduce and enforce toughest policies and laws to combat those who are too desperate to break them. At African Youth Union(AYU), a Pan-African Youth organisation that boasts the largest representation on the continent as it seeks to unite African young people in action, its initiative “AYU Green Campaign” seeks to empower young people with knowledge to protect Africa’s natural resources and to sustainably use them. The World Environment Day has in few days preceded the International Day of the African child(IDAC) and therefore the struggle in protecting all children’s rights during conflicts and crisis in Africa needs to be as radical as the struggle against wildlife injustice. I’m concerned about how children are subjected to violence as civilians in particular murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture despite taking no active role in the conflicts. This is inhumane as at all times children need protection against serious injury from such armed conflicts, children should be offered an inherent right to life regardless of hostilities amongst communities. It is in such context sexual violence including rape and other forms on both male and female children come into the list, this is particulary most vulnerable group since children are unable to indicate their consent or refusal to engage in sexual activities with adults or perpetrators of a sexual assault. As a result, sexual violence against children during armed conflicts has both physical and psychological effects on health and well-being of this Africa’s next generation in not only short but also long term scale. These acts should be dealt from “War crime and crime against humanity” perspective. During such conflicts, we witness how school dropout increases due to security reasons, children are denied of their basic right to universal primary and secondary education thus preparing an illiterate African next generation. I therefore pose an international call to all human rights activists that targeting schools and school children kidnapping should strictly be forbidden if we at all bother to attain highest standard of physical and mental health in an African child. As the injustices in Africa seem to be attaining the Goliath-like proportions, let’s hope that these David’s words will set in motion a process that will slay the giant. Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika.