By Agbonkhese Oboh
Following the incidence of the 1,000-tonne oil spill that occurred in the coastal environment of Mauritius, Oilwatch Africa has warned that African leaders must not allow the continent to drown in crude oil.
This warning came after Mauritius’ Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, declared a state of environmental emergency in Mauritius in recognition of the oil spill as an ecological disaster.
Oilwatch, a network of resistance to the impacts of fossil fuels industries on people’s and their environments, noted that at a moment in history when science has clearly shown that dependence on fossil fuel is fuelling global warming, this is not time for African nations to fix their eyes on fossil fuels as the commodities to fuel any change other than climate change.
To Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, and a Steering Committee member of Oilwatch Africa/International, the ecological disaster brought about by the running aground of a Japanese-owned ship, MV Wakashio, is a big warning to the continent.
His words: “Africa is wholly surrounded by water and is literally encircled by ships with diverse cargoes.
“Urgent steps must be taken by the African Union and in particular African countries to ensure that vessels circling the continent are seaworthy and do not have toxic wares as their merchandise.”
For Thuli Makama, member of Oilwatch Africa Steering Committee, “African governments should pay more attention to the environment and not place undue focus on vanishing petrodollars.
“The dream of building our economies on petroleum resources is a pipedream.”
Makama emphasised that pipelines such as the East African gas pipeline from Uganda to Tanzania will spell worse disasters when it fails and spews its heavy crude into the pristine ecosystems of the Rift Valley, adding that “spills have shown how suddenly our ecological heritage can be jeopardised by fossil fuels at any time.”
Oilwatch Africa warned that it was time to put in place strict laws and regulations to ensure that big polluters – fossil fuels companies as well as owners of oil tankers and similar—pay for their pollution and are held liable for related damages.
According to Patrick Bond of Oilwatch, “African governments should finally recognise not the hucksters of a global value chain in oil, but instead the global devaluation of life due to fossil fuels addictions.
“We insist they turn the continent from any ruinous pathways that lead to a global petroleum value chain, and instead work with us to hasten the demise of these firms and the replacement of leaders who are their African collaborators.”
The group also demanded that nations and corporations should totally halt all new and existing fossil fuels exploration and extractive activities across Africa, as a means of removing the fossil knee of extractive from the neck of Africa, to give her a chance to breathe.