Planet Watch
WajĂŁpi

Protect indigenous rights in biodiversity framework

Amnesty International cautioned against potential threats to indigenous peoples’ rights in the monitoring process for progress towards the Global Biodiversity Framework. The organization emphasized the imperative for states to engage in consultations with indigenous communities and secure their “free, prior, and informed consent” in conservation projects, in line with the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The statement warned against “fortress conservation” methods in which original inhabitants are forcibly evicted from protected areas. (Photo of WajĂŁpi indigenous people in Brazil via Mongabay)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

2023: ‘bonkers year’ for global climate

Records were once again broken last year for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, and retreat of glaciers, according to a new global report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO State of the Global Climate 2023 report finds that on an average day in 2023, nearly one third of the ocean surface was gripped by a marine heatwave, harming vital ecosystems and food systems—far beyond the already inflated levels seen in recent years. Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest extent on record—at one million square kilometers below the previous record year of 2022, an area equivalent to the size of France and Germany combined. One leading oceanographer wryly stated: “The scientific term is bonkers year.” (Photo: CounterVortex)

Africa
flood

Why politicians shouldn’t play weathermen

Last month, Kenya’s President William Ruto announced that El Niño climate phenomenon, which has historically brought devastating flooding to the country, would not occur this year, contradicting weeks of warnings from meteorologists. Today, across the country, at least 60 people have died, over 50,000 more have been displaced, entire towns have been submerged, and hundreds of acres of farmland are under water as heavy rains associated with El Niño lash the region. And it could be even worse in neighboring Somalia, where nearly 1.2 million people have been affected, prompting the country to declare an emergency. The World Meteorological Organization predicts that this El Niño will last until at least April 2024, with impacts on food security worldwide. (Photo via Twitter)

The Caribbean
Kenyan soilders

Kenya-led intervention force approved for Haiti

The UN Security Council voted to approve a multi-national armed force led by Kenya to combat violent gangs in Haiti—marking the first time in nearly 20 years that foreign forces are to be deployed to the Caribbean nation. Kenya’s foreign minister said that his country wants to go beyond tackling the gangs, helping to strengthen infrastructure and restore democracy in Haiti, where elections have been repeatedly postponed due to the violence. But many have voiced skepticism about deployment of the force, asking how it will work if Kenyan troops don’t speak French or Kreyol, and questioning the wisdom of sending personnel from a military criticized at home for human rights abuses. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Africa Climate Summit

Did Africa’s first climate summit miss the point?

The inaugural biennial Africa Climate Summit, attended by some 30,000 delegates including 17 heads of state, wrapped up in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, following three days of discussions largely centred on the opportunities for “green” economic growth on the continent. The summit issued the Nairobi Declaration, containing a slew of pledges and demands, including calls to accurately value the continent’s natural carbon sequestration assets (such as its forests). The declaration also called on wealthy countries to live up to their existing commitments to cut emissions and to deliver funds for adaptation—by properly launching, for example, the Loss & Damage Fund agreed to at last year’s COP27 in Egypt. However, the summit was also dogged by controversy and protests, with more than 500 civil society organizations signing an open letter claiming its agenda had been hijacked to market “false solutions” such as carbon markets. (Photo: Evan Habil/Greenpeace)

Africa
Kenya

Cover-up of police killings seen in Kenya unrest

A Kenyan police official told the Associated Press that police received a warning against reporting deaths that have occurred during protests over the high cost of living under the government of President William Ruto. Although it was unclear who issued the direct order, it came after opposition leader Raila Odinga called for three days of protests. Since Ruto’s election last year, Kenya has witnessed tax increases and a steep rise in petrol prices. The demonstrations, and the brutal response from the state, have seen at least 30 people killed since March, according to Amnesty International. The UN says 5.4 million people need urgent food aid in Kenya following five consecutive seasons of drought. (Photo: OHCR)

Africa
OLA

Ethiopia: peace talks with Oromo rebels

Preliminary peace talks between Ethiopia’s government and the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) opened on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar. The confidence-building discussions, mediated by Kenya and Norway, are aimed at paving the way for future negotiations to end the five-year conflict. The OLA, labelled a “terrorist organization” by Addis Ababa, says it’s fighting for greater autonomy for the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s biggest but historically marginalized ethnic group. Violence has surged in Oromia following a peace deal in November that ended the war in northern Tigray. The OLA is accused of targeting ethnic Amharas who live in Oromia, while militias from the Amhara region—which borders Oromia—have killed Oromo civilians. (Photo via Addis Standard)

Mexico
maiz

Podcast: Mexico and the struggle for the genetic commons

In Episode 166 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how a little-noted US-Mexico dispute on trade and agricultural policy has serious implications for the survival of the human race. Washington is preparing to file a complaint under terms of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement over Mexico’s decree banning imports of GMO corn, slated to take effect in January 2024. Concerns about the (unproven) health effects of consuming GMO foods miss the real critique—which is ecological, social and political. GMO seeds are explicitly designed as part of an “input package” intended to get farmers hooked on pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers, and protect the “intellectual property” of private corporations. Agribusiness, which can afford the “input package,” comes to dominate the market. Eased by so-called “free trade” policies, agbiz forces the peasantry off the market and ultimately off the land—a process well advanced in Mexico since NAFTA took effect in 1994, and which is related to the explosion of the narco economy and mass migration. The pending decree holds the promise of regenerating sustainable agriculture based on native seed stock. It is also a critical test case, as countries such as Kenya have recently repealed similar policies in light of the global food crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Sin MaĂ­z No Hay PaĂ­s)

Africa
Rift Valley

African dissent from biodiversity protocol

The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded in Montreal with what is being hailed as a landmark agreement to address the current unprecedented loss of species, now termed the planet’s sixth mass extinction. The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called “30×30” pledge—with countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030. The deal earmarks $30 billion per year to flow from wealthy countries to poor ones to assist in conservation programs. But the financial commitments are not binding, and were assailed by countries in the developing world as inadequate. After an all-night session, the gavel was brought down on the deal minutes after the delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo pressed outstanding criticisms. This was decried by the DRC, Uganda and other African delegations. A representative from Cameroon protested: “What we saw was a force of hand.” (Photo of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley via Pixabay)

Africa
DRC

Massacre claim overshadows DRC peace talks

A third round of peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel movements opened in Kenya. More than 50 armed and civil society groups are present at the dialogue. Rwanda, accused of backing the M23 rebels, has also been invited to this round—but not the M23 themselves. And the talks are overshadowed by accusations of a massacre of 50 civilians by the M23 in the town of Kishishe, Noth Kivu province. In a statement, the M23 rejected the claims and accused the DRC government of preparing a “genocide” against Congolese Tutsi. The M23 meanwhile continue their advance on the provincial capital of Goma. (Map: CIA)

Africa
DRC

East African troops deploy against M23 in Congo

Kenya is set to deploy a battalion of soldiers to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a regional military response to advancing M23 rebels. Kenya will command the new East African force, which will include troops from Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda. A notable absentee from this intervention will be Rwanda: Congo accuses Kigali of supporting M23, and tensions are soaring. In the past weeks, M23 has dramatically expanded the territory it controls, forcing UN peacekeepers to abandon a strategic base at Rumangabo, and closing in on the key city of Goma. In a region with a history of foreign meddling—in which more than 120 rebel groups operate—the East African deployment is distrusted. Both Burundi and Uganda already have troops inside Congo pursuing their own interests. (Map: CIA)

Africa
Kanu

Nigeria drops ‘terrorism’ charges against Biafra separatist

The Nigerian Court of Appeal dismissed all terrorism charges against Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of separatist group the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Nigerian authorities have identified IPOB as a “terrorist organization,” but international organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations disagree with the designation, and are urging the US not to adopt it. Amnesty International welcomed the judgement, stating that Kanu’s right to a fair hearing was violated. Amnesty said that Nigeria must now “abide by the ruling, in compliance with its human rights obligations.” (Photo: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr)