Imperialism is the Arsonist of Our Forests

African Climate

Imperialism is the Arsonist of Our Forests

In 1986, Pan-Africanist and anti-imperialist revolutionary, Captain Thomas Sankara, delivered his famous speech, Imperialism is The Arsonist of Our Forests and Savannas, in which he denounced imperialism as the main driver of environmental destruction. Today, the climate crisis has become a pretext for imperialist economic expansion, leading to an urgent need to reorient the African climate justice agenda.

2023 was marked by several watershed events in climate politics for Africa. In September, Nairobi hosted the first Africa Climate Summit (ACS) under the tutelage of President William Ruto. The summit provided a platform for actors in policy, the private sector and community organizations to deliver ‘African solutions’ at the Dubai Conference Of the Parties (COP28) held in December. ACS was bankrolled mostly by Western state and private actors, including the European Union, the German government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  

In the same year, the exuberance of carbon markets reached its pinnacle with several African countries striking deals to concede vast sections of their forests to UAE, Europe, and US-based corporations to extract and trade carbon credits. These deals cover land masses of 20 per cent of Zimbabwe, 10 per cent of Liberia, 10 per cent of Zambia, and 10 per cent of Tanzania and more contracts are expected to come from other countries. In Kenya, the government signed a controversial deal conceding millions of hectares of the Mau forest leading to the forced evictions of the Ogiek community. In Senegal, large-scale reforestation projects covering 25 per cent of the mangrove forests of the Saloum Delta, one of the largest wetlands in West Africa, are slated to turn into carbon deals financed by oil giant, Shell. These are just a few cases in one long string of deals to meet the growing demand for conservation-area-based carbon markets and nature-based solutions to address climate change.  

This essay features in our print issue, ‘An African Feminist Manifesto’ and is only available online to paying subscribers. To continue reading register for a free trial and get unlimited access to The Republic for a week!Already a subscriber? Log in.