Last month, South Africans celebrated Human Rights Day – a commemoration of a very dark day in South Africa’s history which pays homage to the peaceful protesters killed during the Sharpeville Massacre. They were demonstrating their opposition to the Pass Laws which violated South Africans’ freedom of movement; something that so many of us take for granted today.
I am a Kenyan woman with a deep passion for human rights and environmental protection, and South Africa’s Human Rights Day forced me to reflect on violations that continue, almost unnoticed, across Africa: varying access to reliable and affordable electricity, clean air, clean water, lack of food security and proper nutrition, a seemingly unmanageable youth bulge, resulting to high levels of unemployment, poverty and continued conflict.
Political stability is not seen as a citizen’s right – again, the majority of us take these things for granted, yet so many are denied. How does this shape the way forward we envisioned for ourselves as citizens of South Africa in particular, and Africa in general? How do we honour those who died for our independence and especially those in Sharpeville?
“Africa has an embarrassment of natural energy resources: powerful rivers, plentiful sunshine, areas of intense geothermal heat and some of the fastest wind speeds on Earth”1 yet surprisingly, South Africa- one of the top five richest countries in Africa, has chosen to ignore the rich renewable resources and continues to invest heavily in coal, despite the outcry on Climate Change. Despite this heavy investment in coal, the country is plagued by chaotic interruptions to the electricity supply. Never mind the fact that roughly 2.2 million South Africans are still without reliable access to electricity.
Greenpeace Africa continues to probe the South African government to invest in the abundant potential for clean energy, but decisive action – and decisive leadership – remains rare.
In my journey as a human rights activist and environmentalist, I have learned that, between our victories, we must remember that our fight to secure the protection of basic human rights is ongoing. People die in Africa every day fighting for their rights, a reminder that “Sharpeville Massacres” in the continent continue at the hands of oppressive governments.
- Africa you never expected; Robin Wylie