NAIROBI - Hundreds of Kenyans joined international protests Friday to demand political leaders do more to combat climate change.
Dressed in red, black and white T-shirts bearing messages about global warming, protesters marched in the streets of Nairobi to express their fears and call for government actions they think are needed.
Twenty-two-year-old Benson Gitutu, one of the protesters, said the government and citizens must be reminded of what they are doing to the environment.
“Our climate is deteriorating day by day just because of the actions of our government and the actions of the people. And that’s why we are trying to make people aware of what they do is not good,” he said.
Gitutu said he is concerned about a proposed coal plant in Lamu County.
“We [are] hoping to see a positive change, like the government itself will stop the coal plant that is being set in Lamu, of which we know, all of us, it is not good,” Gitutu said.
Kenyan officials insist the proposed $2 billion plant will help meet the country’s growing demand for electric power.
But in June a Kenyan court halted the construction of the plant, saying the bidding process, won by a Chinese company, was irregular and lacked public participation.
Another protester, 20-year-old Mary Mukuhe, hopes her presence in the street will compel the government work to improve the environment.
“We will help the government know that, as youth, we are seeing changes in the environment and we want them to know that we want them to be part of the changes we want,” Mukuhe said.
In recent years, African countries have witnessed unsteady weather patterns that have harmed farm output. Kenya in particular has grappled with repeated droughts.
Amnesty International was one of the organizers of the protest. The director of Amnesty's Kenya branch, Irungu Houghton, said the Kenyan government has to do more to protect the environment and its population.
“I think there are three things that we must do. We have to conserve our water sources, we need to make sure we don’t waste public financing, and corruption around the two dams that had now to be stopped. These are all consequences of bad governance. We also need to ensure that we conserve our forest. Water towers of this country about five or six water towers they are critical to the lives of 50 million people. We have to protect them.”
Protesters believe they conveyed the message, and hope government institutions will come up with ways to protect the environment and keep Kenya a habitable place for everyone.