Extracts from an article in Newsweek by Abdoulie Ceesay, the Deputy Majority Leader of the National Assembly of Gambia, who says that Niger’s coup is in fact a “climate coup”.
THE COUP in Niger is just the latest, and probably not the last. Across the Sahel, African nations are falling to military dictatorships.
Are these incidents separate crises, or part of something larger? The fact that few are acknowledging is that Niger’s coup, like those in neighbouring countries, is a “climate coup”—a crisis born of climate impacts largely ignored by the international community.
An intervention by the Economic Community of West African States is likely to not only destabilise an already fragile region struggling to contain the rise of Islamist extremists, it will fail to address the root causes—an omission that will empower extremists like never before.
And while Western academics in their ivory towers disagree over whether Sahel conflicts are due to climate change, we on the ground know the facts.
In two decades, Niger has suffered nine droughts and five floods, destroying its rural heartlands. Water shortages trigger a food crisis every four years. As a recent International Monetary Fund study revealed, decades of climate change in Niger are behind food shocks driving devastating levels of rural poverty.
Combined with rapid population growth, mounting economic dissatisfaction, weak governance, and scant services, these conditions create a perfect storm for extremism to flourish. Conflicts over land and resources become normal. Those with greater firepower use it to their advantage.
Is the resulting violence due to climate change, or is it due to poverty, tribal tensions, or failing political institutions? This is an irrelevant question based on false premises. It is all of these. That’s why a landmark study last year by a group of African scholars called the string of conflicts across the Sahel a form of “eco-violence”, involving environmental, social, and political failures.
That’s why I believe it’s right to call what has happened in Niger a “climate coup.” From the Sahara, Darfur, and across Africa, climate change is trapping African communities into devastating feedback loops of violence, corruption, and displacement, making Niger’s “climate coup” a sign of things to come.
Although Africa contributes just 3.8 percent of global carbon emissions, we are paying the price for the world’s largest carbon polluters in the United States, Europe, China, and beyond.
Only a total paradigm shift in climate financing, rooted in a holistic approach to climate security, can unlock the funds Africa so desperately needs—not just to protect millions of vulnerable people, but for a future of resilience and sustainability for the Sahel people.