Receive my compliments for the year 2021 and I hope this newsletter finds you in good spirits.
The year 2020 had a unique face, that of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everyone is wishing it’s erased from our memories however impossible that is. Personally, it was a year full of reflections, learning more about what is more important, much more about the values that hold us together, the importance of family, staying connected with each other, and caring more about our self-being and the environment. The events that characterized 2020 should be a catalyst for more innovative ways for climate activists. We are in a never-ending climate crisis, but our actions, collective voices, and solidarity will be the crucial turning point in these struggles.
The year 2020 was a year that we all experienced and appreciated the value of comradeship, compassion, resilience, spirit, and the value which comes with movement building. Having campaigned virtually, the deCOALonize movement managed to keep up the spirit of sustaining an environmental justice campaign of stopping the Kitui coal mining and the proposed Lamu coal-fired power plant. The campaign not only invested in building a diverse community of activists, but they did a tremendous job in supporting local communities against the ravaging effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic tested the campaign’s resilience in real-time. Much as it was unprecedented, it threw everyone off guard but most importantly, helped us to reflect and come up with unique strategies for staying afloat. There was no manual nor training offered to adjust. We all needed to think and act together. On this, I can only say to everyone, Hongera sana!.
We are all privileged to have withstood the test of the pandemic; its unique manifestations, impacts, and aftermath. We learned along the way, grew more, and enhanced our cooperation as a coalition. We had numerous zoom meetings not just to discuss the progress of the campaigns and the future plans, but to also check on each other, how we were doing and if we needed to offer one another encouragement and support. To me, this was a great approach, offering us some space to show the much-needed solidarity beyond our usual modus operandi. As we champion an ambitious goal to transition to 100% renewable energy in Kenya, we must constantly remind our leaders that accelerating climate action demands a mindset shift and most importantly, the requisite political will. This is a battle that not only unites us but guarantees us a sustainable future.
As we swiftly begin 2021, the deCOALonize campaign must make it a year of change. We need to be more resilient, more innovative, and take up the 2020 lessons with new zeal and energy. We must put climate activism at the top of our agenda. We have an opportunity to pull the struggles together, both online and offline. We must all create a new momentum to tackle the climate crisis, social injustices, and inequalities. We, as a campaign, are aware that 2021 is likely to be the year that international leaders show more solidarity in recovering from the adverse effects of Covid-19. Bearing this in mind, our frontline communities in Lamu and Kitui that are equally affected, require more support, investment, and support in driving forward the campaign in more unique circumstances. The civic actors like deCOALonize must work together and as part of the journey to promote post-covid-19 recovery and resilience in communities.
In this issue, as has now become the tradition, we'll also share with you how you can join or volunteer skills or any support for this campaign, and don't forget to subscribe!
deCOALonize Campaign Board Chair
About the deCOALonize Campaign
deCOALonize campaign 2018 demonstration
deCOALonize Campaign is a movement that was born out of a need to consolidate the community struggles both in Lamu and Kitui where there are plans to build a coal power plant and engage in coal mining activities, respectively. A group of community-based organizations in Lamu came together under the umbrella – Save Lamu – to protect the county from projects that could bring harm to the environment and erode the culture and heritage of the people of Lamu. In Kitui, the Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRCE) is the body the community is working with, in an organized way to oppose plans to mine coal in the 500 km square area in Mui basin.
deCOALonize campaign 2019 demonstration
Join the movement and help us ensure that Kenya avoids developing a coal industry. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and share our tweets, posts, and videos. You can also share your picture with us and a statement of support and we’ll share it on social media. You can reach us through our social media platforms or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Status – Amu Power yet to move the court on the Appeal
Petitioners and members of Save Lamu outside the building that houses the National Environment Tribunal court in Nairobi, shortly after the hearing was postponed in 2019
In our last first half of the year newsletter covering Jan - June 2020, we gave a background of the campaign, taking you through the journey that brought Kitui and Lamu communities together to oppose plans to mine coal in Kitui and build a coal power plant in Lamu. In case you missed it, you can read it here. In this issue, we've focused only on the current project status - and that is, the project is still alive.
When the National Environment Tribunal (NET) canceled the Environment and Social Impact Assessment license (ESIA) granted to Amu Power by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to construct the coal power plant; they were left with three options:
1. Accept the public and the community in Lamu do not want a coal power plant - meaning they could divest or simply abandon the project
2. Undertake a fresh, more comprehensive ESIA
3. Appeal the ruling within 30days of the judgment
Amu Power chose to Appeal the ruling on 26th July 2019. However, they've not moved the court to start the hearing. As such the project remains in limbo until this Appeal is heard. It looks possible Amu power may not be keen on the court case because the Business Daily newspaper reportedin November 2019 that Centum Investment Company which owns a 51 percent stake in Amu Power, said in a trading update that discussions with key stakeholders to agree on the way forward - including sale [of the project idea] to other parties was in progress.
Petitioners from Lamu with one of their Lawyers Gino from Natural Justice share a moment after NET canceled the Lamu coal plant license
It was unbelievable that Centum was still willing to push this controversial project even if it meant selling it to another party when it was clear it did not have the public’s approval – especially the would-be affected communities in Lamu.
The campaign responded to this rather callous plan to revive the project in an op-edin the same newspaper. Save Lamu Chair, Mohamed Athman, and the deCOALonize board chair, Fred Njehu, jointly wrote this piece to persuade Centum Company to stop flogging a dead horse and invest in renewable energy.
Lobby and Advocacy: Investors lose confidence in the coal plant
Members of the deCOALonize Campaign with the former Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, WU Peng at the Chinese Embassy
After nearly three years of lobbying to persuade the Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to pull out of this project, Save Lamu finally learned through a reliable source that the bank may have lost interest in the project a while back but the project proponents preferred to keep it as a ruse.
The Press attaché at the Chinese embassy Shelly Huang, made an admission that led to the conclusion that ICBC had in fact left the project longer than the project proponent would have us believe. She was quoted in the Star newspaper saying, “I never heard ICBC has intention or interest in investing in the proposed coal project. My information is that the project has been suspended since several years ago [sic]. Not a single Chinese company is involved in it now,” – the newspaper had written this piece following Save Lamu’s press statement that they had reliably learned that ICBC had pulled out of the project.
This was the closest ICBC had come to officially indicating they were no longer keen on the project. It's worth noting that previous attempts by Save Lamu and members of the deCOALonize campaign to reach ICBC had all been fruitless, and the one time the campaign heard from an official of ICBC it was via Twitter where the Chief China Economist, China Markets Strategy, ICBC Standard Bank promised to "...try and put [us] in touch with the relevant colleague in Beijing", but nothing came of it despite numerous follow-ups. For some reason, ICBC did not have the moral fiber to officially indicate they left the project but the statement from the Chinese Embassy says it all.
Chinese Ambassador and his team listening keenly to deCOALonize Campaign issues on the Lamu Coal Plant in June 2019
ICBC's lack of confidence in this project is expected to be the final nail on the Lamu coal plant considering all the other major funders have since abandoned the project. The loss of investor confidence begun with South Africa's Standard Bank in 2017 followed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in 2019 and finally General Electric (GE) last year September (2020)
Communities: resilience in the face of a pandemic
Lamu resident washing hands at one of the water points placed in the Amu Island by Save Lamu
COVID19 was referred by many as the greatest equalizer because for the first time in a very long time the world experienced a disease that was killing both the rich and the poor. Here in Kenya, it was quite surreal to see people who have mismanaged resources and failed to equip the hospitals and pay doctors well, having to go to those hospitals because they could not fly out for treatment due to the government shutdown all over the world. Even so, the poor and marginalized communities had it way rough as it became clear just how important basic needs like water, soap, and generally clean environments are.
Save Lamu partnered with Natural Justice to distribute water tanks and soap in Hindi ward, Lamu county
To that end, Save Lamu working together with other members of the deCOALonize campaign changed their strategy and focused heavily on providing water points in Lamu complete with soap. In some cases they had to provide food as the majority of members of the community had their source of livelihood disrupted by the measures put in place to flatten the curve. For instance, fishermen were completely at a loss because fishing is done at night yet the curfew in the first phase started as early as 9 pm.
Not to mention the destruction of the coral reefs and mangrove forests have already affected the population and location of the fish as a result of the ongoing dredging - a result of the construction of the Lamu port. COVID19, therefore, compounded the myriad challenges the communities in Lamu already face from the construction of the Lamu port. It was, therefore, encouraging to see Save Lamu carry out humanitarian activities to help communities cope with the pandemic without losing momentum or sight of the challenges with the controversial Lamu coal plant
Communities engaging duty bearers in Kitui and Lamu
Rosemary and Muoti of CHRCE (foreground) CHRCE engaged the Kitui County Executives using the resource mapping report
The communities in Kitui led by the Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRCE) were also finding ways to engage with Kitui County Executives to help them understand better their opposition to coal mining. With the support of deCOALonize members, CHRCE hosted members of the County Executive in a hotel in Kitui town and took them through the resource mapping they had done in areas marked for coal mining in the county and how coal mining activities would affect these resources.
The two-day event was very fruitful and most of the County Executives appreciated the learning session. They also asked them to consider more events of this nature to help them better execute their jobs. Encouraged by this outcome CHRCE partnered with Action Aid and Taita Taveta Human Rights watch to engage with the mining-affected communities at the coast where they had another productive session with their counterparts and communities in Taita Taveta county.
A community member of Mui Basin block B giving his views at a public forum organized by CHRCE in October 2020
CHRCE also conducted four community meetings in each of the coal mining blocks; reaching out to communities living in Block D (Kalitini, and Zombe), Block C at Mathuki, and Block B at Mutitu. The forums targeted more women since women have not been actively engaged in the awareness forums and the strong feeling that in Kitui, women are believed to be influential and good agents of change when it comes to community issues, especially socio-economic.
They used these forums to share the report findings of the Mui basin resource map and discuss implications of coal mining in relation to the report findings. Each forum targeted participants from the basin especially those who were identified in the resource mapping report as having little knowledge on the effects of coal and or mining it. At the end of these forums, they had more members of the community able to understand why the opposition was critical.
deCOALonize Campaign Coordinator, Omar making a remark during a communications training session with Save Lamu
Using radio to circumvent restrictions in movement
Rules imposed by the government to flatten the curve like the curfews and social distancing greatly undermined community activities as Save Lamu and CHRCE could not meet with their community members as often and conduct effective public forums. To counter this challenge they invested heavily in local radio programs where they would appear in popular local radio programs to discuss relevant topics around the planned coal mining and coal power plant. Below is a sample of the topics discussed from June to December 2020.
To mark one year since the tribunal canceled the Lamu coal plant EIA license, Save Lamu went on air to discuss what the NET judgment meant for the residents of Lamu. Guests on this radio show included Save Lamu's Somo. M. Somo, Mohamed Athman, Mohamed Mbwana, and Raya Famau. The show aired on Sauti ya Pwani in June 2020.
In September 2020, Save Lamu went on air to discuss the issues Lamu fishermen were facing as a result of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project. (Lamu port and proposed coal plant are part of LAPSSET). Guests on this show included Mohamed Athman, Ishaq Abubakar, Somo. M. Somo and Zeinab Ghadhamfar. Show aired on Radio Sifa.
In Kitui CHRCE went on air twice in December to discuss the Mui basin participatory resource map report findings. CHRCE staff Daniel Muoti and Rosemary Kimanthi were guests on Mbaitu FM on 13th and 31st December.
In December Save Lamu had another opportunity to discuss the withdrawal of the potential investors from the financing of the proposed Lamu coal plant. Save Lamu board members who were guests on the show include, Raya Famau, Mohamed Athman, and Mohamed Mbwana. The show aired Radio Sifa
Tribute to Mwalimu Hussein Soud Almaawy
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou (Mwalimu Hussein made us feel hopeful)
It was a black day in history when we learned of the sudden demise of the late Mwalimu Hussein Soud on the 27th of November 2020.
Mwalimu was a respected elder in Lamu full of wisdom and commitment to his people. He served the people of Lamu with an open heart and was never shy to put himself in harm’s way for his people.
He was a friend, a father, a grandfather, a teacher, a human rights defender, and a scholar. His contribution in pushing for sustainable and participatory development in Lamu is unrivaled. From him, we have learnt the true meaning of selfless service and leadership. We have learned that a leader’s duty is to represent his people rather than rule them. That a leader's place is always on the frontline.
For all of us at deCOALonize, while we will dearly miss him, we celebrate his well-lived life and commit to continuing from where his work stopped.
Fare thee well Mwalim, fare thee well our Hero!
Until we meet again, you shall forever live in our hearts.
Rest in Power Tribute by deCOALonize Campaign Coordinator, Omar Elmawi, on behalf of the movement.
Global trends: Kenyan MPs ignore writing on the wall
Senator Abshiro Halake warning taxation of renewable energy will have far-reaching consequences during the debate to impose VAT on renewable energy
The one good thing that came out of this pandemic – albeit briefly – was that the earth got a chance to heal. With factories operating at half capacity, and lockdown in most countries in early 2020, carbon emissions fell by 17% at their peak, more importantly, coal shutdowns and the governments around the world acting to mitigate the effects of climate change was unprecedented.
Sadly, while these important gains were happening, in Kenya, Members of Parliamentpassed a lawthat stifles the growth of renewable energy. While debating the Finance Bill 2020, MPs voted to impose VAT and import tariffs for solar materials and equipment – this was extended to include specialized equipment for the development and generation of solar and wind energy.
Former CJ Mutunga, our Campaign coordinator Omar and Lamu MP, Capt. Ruweida (in the foreground) during a Parliamentary breakfast meeting organized by deCOALonize and moderated by Mzalendo's ED, Caroline Gaita
Prior to passing this law, experts had warned in this op-ed that, “There is a view that the government is no longer as interested in incentivizing the renewable energy sector…” – and we can reason that this view holds true seeing as the MPs went ahead to punish the renewable energy sector at a time the world is going green. These MPs are completely out of touch with the reality on the ground. In fact, the Business Daily newspaper had reported that Kenya Power was in a dilemma because of a shift to solar power systems by heavy-consuming industrialists seeking a reliable and cheaper supply of energy. That businesses and individuals are shifting to solar and avoiding Kenya Power should be a sign for them to help transition to 100% renewable energy as was promised by the president - instead, they chose to impose taxes on renewable energy.
Save Lamu board members (front) with Lamu fishermen during a presser in Lamu. Fishermen are yet to be compensated two years after Malindi High Court ruled in their favor on May 1st, 2018
As Kenyan lawmakers were busy passing the Finance Bill 2020 with the controversial sections that undermine the growth of the renewable energy sector – their counterparts around the world were seeking solutions to transition to renewable energy. To give but a few examples, 21 parliamentarians from South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party proposed a bill banning investments in overseas coal power projects. And in Germany, lawmakers passed legislation to end coal-fired power generation by 2038 at the latest and are planning to compensate operators to shut down their plants.
One, therefore, wonders why our MPs would rather engage in short-term measures to keep Kenya Power from losses while the majority of Kenyans continue to suffer. It's also strange that our politicians should go this route when we have abundant untapped renewable energy. By the government's own estimation, our geothermal potential is more than 10,000MW.
Cover of the Economist print magazine 5th- 11th December issue
The United States is set to rejoin the Paris Accord following Joe Biden’s win. This is important because America plays a key role as a world leader and climate change remains the biggest global challenge. President Trump saw the US formally withdraw from the Paris Accord. Thankfully, Biden had promised to rejoin the Paris Climate deal if elected.
In Spain, seven out of fifteen coal-fired power plants, which until recently emitted around 15% of the country's GHGs, were shut down in June 2020. The remaining plants also have no future – and are expected to close by 2025. It’s instructive to note that the shutdown is because their owners said it doesn’t make any financial sense.
Bangladesh likely to dump nearly all of its planned coal power (a total of 29 power plants) – again, the reason is it no longer makes economic sense. The country's minister for power, energy, and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid said, “We are reviewing how we can move from coal-based power plants.”, surprised energy watchers recently
And South Korea’s biggest electricity distribution company KEPCO and Japan’s biggest power generation company JERA promised to end the construction of new coal power plants.
All these coal shutdown news point to the fact that it’s not just environmental activists and environmental justice organizations that are worried. Even businessmen with little interest in the environment don’t see the point in supporting coal anymore. This begs the question, why are we taking great measures including introducing VAT on renewable energy products that were previously VAT exempt?
Perhaps our government should learn from President Trump’s administration that did everything possible to make things better for the coal industry – including reversing sound environmental policies as well as exempting taxes – yet these efforts did little to prevent the end of the coal era in America.
For local updates on coal, check out our medium page. Click on this link.
For an update on Joint UNESCO Mission to Lamu (2019–2020), click here