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Mithika Mwenda’s 10-year walk in the fight for climate Justice in Africa - From a village boy to global fighter

Nairobi - Mzalendo Joseph Mithika Mwenda has had an interesting journey in his fight for climate justice, and can now look back with a smile.

He takes us through his life, family, education, and the Climate Justice fight

Early Life

Slightly over four decades ago, one Mithika Mwenda was born to a humble family in Anchenge Village, Akachiu Ward in Igembe South Constituency of Meru County in Kenya.

His parents, Alois Mwenda and Susana Thirindi, had no idea they were raising a man that would one day be recognized globally for his efforts to achieve climate justice, especially for poor communities.

Mithika, a son of many mothers (his father had three wives), and brother to many, was the firstborn to his father's third wife.

He understands the social fabric of African settings, where children belonged to the community. His father, a teacher, cared for his three wives and children and treated them equally. Courtesy of this, Mithika got a humble upbringing, turning out as an example to many children of his age in his village.

Mithika underwent all the rites expected of him, including going through traditional Meru circumcision, where they were prepared for their future.

Mithika lost his father long before he could start fending for himself, thus his mother was left with the burden of taking care of him and his siblings. Mithika had no choice but to assume responsibilities of supporting his mother to cater for other siblings right away. This shaped his social life and later, his career.

Education and Leadership

Mithika considers his training as a teacher accidental, and blames the system of education that tends to dictate what learners study, saying it is a mistake. "By the time I was getting to Second Year in the university I had discovered that I was not made to be a teacher. I, however, didn’t have a choice, as the system had condemned me to do so..." he says.

His leadership prowess started emerging when, in Third Year at Moi University, he was elected the Vice-Chairman of Moi University Students Organisation. As a student leader, he joined the rest of the students in Kenya in agitating for national values and good governance, both at university level and nationally.
Mithika joined hands with other students to oppose wanton destruction of land grabbing and forest excision across the country, which had seen parcels dished out to politically well-connected people in the Government. The memorable moment came when Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai led Kenyans to invade Karura Forest in Nairobi to protest annexation of thousands of acres for the benefit of individuals. "It is the solidarity of comrades that liberated Karura Forest from the jaws of land grabbers...and travelling more than 500 kilometres from Moi University to express solidarity with conservationists like Wangari and students from Kenyatta University and Nairobi University was indeed a sacrifice worth undertaking," says Mithika.
Mithika was hugely inspired by Wangari Maathai and by the time he was leaving Moi University, he had made his choice; to fight for the most oppressed by whatever means possible. He joined a reform movement, then led by powerful civil society organizations and the clergy, among them Timothy Njoya, Kibutha Kibwana, Kamau Kuria and Davinda Lamba. Within time, he was elected the youth Coordinator for Eastern Province for the National Convention Assembly, which was instrumental in agitating for Kenya's new Constitution that was later promulgated in 2010. He eventually became the Co-convenor of the Movement, reaching the pinnacle for his activism.

Formed Newspaper, Arrested

When information was highly controlled by Government, he founded a newspaper, "Mzalendo", which he distributed and used as a tool to articulate his views and those who he considered lacking voice in a widely elitist and State-controlled media. With connections he had gained at national level, Mithika started several community initiatives to create awareness, but which came into conflict with State security enforcement bodies such as police. In such times, finding oneself in police cells and courts on trumped-up charges was not alien. Mithika was arrested and charged several times, but he proved his innocence demonstrating to courts that his activism was for the good of the society.
During the agitation for the new constitution, he missed death by a whisker when police descended on him and other activists, accusing them of mayhem. It took an intervention of fellow activists for police to produce him in a hospital at a time activists were being killed. He won the case against the State.

Environmental activism

It is during this period when activists had no space in Kenya that Mithika joined the environmental activism movement, where he has gained global recognition as one of the most influential people on climate policy in the world. "After we liberated Kenya from oppressive constitution, I thought my skills were needed elsewhere and that's why I decided to join the climate justice movement," he told reporters one time. "And leading PACJA (Pan African Climate Justice Alliance) into a formidable environmental movement in Africa is a fulfillment of my ambition, which I set 10 years ago," Mithika says.

Mithika was in March 2019, declared one of the World’s Top 100 Most Influential People on Climate Justice. This achievement has been celebrated by many, including the Pan African Parliament that recently recognized him and said it was glad to associate with Mithika because of his ceaselessly hardworking nature.

This September 14th Mithika will receive Sierra Club’s prestigious Earth Care Award in the United State for his “unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation”.

“You were nominated for this award by the Sierra Club’s International Environmental Justice Team in recognition of your work,” Ellen Davis, the Sierra Club Honors and Awards Committee chair, told Mithika in a congratulatory message in July.

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PACJA follows up on its project in Embu County

KENYA - The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) has done a monitory visit in Embu County.

The monitoring was spearheaded by Ms Sellah Wanjekeche, the PACJA’s M & E Officer. She was accompanied by a team from the PACJA secretariat to follow-up meetings with Mr Benson Ireri, an MCA from Embu County. They mapped out stories of change under the UKAM-funded “Community Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation project” that was done in the county by PACJA.

Mr Ireri was full of gratitude for the support PACJA has given them towards creating awareness among the county’s Ward Representatives, specifically those within the Lands and Natural Resource Committee of the County Assembly, on matters climate change.

“We are grateful for PACJA’s support in the ongoing climate change process,” said Mr Ireri.

Nicholas Ngece, the Chief Officer, Department of Environment, Environmental Approvals and Natural Resources in Embu County, appreciated the support PACJA has given them towards putting in place the County Climate Finance Bill.

Even before it is passed into law, some development partners such as the Adaptation Consortium, have expressed interest in supporting some of the aspects within the Bill specifically those related to investment.

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PACJA to Train 40 Journalists on Reporting Climate Change at CCDA VIII

YAOUNDE — The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) is partnering with the Pan-African Media Alliance on Climate Change (PAMACC) to deliver training for African journalists on the sidelines of the Eight Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA VIII).

More than three dozen journalists will be introduced to the latest climate change science and debates during a whole day of seminars and workshops at the African Union Commission conference facilities in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 27 August 2019.

The training will include three formative seminars by a leading scientist, a government representative and a civil society activist; followed by workshops during which journalists will share experiences, promote learning and chart next steps.

PACJA believes media and journalists both play a critical role in raising climate change awareness, influencing policy and inspiring action, but often lack the tools and skills to accomplish these tasks.

Since its inception, the Alliance has led the field in improving the quality of media reporting of climate change in Africa. Its flagship media initiatives include the establishment of PAMACC, a network of climate change reporters, the creation of the prestigious annual African Climate Change and Environmental Reporting Awards (ACCER) and the running of the ACCER Wards Finalists Academy (TAAFA) in partnership with the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDNK).

The annual CCDA is the foremost gathering for climate action in Africa. Journalists have a unique opportunity to meet frontline actors from government, civil society and the private sector during the eighth summit from 28 to 30 August 2019.  

 

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PACJA ups the game at Gabon platform, promises more productivity

The PACJA Gabon platform has just strengthened its governance structures, with its extraordinary general assembly.

During the August 10, 2019 meeting at its headquarters in Angondje, Sherko City, members representing more than 60 Gabonese civil society organisations were briefed on the new provisions regarding the life of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance. "We have organised this general assembly to not only upgrade the new measures taken by headquarters to improve our management capabilities but also we are here today to reflect on the life of our platform. We need to strengthen the cohesion between us members and recall the role of each one as a member of the PACJA," said the Chairman of the Supervisory Board Nicaise Moulombi.

Members were also entitled to the balance sheet of the different activities carried out by the various PACJA Gabon platform coordination committees between May 2018 and August 2019. Speaking of the new provisions, the National Coordinator of the PACJA-Gabon, informed attendees about the vision at the highest levels of PACJA, which aims to strengthen the management capacity of national platforms.

"We do not need to reach 2,000 members who do not know where we are going, who do not understand our vision and the scope of our commitment to Africa and the world. We must therefore co-opt new ones, but we must, above all, manage our projects well and deserve the confidence placed in Gabon. And for that, we need the involvement of everyone," said Fabrice Ntchango as he gave his presentation. He said it would take a lot of awareness to get to where PACJA wanted to be.
Another highlight, President Nicaise Moulombi, installed the newly promoted advisors to the Supervisory Board. They are Mr Flavien Mincko, who will assume the human rights pole, Mrs Elodie Bigondou, who will follow the financial planning, and Mr Ditenx Ibinga, the new head of the political pole.

At the level of the general secretariat, Mr Esdras Epmi is the new manager. He will be supported by Mr Breigneiv Mambila (in charge of external relations) and Mrs Ingrid Boussamba (in charge of legal relations).

The nominations that have been successfully received by the members of the General Assembly have not failed to encourage the new, with pledges already made to the task within the platform. All of the Council's proposals have been approved by members and the PACJA platform is now expected at the foot of the wall.

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