Friday, 16 May 2008

Tsvangarai and environmentalists address LI Congress

I am attending the Liberal International Congress in Belfast. This morning Morgan Tsvangarai, courageous leader of the Zimbabwean MDC and Presidential challenger to the disastrous rule of Robert Mugabe, was enthusiastically welcomed when he spoke at the opening session of the Congress. We were told that Mr Tsvangarai was persuaded to attend by President Aboulaye Wade of Senegal: this clear public support from a leader of another African state is perhaps an early sign that African nations are getting over the paralysis that has affected them for so long over Mugabe and the Zimbabwean crisis.
After the opening session I attended a workshop session with an African Environment Panel, of whom I was particularly impressed by Mr Wavel Ramkalawan, leader of the Seychelles National Party. He spoke of the terrible implications of global warming for his country, consisting as it does of low-lying islands that are directly threatened by rising sea levels. He also spoke of the de-oxygenating effect of ocean warming, which is posing a massive threat to marine ecology including fish stocks and coral reefs. It was clear from what he said (in response to a comment from my UK Lib Dem colleague Chris le Breton) that increasingly, he and others in Africa are coming to the view that aspiration to planet-wrecking Western-style lifestyles is simply not a feasible option: instead, our species has to act as the guardians of the well-being of nature itself, if we wish to have a future. But effective governance is necessary first, and in addition, the scale of the rethink that is now required of policymakers is breathtaking.

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