Monday, 21 November 2011

Caravan Dispatches - The Spice That is the Caravan

Variety. Uniqueness. Creativity. That is what has marked this caravan as we have found ourselves in different countries but with the same agenda of fighting for climate justice. 

I am writing this on the bus as we go from Lusaka to Livingstone, Zambia which is a 7 hour journey but no worries, we have acclimatized. 7 hours now looks like kid play. So it is here that l can’t help but recall how countries have interpreted the message of the Caravan through their activities. Yesterday, about 55 caravanites joined us from Lusaka Zambia. We are now slightly over 120 caravanites in 4 branded buses as we head to Durban, South Africa. 

Back to the recalling … The Trans African Caravan of Hope worked through task forces in all the participating countries. The coordinating task force which was working from Kenya coordinated with key country task force members. The country task force members then ensured coordination worked within their countries. The world should know that we went to Durban, South Africa for  COP17 and we were not quiet about it. 

Spiced Up the Tshirts

When it was all said and done, we have had common designs but different interpretations. This not only came through our activities but also in the communications materials. While Kenya and Rwanda had white T-shirts with green and red collars respectively, Uganda chose green and red t-shirts. Zambia had interesting colors which included grey, beige and black. Coupled with that was a few more that had been meticulously hand woven with a heavy African heritage. Malawi gave us among other things, straw hats that the caravanites have taken to wearing since then.

Spiced Up Activities


In Burundi we had the police who gave president like escort to the border. Cars were getting sirened off the road for the buses to come through. For one minute there we knew the feeling our presidents have when they decide to use the road and we ‘little’ people are either shoved or made to wait in traffic until they are done. Malawi has also used a lot of sirened police. Talk of attention. It is not enough you have branded buses, you are now accompanied by police cars with sirens.


Rwanda planted over 3500 trees at the break of dawn and had over 1000 policemen and members of the army doing a beautiful band thing. It was a sea of blue uniforms.
Uganda held a concert after the heavy rains that hit the city shortly after the flag off was done in the morning by the vice president hon Ssekanda. The concert was graced by … and …. Graced the occasion.


A prisons band literally stopped traffic in Nairobi on a Sunday afternoon. The police cordoned roads to ensure that the caravanites hold their procession with no interference.


Tanzania had dancers who were elaborate in their presentation.  This event is one that had the tightest security we have experienced since we started. A caravanite told me, ‘ this is the first highest ranking official who l have witnessed being so friendly. We chatted with him like we were old friends.’ I guess it must be a Tanzanian trait because one of the caravanites from Tanzania tells me that the president, His Excellency Hon Jakaya Kikwete is his friend. As our mouths gaped he went on to explain their friendship even adding that the president had given him a call and encouraged him to attend the caravan. Hmmm! How nice.


It is Malawi that still stands out so far in this whole trip. Malawi had slightly over 4000 people participate in the event that included the ‘Big Walk.’ Indeed it was a big walk, about 6kilometers but the caravanites from other countries swear it was more like 10kilometres. Beatrice from Tanzania tells me, ‘ the craziest thing is everytime you would ask one of the Malawians where it is they were going, they would say, ‘just around the corner.’ ‘ I am told this corner never materialized. one that was marked by pomp and color and a lot of dramatics. If it was not the loud vuvuzelas, it was the extra loud loud speaker that was alerting the world of their demand for climate justice. And then there were the dances. Maria Whittaker from the United States and who is a caravanite on this road trip is animated as she tells me about it. Her hands are in the air and her face is lighting up as she goes on, ‘And then there was this lorry that was carrying the loud speaker and we would stop for a minute and we would dance.’ Oh did l say she stops and dances? Yes she does. ‘ Plus women were carrying kids, there were old women and young people,’ she ends abruptly as she is pulled away from me for a quick consultation.


In Zambia there were three events; one in Chipata and the other in Lusaka. Chipata witnessed had every country get a tree planted in their honor. Kenyans felt honored as the Permanent Secretary Hon Mwale planted a tree in honor of the Late Prof Waangari Maathai. If you want to talk about elaborateness, then so far Lusaka takes the cake. They had over 100 children from Sunshine School perform two songs and also sign the petition. Something new is that this petition was presented by two kneeling caravanites. Respect, l am told. Lusaka also gave us a dramatized message on climate change and its effects and how to mitigate and adapt coupled with energetic dancing and rhythmic drum beating. It is here that the flagging off Minister announced the highest contingent to join the caravan. We get to livingstone quite late and charge up for the next day.


  1. I've been disappointed with the organization of the Caravan of Hope activities in Zimbabwe. I was co-opted to the organizing committee because of my work with the San and I was lead to believe that the San were going to be part of the activities. To my surprise, the San were dropped out of the programme because of money problems. My problem now is that money seems to matter more than the views of the people. or the San voices to not belong to Africa. We thought that the Caravan was going to be a good platform for the San. As people of Africa the San needs to air their view coz they are also affected by climate change, or they are not. I stand corrected as far as this mater goes. I have decided not to participate in the activities coz the people I represent are not taken seriously.

  2. sad to hear. I don't see how inadeqaute funds should affect organising the event. For solidaritys' sake, just organise as imple but unique event. U may wish to include tree plantingand just a bit of song and dance. Please remember to keep the Frican Hope Alive. And bring along the San people, its no time for politics but time for Climate Justice

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