‘Our future is not guaranteed’: Ugandan climate warrior

Kampala, Sept 19 (AFP/APP):When Ugandan Leah Namugerwa turned 15 last month, she decided to plant 200 trees rather than have a birthday party, in her latest effort to spotlight environmental damage in her country.

Juggling school, protests, and giving speeches in regional capitals rallying for action to save the planet, she is one of a generation of youths inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

“If adults are not willing to take leadership, I and fellow children will lead them. Why should I watch on as environment injustices happen before my eyes?” Namugerwa said in the Rwandan capital Kigali last week, receiving a standing ovation for her address on the climate emergency.

Back in Kampala, she told AFP she was inspired to do weekly school strikes after becoming aware of her own government’s “inaction” on environmental issues, and discovering Thunberg’s sit-ins outside Sweden’s parliament that led to a global youth movement.

Namugerwa was one of several activists with the Fridays for Future movement to receive this week Amnesty International’s highest human rights award for their work.

She has led a campaign to urge Kampala to implement a ban on plastic bags blighting the country, and sounds the alarm about massive deforestation as well as prolonged droughts and flooding attributed to climate change.

“What made me get concerned and get involved in this campaign is because of the climate change and effects on our lives, like we have experienced high temperatures as never before, we have experienced flooding… diseases are spreading.

She said young people “have to speak out.”

“If we don’t, our future is not guaranteed. The current leaders will be gone but we shall be there to suffer the consequences of their inactions.”

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