Wednesday, December 7, 2011

African Bushman tries to get his voice heard at COP17

By Chrisjan Appollus Climate Change Media Partnership on December 5th, 2011

Amongst the highly dressed up crowd at this year’s COP17 negotiations stands Toppie Kruipper, a Khomani San from the Kalahari Desert.

He travelled together with his brother in-law about a thousand kilometers from the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park to let his voice be heard at the COP17 meeting in Durban. Talking in his native Khoikhoi language, Toppie says “I get really heartbroken if I see the rain like this (looking up in the sky), there is no rain in Gemsbok Park. I don’t know how we are going to survive. There is no grass anymore and I am a hunter I only survive from hunting, if the wild animals don’t graze enough, they die, what will happen to my children in future if the rain stops?”.

With the support from York University, Toppie and his brother in-law were able to pay for their traveling expenses. When I asked him about the relationship he has with York University he said that he does not have any relationship with them but that they had helped them to share their concerns at the negotiations. His father is a traditional leader of the Khomani San community who Toppie said has tried his best to communicate with the Government but without success.

“They drove pass him on the road, they never have time to listen to him, but today we are here to talk to them face to face” he says. But further discussion revealed that based on the language barriers at the meetings and the protocols aligned Toppie would have very little chance to tell his story at the COP17 meetings. He also is scheduled to leave before the high level segments start on Tuesday. World leaders arrive on Monday for the high level talks.

With tears in his eyes while pushing his hand against his chest Toppie tells me his deepest thoughts about his failed trip. “I want to talk about what I deeply feel. I have 4 children, three boys and one daughter, when we voted for these leaders in this South Africa we wanted them to take care of us, now that we are struggling to survive they can’t talk to us, nobody is there to listen to the poor people”.

Toppies’ journey raises the question of who is talking for the poor in the negotiations and at these UN events. So far normal persons like Toppie see very little coming out of these meetings to reassure them that the decisions needed will be taken to address climate change. As he returns to the harsh conditions of the Kalahari desert, he turns to his faith for encouragement.

“I pray to God things will change, his mercy on us will make things better, “ he said.


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