Human rights and environmental activist Agenonga Robert: "I miss cross-border activism"
Ugandan Agenonga Robert had not turned seven when he was already paying attention to the ills of his village. The leaders were unfair, and the men beat their wives.
As a little older, Agenonga Robert began writing letters to politicians, authorities, and police. He demanded that the grievances be addressed.
In 2015, he founded a non-governmental organization for human rights and the environment called the Ngetha Media Association for Peace. Today, he is a full-time activist who wants to influence the future of his country, East Africa and the world.
Recently, Agenonga Robert has focused on opposing the activities of the French oil company Total in the western part of the country, where he himself lives. The company drills oil in the Albertinjärvi area, although nature is very sensitive.
“Oil drilling is detrimental to the area’s residents and unique nature. A lot of vulnerable animal species live here, ”says Agenonga Robert.
In the worst case, the nature of the area will be shaken and the water will be polluted so that people who drink it will get sick. Oil drilling is also detrimental to tourism.
“The oil company wants to buy their land from the locals so that oil drilling can continue. Some residents have signed papers whose content they do not understand. ”
Agenonga Robert’s tactic is to intervene before the oil company. If someone wants to sell their land, his NGO will try to buy it before the oil company sets the scene. In this way, he can ensure that the environment is not endangered and that residents still have land to cultivate.
The NGO has already bought 35 hectares of land. They would like to buy another 2,000 acres, but that requires money. He is currently looking for foreign NGOs as partners and funders.
Activists across Uganda are in an unequal position. In the capital, Kampala, there are large NGOs that have more money and are otherwise better placed to promote their affairs than rural organizations.
“Capital activists have managed to convince foreign NGOs and other donors that only they are doing a good job,” says Agenonga Robert.
In the metropolitan area, people and also activists are better educated than in rural areas. They have better opportunities to make contacts and obtain funding.
“I can only try to educate rural people and tell them about human rights and land ownership laws, for example. Everyone can become an activist. ”
The country’s authorities do not look at activists with good. Agenonga Robert has been arrested many times for anti-government activities.
“I will never get a job from the state, but a country’s embassy, for example, might hire me. For now, though, I don’t want to. Activism is my calling. ”
Originally, Agenonga Robert went to study law. He soon realized that lawyers were corrupt and that knowing Ugandan law did little to help him with his activism.
He switched his major to international relations. Knowing the twists and turns of international politics is of great benefit to him.
“It allows me to speak the same language as foreign financiers, diplomats and politicians.”
Agenonga Robert hopes activists around the world will collaborate more.
“It’s hard for African activists to even get to visit Europe, for example. It immediately thinks that we are going to stay there if we have been persecuted in our home country. But it would be important to make contacts and plan for collaboration. We need cross-border activism. ”
At the same time, those living elsewhere would learn to understand that Africa is not one country but a continent with many different states.
“Many think there are only wildlife in Africa.”
There are a lot of problems in Uganda and elsewhere in East Africa that, according to Agenonga Robert, are due to bad and corrupt leaders. However, he believes the future is bright.
“Europe has not always been prosperous either. Its standard of living rose as activists pushed for social change. ”
TRANSLATED BY GOOGLE TRANSLATOR
This article is part of the Peace Defenders and Institute for Peace Education’s “Young and Brave Stories of Activism” project. The project has been funded with EU support as part of the Frame, Voice, Report funding managed by Fingo. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the beneficiary and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.