A recent ruling by the Kenyan National Environment Tribunal putting on hold the construction of a controversial coal-fired power project in Lamu County came as a relief to many Kenyans and environment champions, not forgetting the Lamu people who were going to be directly affected by the Project.
This, however, was not the case with the US Ambassador to Kenya, Kyle McCarter, whose Boss, President Donald Trump, has expressed bias regarding such climate-polluting technologies viewed as contributing to the accumulation of Greenhouse Gases. In a string of tweets seemingly meant to insinuate the five-judge bench that delivered the ruling at the Supreme Court was misguided, and worse still, incompetent, Mr McCarter exhibited the true personality of President
Donald Trump, who has pulled his country out of the landmark Paris Agreement and any globally-agreed framework to combat climate crisis.
Yet we have seen better American envoys in Kenya. A day like this July 7 was always a time to watch in the history of Kenya, as champions of democracy pushed for multi-part-ism. Such pushes were supported by one Smith Hempstone, a US Ambassador to Kenya between 1989 and 93, and who was an aggressive vocal proponent of democracy for Kenya. He wanted the best for Kenya, unlike his equal now, who has clearly displayed dislike for this country by supporting the dangerous Lamu power project.
Though the ruling is not a finality – an Environmental Impact Assessment study has been ordered conducted and a licence issued to the AMU Power to proceed with work on the ground cancelled – the tribunal ruling was a deserved victory for thousands of Lamu residents, Kenyans and well-wishers who have battled this toxic project.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the AMU Power were also admonished for not ensuring adequate public participation on the project and asked to do better. And as we wait to see whether AMU Power and NEMA will appeal within 30 days after the ruling as advised by the tribunal, we can only wish that McCarter was not intimidating an independent institution to serve his partisan interest, which we all know – President Trump’s climate-denial diplomacy.
In the past, the US was a global moral paragon of hope, standing with the most vulnerable, the powerless and those at the frontline of autocratic persecutions. Currently, however, Trump, and to an extent, his representatives, stand for the opposite of what their predecessors stood for –
standing with the mighty against the poor and those facing environmental and human rights abuses worldwide.
Tragically, this should be the lowest moment for the United States. That a US government official appointed by the President himself would appear to belittle arguably the most independent Judiciary in Africa, and champion implementation of a project that will clearly leave voiceless people more troubled than they have been, with more debts than they can manage, cannot be fathomed.
It is absurd, and indeed beats logic that a person of McCarter’s like can openly lie that coal is “environmentally sound” in a continent where no one has ever witnessed even the mere.