By Landry Ninteretse
Eight days. This was the duration of our stay in Kampala where GPS participants from Burundi and Rwanda and myself had gone mid-May with a dual purpose: first apply for our visas for Turkey where will be held the very expected Global Power Shift conference and also initiate meetings and discussions between participants from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
The journey from Bujumbura to Kampala is long. Very long. 16 hours of bus travel! Personally, I am used to such a trip, having traveled on this road more than a dozen times. This Sunday morning as we departed, I was worried about my colleagues. Two of them were taking this road for the very first time. Surprisingly, there was little pain at the arrival. Although a little tired, participants were joyful and excited to finally meet the Ugandan participants. One of them, Aaron, also 350 organiser in Kampala came to pick us at the bus station. Aaron had arranged accommodation for the ladies near Makerere University and offered us accommodation at his place, a fraternal gesture much appreciated!
The next day was dedicated to the preparation and submission of visas applications, which was done successfully, Aaron being our guide in the diplomatic area of Kololo where the Turkish embassy is located. The next day was scheduled for the first sub-regional meeting. Seven participants out of eight were present. A wonderful opportunity to get full and live introduction for each team member, sharing the status of climate movement in their respective countries, discussing the country mapping exercise and the involvement of non-selected, dividing up roles within the team, etc. Rich and varied best ways to conduct the country mapping were exchanged. While Ugandan participants were concerned about the lack of data from Rwanda and Burundi, colleagues reassured that the contacts already made at home are enough to collect the necessary information in time. The team also provided advice to Valentine (unique participant from Rwanda) on the best ways to conduct country mapping at national level by involving the large family of climate activists.
It was interesting to note the interactions between team members and hear creative and effective ideas and strategies to implement before and after GPS. At the end of the first meeting, the team showed confidence and serenity, determined to do its best to make a success of the RPS (although any decision hasn’t yet been taken on this).
Two days later, the team met again to discuss principles and values that should guide the work of the team in the coming months. Inspired by the principles of 350 local groups, participants emphasized inclusiveness, creativity, clear and spontaneous communication, determination, commitment, openness, respect and volunteerism. Strong values and principles indeed that once respected will surely contribute to ambitious and satisfactory results. One of members suggested that the team should come up with a specific name and diverse presentations, including cultural ones to perform in Istanbul! Very curious to see how this will look like…
The issue of expectations was also raised. Here I had to clarify that 350.org expects each participant to give his/her best in working closely with the rest of the national / regional team mates and local partners, plus following regularly the instructions and responding to requests made towards the preparations of the conference.
This second meeting coincided with the screening of ‘Do The Math’, which was an opportunity for the fifteen activists present to not only learn about the terrifying figures of the fossil fuel industry, but also to discuss the concerns and dreams over the discovery of oil in the western Uganda.
After a rather busy week in Kampala, two of us were granted the visa on the indicated date, the other two the next day. It is with a sense of joy and satisfaction that the GPS participants and I went back home, proud of having accomplished the mission. But beyond that, the whole team thoroughly enjoyed the spirit of solidarity, collaboration and teamwork that marked this week, hoping for the best in the future. The same spirit characterized preparations GPS in other countries such as Benin, Ivory Coast and the DRC, where participants had to travel long distances to acquire a passport or visa and the opportunity to meet and exchange with other local activists, participants in GPS or not.
While for some the road to Istanbul seems long, the determination observed is reassuring and the various challenges not at all scaring for the brave participants.