African Uranium Alliance
The deserts of North Africa are touted across Europe as the green solution to all energy worries. The magic word: DeserTec. What Europeans forget is that the plundering of natural resources in the Sahara and Nambib has been going on for decades – often with dire consequences. Both desert regions are the traditional homelands of indigenous peoples: to the north, in the desert of Niger, live the nomadic Tuareg; to the South, in Namibia, lies the home of the San. Both areas – among the most arid on earth – host water-intensive mining operations: AREVA mines uranium in Niger, and in Namibia, Rio Tinto. The cozy relations these corporations enjoy with government authorities allow them to take land from indigenous peoples without compensation, and to continue unchecked their appalling environmental records. Desert aquifers have already been drained of billions of liters of water – a vital resource that will take millions of years to replenish.
Finally, anti-nuclear activists from across Africa have linked up to take a stand against this brand of old-school colonialism. The African Uranium Alliance (AUA) is led by, from south to north: Mike Kantey and Mariette Liefferink of South Africa, Bertchen Kohrs and Hilma Shindondola-Mote from Namibia, Matthias Boniface and Anthony Lyamunda from Tanzania, Reinford Mwagond from Malawi, Diderot Nguepjouo from Cameroon, and Almoustapha Alhacen of Niger. An elder from Malawi summed up the AUA message in three words: “Uranium is death.”
“Uranium is death.”
The mission of the AUA is not only to protest plans to open up new uranium mines, but also to educate those employed at working mines about the imminent health risks. The Alliance found that black employees, laboring for wages far less than the white workforce, often had no idea that repeated radiation exposures placed them at a much higher risk than the general population to contract respiratory ailments, leukemia, cancers. Few miners had ever set eyes on a dosimeter, and many were not issued facial masks or shielding work clothes.
Almoustapha Alhacen tells us: “Radioactivity increases poverty because it creates more victims. With each passing day we are exposed to radiation and continue to be surrounded by poisoned air, polluted water and earth – while AREVA makes hundreds of millions from our natural resources.” AREVA claims that in over forty years of uranium mining, not one case of work-related illness has come to light. How do they do it? According to NGOs CRIIRAD and SHERPA, doctors at the AREVA-owned hospital in the north of Niger diagnose mineworker cancers as HIV/Aids. Stigma sweeps everything under the carpet. Niger’s government intends to give out 140 mining exploration titles to multi-national uranium concerns – for the Tuareg a sentence of death. *
On the 27th of July, 2010, we received an email from Reinford Mwangonde of Malawi: “Could you get back to us please? Something terrible has happened. A truck loaded with yellowcake from the Kayelekera mine overturned and two people were killed. No reaction from Paladin mining or the government. We are evacuating people from the area, but have no place to put them.”
The Nuclear Age as lived daily in Africa. With a portion of the Award money, tents could be purchased for those pushed from their homes.
– Craig Reishus