It is sometimes difficult to give a vivid and convincing sense of the link between climate and the problems of insecurity. The linkage is indirect and can seem intangible. And there is a lack of hard evidence with which to demonstrate it because the problems are only now beginning. But then sometimes the link is brought out into the open in the most vivid and cogent form.
An excellent article by James Randerson describes how increased flooding in recent years has led to the Semliki river changing course. The river forms the Congo-Uganda border. Which effectively means it has taken land from Uganda and “given” it to Congo – and vice versa, but Uganda is the net land-loser.
This is not an abstract matter when it is farmland: “The land where our grandparents used to cultivate – it is now in Congo,” says a farmer who now has to rent the land in Congo that he used to farm in Uganda.
As if the land issue were not enough by itself, this is also an oil issue. Oil has been discovered on the astern bank of Lake Albert and there is prospecting on both the Congolese and Ugandan sides of the Semliki where it flows into the lake.
And if land and oil aren’t enough to make us think about the increasing insecurity of the ordinary farmers living and working in the area, there is the instability and violence in Congo and the history of Uganda’s military involvement in eastern Congo around the turn of the millennium.
And behind all this – the changing climate. Part of this probably caused by carbon emissions because the Semliki is fed from the Rwenzori mountains where the glaciers are melting. But glacial melt is the lesser part of the story of the increased Semliki flooding of recent years. The larger part is erratic rainfall and increasingly heavy rainfall – dryer dry seasons and more intense wet seasons, resulting in soil loss an d burst river banks. Whether this is also caused by carbon emissions is harder to trace.
But in a region that is over-rich in conflict, the Semliki is a vivid demonstration of how local life changes as the climate changes, with the end result of an increased risk of insecurity.