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By Delia Robertson
Johannesburg
13 November 2008

The international environmental activist group, Greenpeace, has opened a new office in Johannesburg. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our bureau in Johannesburg the office is the first of three scheduled for Africa.

Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, at Tanjung Priok seaport in Jakarta, 30 Oct 2008
Greenpeace banner on ship (file photo)
The new Greenpeace office in Johannesburg aims to persuade the South African government to become the spearhead for changing energy usage in Africa. Greenpeace Africa Executive Director Amadou Kanoute told VOA South Africa has the influence in global forums needed to do this.


"Our program is to get the South African government to accept to play a leadership role in an African energy revolution," he said. "What we mean there is, phase out their dependence on coal and nuclear and lead an energy African revolution particularly in renewable energy. We are talking of the sun, we are talking of the wind, these are resources we have in Africa."

While South Africa gets a proportion of its power from hydroelectric plants in Lesotho and Mozambique; most of its energy comes from its own coal plants. It also has one nuclear plant and some gas plants. Future plans include a new pebble-bed nuclear reactor, more coal and gas plants, a hydroelectric plant and also wind and solar energy plants.  

Kanoute said South Africa needs to focus more strongly on renewable energy resources and said Greenpeace will use whatever means of persuasion it considers necessary to persuade the government to do so.

"If it is domestically, yes there are things that need to be done, we will be engaging them, we will lobbying them, but if there is need for us to do the kind of direct actions that Greenpeace is known for, yes we will do that," he said.

Next week Greenpeace will also open a branch in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kanoute said the focus there will be the preservation of the region's forests.

"40 million people depend on the tropical rain forests in Congo basin for their livelihood and for its importance in tackling global climate change," he said. "So we have come up with a very solid, strong program called Forests for Climate which we expect the Congo basin governments, the G-77 to support in order to ensure that a mechanism is put in place which will compensate for fact that we are asking the Congolese government to keep its forests intact."

Greenpeace intends to make over fishing off West Africa the 3rd prong of its African environmental campaign. To do so they will add a third office in the Senegalese capital Dakar next year. Kanoute said illegal fishing in the region by foreign trawlers is robbing local communities of a livelihood and an essential element of their diets. He said Greenpeace will be working toward developing a sustainable fishing industry for West Africa. 

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