The African people’s caravan has come a long way since its first initiation in 2018. First, with the Convergence of the Global Struggle for Land and Water also known as CGLTE until the next series of caravans in 2021.

This commentary highlights two figures who went through the caravan experience, and are both African exemplars, namely: Nigerian Rev. Father Chika Onyejiuwa, executive secretary of the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) and Sinan Ouattara, Spokesperson of the King of the Andoh people of the Nanan Akou Moro II. Oattara also serves as the focal person of the Convergence Globale des Luttes pour la Terre et l’Eau (CGLTE-West Africa), and president of the Alliance for Sustainable Development and the Environment (ASDE).  Onyejiuwa and Ouattara signify a living proof of the thousands of Africans who made it to the caravan from 2018 to 2021.

The caravan is a massive mobilization of the grassroots or of suffering people and communities in their everyday life as women, men, farmers, fisherfolks, children-youths, senior citizens, and indigenous peoples all over twenty-six African states.

Fr. Chika Onyejiuwa and Sinan Ouattara were both decisive actors in the previous caravans. Both view the caravan as a public action of communities coming out to the streets, and journeying all around communities sharing the same predicament and how they braved through the challenges.  Both viewed how the caravan entails programs of people’s assemblies and series of gatherings where participants collectively reflect on their predicament, on their rights being violated as negative impact of extractive industries, agrofuel industries, and various mega projects of multi-national and transnational corporations. These corporations were accommodated in Africa through state actors in collaboration with corporate interests. For greater depth and explanatory power, the mechanism should be viewed as a seamless interpenetration between the national, and international institutions into the local communities through banking, finance, private corporate and public institutions.

Ouattara accounts how the caravan exemplifies the African peoples’ response to the paradox where amid abundance is still a continuing condition of pervasive hunger and want. Indeed, the caravan serves as narrative of the path Africans tread in the past years of immense suffering. Diagnosing the details in enormous people’s narratives and discussions during the caravans, indicate corporate plunder and resource-grabbing as glaring reasons behind patterns of massive sufferings in most resource-rich African states. For Ouattara, the caravan is a means to pressure African elites and state actors to act on the problems of the poor.

On the other hand, Onyejiuwa shares his reflection as a church person. He says he is called to the challenges of servanthood following the path to judgment with God’s spirit with him to serve and establish justice to the nations in suffering (Isaiah 42:1-4). In a way, Onyejiuwa’s reflections denote how communities emerged from the ravages of climate disasters and economic difficulties, fought political upheavals, braved new frontiers of technology, and soldiered on through a pandemic. Throughout history, the African community of believers has been guided by the Judaeo-Roman-Afro-Christian tradition and culture. The African church never wavered in its commitment to work for social transformation that benefits the African nations and communities. In imitation of Christ, Onyejiuwa leafed through Isaiah 53.  He views Christ’s calling as to have to lay down one’s life for the nation.  For Onyejiuwa, it means to accept to be despised, rejected or held in low esteem, or even to suffer pain as in being stricken, afflicted and punished by God, because only then can one’s sacrifice find more meaning.

Certainly, when we look at the face of Africa, we can see the face of the suffering Jesus emaciated and in pain. It is in this context that grassroots organizations of both church and non-church institutions in Africa forged a peoples’ movement called “caravan”. The caravan is a method of action of the African society speaking truth to power, and confronting power holders about their pent-up agony.  They speak about how predator corporate elites had siphoned their resources while they suffer ala Jesus Christ taking up the cross so that predator states will prosper.

More specifically, they speak of people affected by large scale industry resource grabbing such as the Belgian company SIAT at Cote d’Ivoire taking over 11,000 hectares of land, or Anglo Gold Ashanti, Newmont, Abosso, Golden Star, Adamo, Chirano, or Perseus Gold mining corporations among others at Ghana, taking over more than 25,000 hectares of public lands simultaneously effecting mercury intrusion into river beds destroying potable water sources and the usurpation of village level small scale mining industries, or the large scale agrofuel industries like Senhuile Senethanol in Senegal displacing large communities of pastoralists. Large tracks of African people’s farmlands and forestall areas have been converted to agrofuel industries amidst a backdrop of ricing food prices and famine since 2008 (Friends of the Earth). In Uganda the same biofuel industries drove communities into evacuation. And yet these impoverished states are the same debtor states on top the list of the IMF-WB.

Today, Africa calls on another caravan to look back on its journey thus far, reflecting on lessons learned, actions taken, and challenges overcome. In the commemorative caravan to come this November in time with COP27, a caravan is especially organized for the occasion. With the COP27 to be held in Egypt, a caravan intends to push for the African communities’ demands on climate justice. Among the demands are to repeal Art. 6 of the Paris Agreement, and for developed states to pay the annual US100 Billion polluter’s penalties to least developed countries (LDCs) from year 2020 to 2025. The caravan is invoked to ensure that African authorities defend the positions of the poor in the interstate arena and guide its journey forward with their respective African communities.

Onyejiuwa says: “Caravans mark in the African history serving to guide the journey forward as Africans take to heart their responsibilities to the environment, the society, and the global community.

 Going into the next journey, the African church and non-church actors remain attuned and responsive to the evolving needs of its communities and the publics. It does not back down in the face of disruptions and forge ahead with courage.

Meanwhile, Sinan Ouattara says to Africans: “Push on to victory with all your might.”


Phoebe Zoe Maria U. Sanchez, Ph. D.