By: Paul Jeebah Albert
|People gather to listen to Zulu King
Photo: Courtesy of AFP
A group of villagers is standing by and watching drowning babies hopelessly rolling down a creek. They weep and cry but there is no solution in sight. Suddenly, an older man call a group meeting and suggests that standing down the creek and watching the dying babies will not end the cycle. That in order to end the cycle, they must go to the source of the creek to find out who is dumping the babies in the creek. The villagers listen to the older man’s advice and proceed to the mouth of the creek; and what they discover becomes a real eye opener. Thugs were dumping the babies in the water for ritualistic purposes. Had they not gone to the entrance of the water, they would not have found the criminals. Africans of all walks of life have been united in a tremendous outpouring of condolence, sentiment and grief for the fratricidal killings of Africans by fellow Africans in South Africa. This is a great gesture and it comes as a show of solidarity. However, why our leaders cannot be united likewise in identifying some of the contributing factors to xenophobia and tackling it at its core? Africans will not be capable of bringing collective efforts on their kinsmen until they themselves can achieve genuine unity and socio-economic development within their own respective countries.
Many African countries including the ones that are considered relatively wealthy today are themselves saddled with a lack of good governance; weaken by tribal segregation and internecine ethnic cleansings; paralyzed by inaction because of continuous internal political division; plagued with massive corruption and largely impoverished populations. This dynamic sets the stage for the en masse migration of people seeking economic haven in greener pastures.
I am not saying that those reasons should be a justification for the cruel treatment meted against our African brothers in South Africa, for it constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights under international laws and conventions. Nevertheless, mass migration of people from one country to another drastically changes the social and economic structures of the host country. Depending on the host country’s policies, its need for workers with superior skills, and the means it has at its disposal to sustain such migration the result can sometimes be beneficial to both the host country and the people who have newly arrived.
At other times like in South Africa the result can be catastrophic as citizens of the host country might feel that the immigrants have come to displace them from their jobs and impose strains on their entitlements, and their economic and social structures. This kind of thinking breeds a deadly symbiosis where the indigenes begin to feel that they are humiliated and economically disenfranchised at the hands of minority groups.
In the major industrialized nations, you often hear the phrase “wage suppression” used against immigrants and migrant workers. This phrase relates to the fact that whenever there is an influx of people to a host country, the wages and lifestyles of the average citizens takes a dramatic nose dive, because the immigrants are willing to work for meager wages to make a living. Meager wages are a privilege that they would have never dreamed of while living in their home country. These factors often translate into violence of dire consequences against immigrants and other minorities of the magnitude the world is witnessing today in South Africa.
Whenever there is a case of boat people drowning at seas, Africans are always involved. A most recent one happened when a group of West African immigrants were thrown overboard a ship by fellow Africans for defending their religious belief while travelling from Libya to Italy.
What was most disheartening about this episode was the answer given by two West African refugees who attempted the dangerous voyage years ago and succeeded. When they were asked by international journalists whether in hindsight they could do it again, they both gave an emphatic “yes”; that in spite of the high risks, they would rather die in the Mediterranean seas than to live in the economic and political oppression of West Africa.
When they were asked for the second time about their lives now as compare to what it was while living in West Africa, they said it is far better; and that even though they cook and wash dishes to sustain themselves, nothing in West Africa can come close to their present life now.
These kinds of responses coming from Africans fleeing as either political or economic refugees should tell our leaders that there are some underlying root causes that are helping in fueling xenophobia. African governments must first put their own political and socio-economic houses in order, and then they can summon the moral courage and will to sanction the blatant behavior of their fellow Africans.
The Author: Paul Jeebah Albert can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org