The report is very sickening. Africans are far more terrible towards their African brothers than with others. Some speak of the “slavery syndrome”. A very nice expression to point out this obvious malice of Africans against other Africans. What more can be said ! Faced with the xenophobic surge that shakes the continent from south to north. Distraught by the messages of African migrants coming from South Africa and Morocco. Weary of the ostrich policy of our leaders who refuse to take real concrete action against this wave of xenophobia. The African is in danger on his own continent. Recent events in South Africa still show us that. Shops looted, their owners killed, families forced to hide because it was thought good to accuse migrants to sell fake products. And all this happened before the police. In front of them, one burns in Bangui by religious hatred, by tribal hatred. And the same forces are at work in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia to chase the “blacks”, illegal migrants, the well-known business of subcontracting European policies. Not to mention visas and the hunt for “residence cards” of “African” foreigners in West Africa or discrimination experienced by Somali refugees or South Sudanese refugees in East Africa. After the euphoria of the protocol on free movement in Africa, the continent is going badly, worse than ever.
My “African” brothers and sisters from Ghana recently introduced me to the bird “SANKOFA”. This representation, in the Akan culture, invites us to look backwards to fly even further forward. Such a discovery made me understand how, we make the mistake, to evoke the history of the continent without really knowing it. Having grown up in Togo, a neighboring country of Ghana, I am still ignorant of the vastness of this neighboring Akan culture, because it has been immersed in French culture, because of the media and school education. The tragedy is that our education systems forget to teach us neighboring cultures and their wealth so that we can look at each other differently.
The bird “SANKOFA” also teaches us to remember what we owe to each other as an African and that our current school education does not teach us. It is therefore our duty to begin this project to remind citizens of different African countries what they owe to others. To make it clear that without the courage of Sékou Touré Guinea, 60 years ago, many African countries would still be subjects in De Gaulle’s French community, second-class citizens and not independent citizens. To recount the contribution that this independent Guinea has made to all liberation movements in Africa by offering passports, money, security protection and training to many leaders of the independence movements from Southern Africa to North Africa. I dream finally to see teaching one day in Togo that it is thanks to the financial gifts and the logistical support of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Kwame N’krumah, the Emperor Haile Selassié and many other English-speaking countries in Africa, which the Togolese independence movement won in the 1958 elections against France.
This knowledge and this recognition of what we owe to other African peoples seems to us paramount to no longer excuse the aberrations of certain migration policies in Africa. Migration policies that exempt former settlers from visas and offer them settlement rights while denying them the same rights to citizens of African countries who have helped them to free their land. The terrible injustice that this represents must be combated by our efforts to help Africans rediscover this solidarity between peoples in order to be able to say that we are now independent.
Trust, our new quest
It is not futile to call him back. Africans must relearn how to trust each other. It is at this price that the continent could develop. After recognizing our historical debt to other peoples, it is incumbent on us to recreate that trust among the peoples of Africa. This confidence is undermined by the misinformation, the wars maintained and the competitive spirit of the neoliberal system. Certainly this task remains the most difficult when we see the enthusiasm even at the level of African leaders for partnerships with China, India, Europe or America rather than with their immediate neighbors. Thomas Sankara, 30 years ago, denounced the African Heads of State who gave more importance to the summits France-Africa, Europe-Africa, China-Africa, etc. at the summits of the Organization of African Unity at the time. This has hardly changed over time. African leaders trust more European, Chinese or American to develop their country than their own citizens.
This sad reality must more than ever make us reconsider our priorities in development actions. The construction of values, self-confidence, mutual trust between inhabitants of the same city, are the most important prerequisites for triggering a real dynamic of development on our continent. This foundation of trust is necessary for us to encourage, sell, buy and consume the productions of our immediate neighbors to finally free us from the dependency system, described by Professor Samir Amin, in which we have been confined since the colonization. Unfortunately, for many African leaders, it is easier to run after “European” or “Chinese” foreign investors, to turn a blind eye to the xenophobic waves against “African” foreign investors, than to work to build trust and confidence. The values that the people of the continent need to live together and develop mutually.
(Written by Samir ABI, Permanent Secretary of the West African Observatory on Migrations)