These are certainly highly perilous times for a modern day African. As I watched the international news channels and see little babies strapped to the mothers' backs in some derelict boats off the shore of the perilous Mediterranean Sea, my heart jumps to my mouth in trepidation and unmoderated consternation. Why Africans?
These times for the Africans seems like the mid 1940’s Europe when the World War II (September 1st 1939 – 2nd September 1945) has just ended and European territories faced tumultuous times with internal displacements of her citizens especially within the front line nations. Hundreds of Europeans were actually compelled to flee by boats into exiles in some safer places around the World as refugees in those days of the World wars.
In those days of the Post-World War II Europe, the United States of America implemented the Marshall plan which was an initiative to aid Western Europe, even as the United States gave over $13 Billion in Economic assistance to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of the World War II.
However, there are sharp and indeed fundamental differences of existential experiences between what the Western Europeans went through during the Post-World War II era to what Africans are going through now.
Whereas the World power symbolized then by the United States of America generously aided the reconstruction of much or all of Western Europe soon after the devastating War and most European refugees effortlessly settled into new lives in their host Countries in which for the first time, a whole lot of the African nations which are ruined by wars, famine, poverty, arms proliferation and lack of good governance, are left to their cruel fate thereby occasioning a deluge of migrants in their thousands who are fleeing these cruel situations back home in Africa in search of safety for their lives and Western Europe seems the nearest safe haven.
The African Union which ought to formulate and implement effective policy frameworks on migration has consistently gone to the European Union cap in hand to beg for funding assistance. African Union by the way is a meeting of despots who in the first place are directly responsible for creating wars and poverty which are factors that have continued to compel many youngsters to flee for their lives. Only the brave stay back.
Africa’s refugees’ crises are not basically due to economic collapse of the African Nations but is due to a combination of external and internal factors or what I may sum up as centripetal and centrifugal forces at play.
African nations experienced years of colonization from Western empire builders from the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, and Portugal amongst others.
At independence, most of these European powers that carted away the choicest resources and had for years enslaved our people left Africa in gross under development with no reparations or compensations for these years of the locusts.
But the political independence was supposed to be used by the locals to build enduring homelands whereby prosperity of their people, equality of rights and equity would reign supreme. But these were never actualized.
Rather, the different persons that gained power in the various African Nations abandoned developmental blueprints in preference for perpetuation of their class, clan, and ethno-religiously affiliated persons to control powers thereby alienating other people in which case wars set in, followed by devastation, poverty and famine. In Nigeria whereby war was fought for 30 Months around the Eastern region of Nigeria with the attendant destruction of infrastructure and the slaughter of 3 million people, the East was never rebuilt by government and neither did the Western powers that sold weapons to the Federal force to battle the then Biafra aided in redeveloping the devastated Eastern region of Nigeria. The people of this region have been abandoned to their cruel faye but for their resilience and community development drive the Eastern region would have remained in shambles.
Again, the Western European and the United States of America have never showed positive interest in demanding that those who hold political powers in the different African Nations must play the game by the rules.
The basic interests of the Western powers have always revolved around how they can make use of natural resources in some African Nations to enrich their local economies. As in write, the Western powers are in competition with China on which of these blocs will gain more footholds in and around African areas whereby natural resources are found in commercial quantities.
The Bretton Woods Institutions of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) which were basically set up around the periods between the first and the Second World Wars to carry out economic and infrastructural rebuilding processes around the devastated Western European Nations have remained sources of curse for Africa and not blessing.
Alongside the Paris and London clubs, these funding institutions have conspired with some corrupt African Nations to build up dubious debts which have become major developmental obstacles. Not long ago, Nigeria paid out $12 billion to Paris and London clubs as part of settlements for some furiously accumulated debts. These huge cash would have changed the infrastructural landscape of Nigeria if the political elite would be mindful to put it into better uses. But the huge cash went to the same advanced Western nations.
Again, corruption amongst African political elite has impoverished nations such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Kinshasha amongst others.
The Western Nations have benefitted from the menace of political corruption in such places like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Gabon, Angola all in Africa.
This is because those who hold political offices divert public fund till date to their off shore bank accounts and safe havens in Europe and the United States of America even as these privileged few from Africa have bought up several choice housing assets in Western Nations. Governors in Nigeria divert public funds to buy up choice housing assets in Europe and America as I write.
The African despots who continuously destroy their nations through corruption, lack of respect for human rights and poor governance standards, have also taken away their children to the best schools in Western Europe whereby they are far away from the poverty stricken environment that much of African schools have become.
In Nigeria, the 36 states of the Federation have progressively become insolvent and rely heavily on revenues generated from sale of crude oil which come from the Niger Delta just as the Niger Delta remains poor, neglected, environmentally abused and the state of infrastructure is near zero.
Poverty and violent crimes have surged around the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
In the North East and South East, political corruption has left all the public utilities in very bad shape thereby forcing parents to send their children to places such as Ghana and Benin Republic in search of education in poorly standardized faculties.
The North East of Nigeria has been in a state of war since the last seven years just as girls are kidnapped by boko haram terrorists at will and government is too weak or compromised to fight back. At times the security forces sabotage the anti-terror fights for financial gains.
So when you look around the Mediterranean seas and see thousands of Nigerians fleeing into Europe, they are not just searching for economic wellbeing but they are forced to flee from unperalled violence, war, poverty and poor governance standards at both the central and sub-national levels.
But Europe and America have continued to sale weapons to African and Nigerian despots.
These weapons find their ways in the hands of armed Fulani herdsmen who deploy these sophisticated weapons to seek to wipe out the entire Christian dominated North Central states of Plateau, Benue, Taraba so they can occupy by force these lands belonging to the indigenous communities and the Federal government has done nothing to stop it. Government of Nigeria is accused of nepotism in the appointments of top security chiefs who are all Moslems same as the armed Fulani attackers. So the issue of irregular migration from Nigeria is a disturbing phenomenon coupled with the fact that Nigeria has a leader who doesn't fully appreciate the enormity of the crises but has instead continued to tell the press that Nigerians abroad want to return. Since African despots who created these problems of irregular migration are unwilling to solve the problems, Europe has embraced the challenge.
Now that the European Union’s leadership has moved to Austria which is absolutely against migration, there has to be strategies in place both in Europe, America to stop the weaponization of African despotism, insists on transparent elections, and respect for the rule of law and respect also for the human rights of Africans. By that way irregular migration will reduce. The Western powers must stop the hiding of African wealth in their jurisdictions by African thieving political elite. If these steps are not adopted, then the European commission under Austria's control may not achieve much even if they stop the inflow of African migrants.
We just read that Austria plans to use its presidency of the European Union this year to shift the bloc’s focus away from resettling refugees within the EU and toward preventing further waves of arrivals, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday. So reports www.haaretz.com .
Kurz is governing in coalition with the anti-immigration Freedom Party, making Austria the only western European country to have a far-right party in government. This follows an election last year dominated by Europe’s migration crisis.
Austria will take over the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union in July, giving it an important say in setting the agenda at the many meetings between member states.
The bloc has been bitterly divided over immigration and eastern member states like Poland and Hungary refuse to take in their share of refugees under a resettlement system. Kurz, an immigration hard-liner, has pledged to use his good relations particularly with Hungary to bring the two sides closer.
“Our aim is very clear – that in Europe there should not only be a dispute over redistribution (of refugees) but also at last a shift of focus towards securing external borders,” Kurz told a news conference outlining Austria’s priorities for the presidency, which it will take over from Bulgaria.
Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have repeatedly rebuffed requests from Brussels and western EU states to host some of the hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim refugees that have streamed into the EU since 2015.
The bitter row has undermined trust between the bloc’s members and weakened their unity.
Austria has moved from calling on the eastern Europeans to carry their share of the burden to, under Kurz, criticizing the debate on quotas and calling for a new system altogether.
Kurz has said there is no point arguing over the current system of quotas because eastern states refuse to accept them. He has argued in favor of a system in which migrants rescued in the Mediterranean are returned to Africa rather than brought to Europe, and pledged to stop illegal immigration altogether.
“Protection (of borders) alone will not solve the migration question but the decisive question is what happens to people after their rescue – so are they brought to central Europe or are they taken back to countries or origin or other safe regions where they can be provided for?” he said.
When asked what solutions he had in mind, he said expanding the mandate of Frontex, the EU border agency, was one option but there were others and it would depend on talks with leaders at events including a summit on migration and security on Sept. 20.
Other priorities Austria has set itself include promoting Europe’s competitiveness and working towards EU accession for Balkan countries, particularly Serbia and Montenegro, he said..
But the African Union must wake up and take responsibility for the deaths of Africans during the dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to sail to Europe.
Sede Alonge wrote in The Guardian of Britain that African Union must wake up.
Thousands of migrants, the writer stated, many of them Africans, have died trying to get into Europe this year alone. News stories of drownings and shipwrecks during hazardous sea journeys on the Mediterranean have become depressingly familiar.
What can be done to prevent such tragedies? So far, one could get the impression that the problem is considered solely Europe’s to deal with; after all, it is the EU’s borders that are being besieged. But that would mean absolving the African Union of any responsibility for its own borders and citizens, letting it off the hook far too easily.
African societies pride themselves on their regard for culture, family life and community in general. The actions of individuals are considered reflective of their families and the communities they come from. If a son turns out to be a thief, this is deemed shameful not just to his parents but also to the community he comes from. His family is expected to accept full responsibility for his actions and to undertake to do something about the situation. Similarly, we are also fond of emphasizing our sense of brotherhood and solidarity with our fellow African citizens.
However, it is difficult to reconcile all this with the seemingly indifferent AU response to the migrant crisis. What exactly is it doing to secure its borders and prevent smugglers from transporting thousands out of the continent, often to their deaths? What is it doing to encourage those Africans who feel forced to leave their countries, or who are displaced, to choose African destinations rather than European ones? Not much, is the answer.
“The fact that African migrants tend to seek refuge in countries that have well-developed human rights systems only accentuates the AU’s failure. Increasing Europe’s border security should not be solely the EU’s headache. Africa’s leaders have a responsibility to work towards solving a problem they helped create in the first place.”
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and [email protected] , www.huriwanigeria..com ; www.huriwa.blogspot.com .
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)