Responding To Attacks On Africans In Ukraine And Elsewhere Around The World

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A reported past attack on Africans in the Ukraine. Source: observers.france24.com

[Op-Ed: The Pan African Agenda]

 

An Agenda For The 21st Century

In his appeal for assistance addressed to the United African Congress (UAC) and Give Them a Hand Foundation, the president of the African Center in Kiev, King Assante-Yeboa chronicles the daily travails and existential threats the Africans face in these turbulent times in the Ukraine.

He goes on to say: “As visible minorities especially Africans and African-Ukrainians still face racially motivated abuses, some of them are compelled to stay in doors to avoid possibility of being physically attacked”.

The heads of households have been deprived of their ability to provide for their families; victims of intimidation and assaults in a deteriorating and increasingly uncertain economic and political environment. Many are in need of urgent material assistance to help pay for food and rent.

The report from our partner in Kiev is but the latest in a series of reports of racist violence and xenophobia manifesting in unwarranted attacks on Africans for no other reason than the color of their skin. People of color are singled out and scapegoated in times of crisis by xenophobic and racist skinheads and neo fascist elements.

This phenomenon is not unique to Ukraine alone, it has been observed in several European countries particularly during the economic downturn that has engulfed the Continent in the past few years.

Golden Dawn, a neo Nazi party that emerged during the height of Greece’s economic freefall, has been targeting Africans, and in Dec 2013 a right wing extremist gunned down two Senegalese street vendors in Florence, Italy.

Africans in Israel have been subjected to verbal and physical assaults and those seeking asylum have been denied their rights as refugees and are warehoused in concentration camp-like deportation centers in the Negev Desert. The so-called "riots" in Paris in 2005 and London in 2011 were actually manifestations of pent up anger and despair from years of neglect in minority communities, predominantly people of color.

We are likely to hear more and more reports of abuse and mistreatment of people of African descent as Africans like all others, seek opportunities in different parts of the world in this global economy. As we see it, the problem will loom larger and more frequent as time goes by and is in need of diligent and systematic study by the African Union (AU) in order to proactively seek solutions in collaboration with Africans in the Diaspora and international organizations such as the United Nations.

The last century was one characterized by the struggles for national liberation in Africa and the Caribbean and civil rights in the US --an unfinished business, I might add; the challenge for us in the 21st Century is and should be the struggle for the dignity of the Africans wherever they may be.

The United African Congress and our partner NGO, Give Them a Hand Foundation have been waging a vigorous campaign throughout last year on behalf of people of African descent and other people of color who have been victimized by host countries for a variety of reasons, none of them justifiable.

We protested the mistreatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and wrote a letter to King Abdullah demanding that the migrant workers be protected and treated in accordance with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We brought the issue to the attention of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, the African Union and several human rights organizations. Our online petition garnered more than 10, 0000 signatures from around the world within a short period of time.

We were outraged by the ruling of the High Court of the Dominican Republic last year that deprived generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent their citizenship rights retroactive to 1929. We petitioned the UN and the AU to take appropriate action against the Dominican Republic whose actions contravene international law.

We were encouraged by the response. Our petition was sent to the head office of the High Commissioner for Human rights in Geneva as one of the documents to be presented when Dominican Republic comes up for Peer Review.

The issue is too big, too important and too urgent to be left to piecemeal approach by civil society or even by a single African or Caribbean country. Rather, a mechanism for a rapid response by multinational groupings such as the African Union and CARICOM needs to be established very much like the response of the European Union or the US when their citizens are threatened anywhere.

Only the collective will of African and CARICOM nations has the capacity to mobilize the needed diplomatic and economic resources and bring pressure to bear on offending countries in defense of their fellow Africans. This can only be achieved if two of the following are expeditiously implemented:

    •    Acceleration of plans for economic, political and military integration of Africa

The African Union has already taken baby steps to integrate regional economies, break barriers on inter-African travel and trade and establish an African peace keeping force to promote peace and security among its members and so forth. These are laudable initiatives but need to be expanded and fast-tracked to a full and complete integration thus making the century-old struggle for African Unity a reality with the creation of United States of Africa, speaking with one voice, using Africa’s immense natural resources as a leverage in its dealings with other powers. Only then will Africa be able to sit as equal partner with the likes of EU, US, China and other countries at international forums where major decisions are made.

    •    Utilizing the Untapped resource of the African Diaspora

The African Diaspora scattered throughout the globe is a precious resource whose potential and value to their countries of origin is not fully appreciated. Taking the remittances alone, which in some countries account for major portion of the national budget, one can appreciate the immense potential that can be unleashed in the development of the Continent. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the Sixth Region envisioned by the AU be quickly implemented and legally recognized as the voice of the Diaspora to take its rightful place with the other 5 regions of the AU.

These measures will go a long way towards addressing the plight of people of African descent in places like the Ukraine. We often speak of the 21st Century as one of African of Renaissance and, given the rapid economic growth of the continent may well be -- but the Renaissance will be meaningless and will ring hollow without ensuring the dignity of the African.

That is the challenge and the struggle for this Century.  And the Struggle Continues.

 

Mohammed A Nurhussein MD, FACP

is National Chairman, United African Congress

 

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