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Published On: Tue, Oct 29th, 2019

Xenophobia: Resent to resentment

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By Adetunji Ayobrown

Africa my Africa, Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs, Africa of whom my grandmother sings, On the banks of the distant river, I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins, Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields, The blood of your sweat, The sweat of your work, The work of your slavery, Africa, tell me Africa, Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation, This back trembling with red scars, And saying no to the whip under the midday sun, But a grave voice answers me, Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there, Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers, That is your Africa springing up anew, Springing up patiently, obstinately, Whose fruit bit by bit acquires, The bitter taste of liberty.
– David Diop
This is a poem that was taught with all vigour by my class teacher, who will not fail to do his own part of the teaching. However, failure to appropriately recite this poem off hand always incurred the wrath of my class teacher then. The 24-stanzas, ‘Africa my Africa’, poem written by David Diop… was a must-to-recite poem in my secondary school days. The poet, who lived between 1927 and 1960 called for the true spirit of African-hood, even ever before many young Africans were born is indeed very apt at this time. The above is part of the poem as written long before the present self-imposed inhumanity among blacks, especially Africans.
In this globalised, developed aged and time where young entrepreneurs are making deals and signing contracts across continental and international borders, yet news had it that Pretoria was forced to shut its embassy in Abuja over threats of retaliatory violence as South African companies, MTN, Multichoice, owners of DSTV and Shoprite closed stores in Nigeria after retaliatory attacks attempts over resentment in name of Afro-phobia or xenophobia (racial intolerance) exhibited by South Africans in the last couple of years.
‘When the evil collects, he sends your relatives or your friends, not too late on the rent’, indeed a true reminder. How can South Africa forget so soon roles played by Nigeria and other Africans, even with their lives during the former apartheid nation’s hell on earth in the hands of their ‘white masters’? That they can readily forget really called for pity. A source claimed that at least, five Africans have been killed in just an attack, although, in an interview, Pandor Naledi said South Africa was in constant contact with Nigerian authorities and was also working to restore calm in areas affected by the violence, but how to tackle the resentment is left unexplained.
Late and former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, said it is only in South Africa that illiterate villagers think a qualified medical doctor from another country is the reason for his unemployment but sadly, we took his statement with a pitch of salt, not taken serious at all. And now the deed is about to be done.???*** Air Tanzania has suspended its flights to South Africa. Mafikizolo cancelled their show in Zimbabwe over fear of violence due to xenophobia in South Africa. Nigerian Rapper, Vector cancelled his group’s tour to South Africa. Tiwa Savage also cancelled her performance at DSTV Delicious Festival in South Africa. Angry Zambians set ablaze a South African Airways Aircraft in Zambia Airport. Fear gripped Africa leaders as Zambian students storm South African Embassy and wrecked havoc. The lists is unending, who knows what is next. Unfortunate world, what some people call massacre, others call it playtime, though i think it’s better to be your brother’s keeper.
When Ben Murray-Bruce said that Nigeria is fighting the symptoms of xenophobia and not the cause, many thought his words are not it. But did anyone notice this as well, ‘there is resentment and we need to address’, was another statement credited to Pandor. Why they are attacking foreigners, South African Foreign Minister, Pandor Naledi Pandor gave reasons for the prejudice against people from other African countries and their businesses. But the question is, Africans why?
Born in Bordeaux, French West region, the African Poet, David Diop wrote in his poem which reflected hope of an Africa free of colonial rulers, and in support of African Independence. Not in his wildest thoughts did the writer ever imagine anything close to xenophobia or Afrophobia when in his poem expressed his pain, struggle for understanding and his yearning for the freedom of black slaves. So who will save blacks from blacks?
While Nigerians are bent on destroying all South African businesses, heavy sanction is placed on its airlines in Cairo, as Egypt government grounds all South African aircrafts in Cairo. More to come as this North African nation is mean, serious and bent on reprisals in all ways. Oh goodness! Brothers killing brothers, Zambian DJ beaten black and blue for playing South African music in his country.
Many Nigerians still living down there strongly believe and have this (un)popular saying, ‘I am unable to quit because I am currently too legit’, they held on to that belief because they felt that they have contributed more to their host nation, even more than the average South Africans themselves, and the reason for the phobia or outright hatred, as simple as that. ‘The resentment’, many thought that is what Pandor was referring to when he diplomatically said there is an Afrophobia they were sensing that exists, and truly as Africans, we need to address that quickly and urgently too before it gets too late.
‘Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs’, was how Diop puts it, but are the rampaging killers of fellow Africans in the name of whatever phobia truly proud African warriors, truly there is a resentment to address but surely, posterity will judge.
‘But your blood flows in my veins’, a truism Nigeria have shown in many ways, a fact fellow South and other African brothers need to keep in update. I never for once thought the continent could turn to this; Africa of whom our parents sang songs of hope and encouragement while raising their children is now on the part of self-destruction. Our continent ravaged by underdevelopment and poverty, yet see what we are doing to ourselves, truly, ‘Under the weight of humiliation’, this back trembling with red scars and we are still saying yes to the whip under the midday sun, was truth and nothing but the truth when Diop sang his verse.
‘The blood of your sweat, the sweat of your work and the work of your slavery’, most Africans living down south are there looking for greener pastures, a better living condition of life within their fatherland. So tell ‘Africa, tell me Africa, is this you, this back that is bent, this back that is already broken.
But where are the grave voices to give answers to the resentments questions starring us all in the face? Is this your own version of Africa springing up anew? Our leaders and every one of us must address this and never forget the bitter taste of liberty.
So, Africans, what are those resentment we need to address, every African leader must avoid leadership failure or abdication of their statutory duties, panache and being rudderless when it comes to ensuring security of lives and property in our African nations. Ensuring peace and brotherliness for Africa our Africa indeed is a must for all of us Africans.
Adetunji Ayobrown is a Public Affairs Analyst.
Religious bodies in South Africa dismissed claims by the South African government that the attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in the former apartheid nation were not xenophobic as incorrect. ‘Reports stated that our government is doing very little to protect the victims. We received reports of police standing by idly in Pretoria while shops were being looted and people attacked. Not a single arrest was made on that day. Let us be absolutely clear – this is not an attempt by concerned South Africans to rid our cities of drug dealers. And this is not the work of a few criminal elements. It is xenophobia, plain and simple. If it was about drugs, why are South African drug dealers not being targeted as well? Are we really to believe that there are none? And why are drug addicts who rob people in our city centres to get money to buy drugs not being targeted? If it is the work of a few criminal elements, why are South African-owned businesses not being looted as well? These are issues raised according to sources among its citizens.

Many Africans don’t blame the likes of US President, Donald Trump, when he said he will be disappointed if South Africa will act on xenophobia just because the South African government body actions show no seriousness. Even among the citizens, their government is doing next to nothing to stem the xenophobic tide.

Though, steps so far taken by the Nigeria government is commendable but must be sustained. Organisations like ECOWAS, African Union, United States and European Union should all take a clear position and condemn this barbaric act in its entirety. And beyond statements, the African Union (AU) must initiate a new convention on xenophobia to protect Africans in Africa and all member nations must be signatories.

Adetunji Ayobrown is a Public Affairs Analyst.

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