On Monday 13 April, a Polish man John Zylinski, having “had enough of discrimination of Polish people in this country,” challenged English politician Nigel Farage to a duel. Whether it is due to xenophobia, rebel insurgency or religious fanatics, conflict in Africa can only be permanently stopped by African unity.
It is common sense that immigrants will gravitate towards countries that either offer a greater degree of security or economic opportunities for the traveller. Every year, thousands of Africans are undertaking the hazardous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea to try and access the European mainland as illegal immigrants in search of a better life. Not only is this embarrassing for African countries, it comes at a great cost to the social fabric of African societies. Africa will not grow when there is no continuity in her social make up. Alternatively, some Africans are trekking to other African countries where they are invariably treated with suspicion, as the first suspects when crimes are committed, as scape goats for poor economic performance or where they end up finding themselves in conflict with local communities for housing, jobs and spouses!
I live in South Africa and I do not think the overwhelming majority of South Africans dislike foreigners because everywhere I introduce myself as a Zimbabwean, I meet the response that says I know a Zimbabwean! Are you Shona? How do you say such and such a word? In the middle class, I get the standard irritation, “my maid is Zimbabwean and she is so intelligent!” In government circles, I have met officials who have proudly declared having sent “two buses to your country to bring back Maths and Science teachers.” In the same vein, I do not think English people hate Poles or having lived in France, that French people hate Arabs.
Xenophobia is described as a dislike of, or prejudice against people from other countries. This definition is not strictly true in South Africa. If we apply the 10:80:10 rule, we know that a certain number will always be xenophobic. Most anti-immigration parties are at their zenith with 10% electoral support. Apart from the prejudices of a few people in the middle and upper classes, dislike towards foreigners is really only manifest in under-privileged areas or those residential spaces with high population densities. And of course, I do not know of any white Zimbabwean immigrants who have faced discrimination or threats of violence. Conflict almost exclusively arises in areas where the fight for economic survival is more heightened or as a result of instigation by people in positions of political, social or economic authority usually appealing to the masses of the unemployed.
John Zylinski also proposed that, should Nigel Farage be unavailable for the duel of swords, he would gladly engage in a duel of words in a television studio.
We prefer this option for Africa. Our opinion is that the African Union, with the enthusiastic buy-in of its Heads of State Assembly, should facilitate, initially, the creation of seven African countries thus:
- Southern African Union: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique and the DRC
- South African Customs Union: South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland (and Mauritius)
- East African Union: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda
- Central African Union: Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Congo
- West African Union: the West African countries from Chad up to the Western Sahara border
- Northern African Union: Western Sahara to the Port Sudan at the Red Sea
- Horn of Africa Union: South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia all as a first step to eventual complete African unity
Our logic is simple. It will be easier, initially to unite countries with close cultural ties or historical economic links. It will also be easier to strengthen the economies of the countries in the configuration we have chosen. Once the economies have been strengthened by the combined human capital and natural resource strength of these nation states and our people are more likely to travel on vacation than for immigration, the borders can be flung open for unrestricted travel.
It is possible. African citizens and African leaders, we all, must pause long enough from our daily chores and woes to think the future in to existence. There is a quote that we are fond of at Black Diamonds magazine, “we can’t choose where we come from but we can choose where we go from there.” Once upon time, during the civil war the United States of America was a shattered dream. Look at them today. Later on, visionary men and women dared dream of a European Union despite going through two “world wars” that devastated the entire continent with evil that had never been seen before and destruction on a scale that was previously unheard of.
We must bring our collective will to bear on this vision and make it a reality. Citizens must not abandon this quest to the political will of politicians. Politicians, on the other hand, must live up to their publicly stated desire to restore Africa and Africans to a place of honour among the people of the world. Enough talking already!
We are dreamers at Black Diamonds magazine and we forsee a future where, one day the likes of Haiti and Jamaica will be prosperous overseas African territories reporting back to an African government in an African capital city. We must unite or live to see the day when our continent will have been carved up again for water, land and food security for other continents. We are many trees in one forest, watered and fed from the same rains and rivers. Together we can be a great forest of prosperity. Vukani bantu!
By Albert Gumbo.