President Jacob Zuma, reacting to criticisms from African countries over the xenophobic violence against foreigners in South Africa recently declared: “Why are their citizens not in their countries? Why are they in South Africa? This is an unacceptable statement from a leader of a big country, and made in a very wrong time. We all know that the xenophobic violence started last month after the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini said that “foreigners should pack their belongings and leave the country”.
In that context, President Zuma’s declaration this week is a dangerous move that can be understood by those South African involved in the violence as a justification of their evil actions… This is really unfortunate especially as it is coming from an African Union member that is investing and doing business in most of African countries.
Wrong timing again because South Africa is due to host the 25th Summit of the African Union from 8 – 15 June 2015. 5,000 – 7,000 delegates from the whole Africa and elsewhere are expected to converge to Johannesburg and Pretoria to discuss many challenges faced by the continent including integration, free movement of people and goods, good governance etc… President Zuma may not really mean to justify xenophobic violence, but the way of saying it and the time are wrong and may have a negative consequence.
But, in fact why citizens are leaving their countries to risk their life?
When we are condemning J-Zuma and his fellow Zwelithini‘s statement, we must not skip the fundamental question of “why are citizens running away from their countries in Africa? Why Zimbabweans, Nigerian, Mozambicans etc. are so many in South Africa? What Malians, Senegalese, Eritreans… are doing on the Mediterranean Sea? What Ethiopians, Eritreans… are looking for in Libya on their way to cross the sea? And Why African Leaders and institutions are keeping silence on these questions? Close to 2000 migrants died crossing the Mediterranean sea to Europe this year only, many times more than during the same period in 2014…
Many in our continent, many of our leaders and institutions know the answers to these questions. Unfortunately, there are no actions being taken to resolve them; there are not even any honest acknowledgements of the problem; rather, we are served with empty diplomatic statements everyday with no concrete actions for change. We are turning around and the situation is getting worst.
Elections are still being organized and declared “free and fair”… with dictators ruling for over 25 years being re-elected with more than 90% votes by the same “people” who cannot survive in the countries… Those “leaders”, the same to make decisions on democratic and good governance have been ruling their countries for 30 – 40 years or have taken their power from their father or uncle… some of them are even securing the same power for their children or wife, many of them are re-writing the countries’ constitution to extend presidential terms… yet, they are the one to make and implement decisions to bring us to a “peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa”. This is unrealistic! We will not get there …. unless the following happen, going forward:
- Maximum 2 presidential terms not to exceed in total 10 years as a norm in Africa
- African Union Commission (AUC) to exercise real executive power to implement adopted democratic norms with an objective, efficient and public accountability mechanism
- A longer term (up to 7 years) to be given the AUC leadership with no possibility of renewal and the Chairs & commissioners to be chosen on a competency and experience basis only. (I will say why in a different blog)
- True and genuine citizens’ participation in national, regional and continental decision making process
- Western partners and institutions to stop playing double-face game by preaching democracy and good governance while supporting and protecting some dictators over strategic interests at the same time…. The same western partners must deliberately support transparency and accountability over illicit financial flows and exploitation of natural resources from Africa… After all, a burning Africa will surely affect Europe, America and the other. A Senegalese writer recently said in a TV programme in France: “We will win together or loose together”
- Genuine and firm accountability system over human rights violations and the breaching of democratic rules
In all, a revamping of the 1990s revolution is currently needed in Africa if we are really serious with our Agenda 2063.
Disclaimer: My opinions here are absolutely personal!