The Mediterranean drownings: the height of human callousness

Once upon a time, there rose what became the Scramble for Africa and it came to pass that the continent was invaded, occupied, partitioned, colonized and annexed to European powers. But we all know about that and don’t want to go there again.

Once upon a time, there rose what became the Scramble for Africa and it came to pass that the continent was invaded, occupied, partitioned, colonized and annexed to European powers. But we all know about that and don’t want to go there again.

Try as we can, however, we cannot ignore that history because it has followed us, seemingly to haunt us for eternity. So now, in a kind of poetic injustice, there is also the Scramble for Europe.

“Poetic injustice” because it’s the opposite of “poetic justice,” where those wronged are avenged in a manner that’s ironically appropriate.

In the present case of “poetic injustice”, the innocent are wronged instead, as our African brothers and sisters, victims of that scramble for Africa of yore, in their mad rush for Europe are ending up belly-up in the Mediterranean.

Is our continent cursed that our people should risk turning the waters of the Mediterranean, if they survive the sands of the Sahara, into their own grave just to leave it?

Only the other day, 3,000 Africans were plucked out of the Mediterranean Ocean. As the tiny boat they were crammed in teetered on the verge of capsizing, humanitarians arrived in time to rescue them. The previous day, 6,500, among them five-year-old twins, had been rescued.

During pick migration periods, every year sees close to 4,000 African lives perish in those treacherous waters. These periods seem to have been two so far, with the first being in the mid-2000 while the second can be said to have been after 2011.

The cause of the first pick, search me, but 2011, if you remember, is the year that Muammar Gaddafi was killed. That wasn’t surprising, then, since he used to be paid by some European countries as their gatekeeper to keep migrants at bay. Also, we should not forget the fact that a sizeable number of them used to obtain employment in Libya and surrounding countries.

Considering the aversion of European countries against these migrants, perhaps Khadafy’s death mostly at the hands of the NATO forces was the only true case of poetic justice!

Anyway, since these countries are so much into avoiding this dreaded migration problem, why don’t they channel those funds, earlier meant for Khadafy, into addressing the root of the problem?

They can instead support the source-countries of migration in solving their problems of conflict, poverty, unemployment, general hopelessness and other such challenges.

All of the above aside, however, these powers should know that they can save themselves a lot of pain and save Africans a lot of lives by simply being human.

Being human means being free to sample what the heart desires and not working to deny others similar freedoms.

It’s a human instinct to rebel when barred from anything. Some will even risk limb and life in that pursuit.

Erecting walls, setting up sentinels, paying gatekeepers, hunting down people-smugglers, stiffening anti-migration laws, patrolling the Mediterranean waters or letting these hapless migrants die in them will never keep Europe ‘uncontaminated’.

Before the 2000s when there was no impediment to migration, Africans went in and out of Europe freely and no one was desperate about it. If this showed anything, it was that no one had intentions to make it a home.

They went for job opportunities and worked or found a way to rejoin their people back home if such opportunities were not found.

Of course an odd one here and there worked or lay-about jobless and stayed but did we witness a desperate rush of this scale then? And, come to think of it, isn’t Europe the richer for it?

Methinks that’s why the Rwandan government, having learnt this little truism long ago, sometimes the hard way, will always be committed to an open-door policy visa-wise.

The hard way came with exile, when a section of Rwandans were forcibly turned into refugees and had to eke out a living in other countries. Otherwise, from the colonial days, Rwandans went “i Bugande” and other surrounding areas for odd jobs but always made sure to come back and build themselves with their earnings – without forgetting the relish of a lit lamp during the day!

Still, lamps aside, that’s why this government holds its Diaspora Rwandans in high esteem. And it’s why it allows all Africans in the country visa-free, while it extends the same gesture to any other country, on any continent, that’s ready to reciprocate.

Europe should learn this little wisdom from Rwanda: an open-door policy on entry into country never hurt anyone; rather, it’s enriching.

It won’t be the first time Europe learns something from Rwanda. Unfortunately, the first time when some countries remembered to put army personnel on the streets, it was too late. But can you hold that against anybody?

No, there is no scramble to colonise and annex Europe. Africans are scrambling for freedom to mix, exploit opportunities and advance as they reciprocally advance societies that host them.

To advance one another, and save one another from fatal waters, that’s only human. But to tolerate the Mediterranean as a cemetery, that’s the height of human callousness.

 

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