Every year, June 20th marks World Refugee Day, a day to remember the plight of refugees around the world and to recognize the contributions of refugees in our communities.
It is a time to think about the rights of refugees, and to recall that for a refugee, every day is refugee day, when her rights are too often denied. And it is a time to act.
However, you will never know the importance of this day until you radically find yourself forced to leave your home and possessions behind and relocate to an area in which you would know nobody and have little idea where your next meal would come from.
This is a day that Africans and Africa, should note with great concern. It is a day that Africa should use to re-think the way to end all that causes people to free their countries.
Legacy of European colonialism
During colonialism and the slave trade era, Africans were taken to provide cheap labour on European and American plantations at the expense of development in their respective countries.
From then African people have fallen victims of vandalism, direct colonization and military occupation. The colonial powers held the political, economic and social aspects of each nation they occupied.
Indeed European colonialism had a devastating impact on Africa. In some parts of Africa, colonial administration had almost erased cultures and community with an “education” and “civilizing” program that gave Africans, only a minimal skill set that served European colonial interests. Rebuilding from decades and centuries of this has been a tough struggle.
“The colonisation of Africa lasted for just over 70 years in most parts of the continent. That is an extremely short period within the context of universal historical development. Yet, it was precisely in those years that in other parts of the world the rate of change were greater than ever before. As has been illustrated, capitalist countries revolutionised their technology to enter the nuclear age”, observes a renowned scholar Bomani Baruti.
Though most people ignore the impact the colonialists had in Africa, it remains to surface in various forms. They left African economies and the general human resource dilapidated. They are the same people who continued to fuel conflicts and violence on the continent in order to sell their arms. The so called west has been developing at the expense of Africa from time immemorial.
“The European Union’s aggregate exports are enormous, and many are deliberately sold to developing countries. The only way forward is a global arms trade treaty, based on international law, which would make national obligations clear and consistent”, Amnesty International.
But what has such remarks come to? Nothing and the arms trade increased instead. It is against this background that a number of armed conflicts mushroomed in most parts of sub- Saharan Africa. Conflicts, violence and wars became the order of the day and a number of people were displaced. This is how refugee crisis came into existence on the continent.
Africa has unfortunately failed to ‘unmask’ itself from the European colonial legacy and consequently remains a victim of neo-colonialism. This is understandable, especially, that the continent has not managed to achieve an economic independence. Its reliance on the west thus makes it succumb to the interest of the west.
Post colonial leaders exacerbates the issue
‘Most’ post colonial leaders of Africa were characterised by poor governance reminiscent of their former colonial masters. There were however some post colonial leaders who showed untarnished love and dedication for their country. These included the likes of Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, etc.
Unfortunately some of these leaders did not live long to give an impact, while others were simply not heard and therefore their wisdom not fully utilised. The former plundered the economies of the countries and forced a number of people into refugee. We unfortunately still have similar leaders on the continent and hence refugees are born day and night.
Ending refugee crisis in Africa
Despite the fact that refugees crisis continue to ‘blossom’ on the continent, a number of countries that used to be in permanent conflicts and wars, are stabilising steadily. The great lakes region that was in the past few years put into shambles by wars is also normalising, with countries like Rwanda and Uganda in ‘total normality’.
Countries in the horn of Africa, Chad and Zimbabwe are still in the dark days, the whole continent used to live in. They are thus in trouble as far as checking the problem of refugees is concerned. Unless they usher in, a system of good governance, they will continue to be the biggest source of world refugees.
Understandably, the very countries, do not afford to celebrate the refuges day, because of violence and wars. Nonetheless, what makes the issue of refugees more complex in Africa is that even in the war free countries, people continue to seek refuge in western countries.
There are many reasons responsible for this, but the main one is economical. We are having a number of economic refugees in the diaspora who go claiming to be fleeing political persecution, so that our former colonial masters may sympathise with them.
This has a far devastating effect as most of Africa’s human resource is lost to the west, like it was, during the slave trade era. It is indeed ‘self enslavement’ as those who flock the western world end up in dehumanising jobs with little or no pay at all.
In addition, look at what has been happening to most northern and western Africans, who try to force themselves to Europe through the big waters. Most of them have been drowned or their boats capsized as they desperately try to go to Europe.
This is a great shame to the African continent and it exposes our great ignorance, which our exploiters have been capitalising on for ages. We can only end the issue of refugees in Africa, by changing our attitudes. So, as we count African refugees today, let us stop including economic ones, for they give us a wrong number.