With increased migration for various reasons, more and more people are living away from their countries of origin, working, marrying and setting up families with people from countries other than their own. Regardless of how or why people settle in ‘foreign’ lands, for most of them, those countries become their home. I’m one of such people since most of my adult years have been spent out of Kenya, my country of birth. In Uganda, I made many friends, learnt several languages and grew my career. I know more people in Uganda than in Kenya. I am now in Rwanda and for the next many years, God willing, this will be my home. I can’t forget my origin, but I will definitely work for my adoptive home like it is all I’ve got.
I remember a time when Uganda was getting ready for elections and with Kenya’s post-election violence memory still fresh in my mind, I posted on my social media pages the need for peace to reign. I said elections do come and go and so we should not destroy what we have. Of the many comments that came through, one of them stood out and it was from a lady saying that it was understandable for me to focus on peace instead of the electoral process because I was not Ugandan. I reminded her that we live in one country, face the same issues, shop from the same places and if the country burnt we would all burn with it; the ‘fire’ won’t know who is foreign and who isn’t. It was, therefore, in everyone’s interest to protect what we had. That aside, I realised that there will always be people that will want to remind others that they are foreign, especially when it suits them. A case in point is the recently concluded World Cup.
On his Daily Show a few days ago, Trevor Noah responded to the French Ambassador to the United States who had sent him a letter expressing displeasure at Trevor’s joke that ‘Africa’ won the World Cup in reference to the French team. Trevor did not understand why the French were angry at his remark, yet the majority of the French players are originally from Africa. To put the case in context, Trevor gave an example of the man from Mali who climbed a building in Paris to rescue a child and was given French citizenship as a result of his bravery. Trevor wondered what would have happened to the young man had the child dropped from his hands. Just as the Trevor Noah dust was settling, renowned player Mesut Ozil released a statement saying he would no longer play for the German national team. Ozil cited racism and mistreatment by DFB (German Football Association) because of his Turkish roots despite being raised and educated in Germany. He said that he’s considered a German when they win and an immigrant (German-Turkish) when they lose amongst other reasons.
It is disheartening when a place you call home calls you foreigner and for this reason I feel Ozil’s pain and the pain of many players that will continue representing ‘foreign’ countries and still get called names. While in many cases the lack of acceptance may be harmless, we have seen the extreme result of such sentiments expressed through xenophobic attacks in several countries. Instead of finding ways to reinforce our differences, let us try our best to embrace and celebrate each other regardless of where we come from.
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