Emma Emeozor [email protected], @Emekaili
• Continued from Monday, August 10, 2020
Some analysts have argued that though racism against the black race is a global problem, the relationship between Africans from the continent and Afro-American is cosmetic. While noting that people are entitled to hold different opinions on the matter, he said, “there is no question that our relationship with them could be made better,” stressing “I do not think it is simply cosmetic. There are, basically, three main factors that are affecting that relationship: The first factor is the conditions in Africa itself.
“In the past, it was the issue of military coups and military governments, human rights and social justice. Economic development were stunted and badly affected by the military regimes because of instability and inter-ethnic wars in the continent.
“So, that gave us a very bad image to the level where the Africa-Americans and other Africans in the Diaspora were not proud to identify themselves with us. The thinking was that as soon as we were able to become democratic society and which some of the Africa-Americans and other Africans in the Diaspora had a big hand in trying to bring to Africa, the situation will change. African-Americans helped us to fight for independence.
Continuing, Mou observed that “when independence came, rather than being truly independent economically, neo-colonialism came. We became independent only politically and there were military leaders in Africa who now seize political power and were oppressing us (Africans) in the continent. So, it was difficult for Afro-Americans and other Africans in the Diaspora to identify with the continent of Africa because there was nothing good in the continent throughout that era.”
When reminded that most African countries are now democratic, Mou said “there is continuation of mis-rule, bad governance and inter-ethnic struggles in the continent. In most African countries including Nigeria, there are all sorts of ethnic disagreement, all sorts of underdevelopment, the elementary things like food, water, and roads are still issues. That is why you hear American President Donald Trump calling us shithole. Psychologically, it damages us and damages the African-Americans.”
Mou was however quick to point out efforts being made by some African countries to integrate African-Americans. “Some countries like Ghana have made conscious efforts to integrate Africa-Americans and other Africans in the Diaspora. Ghana has a policy where they go to the US and other Western countries to look for blacks to come and invest in the country.
“I’m saying that the fault is not entirely with the black Americans or other Africans in the Diaspora. We, Africans must act appropriately. Until we make conditions in Africa conducive and we are creative enough to do what Ghana is doing or what Israel calls the ‘herd hunter’whereby they go out in search of the best professionals to come to work and develop the country, it should be our responsibility to lobby these people to become citizens of African countries.
Undoubtedly, Africa’s petition requesting the UN Human Rights Commission to probe racism against blacks was a bold step. But how optimistic can Africans be over its success? Mou was technical in his response.
“It is very important and significant that the petition was tabled at the United States Human Rights Council by the Central African Republic ambassador. Why it is significant is because the Commission has a global reach to fight human rights abuse anywhere in the world. But Africa’s weakness . . . our position . . . is that there are far greater human rights violations by African leaders against the citizens than there are in other continents.
“For instance, we are talking about George Floyd . . . ever since Floyd crisis erupted, . . . in Nigeria, more than 200 people have died, sometimes in one day 100 people will die . . . useless deaths caused by terrorists, by Boko Haram jihadists, by Islamic herdsmen, indeed by all sorts of things and this is not peculiar to Nigeria. Most African countries have bad internal human rights policies and conditions. Elections in Africa are full of rigging, thuggery, killings, they are almost like warfare.”
Asked where we go from here, Mou believes that “until we adjust our conditions and learn to respect human rights before others can take us more seriously.” He argued that though the outcry against racism targeting blacks has started at the UN body, “it will become more effective when we ourselves start to respect the human rights, the democratic rights and the religious rights of people in the continent. If we do not do that and then go out to champion the same for the US or western Europe, it will be hypocrisy because we have to respect those human rights before we expect the others nations to respect the rights of Africans in the Diaspora or Africans that are living in those nations. So, that is the issue.”
Even with the euphoria that trailed the submission of the African petition at the UN body, will the US honour the Council’s decision, especially if favourable to Africa? Mou chooses to be ironical when he said: “You are aware that the US has withdrawn support for the Commission under President Trump. And the reason was because they had targeted Israel and Trump was of the opinion that the Arab Lobby has used money to force the Commission to be against Israel, I agree with his position … you cannot be partial and expect to be respected. The Commission was becoming increasingly partial in dealing with the issue of Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab nations.
“When you are so partial, you lose your integrity, autonomy and impartiality, so it becomes very difficult for people to trust your judgement. But let me say that under Trump, we are making headway, even while the crisis over Floyd was going on, Trump signed an Executive Order promoting religious freedom all over the world, not just for Christians only but also for Muslims and all other religions. Religious freedom is at the core of human rights anywhere in the world. “That Executive Order says the US will make the protection of religious rights a fundamental concern of the US. So, while Trump may not be working through the United Nations Human Rights Commission, he is using the American government to promote human rights by promoting, especially, religious rights and freedom for everybody.”Put differently, Mou expects the US to observe the maxim: “He Who Comes into Equity Must Come with Clean Hands.” This is to say he expects US to accept the verdict of the world body.
Interestingly, despite his criticism of African leaders, he did not hesitate to say the continent’s future is bright. “I’m very optimistic about the future of Africa and the reason is because there is what I may call ‘participation revolution’ ongoing across the world, including the African continent.
“In the Arab countries, it is called the Arab Spring, whereby dictatorial, undemocratic and irresponsible governments are being overthrown. I believe that will soon get to Africa. So, until African leaders begin to respond to the demands of the people, not just for the fun of democracy but for the concrete benefits of democracy . . . (what we call in Nigeria democratic dividends), as well as inclusive growth and development, not development for the few, not democracy for the few, expect more crises . . . more kidnapping, more banditry and more insurgency in Africa.”
For Africa to realise the dawn of sustainable and enduring era of positive development and growth, Mou wants the African Union to be alive to its obligations to the people of the continent. “In my opinion, there are three main issues the AU should focus on: 1. it must be more active in getting involved in the situation in African countries. I know that there are provisions in the organisation’s protocol against interference in the internal affairs of member states.
“But there are also provisions to enable it evaluate its members and to make sure that there is improvement in the continent. That is why when the peer review system was introduced by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and other governments, the leaders were reviewing one another’s policies and programmes.
“They were learning from each other and things were getting better. I think the African Union should champion that course in such a way that they can frankly discuss with one another so that the continent will learn from one leader to the other. So, until African Union champions social justice, economic justice, political justice and true democracy, it will not be relevant to the African condition. It will just be existing in name.
“2. African Union should be prepared to support African nations and indeed every African anywhere in the world and any group or nation that is prepared to champion human rights for Africa. That is why I do not care if the petition which was taken to the UN Human Rights Commission was spear-headed or sponsored by persons or groups outside Africa. Anything that will lead to the improvement of our conditions should be supported by Africans. We need the cooperation of others to be able to get the benefits of human rights for ourselves.
“3. AU should get involved in reciprocal diplomacy over the maltreatment of Africans. We should hear the voice of AU because we are in a reciprocal system . . . any country that discriminates against Africans should know that they have their nationals in African countries. In foreign policy, we do not have permanent enemy, we have only permanent interest. Nations that are supporting us should become our friends.”