By Hama Tuma
There are quite a few people, not necessarily white, who have concluded that we Africans, if only we did not have minerals and oil, rich and fertile lands up for grabbing, (we) would be quite useless and irrelevant in the march of History. France’s embattled president even said we are just at the door of civilization and the past century and not yet in though he did not say whether it is because we did not knock, or were too lazy to bother or were kept out.
French president Sarkozy is in waters deeper than the crocodile infested Nile. His win in the next French election is appearing like the dream of riches of an impoverished African. Troubled and faced with the possibility of a resounding defeat, he has desperately come up with what he considers a panacea: attack the Africans, the black and Arab hordes with the Asians thrown in. The Immigrants. Sarkozy hopes he has found the right bogeyman to frighten the French not to vote Socialist. And we all know the French voter is a strange animal who talks left and often votes conservative. Sarkozy has also jumped on the God sent issue of a lone gun man killing French soldiers (North Africans and Caribbean by origin) and innocent Jewish children going to school. He went to Toulouse and almost shed tears as he called the killing of children a national tragedy. The same day Algeria observed the 50th year of its liberation from brutal French colonialism, a day unobserved this way or that by France. Is this the same Sarkozy who ordered the carpet bombing of Libya causing the deaths of thousands? Is this the same man who sent soldiers to meddle in Ivory Coast? The same day Sarkozy was crying about national tragedy (4 people killed of whom three were children) how many died in Gaza without a word of sympathy from him? And Syria? Actually, all this is neither here nor there. Killers of children need to be condemned in all places.
The main point is that we Africans have once again become useful. They need us. Not only for our oil, gold, coltan, fertile land, uranium and diamonds but also to act as scarecrows during elections. There are too many immigrants Sarkozy cries out with indignation stealing the main slogan of the far right National Front thus pushing people ask who really is the leader of the far right—Marie Le Pen or Sarkozy? The rightists and frightened elders who are complaining that France is no longer authentic France (whatever that means), but a sort of Untied Nations of a country, are pleased. Too many “Noirs et Arabs” (blacks and Arabs) everywhere anyway, we are not safe, all meat sold is actually Halal (this is also a campaign issue believe it or not), send the immigrants packing (Norway is trying to that with Ethiopians), immigration, immigrants, they are drowning us. Once again we Africans and Arabs and immigrants have become potent. We frighten. We are not Talibans but we frighten. We are not just miserable souls being rounded up or dying at Lampadusa but living and aggressive immigrants destabilizing Europe. We clean their toilets and streets but somehow we are stealing critical jobs from them. Wow! We are not pathetic warlords being the only ones to be tried and convicted by the racist ICC but Mamadous, Getachews, Dengs and Toures strutting on the streets of Europe and making them afraid. Honor redeemed?
I have always argued that we serve Westerners of all hues by being victims. The NGOs thrive because of us (Juba is host to some 400 of them). We starve and are of use to them. They collect money using photos of our tearful and desperate and starved children and they collect million of which we do not even se a sizeable part. Take the Kony2012 fellows who collected millions and spent only a mere 32% for the Ugandans in whose name they collected the money. War on Want and others of the 1984 Ethiopian famine are also cases in point. Liv Ullman, a Norwegian actress, visited a camp for famine victims in Ethiopia in 1984 and congratulated a camp dweller on the beauty of his hand knitted cap and the fellow (we Ethiopians are sometimes rude!) replied to her “ but I cannot eat my cap!”, Present day Livs thrive on our misery. Call them Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, etc they are out there getting publicity, making lightening visits to “war zones”, getting filmed and “arrested” in front of embassies (of course they are released promptly) to, as they say, publicize the plight of people who do not have the luxury of being detained in front of cameras and who will not see the light of day if they ever get captured or jailed. So, the charade is for them and we play along. Naive and kind souls that we are, reading the Bible while they stole our land, being filmed with tears for them to collect money and profit, we are the perennial victims. They want us out of their country but we do not demand the repatriation of thousands of French people from Cote d’Ivoire, thousands of French Foreign Legion mercenaries from Djibouti, CAR or other places. We never ask the deportation of aggressive French or American troops from the Horn of Africa, East Africa, etc. We are so welcoming, no? That is why the ongoing hue and cry against us by Sarkozy and others who think political and economic problems that they are facing are of no importance while they rile against immigrants and wail of national tragedies are indeed fakes but we like them. They are our fakes, our own crocodiles. They have made us modern day Mandingos, needed, the heart of their malaise and crisis. Who can ask for more? It is much better than being outside the gates of civilization, irrelevant, a synonym to misery and uselessness.
We have become an election issue of primary importance and we should thank Sarkozy and all European rightists for the honor. We are now relevant, of some use and role. Immigrants in France and other countries should swagger and be visible. Like it or not we should land on them, we shall come to their shores (as they did come to ours years and years ago to enslave and colonize us). They are still in Africa in their thousands (if only China had not been so far—we would have shown them the replica to their invasion of our continent), enjoying high standard of living and not cleaning African streets and toilets. Yet, we are tolerant. We are happy to be scarecrows and monsters for frightened old ladies and men and for those who keep the nightmare of virile Mandingos possessing their lily white maidens. The march of History is against their dream of keeping us away. They need us for our labor, for our tax money, for our wealth in our countries. They need us to frighten their citizens not vote rationally but to bow to their fears and prejudices. Aren’t we immigrants great?