If there is anything that Africa should learn from the latest xenophobic attacks in South Africa, it is that the continent has yet to command its independence and seriously address tribal prejudice and stereotypes. Governments continue to show little or no interest in respecting people and dealing with simmering internal social injustices.
African independence has perpetually shown no empathy towards any black communities carrying a different social identification from those wielding authority. Historically, we have struggled with accommodating internal diversity.
The starting point towards correcting one’s mistakes is owning them. Africa needs to stop hiding behind colonialism and accept most of the problems we face today are our internal creation and only we can make the necessary changes required. Africans can conveniently blame colonialism all they want but the majority of conflicts between nations and communities show more internal prejudice and less external intervention as the cause.
Yes, colonialism is an integral part of our history and was an evil regime; and yes the origins of many of our problems can be rightly traced back to our colonial past. However, we need to objectively explain why this colonial past still holds influence in the independent Africa today. Colonial laws and practices have not imposed themselves on the independent Africa; the real and biggest problem has been the unwillingness of the current African leadership to change and/ or repeal the many unjust colonial laws. If anything, colonial laws and practices have either at worst been maintained to protect whites and the black African elite interests or at best been adapted to suit the needs of the African leadership, needs of ruling tribes or clans or nations at the expense of all others.
Recent events in South Africa illustrate the dangers of prejudice. Prejudice reduces other human beings to concepts; targeting of black immigrants within Africa may be saddening but surprising it is not. Recall the 1983 Nigerian expulsion of West Africans, the 1983-84 Gukurahundi genocide in Zimbabwe, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the Congolese brutality among other disturbances in the continent.
This is a stark reminder to all Africans of our responsibilities as human beings and how not to behave when in position of privilege. African nations need to learn to safely retain their national pride without compromising the dignity of other nations. Hounding migrants out is neither a dignified nor a successful immigration policy. First, Africa has to address the causes of international migration; these are both politically and economically motivated. Africa needs to explore the possibility of a coordinated effort to support major migrant recipient nations.
Africa’s future looks grossly uncertain if we do not change course soon. Africa must maximise efforts to stop xenophobia and ethnic stereotyping. There is nothing wrong with worshipping our nationhood but we must worship ourselves without scorning others. Africa needs to actively challenge the notion that non-discrimination on the basis of ethnicity does not work in Africa. There is nothing stopping reasonable migration policies, economic measures, diversity measure, etc. from working except the unmotivated political leadership that stands to benefit from the current chaotic setting.