Europe’s creation and burden

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AS the group of Zimbabweans moves stealthily towards the crocodile-infested Limpopo River in silence, those crossing are very aware that there is a chance they might not make it into South Africa. Those that survive the Limpopo must face the electric wire erected by the apartheid regime in 1986, apparently to restrict guerrilla movements. The ‘familiar’ route created by hundreds and thousands of feet on their way to perceived glory in Johannesburg has been used for many years. Zimbabweans together with other nationalities have been crossing the border illegally and legally for the last 100 years as they were a source of cheap labour for the diamond and gold mines, Egoli. In 1890, mining companies were sending emissaries in the colonies to recruit African workers who had been burdened by the hut tax which was to be paid in cash. Till this day, the myth of instant success and riches in South Africa continue to be talked about as far north as Nairobi. Over the years, an estimated 1, 7 million immigrants are in South Africa today with a majority from Mozambique, according to the South African Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs. Across the continent, some 10 000 kilometres North of Africa, a similar and more treacherous migration is happening. Nigerians, Congolese, Ethiopians, Somalis and Eritrean nationals must brave the desert before they face the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean to Europe via Tripoli, Libya. Many have perished in the desert as there are kidnappings for ransom or for slave labour. Tales of smugglers abandoning their clients in the dunes and of dozens dying of thirst are rife. Those that make it into war-torn Tripoli will begin to prepare for the Mediterranean where more than 1 750 migrants have perished since the start of the year, 30 times higher than during the same period of 2014 according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). According to the European Union (EU), 280 000 immigrants have entered Europe while 3 200 died in 2014 alone. Packed like sardines in boats, reminiscent of their forefathers in slave ships across the same routes, they risk their lives for the perceived Utopia. Those captured by the Libyan Coast Guard declared on Al Jazeera TV this week that they will die trying than go back to chaotic Nigeria or Eritrea. International media was awash as cameras showed the bodies of Africans being taken out of a ship, lifeless, shot by the smugglers in moments of desperation. In one rescue operation, 366 people drowned when their boat caught fire. Among the dead was a mother who had given birth during the voyage and was still attached to her newborn child when divers found their bodies. Europe continues to deny that the crises in the Middle East and throughout Africa are consequences of their actions. In fact the EU has called for the African Union (AU) and the respective governments to solve ‘their’ crisis so that the problems do not spill into Europe. It’s ironic because these nations have been throwing away nuclear waste on African coast lines like Somalia. On March 25 1975 in Peru, the UN Industrial Development Organisation, adopted the Lima Declaration and Plan of Action on Industrial Development and Co-operation. The course of action would prosper the emerging states coming out of colonialism. One objective of the plan was to ensure that by 2000 25-30 percent of world industrial production was to occur in the developing world. The Lima declaration stated that, “Every state has the inalienable right to exercise freely its sovereignty and permanent control over its natural resources, both terrestrial and marine, and overall economic activity for the exploitation of these resources in the manner appropriate to its circumstances, including nationalisation in accordance with its laws as an expression of this right, and that no state shall be subjected to any forms of economic, political or other coercion which impedes the full and free exercise of that inalienable right.” The United States together with its NATO allies strongly objected to the Lima declaration and soon began to sponsor coups in Africa and bribing governments to invade other territories. Countries like Somalia in 1977 led by General Siad Barre in line with the Lima declaration rejected the Bretton Woods form of aid opting for Soviet-led socialist bloc that issued long term, low interest loans to southern nations for infrastructural and industrial projects. This would be their doom. Somalia has never been the same since then. The Eritreans are seeking a better life after their country has been shackled with sanctions. In 2005 the government of Eritrea stopped requesting for any financial assistance from the United States and cut off all third party NGOs that were financially sponsored by the war mongering nation in 2006. According to Wikileaks, in 2008, Hilary Clinton showed her nations displeasure saying, “Eritrea is bad example of good governance.” The United States and the Soviet Union gave huge amounts of military and other support to Ethiopia, but not Eritrea which was fighting for independence. Zimbabwe is facing economic challenges after a decade and a half of sanctions by the west for alleged ‘human right abuses’. In 1999, the Zimbabwean government decided it would take the most ‘democratic’ approach to the land that is to take it from the minority and give the majority. Thus the country’s economy began to shrink as the EU and the United States of America began an economic onslaught that would see firms and industries shut down and all cordial relations cut. Nigerians have also found themselves on the packed boat to Europe despite the nation being hailed as democratic with US secretary of state John Kerry flying to the recent inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, to witness ‘democracy’ in action. But American and European multinationals have been stripping Nigeria of its resources for 50 years. They have sponsored coups and greased military officials to turn a blind eye to their atrocities in the Delta. Over the years the multinationals have made countless promises to develop the area. Nationals from DRC, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, fleeing from the chaos around them pass through war-torn Libya on their way to Europe. Libya has become so dangerous that there are no international flights going into that country. A ticket on this boat destined to the ‘promised land’ via the Mediterranean costs between US$200 and US1 000. Those with cheaper tickets are confined to the locked hold of the boats where many die due to carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine.  One man from DRC declared on Al Jazeera TV that once in Europe, he wants to join the army. That is how disillusioned some Africans have become.

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