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Editors ́ Picks

South Africa’s xenophobic attacks slamming the brakes on a United Africa

The current spate of attacks in South Africa targeting African immigrants is threatening to spiral out of control as ransacking of shops and harassing of foreigners continue unabated.

“The Mamelodi Concerned Residents” that has become the face of the current xenophobic attacks have carried daring attacks on businesses run by foreigners in what they claim is venting anger on non-South Africans, predominantly Nigerians, Zimbabweans and Somalis who, have settled in the Rainbow republic and taken over the locals’ jobs.

The attacks have rekindled memories of similar attacks that have always taken an ugly twist. In 2015 seven people died as a result of the same, with the 2008 ones being the bloodiest, having claimed 60 lives and displaced over 50,000 people. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma has, as before, condemned the attacks. “We are not a xenophobic country. At the same time, we cannot close our eyes to the concerns of the communities that most of the crimes such as drug dealing, prostitution and human trafficking are allegedly perpetuated by foreign nationals.” He said in a statement.

But this statement is one among many critics feel do nothing to address the root cause of this mayhem. For a country that is home to over two million foreigners and one that prides itself in tolerance, diversity, co-existence and being a beacon of civility in the continent, such regrettable acts not only paint it in bad light, but will always inspire retaliatory attacks.

Already in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, protesters have attacked South Africa telecommunication company MTN’s office to protest attacks on their nationals. The Nigerian government on the other hand has summoned the South African ambassador to express their discontent over the attacks.

To have foreigners live in constant fear while in another African country is regrettable and flies in the face of the United African resolve that is now being actualized with the introduction of a United African passport and key resolutions that will open borders for Africans to move freely and do business together.

No African country can claim to make it on its own as past experiences have shown. Any attempts to attack foreigners should be met with the requisite force, with the responsible governments moving beyond rhetoric to prove to the rest of Africa that they are committed to a borderless Africa that embraces coexistence.

Accommodating foreigners will be every government’s litmus test and for South Africa, the herculean task now is to shed off the xenophobic country tag while proving to the rest of the continent that it indeed embraces the ideals of one African people.

Time for the world to recognize Somaliland as an independent African state

At the North Eastern part of Somalia, lies a state that over the years has managed to remain a bastion of stability and peace even as the rest of Somalia erupts in orgies of war, and mutating Islamic terror groups.

Somaliland, which has traditionally been part of Somalia, declared independence in 1991 and has since run its affairs like a fully-fledged state complete with a legitimate government elected by the approximated 3.5 million citizens who it represents, a fully trained police and military, owning its own currency, the Somaliland Shilling and has total control over its territory having also developed key economic and social structures.

But no country world over has ever recognized Somaliland’s independence and it is still treated as a state within the larger Somalia despite ticking the boxes on the key legal requirements of statehood. The law dictates that logically recognition should follow.

Because it doesn’t attract a lot of attention since there are no major conflicts or calamities, there are no incentives to attract global leaders to action. There is also the flawed argument that recognizing Somaliland might stoke tensions between those who are for recognition and those against as is the case with South Sudan that has known little peace since separating from Sudan.

But Somaliland’s case is different, and managing to hold it together despite being part of a country ranked as the number one failed state should inspire some confidence among the naysayers.

There is hope with the recent election of Somali’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed who has committed to rekindling talks on Somalia’s recognition. The international community should rally behind these talks and avert any bloodshed which now beckons with Somaliland’s patience after 26 years clearly waning. Recognizing Somaliland will go a long way in assisting the international community tackle some of the most pressing issues currently including piracy and terrorism.

Photo: F. Omer-creative commons 

Palestine: an unsolvable conflict?

Not by coincidence did Donald Trump include Israel on his first foreign trip. He wants the world to know his intentions in initiating the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

However, whilst the presidential visit to Jerusalem is taking place, setbacks to the peace process abound. For the first time in almost two decades, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has authorised the construction of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with the support of the US administration.

Although UN Security Council resolutions urge the Israeli authorities to withdraw from the Palestinian territories the military occupied during the 1967 war, the colonising project of the Zionist movement continues to violate human rights systematically. In the Zionist pursuit of expelling the original population, the Palestinians have become victims of atrocious persecution, suffering from indiscriminate violence, the confiscation of their lands as well as the demolition of their houses. A recent flashpoint was the execution of a 16-year-old Palestinian girl in Jerusalem by Israeli soldiers.

Israel continues to be a state with different legal systems for different sectors of the population, a situation classified by the UN as apartheid. Palestinians and Israelis enjoy vastly different standards of living and basic human rights. In terms of housing, employment, education, healthcare travel and family rights Palestinians have their basic rights withheld and suffer from appalling discrimination.

As the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War approaches, efforts must be made in the recognition of a formal Palestinian State and the establishment of peace in the region. Otherwise, the lack of progression and an increasingly uninterested media threaten to turn this on-going issue into an unsolvable conflict.


Nothing to see here

Just a bunch of billionaires huddled around a glowing orb. Nothing to see here, folks. Go about your business. 

Politics has been edging towards the comical for years now – with larger-than-life villains like Bin Laden, superheroes like Obama, and the oddball outsider like Donald Trump taking power for himself – but never has politics looked so much like a comic book. Just look at this photo from Trump’s meeting with the Egyptian president and the Saudi king from over the weekend. I mean, their hands are literally on  glowing orb in a darkened room – cronies and dark faces hang around in the back to give us that ultra-evil front-cover look: INTERNATIONAL SUPERVILLAINS UNITE! WHO WILL TAKE THEM DOWN? WHERE IS OBAMA NOW?

Off jet-skiing on Mars with Elon Musk probably. The problems for us in this are manifold. Namely – superheroes don’t exist, but super problems do. It’s tempting to buy-in to this kind of image, and believe that if only we toppled this international organisation of crooks and liars, we’d be set. But the truth is, the problems go deeper than a gang of unstable leaders like Trump and Putin. The truth is much more complex. 

Life on earth is not guaranteed for humans. The planet is changing – we’re not doing enough to respond to these changes. People are dying because of our failure to act. 

And what’s more – these problems of climate change, migration, food and water scarcity, and conflicts will only accelerate. We will only have more supervillains in power as people look to strongmen to deal with these problems. But we have to deal with these problems ourselves. Not wait for the superhero to come along in cape and underpants, and pull us from the burning building. 

The Kabul Process for peace in the Af-Pak region

Afghanistan and Pakistan are two victims of terrorism that has killed scores of people in both countries yet the two remain suspicious of each other, remain miles apart from collaborating to fight this menace, and ultimately providing the forces of evil to continue causing havoc.

This week, the Afghan government has launched ‘Kabul Process’ in a bid to reach out to regional neighbours and the wider international community to secure their support to end the war in the country. Unveiling the plans at a meeting in Kabul with western diplomats, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Kabul Process aims to secure support for an agreement to end support for cross-border terrorism. He quoted renowned Pakistani poet Iqbal, who said ‘when Afghanistan is in discord, Asia is in discord. When Afghanistan is in accord, Asia is in accord.’

There is a high need to back this process to end the suffering of people in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Islamabad government’s official estimates suggest the conflict has claimed thousands of lives besides inflicting financial losses worth millions of dollars in the tribal belt along Afghanistan alone. The country’s parliament was informed last month that as a result of the conflict, a total of 5,740 people lost their lives over the past six years, of which 5,332 were civilians.

In Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its annual report earlier this year that the civilians again bore the brunt of violence in Afghanistan in 2016 that saw a large number of children among the 3,498 dead. The report documented 11,418 conflict-related civilian casualties, including 3,498 people killed and 7,920 injured in 2016. Of these, 3,512 were children — 923 dead and 2,589 injured, up by 24 percent from the previous highest-ever recorded figure.

The conflict-related violence exacted a heavy toll on in the country, with an overall deterioration in civilian protection and the highest-total civilian casualties recorded since 2009, when the UN mission began systematic documentation of casualties, it said.

These losses of lives need to stop sooner than later, and it should top the priority of all the regional and international political forces with any clout over Kabul and Islamabad.

Ebola outbreak new litmus test for global preparedness to emerging threats


The recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has rekindled somber memories of a pandemic that struck West African countries three years ago, infecting more than 28000 and killing over 11,300 people. It is an outbreak that jolted the world to action, as scenes of emaciated and pain struck patients visiting understaffed and ill equipped hospitals in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were broadcast world over.

But it is the reaction by key world health bodies that sparked outrage and criticism and now call for a re think with the latest outbreak. When the pandemic struck Guinea in 2014, humanitarian organization Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) being at the front line of providing care for Ebola patients was the first to raise the red flag announcing that the epidemic had spiraled out of control and the organization needed further assistance to contain it. It took four months and more than 1800 deaths for institutions like the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern therefore calling on global coordinated response.

While certain discourses argue that the United Nations’ body has been selective in how it responds to outbreaks and pandemics depending on where they first strike, the lessons of 2014 have obviously offered the body vital lessons, seeing it has been quick in keeping its pulse on the recent DR Congo outbreak where at least three people have been confirmed dead. But it now calls for a re think of how the world handles emerging and traditional pandemics that have defied conventional medicine. With the world increasingly becoming one global village, disease transmissions have become a matter of when and not if with a case reported in a village in Africa, being spotted somewhere in South America within hours. The World Health Assembly, the decision making organ of WHO meets in Geneva on May 23 and the meet couldn’t have come at a better time. It is our hope that this recent Ebola flare up will form a key agenda of the forum if WHO is to prove to the world its level of preparedness and the firmness it intends to handle emerging global pandemics, if it is to save face.

But Congo’s management and coordinated response to Ebola, since it was discovered in the country in 1976 should also offer the world vital lessons on how to battle deadly contagions. The current outbreak is the eighth. But while West Africa was reporting 11,000 deaths in 2014, Congo had managed to tame the spread to 49. Congo has workers at all times on standby and on lookout for suspicious symptoms among locals in their areas which they then alert officials at the national level. Local communities and leaders are also frequently trained on safe burial procedures and how to work with health authorities especially because Ebola is most contagious in the hours following a death. While the country might not have enough resources to handle a pandemic of such epidemic proportions, its smooth coordination between local leaders, national authorities and the outside should be replicated if we are to address the most important aspect of fighting a pandemic; detection.

Moroccan porters: human rights violations on Europe’s southern borde

The southernmost frontiers of Europe, those separating Morocco from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are best known for their shameful fences that aim to prevent sub-Saharan migrants entering Europe. This isn’t, however, the only human rights violations committed in the area.

The recent death of two „porters“, Moroccan women who transport large volumes of goods between Morocco and the Spanish autonomous cities, has drawn attention to the humiliating condition in which they work. The situation has been denounced by several organisations working in the area, such as the Pro Human Rights Association of Andalusia (APDHA). Apart from labour exploitation, these women are subjected to daily verbal violence and degrading treatment from police forces on both sides of the border.

In total, about 7,000 women carry heavy loads of goods (between 60 and 90 kilograms) for hours, earning a very low commission for their hardship. Under the impunity of an unregulated trade (which generates about € 1 billion per year), they jeopardise their physical wellbeing and at the same time are regularly threatened by violence from officials representing authorities.

The shocking absence of action from Morocco, Spain and the European Union has exacerbated this largely ignored issue. Therefore, urgent must be taken in order to prevent the continuation of such outrageous human rights violations.

Photo: Sumita Roy Dutta

Richard Spencer: Neonazi

I’ve often thought how much worse it is, both morally and intellectually, to be a neo-Nazi than have been a Nazi historically. A bold statement perhaps, but my reasoning has often run thus: To be a part of the historical Nazi party meant to have supported a fascist regime, but it is debatable whether everyday people knew the extent of that regime’s crimes; Secondly, there was also pressure, social and otherwise, to join this party. Neo-Nazis on the other hand, are well aware of the holocaust, and yet still propound this belief; Secondly, there is absolutely no pressure, social or otherwise, to be a Neo-Nazi. 

Obviously this kind of reasoning is flawed – I’m suspicious of the first idea, in that I’m not sure it’s possible or OK to separate a political regime’s actions from its supporters – but there is the need to understand people on the everyday level, and people often do not know entirely what they are supporting. Do we? 

However, as a general rule of thinking, I believe the two statements demonstrate the difference between the historical Nazis and Neo-Nazis. What’s more infuriating is a Neo-Nazi holocaust denier (the two aren’t always the same), since you can bet your life the only reason the Neo-Nazi supports the historical Nazis and glorifies Hitler and his band of chumps, is because of the holocaust. 

So, to segue to Richard Spencer, a full-blown, puffed-up, intellectual minnow of a Neo-Nazi. He insists he’s not – he’s alt-right, or whatever, but calling a spade a spade, he’s a Neo-Nazi. He shows up wherever there is a hint of an identity discussion, arguing against Mongol hoards and benighted Africans, and oh how the white race will be wiped from the earth unless it procreates with nuclear weapons and all women do a ritual sex dance to his sexual prowess. This wouldn’t be a problem on its own – there are a lot of cranks in the world. But the fact is, he stokes people up, and transforms their issue into his own. He is a predator and turning the US back a hundred years.

Look at this protest in Virginia. People are protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Now, chances are if you protest that kind of thing, you have racist leanings anyway, but also possibly not – the case can be legitimately argued that the statue should remain, and everyone should be made aware of a difficult and painful history. However, Spencer descended on the rally to hand people torches, in the spirit of the KKK, and then later claimed that this protest had no resemblance to a white-supremacist movement. It’s the old trick right? Saying the holocaust didn’t happen, and then supporting a movement because of the holocaust. Or doing a big old Nazi bonfire and then saying the bonfire is not about that. 

He is a coward, and transforming American right-wing politics using underhanded and slimy means. But such is his mind and aims that we can expect American politics to begin to look a lot like fascism used to, even if it doesn’t believe what fascism did, sooner than we thought. 

Pakistan announces “stick & carrot” policy for Afghan refugees

A refugee person — in spite of all the reasons behind his or her refuge, remains an uprooted and dejected soul that remains reliant on the host society to a large extent.

It has been almost four decades since the first wave of hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled their country due to the Soviet invasion in the late 1970s. It was followed by even more war-weary refugees during the Taliban regime, and then during the civil war in the 1990s. And, for many Pakistan was a natural choice due to the geographical proximity, historical and cultural ties.

For those who do not remember this ordeal, they can very easily compare the state of the Syrian refugees with the Afghans. The policies of many host countries in the West and the Muslim world for that matter, kept the needy Syrians at bay, and it caught the media attention. But, as an old news story, not much attention is paid to the state of Afghan refugees facing constant persecution.

This week, the government of Pakistan announced a „stick-and-carrot“ policy for around a million undocumented Afghan refugees. The policy — announced by the Ministry of States and Frontier regions — has apparently given a legal cover to the country’s security forces to „harass“ refugees who lack documentation. „There is an offer for the Afghan nationals in the deal […] this is a carrot-and-stick approach. If Afghan nationals get themselves registered, they will not be harassed by police,“ Lt Gen (rtd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, the federal minister for states and frontier regions was quoted as saying by local broadcaster Dawn News on Thursday.

The growing persecution has already forced up to a million refugees to flee back to their conflict-riddled country. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report on alleged forced returns of Afghan refugees, has urged Islamabad to avoid recreating conditions in 2017 that coerced the involuntary return of refugees to Afghanistan in 2016.