It’s 8.57 pm on April 15th and I’m seated at the Vienna Cafe at the #UNHQ waiting patiently to hear the results of the negotiations for the day. For the past three days, I have been attending the 48th Session of the Commission on Population and Development. This year’s theme is ‘Integrating population issues into sustainable development, including in the post – 2015 development agenda.’ My days have been plagued with discussions on key terms and language such as ‘harnessing the demographic dividend’, ‘the right to development’, ‘sovereignty’, ‘multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination’ and ‘putting people at the centre of development.’ While seated here, a colleague @bmunyati, approaches me to review his post, ‘Xenophobia Must Fall!‘ “How can we be silent when our people are being killed? ” I tell him to give me ten minutes as I quickly go through Twitter and news articles on the incidences of Xenophobia currently taking place in South Africa.
At #CPD48, while we argue against the instrumentalization of women and the youth, the need to respect sexual and reproductive rights as human rights that are indivisible and inalienable, another battle is taking place on my beautiful continent Africa. This time, the battle has shifted from an ideological debate to a rallying call for leaders to put an end to Xenophobia, an end to the senseless killings. The attacks against the immigrants from Somalia, DRC, Mozambique, Nigeria and Malawi and recently Pakistan and Bangladesh is an attempt to ‘rectify the wrongs’ in a situation where the immigrants are taking jobs and opportunities away from Black South Africans. A quick review of the literature highlighted that similar attacks took place in 2008 where over 60 people were left dead and hundreds more were displaced. The attacks were rumored to have begun when the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini was quoted saying the foreigners should pack their bags and leave. He claims that his words were taken out of context but reports have recorded the attackers saying, ‘The King has spoken.’
I am tempted to say we have a crisis of leadership in Africa… From all corners of the continent infact. We recently marked one year since over 200 girls were kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria and they are yet to all get back home safe. Two weeks ago, 148 students in Kenya were killed while studying at Garissa University. Since then, the Kenyan government is working on building a wall that divides Somalia and Kenya and plans to send refugees back to Somalia.
In North Africa, North Africa, women’s human rights defenders are jailed and killed for advocating for non-discrimination and an end to violence…and now this. How much more can we take before deciding to rise up in large numbers? How long will we continue to sit in silence and watch OUR AFRICA crumble. It begs the question, is Africa truly rising? The African Union, Department of Political Affairs says, “Xenophobia erodes AU’s shared values on human and people’s rights and principles of continental unity, integration and Pan-Africanism”. Where then are our leaders? What are they doing to safeguard Mwalimu Nyerere’s vision of a United Africa? @TamukaKagoro77 says that, “Afrophobia and Xenophobia are maladies that infect the literate but ignorant among us. I tend to agree. So as others boycott South African products such as DSTV, I choose not to be silent. I choose to call on other Africans to stand in solidarity with the majority of Black South Africans who see xenophobia as injustice and not abandon them in their time of need.
While we continue negotiating on the importance of integrating population issues into the next development framework, we must put people at the centre of development discourse free from discrimination. Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People’s rights states, “Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or any status.”
We must put an end to this prejudice and hatred. Xenophobia must stop!
By Yvette Kathurima, Head of Advocacy at FEMNET and can be reached on twitter @wamburay