One day we would look at this present moment and realize that we lived in a world that watched and did nothing as a country in Europe implemented a policy that criminalize the rescue of African migrants in distress at the Mediterranean Sea. It is heart wrenching that we live in a world today that would rather have Africans drown at sea than have them in their shores. This is happening while the world is watching.
Being African and woman has always been my place of solace, strength and empowerment. On this journey are words of my mama, grand mama, aunts and many many women from around the world spurring me on.
Anyone who knows me know that I define the African woman outside location, place of origin, race or colour. You cannot pin down the African woman’s spirit. Many of my African sisters have never been to Africa.
So, what does being an African woman mean to me? The African woman is a feeling, a spirit; tap into it and dance.
You find the African woman excelling in the boardroom, cornfield, standing tall from the battlefield.
The African woman’s essence and spirit shows itself in the quest to live an authentic life. It is manifested in loving, leading, supporting, laughter and letting it flow.
It is in the art and act of nurturing, caring, sacrifice and effortless, (wink wink) sexy whether 18 or 80.
In my sojourn, I have found them all over the world in different hues, ages and sizes, beautiful, bold and here.
Photo Courtesy of AFP
Ever since Italy's Five Star and League parties came to power in June 2018 relations between France and Italy have been tensed; this tension has centered mainly on the issue of migration. It kicked off with the dispute between the two countries over France sending back migrants across Italy's northern border.
This tensed relationship came to a head last week in reference to the 172 migrants feared drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. France criticized Italy for not allowing rescue boats carrying migrants in the Mediterranean to dock and Italy responded by accusing France of refusing to accept migrants.
According to Italy’s Mr. Di Maio, "France has no reason to get upset because it pushed away tens of thousands of migrants [at the French border], abandoning them there as though they were beasts." Mr. Di Maio went further to call on the EU to impose sanctions on France and all countries like France that “impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean," His fellow deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, backed his comments, saying France was looking to extract wealth from Africa rather than helping countries develop their own economies. What Italy’s Di Maio is saying here is that Africans have two choices when it comes to migration: stay in Africa or at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
The issue and/or debate between France and Italy centers on who is and has exploited and abused Africa and Africans the most. So, which and who is worse: those exploiting Africa which is pushing Africans to migrate to countries in Europe in the quest for a better life, or the countries in Europe who would rather see Africans at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea than on their shores?
African organizations and personalities have been commenting on this current row between France and Italy. I have read some reactions from Africans that appear to sound more aggrieved over Italy’s accusation that France is still colonizing Africa as opposed to Italy’s complicity in the deaths of African in the Mediterranean Sea.
My fellow Africans and friends of Africa, we must not get distracted by the colonialism statement and reference. This allusion is a ploy to distract us from the current issue regarding the treatment of African migrants in Europe and the fact that some countries are quite comfortable with letting Africans die as a deterrent to having them in their countries. As far as I am concerned, if Italy would allow African migrants to be treated the way they have in the last two years, I am certain it does not really care if France is exploiting Africa or not.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's anti-immigrant League has surged in popularity, with opinion polls putting the party on 30 percent, up from the 17 percent since it won in the election. This new government is very proud of its anti- migration achievement so far: in 2018, 22,500 migrants landed on Italy's coasts, representing a drop of more than 80 percent compared to 2017. In celebrating this achievement Project Rights, Italy’s anti-migrants and anti-migration group, stated proudly that "First of all, we started two years ago criminalizing those who save thousands of lives at sea" and ended up "closing ports to boats loaded with survivors".
In summary, by default, Italy took on the policy, and implemented a practice of allowing migrants drown at sea as a deterrent to migration. In conclusion, Project Rights proudly declares that "Today with the Salvini decree, we have abolished humanitarian protection, creating an endless stream of people forced into hiding,". Between 2016 – 2018 an average of 2,500 migrants died annually on the central Mediterranean route.
It would be a shame for Africa and Africans to start taking sides on the current debate and row between France and Italy. The continent cannot get caught up on the nuances of whether France is still colonizing Africa or not. While that is debatable, what is clear and without doubt is the action and positions that Italy and France have taken against many African migrant leading to their death and other forms of abuses. France and Italy can do something about their migration policies and practices which is leading to the death of Africans. We can commence with the philosophical debate of whether Africa is still being colonized and in what ways and by whom later?
The issues Africans are facing today on the migration path whether regular or not is now beyond words. We are so caught up on the irregular migration route issue that we forget the horrendous treatment Africans face even when travelling regularly through airports in Europe.
We need a strong African action on the abuses Africans suffer while travelling either through regular or irregular routes. Please the African Union etc. should not waste their time right now debating if, who and how we are being colonized. Africans are dying in migration, that is the pressing issue.
In 2019, an estimated 132 million people globally will require humanitarian assistance, the UN-led humanitarian assistance and its partners aim to assist the most vulnerable 93.6 million with food, healthcare shelter, emergency education and other basic lifesaving assistance. The funding amount required to meet this need is US21.9 billon, it is expected that with the addition of the budget for the Syrian response, the total for 2019 will come close, if not more, than the 2018 budget of an estimated US25 billion.
Every year, the global humanitarian budget keeps mounting. In 2017 US$ 27.3 billion was needed for humanitarian assistance, an increase of almost 1 billion from 2016. Since 2013, humanitarian funding has increased by an average of US1 billion each year. Most of these protracted needs are as a result of lack of investment in early recovery, recovery and durable solutions. When recovery does not happen, the result is a protracted humanitarian needs, and increasingly the humanitarian sector is bearing the burden of these recovery and development gaps.
In addition to the increase in budget, the average length of humanitarian needs has increased from an average length of 5.2 years in 2014 to over nine years, and many of these protracted cases are in Africa. 14 of the 21 countries that will be appealing for humanitarian aid in 2019 are from Africa and many of these countries have been appealing for humanitarian aid every year for over a decade. Protracted crises carry much of the funding. Between 2014 – 2018, four cases/countries accounted for 55 per cent of all funding requested and received, and 3 of these cases/countries were from Africa.
More than a humanitarian crisis, many African countries are besieged by `recovery crises’. Many countries in Africa slide into humanitarian appeals and become dependent on it. Humanitarian action is now being deplored to countries as way of addressing gaps in recovery.
Vulnerable and disaster affected communities are increasingly dependent on life-saving kinds of humanitarian assistance even when that is the not most sustainable support because of lack of investment and support for recovery.
As humanitarian actors, it is not enough to announce the increases of humanitarian needs every year, without some form of reflection on why we have these increases.
According to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Global Cluster on Early Recovery: “During and immediately after a crisis, urgent action is required to save lives. At the same time, from the start of humanitarian response, time critical interventions which lay the foundations for sustainable recovery and a speedy return to longer term development are also imperative.” The IASC, a forum of key UN and non-humanitarian partners is the primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance.
Early recovery according to the IASC is a vital element of an effective humanitarian response. “It is integrated inclusive and coordinated approach to gradually turn the dividend of humanitarian action into sustainable crisis recovery, resilience building and development opportunities.” Investment in Early Recovery (ER) leverages the impact of humanitarian assistance as well as facilitating the connection and linkage to development opportunities, through resilience building.
Countries that have appealed and dependent on humanitarian assistance for more than a decade should engage and undertake an internal review of why and/if recovery is not taking place. The question that we must ask in such context is “who is recovering and who is not and why.?”
The provision of humanitarian assistance without a clear strategy and plan for facilitating and assisting the recovery of affected communities exit perpetuates humanitarian dependency. In recognition of this, the IASC Principals re-committed to prioritizing the integrating Early Recovery in humanitarian response as well as sharpening the accountability of humanitarian partners to mainstreaming Early Recovery into the entire humanitarian response and for Early Recovery results.
The family of Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was recently sentenced to death by the Chinese government for drug trafficking have called out the sentence as `horrific’. My heart goes to the family at these trying times. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the ruling and according to media reports, the ruling is likely to worsen a diplomatic row between the two countries. Trudeau is quoted in the BBC saying that "It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty,". Schellenberg has 10 days to launch an appeal and most likely will.
The media is alluding that Schellenberg’s case has been unfavorably reviewed from a 15 years’ imprisonment to a death sentence after Canada arrested a top official at the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, upon the request from the United States. According to the BBC, the detention of Meng Wanzhou, 46, last month angered China and soured its relations with both Canada and the US.
Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 accused of planning to smuggle almost 500lb (227kg) of methamphetamine from China to Australia. As a non- supporter of the death penalty, I stand with Canada on this one, but will like to take this particular case in point to draw attention to the double standard and racism inherent in Canada’s administration and interpretation of its judicial system when it comes to African and Asian men. In this case, I will be referring more specifically to the treatment of Nigerian men in Canada’s judicial system.
I am here echoing the allusion made by the BBC’s news piece that China is retaliating with Schellenberg’s death penalty for Canada’s arrest of a Chinese citizen. This case raises questions and must draw our attention to Canada’s long-standing practice of outsourcing its human rights abuses and racism against African and Asian men. To be specific, we must start asking questions and bring to light the racism in Canada’s extradition practices.
Today there are many Nigerian men that Canada has extradited to the United States for alleged scams, with little or no substantive evidence. What is most disturbing is that Canada’s legal system does not feel the need to provide adequate reasons for such extradition beyond such phrases as the `United States has asked Canada to extradite and/or arrest them’. Canada of course enjoys a reputation as a protector and defender of human rights laws, policies and practices globally. Canada prides itself as the country the abused come to for solace and shelter from human rights violations. It makes sense that Canada would prefer that the United States does its ‘dirty’ work. After all, the United States has a history, and is quite unapologetic about its treatment of black men in its judicial system. Bottom line, the extradition arrangement between Canada and the United States should not and cannot be an excuse for Canada to continue to outsource its human rights violation and racism.
Nigerians, Africans and blacks in general are so embarrassed by the 419 or advance - fee scam associated to Nigerians and are wary of being tainted by it resulting in countries like Canada, the United States and many other western countries getting away with persecuting innocent Nigerian men without evidence and/or due process.
An advance-fee scam ‘typically involves promising the [so called] “victim” a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires to obtain the large sum. If a “victim” makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim or simply disappears.” What is glossed over by the international community is that in the case of the so-called `Nigerian scam’, to be scammed means the scammed had the intention of scamming the African country in the first place. While Nigeria is often referred to in these scams, they originate in other countries as well. `61% of internet criminals were traced to locations in the United States, while 16% were traced to the United Kingdom, and 6% to Nigeria. The number "419" refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, the charges and penalties for offenders.
Many Nigerians are tainted with the fraudulent brush even when innocent. The pattern and practice are that the US and Canada legal systems coaxes the accused to name other Nigerians as part of plea bargains for lesser sentences and many are tempted and agree. In a recent case, a jailed Nigerian mentioned names of fellow Nigerian men who did not contribute financially to his family’s upkeep while he was in jail. To negotiate a lesser sentence, he mentioned these names. Canada has extradited many of these Nigerian men to the United States where they are presently languishing in jail.
Let us pause for a moment to review why Canada and other Western countries are so willing to discard their core human right principles when it comes to issues of the `Nigerian scam’. I am convinced that what Nigerian men are suffering in the western system whether guilty or not is tantamount to `lynching’. The white system is miffed that Black men could possibly outsmart them in their centuries old practices of exploiting Africa.
One must understand that in the case of 419 or the so called “Nigerian scam”, it takes two to tango. You must be corrupt and willing to make quick bucks from Africa to be swindled in the first place. Touching on the reasons for hunger in Africa, Pope Francis during his August 2018 visit to Africa noted that ‘in our collective unconscious, there is something inside us that says Africa must be exploited.’ The West has been more comfortable with exploiting Africa, so, when a black man attempts it and dares to succeed in it, the sense of white indignation is unleashed with complete disregard for implementing the law correctly or following due process.
My outcry regarding the way Canada has colluded with the United States and other European countries in the treatment of Nigerian men with or without evidence of fraud does not in any way condone scams, fraud, or 419. Just like Canada’s condemnation of the death sentencing of Schellenberg is not an endorsement of drug trafficking. My point of pain here is how the racism in Canada’s legal system is beginning to fuel retaliation around the world. The media coverage of this case alludes to this strongly.
For cases like this, where Canada’s outsourcing of racism is compromising legal consideration for white Canadians facing or who might face legal issues in other countries, Canada must start respecting the human rights of African, black and Asian men in their jurisdiction. For a start the gross human rights violation and racism inherent in Canada extradition practices which is an outsourcing of its racism to the United States must stop.
Many Nigerian men are in jail by associating with other Nigerians who may be guilty of advance fee fraud, many Nigerian men have been jailed on allegation of fraud by being seen at parties with other Nigerians accused of fraud / scam. Nigerian men are languishing in US prisons, and serving long prison terms because Canada, without any due process or evidence, sent them to the United States because the United States told Canada to. In the case of allegation of fraud, many Nigerian men have been found guilty for being simply male and Nigerian.
Today I bemoan Canada’s outsourcing of its human rights and racism against Nigerian men as a Nigerian-Canadian who for 8 years supported the Government of Canada and people of Canada to advocate for critical human and civil rights issues that did not affect blacks or was not related to my situation in any way. I did this to give back to Canada as my country of choice. Some of the causes I fought for were a risk to my safety and security. It breaks my heart that I could have sacrificed for my chosen country Canada only to witness helplessly its abuse of men from my country of birth, first country and country of origin; Nigeria. Canada has been throwing Nigerian men to the dogs for little or no evidence. The death sentence on Schellenberg is indeed horrific and is possibly a retaliation for Canada’s complicity in the human rights violation and racism in its judicial systems.
Please let us all stay horrified at the fate of the Canadian sentenced to death in China: we must continue to advocate for his release and at a minimum for him to serve a jail time as opposed to the death penalty. And while we are at it, we must also call on our Canadian judicial system to account for outsourcing its racism and human rights abuses to the United States to the detriment of the fair treatment of our fellow Canadians facing criminal charges abroad.
I am imploring members of the legal community to review the cases of the many Nigerian men Canada has extradited to the United States to face jail terms without evidence. Today they are languishing in jails without due process and/or evidence.
 Advance-fee scam - Wikipedia
I have worked with quite a good number of countries in Africa on humanitarian aid issues in the last 12 years, and I am increasingly left with the unease that many countries in Africa with long term international humanitarian presence are not fully briefed of what the presence of international footprint in their countries mean. This lack of clarity plays out often in the public domain with national actors disputing assessments results and positions taken by international humanitarian actors. To avoid this public display of discord, it is important that we have a clear and mutual understanding of the modus operandi of international humanitarian assistance, footprint and presence in a country.
For 2019, 14 of the 21 countries appealing for international humanitarian aid/assistance are from Africa. The humanitarian budget for Ethiopia is $1.20 billion USD, a 34 percent increase from 2018; Sudan is $1.00 billion USD the same as 2018; DRC is $1.65 billion USD, a 2 percent increase from 2018; Somalia is $1.08 billion USD, a 28 percent increase from 2018; and Nigeria is $847.7 million USD, a 35 percent increase from 2018.
These funds are not yet available, they will have to be raised and for that to happen humanitarian actors must make the case to donors that these “crises” are big enough to warrant the budget. Daniel J. Clarke and Stefan Darcon in Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make a Difference refer to this as the `begging-bowl’ financing model. This `begging bowl’ model involves international humanitarian actors launching public information, communication and media appeals and campaigns to draw attention to these `crises’, and the higher the budget the louder the drums for aid. Dull Disaster? explains this aptly as encouraging `reasonable people and organizations to play the part of a beggar’.
Clarke and Darcon call for more predictable funding for humanitarian needs noting rightly in Dull Disasters? that the ‘begging bowl financing’ model is a `funding model based on voluntary contributions and appeals’ which `also creates serious distortions and `strong incentives’ among the implementing agencies to exaggerate crises and appeals.
What this means for countries with international humanitarian footprint with repeated unending annual appeals is that the humanitarian narrative dominates other development and economic growth and aspirations in the country. When governments complain about the exaggerated media image of their countries that is being publicized by international humanitarian agencies, they must understand that by endorsing a humanitarian appeal and/or budget in the first place they have agreed that they indeed have a problem that is beyond the national capacity warrants international aid, and by default “public begging” campaigns.
This brings me to the next point. The bases of having an international humanitarian foot print or presence in a country is that the government cannot cope with the crisis or the government is complicit in the root cause of the crisis. So, part of raising funds internationally is to explain the incapacity or complicity of the government or the national authorities.
A third point to note is that humanitarian assistance is different from development assistance. As the humanitarian presence expanded three years ago in Nigeria, I noted that many national authorities and governments referred to humanitarian actors as development partners. Many national authorities are not fully aware that these roles are very different because the same agreement and processes are not entered into in the case of an international humanitarian footprint and presence in a country.
A development assistance usually operates as an agreement, including a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between a donor country or agency and the government. This is not so for humanitarian assistance. For example, the 1.2 billion USD that has been budgeted for the humanitarian appeal in Nigeria will not be fully raised. The most successful appeals are funded to about 70 percent. Most appeals are funding to an average of 50 to 60 percent. Whatever amount is raised for Nigeria will be disbursed by international actors in Nigeria and on behalf of Nigeria. International humanitarian actors are not accountable to national authorities for the use of funds raised for humanitarian assistance.
While a government approves and reviews the appointment of a United Nations Resident coordinator(RC), this does not apply for a humanitarian coordinator (HC) who leads the humanitarian response in a country although, the RC becomes the humanitarian coordinator. The approval required for the RC’s role and appointment is not required for the HC’s appointment. The level of partnership required in the RC’s role is very different with the HC. While collaboration is a core requirement in the RC’s role, the opposite is priced in the humanitarian role for some international humanitarian organizations and actors where distance from national authorities and governments is interpreted as being a principled and independent humanitarian actor.
The rules, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or processes governing international humanitarian presence and assistance is different, very different from a development assistance. A development assistance does not carry the large number of international actors in a recipient country as is the case with a humanitarian assistance or footprint.
According to the 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview, the `majority of humanitarian needs occur in long-lasting crises in which there has been limited progress in addressing root causes. It is paramount that political solutions top the agenda for 2019.’ Very true.
Former Director of OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Yvette Stevens a decade ago bemoaned the passivity of African leaders in the face of recurring humanitarian needs. Hear her; “The silence of African voices in the dialogue on humanitarian issues is most disturbing. The voices of African leaders are decidedly silent when it comes to talking about humanitarian issues that directly affect their people.” It is true that the UN Humanitarian Chief can speak about the looming disaster in Niger and elsewhere and appeal for the action of the international community she says; “But in crises in Africa, we do not often hear the voices of the African Heads of State,” she concludes.
African countries that have had annual humanitarian appeals for at least 5 – 10 years should engage more robustly in addressing the root causes of its protracted humanitarian need. At a minimum, in the context of slow onset disasters we must start asking why recovery is not happening. It is not enough to be a docile recipient of repeated humanitarian assistance. The presence of humanitarian assistance and the process of raising funds dominates other critical sectors of many countries facing repeated appeals.
It is no coincidence that the top 13 African countries that ranked above Nigeria in the Forbes 2019 best countries to do business are not on the list of African countries appealing for annual humanitarian aid. The countries that beat Nigeria include: South Africa at 59 place, Morocco 62, Tunisia 82, Botswana 83, Rwanda 90, Kenya 93, Ghana 94, Egypt 95, Namibia 96, Senegal 100 and Cape Verde 104. Nigeria the giant of Africa is placed at 110, Nigeria started sliding down the list with its entry into the countries appealing for annual humanitarian aid. In the case of international humanitarian assistance, African countries that have depended on long term annual appeals cannot have their cakes and eat too.