In this post our contributors look back on 2013 and these are these are the stories that caused them to stop and think.
@idahorner : The death of African Migrants at Lampedusa: This story was heartbreaking for many reasons but mostly for the realisation that until we find a way in which globalisation can work for all, many more Africans will die whilst in search of a better life. Should the movement of people be restricted to the extent that they some are prepared to risk their lives in such a way. Why are happy with the free movement of goods and money but not the people?
@ossobm: One of my favourite stories this year was the initiative hosted by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, which is trying to change how donors run fundraising campaigns that target poverty in Africa.
The initiative highlighted the most stereotypical fundraising campaigns as well as the most inspirational videos that challenge the typical narrative. The initiative did a great job in beginning a much needed discussion about how such condescending fundraising campaigns that utilize pity and the white saviour complex is damaging, and even dangerous, to the fight against poverty.
My favourite fundraising campaign that came in second place was this extremely creative video.
@cejugbo: This year has seen the departure of a widely acclaimed African giant of literature Chinua Achebe. The man once described by Nelson Mandela as “the Writer in whose company the prison walls fell down”, has himself been referred to as the” Mandela of Literature” Despite being revered at home and abroad, his last novel, “There was a country”, released shortly before his death, was a bombshell and had raised so much controversy. Writing about Biafra was going to be controversial in any case, but what what do you do when your favourite author writes something that make you cringe?
@MsTingaK : The story that I found most compelling this year, was the video documentary by David Sheen and Max Blumenthal, “Israel’s new racism: the persecution of African migrants in the Holy Land”. This documentary chronicling the anti-African migrant rallies in Israel and the persecution of African immigrants in that country. Sheen and Blumenthal’s video was originally
solicited by the New York Times who wanted to capture the anti-migrant sentiments in Israel, but it was then ultimately rejected by the New York Times without the customary explanation from the editors. It made its way to the public when it was published by American Newspaper, The Nation by October 17, 2013 in spite its initial rejection.
African migrants are being oppressed based on their economic status, color, migrant status, and in some cases gender. There have been reports of African stores being smashed, inter-racial couples being harassed, Africans being beaten in the streets, and numerous reports of African mothers having dog faeces being thrown on them while breast feeding in public.
In the past week, Haaretz reported that African migrants/prisoners are being refereed to by their prison numbers which robs them of their identity.This behaviour is particularly problematic because it comes from people long considered the historically oppressed. When they become the oppressors it reminds us of how history can quickly be forgotten and repeat itself in a different form. A few decades ago, Israelis faced the same treatment from Nazi Germany. Now, Israeli politicians are calling Africans the “cancer of the nation”, (a slur that was used against them by the Germans) and rallies vilifying Africans are being publicly held. Africans in Israel are being deported or sent to internment camps where they are living in dire conditions.
Luckily, these sentiments do not reflect the sentiments of the entire country and there are Israeli reporters (including Sheen) and activists that are covering African migrant stories. Many of them have been reporting about the mistreatment of these groups for over a year now and have faced backlash for their efforts. Israelis sympathizers are being viewed as traitors. The level of dehuminization that Africans face right now in Israel is problematic for all Africans.
It reminds us that our battle for humanity can occur anywhere where we seek refuge. It also makes one wonder what the migration situation would have been like if Herzel’s Uganda Plan, a 1903 proposal to create Israel in present day Uganda, had been accepted by the U.N. Perhaps the roles would have been reversed and Africans would have been the ones being told to be tolerant of those seeking refuge from war or persecution. Regardless of who is being oppressed though, we need to be reminded to denounce oppression where ever it occurs.
The story of African migrants in Israel was compelling because in spite being an on-going problem it was largely a marginalised story in international media until this year. Had it been published in the New York Times, which enjoys a bigger readership, it would have reached a wider audience. However, The Nation needs to be commended for standing up to injustice. It was my pick this year because it brought out a story about marginalised African voices that the international media was silencing.
@Kawuma : The year 2013 will always be remembered as the time Africa lost one of her greatest sons Nelson Mandela. This story captivated the world and sent shock waves across Africa. Mandela’s passing once again reignites the question and challenge– how Africa can move beyond the achievements of past revolutionary leaders. Our heroes on the continent have primarily been leaders that fought for our independence from colonialism and Nelson Mandela who led South Africans through the struggle against apartheid. What have we accomplished since the end of colonialism and apartheid? Who are the next heroes going to be?
If Africa is to advance economically, socially and politically, we need a new set of heroes. Unfortunately, we continue to fight amongst each other for power, prestige, land and resources that were handed to us. The spirit of sacrifice and selflessness that Nelson Mandela exhibited is a teachable moment that can hopefully trickle down to our current and future crop of leaders to guide our nations and continent on the right path towards peace and prosperity.
So there you have it folk. Thank you for engaging with us on 2013 and we look forward to bringing you unique stories from our beloved continent in 2014