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Shades of colonialism = refugees

In the Kiswahili language, the term “maafa” means disaster, a terrible incident or a great tragedy. It is also used when referring to the centuries of suffering of the people of African heritage through slavery, imperialism, colonialism, oppression, exploitation and occupation. Similarly, these imperialistic, colonialist designs were extended through the Middle and Far East as well as to South America.

Scholars have regarded this holocaust as a crime against humanity and have viewed Europe as the primary culprit. The effects of this genocide have impacted on all aspects of African and Asian life, on religion, heritage, tradition, culture, self-determination, identity and ethics. The social and economic fabric of these societies was destroyed before, finally, this colonial occupation marginalised the indigenous people of the occupied lands.

Without a doubt, Africa is the most subjugated and abused continent in the history of humanity. More human victims came out of Africa than all the other continents of the world combined. The drain in human and mineral resources is one of the major factors in the global condition of African people. However, in the post-World War Two era, and as a result of the so-called “war on terror” (for which read war on Islam), the human victims of the illegal invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen have been multiplied many times.

Malcolm X described white liberals thus: “I’d rather walk among rattlesnakes, whose constant rattle warns me where they are, than among those Northern snakes who grin and make you forget you’re still in a snake pit.” That could apply equally to neo-cons today.

The refugee crises facing Europe now is a direct result of this African holocaust which began some 500 years ago. What began as a slave trade, which was a form of colonialism practised in the motherland, was then transported to Africa as a form of imperial, colonial occupation of foreign lands. For centuries, Africa was occupied geographically, historically, mentally, culturally, socially and politically. During the second half of the last century, “uhuru” (independence), swept across the continent, creating the impression that “democracy and civilisation” had finally reached Africa. The European colonialists left behind a continent denuded of most of its natural resources. Local economies were left in tatters.

Despite their enormous natural wealth, Africans and Asians live as if they are citizens of a desert. African leadership has failed to stimulate and retain the continent’s most powerful resource: the people. The greatest threat to Africa is neither HIV nor war. The greatest threat remains myopic, selfish, non-progressive leaders who were and are planted as nominees in the post-colonial empires. Their trademarks are naivety, lack of vision, proxy implants, opportunistic/parasitic and totally compromised. Puppets include the late Meles Zenawi, Paul Kagame, Sassou Nguesso and Joyce Banda. We as ordinary citizens have failed in our moral duty to hold our leaders accountable.

The refugee-crisis that has hit most of Europe must be seen in this historical context. Recent history has introduced a new form of colonialism labelled “homeland security”. The United States and Europe (NATO) have invaded weaker and poorer countries under the guise of the “war on terror” and “homeland security”. The illegal invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Algeria, Yemen and Palestine, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Millions have been left homeless and are living in refugee camps in their own countries. Countless lives have been destroyed. People have been left destitute and hopeless. The hand of the US, Europe and their allies is the common factor in these conflict areas. This reality must not be ignored. The relationship between war and the rising challenge of refugees (they must not be confused with economic migrants), cannot be overstated. It is both ironic and particularly tragic that the many thousands of war refugees are seeking shelter in the same European and NATO countries that either directly (as in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan) or indirectly (as in Syria) subsidised the devastation, demolition and subversion from which they have fled.

Israel’s role in these crises must not be forgotten. When Israel occupied historic Palestine in 1948, it embarked on a programme of ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinians. Organised terror groups like Irgun, the Stern Gang and the Haganah terrorised thousands of Palestinians out of their homes. To this day they remain refugees. They have joined the multitude of homeless people from the region who have crossed into Europe to seek greener pastures.

The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), are all family fiefdoms. There is no “democracy” to speak of in these countries. The influx of refugees could threaten their autocracy and their long-term survival. They remain in power as a result of military support from Western countries.

Entire populations have been uprooted. A lost generation of children has been created. The trauma experienced will shape their entire lives. Long-term effects include the potential for violence, hooliganism, drug-abuse and depression.

Another bitter ordeal confronting the refugees is the brutal face of European capitalism. Desperate people fearing for their lives and fleeing war-ravaged regions in the Middle East and Africa have to face baton-wielding police deploying tear-gas, borders and barbed wire barriers, insufficient food and water and intolerable sanitary conditions. Economic exploitation is something else to overcome.

William A. Cook, Professor in English at the University of Leverne in Southern California, once wrote: “There comes a time when everyone must cry for justice, to cry for those who cannot cry for themselves.”

That time is surely now.

Ibrahim Vawda is a Senior Researcher at the Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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