I have never felt as insulted as an African as when I received a logistic Note from the organizers of the African Youth Network Summit in South Africa. My anger has nothing to do with the content of the summit, the objectives or even the participants. It comes from the logistic note I received from the organizing team which says: “Any delegate that goes missing will be reported to the immigration and deported immediately”.
I hail from a country and a culture where we are taught from childhood to be kind to our guests. We welcome our guests in such a way that the best cutleries, bed sheets, towels and foods are reserved for them. We come from a culture where we tell our guests to feel at home and not seek permission to open our pot and can even take the biggest piece of meat, a privilege that only the head of the household usually has. I come from a culture where you as the guest is such a VIP that the food your hosts only eat once in a blue moon, you get to eat every day to the point the children of the household do not wish to see you leave because the perks of sharing your bottle of soft drinks will stop the moment you depart.
But at the same time, we were brought up by our parents who host their guests so nicely that whenever you are invited somewhere, you must not abuse the courtesy of your hosts. Even when you love the food, you must decline a refill unless your hosts insist and you take it to make them happy. We have been told not to make noise when we are guests in someone’s court and we must show our best behaviour and hold the tiny bit of impoliteness their beatings have failed to kill in us deep inside our gut and not expose it to our hosts. And we grow up in that environment learning to be pleasant hosts and respectful guests.
As such, from that culture, we have also been taught the dos and don’ts of a host. When a host shows you the door or threaten to throw you out if you act “funny”, upon invitation you must know you are not welcome there in the first place. You must collect your dignity and pride and get the hell out and never go back unless your placenta was buried there.
I have been in South Africa several days before the summit attending other activities in observance of Nelson Mandela’s centenary and I was waiting on the night before the summit to rally Pretoria from Johannesburg. When I read that message, my first reflex was to transfer it to my coordinators at the Africans Rising movement to inform them that I plan on protesting such threat. And the movement coordinator Coumba in her diplomatic ways said and asked me to quote her: “a social justice movement should not be in the business of reporting people to immigration”. I can’t thank her enough for always finding ways to tame my wildness and finding better way to express her disappointment than I do.
However, on my own behalf, this is what I have to say: “South Africa to hell with you. We Africans contributed to your struggle for liberation financially, logistically, militarily, diplomatically, spiritually at times where we didn’t have enough ourselves. Our countries handed out free passports to your leaders from Nelson Mandela to Miriam Makeba and many more to allow them travel freely when the colonialist that divided us with the invisible borders you are enforcing have declared your leaders’ persona non- grata in your country”. To hell with your blind arrogance that makes you think that being a second-class citizen in your own country makes you superior to a Nigerian, a Kenyan, a Zimbabwean or a Liberian who you look down on because they helped you obtain the right to use the same bathrooms with your colonial masters. To hell with your foolishness that stops you from looking at the opportunities you are losing out of by making your county inaccessible to other Africans -thanks to whom you are a regional power. To hell with the individualism and cockiness you have borrowed from your masters and parades with.
And now screw you because I can’t help but insult whoever insults me, my origins, my identity, my nationality. Double screw you for having the audacity to threaten Africans with deportation when your colonial masters don’t even need a visa to come to your land and confiscate it.”
Had I come here to represent myself, I would have just left the same night because I do not entertain people who disrespect me and my people. But because I am here to represent an organization, I will painfully seat and endure your insolence for two days while making sure I do not eat your vomit. For this I decided to boycott everything you are offering to participants from accommodation, to transportation, to even food and water. And if I couldn’t afford to offer myself these out of pocket, I would rather sleep out in this South Pole cold winter of yours than allow you to treat me as a beggar. May be as a country you have lost your values along with your land during colonialism, but some of us still have ours and we hold on dearly to it.
And may nothing ever force me to come back to this country of yours. I will not offer myself as a rat on which you test the racism and xenophobia the colonists sold you.
Farida Bemba Nabourema
Disillusioned African Citizen,
Beside being one of Africa outspoken activist for democracy , She is the author of “La Pression de L’Oppression”; a collection of essays discussing the deep root , causes, manifestations and consequences of oppression.