When I see you, I don’t only see your colour. I see your background, your class, your dialect, your geographic heritage.
All these factors boil down to one denominator: your economic advantage. This is what brings extremist ideologies that result in setting our own alight, slaughtering masses of our own people – all in the name of economic freedom. We can hide behind masks of religion, allegiance to our citizens, but the truth is that we seek development in our communities, we are tired of poverty, we want to get economic liberation.
Since our independent era, civil wars, genocides, xenophobic and terrorist attacks have marred our continent with blood shed from our own people. furthermore, we show our revolt from protests to hashtags on social media. But the question isn’t on us speaking against terrorist acts nor xenophobia, we need to question our continental community and ask, who is the real winner in our division?
By now, we have noticed that the atrocities that have caused a dark shadow are largely fueled by under-development, high levels of poverty and a lack of access to what the UN would describe as fundamental human rights. Looking at Northern Mali, Southern Somalia and Northern Nigeria, the birthplace of terrorist groups we know today as National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad , Al Shabaab and Boko Haram – all these areas have a strong damning similarity – drought, under development and a lack of aid from government created seething high levels of poverty in comparison to other areas of the country (sourced from The International Fund for Agricultural Development ).
When it comes to xenophobia, it may seem like a different topic altogether, but with the recent attacks in South Africa, have we not realized that the main targets are foreign entrepreneurs and freelancers? The similarity in both is that while terrorist groups seek creating an independent state under Sharia law (Faleel Jamaldeen, notes that the law reduces economic disparity and shares responsibility for hardships of the poor, much unlike the capitalist agenda) there is a common aim to seek new rule, or a new way of living that will enhance the lives of the people in the area. Unfortunately seeking such aid through violence is at a result of anger and revolt of not being responded to adequately from the government.
When they revolt and respond in bloodshed and acts of violence, we respond in the same – we become violent with our words. Not in the sense of us speaking out on the wrongness of what they are doing, but distancing ourselves further from them;calling them barbaric, animals, ruthless. Our distance deepens the divide and no one in the equation becomes the conqueror. None of the parties genuinely seek what their demands.
Lives are lost in vain, response from governments ‘eliminate’ the enemy (in terms of terrorists) and citizens are left disparaged, facing issues of islamophobia and hatred of their own kind. It is disheartening to believe that this once United front that is the member states of the African Union, which freely housed exiles of once colonised countries, has divided into 54 isolated states that fell short of ideologies of heroes we praise with the same mouths we curse our own with.
So I ask again, in our division who really is the conqueror?