There are many reasons why Africans leave their homeland and start a new life in a place where they will forever be called foreigners.
Most Africans have such a strong tie to their land that even in death, where one is buried is still one of the most significant things about a person’s ending. Even one’s beginning used to be symbolically tied to the land by umbilical cord. Our soil, as much as our ancestors and community is a defining factor in what Africans call home.
In the 60s, 70s and 80s, we migrated because of political instability and wars, but lately many Africans are economic immigrants. In Uganda, many women have migrated to Arab nations to work for about USD 1,000 a month doing what some have described as slavery. But that is USD 900 more than they probably would have made at home. The jobs that Africans do outside the continent are so demanding that every single coin you make is accounted for, which is why many people who return home are surprised that you can be invited to eat and not even contribute a bottle of water.
History, as told to us by white people, is that we were inferior because we did not look, talk, dress, build or invent like them, and therefore they upgraded us. We began living in the world they created for us. We became consumers. Strategically placed at the bottom of the food chain. We took part in the rat race. White collar job. Articulate in English. UK qualified. Paying them to teach us by the pound. There had to be a scarcity. Someone had to have more and someone had to have less.
That is how ‘it’ works.
We ‘fought’ for independence because we had big dreams for ourselves. They were oppressing us. We would self govern, uplift our people, create systems which worked for us. We were being stifled by them. It has been over fifty years since we waved our independence flags. Fifty years of corruption, genocide, guerrilla wars, coup d’etats and sectarianism. We have sabotaged our own economies by grand scale theft of our national resources and we have destroyed the environment with myopic views and reckless regard for the future. And now we run to the ‘first world’ they built for themselves. Why can’t we go home when they burn our shops? And kill us on the streets? And spit at us? And call us monkeys?
I lived in South Africa as a student for four years. There are many things I can say about South Africa. But one thing I will say is, there is no rainbow nation. Black Africans refer to fellow other Africans from other countries as “Africans”. “Where is East Africa?” they ignorantly inquire. The high level of discrimination based on colourism is largely accepted. So it comes as no surprise to me that this extremely fragmented society every after few years, boils over and kills the ‘Africans’ in their society. South Africa is no rainbow nation. The lines are clear as day. Black. White. Black South African. Black African. Why can’t Nigerians, Somalis and the rest of us Africans go home when the world, or even people on our own continent reject us? Because we are citizens of failed states.
Donald Trump told ‘the squad’ to go home and fix their countries. Such a vile statement. But then I thought about it. We can’t go home because our dreams are too big for our countries. Because we have developed faster than our nations. We need hospitals that have medicine, teachers that get paid, a public transport system, good drainage so that floods do not wipe out homes, security from rebels, clean water, jobs, jobs that pay, services that work, systems that work. People in government offices who don’t ask for bribes to do what they are paid to do. Leaders who serve.
Your ‘go back home’ may hurt, but the state of our homes hurts more.
We have failed ourselves.
Boris Johnson, for all of his anti-blackness quoted something in this article that haunted me, “I’ve been in Africa for ages and there’s one thing I just don’t get. Why are they so brutal to each other? We may treat them like children, but it’s not because of us that they behave like the children in Lord of the Flies.”