Africa oscillates between indignation and restraint

Protesters in Cape Town on June 3, 2020 denounce the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in the United States, and of Collins Khoza in Alexandra, South Africa.
Protesters in Cape Town on June 3, 2020 denounce the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in the United States, and of Collins Khoza in Alexandra, South Africa. Mike Hutchings / REUTERS

In front of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, dozens of protesters holding up signs “Silence is violence”. A petition filed to that of Accra, Ghana, by an organization defending the rights of African diasporas, to ask the American justice to be exemplary. A small group of brave gathered under the banner “Black Lives Matter”, braving the rain in Lagos, Nigeria, to express their outrage. Coronavirus effect limiting demonstrations, fear of police repression or mere distance from the event … The death of George Floyd, an African-American suffocated under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, on May 25, was not the hour was followed by no major gathering on the African continent.

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Convictions, expressions of anger and demands for justice, on the other hand, are pouring in on social networks. While official Africa is often seen as extremely shy when it comes to criticizing Washington, one of the strongest words came from the President of Ghana. “Blacks are shocked and dismayed at the murder of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in the United States […] This is not possible in the XXIe century that the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systemic racism “Nana Akufo-Addo wrote in a statement posted on Twitter, where the deceased’s face appears on a black background. And to conclude: “We hope that the unfortunate and tragic death of George Floyd will inspire lasting change in the way America confronts the problems of hatred and racism. “

Although Ghana, one of the cradles of Pan-Africanism upon independence, is now an ally of the United States, other figures in the local political class have expressed dismay. Renowned for his verve, ex-president Jerry Rawlings implored on social networks “Every American watching the video” of George Floyd’s arrest. “How is it possible that a policeman is responsible for such a brutal and cruel death, that he suffocates a black man with his knee until he does not move? “, he asks before letting go: “Shame on America, shame on the Americans. “

“Persistent discriminatory practices”

In a more diplomatic but no less firm tone, the President of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, condemned on May 29 “The murder of George Floyd […] in the hands of law enforcement officials “. While some were quick to criticize him for his discretion over the police repressions committed in several African countries, the former Chadian Prime Minister took the opportunity to refer to “The historic resolution of the OAU [l’ancêtre de l’UA] on racial discrimination in the United States “, taken at the organization’s first conference in 1964 in Egypt and to reaffirm “The AU’s rejection of persistent discriminatory practices against black citizens of the United States.”

As recalled Young Africa while republishing his speech at the time, Malcolm X was then in Cairo, invited as an observer, so, he said, of “Represent the interests of the 22 million African-Americans whose human rights are violated daily by the racism of the American imperialists”. The words of the leader of the Nation of Islam towards the heads of state of a continent still carried by the wave of independence are strangely resonating today: “In America, we are your brothers and sisters, long lost. And if I’m here, it’s only to remind you that our problems are your problems. As African Americans wake up today, we find ourselves in a foreign land that has rejected us. And, like the prodigal son, we turn to our older brothers for help. We pray that our pleas will not fall on deaf ears. “

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If the African National Congress (ANC), the party in power in South Africa, has retained some of its old reflexes, forged in the fight against a white oppressor, by urging “All Americans and their government find an amicable solution to the racial impasse” and denouncing “The dangerously low value that American society places on the lives of blacks”, it is clear that the leaders of the continent were never “The shepherds of all African peoples, all over the world”, desired by Malcolm X. When the powers are expressed, as in Nigeria, the prudent council prevails over the solidarity of the epidermis. “We hope that more efforts will be made to restore confidence between the police and the black communities. We also ask that incidents like this never be tolerated again ”, said spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari.

Africans “main victims of racism”

A figure in the defense of human rights on the continent, the Senegalese Alioune Tine judges that “Africans must move to support the fight against racism in the world, because they are the main victims everywhere”. African football stars, such as the Egyptian Mohamed Salah and the Senegalese Sadio Mané, knelt down before starting their match, while the musician Youssou Ndour added a “Stop Racism” to his profile photo on social media.

For the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe, “There is not a single country in the world where” the black man ” […] be fully protected from the danger posed by the state and its devices, starting with the police “, But “A massive return of the diasporas to the continent is not the solution.” African states should constitutionalize “The right to return” for those who wish. The intellectual also judges that “African descendants scattered throughout the rest of the world will be eternally in danger as long as Africa is not standing on its own legs and as long as its daughters and sons hold the necks of their fellows under their boots.”

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