As the whole world, despite the every present risk of contracting Covid-19, joins hands to demonstrate against the killing in broad daylight of unarmed George Floyd and US President Trump threatens to turn the army against the people, Africa by and large has remained silent. This is a shameful stance and must change writes Baffour Ankomah.
When President Donald Trump (who else, who else?) stood at the podium in the Rose Garden of the famous White House in the evening of Monday 1 June, and declared that even as he was speaking, he had dispatched (“bringing” was his word) “thousands and thousands of heavily-armed soldiers, military personnel” (as he put it) to come and “dominate” the protesters in American streets angry over the callous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis the week before, he had sunk to the level of anybody’s definition of a despot.
It was therefore within Africa’s and Africans’ right to call him out. He would have done exactly that. And even gone further by imposing economic sanctions on the offending country for daring to elect such a shallow President, a tyrant for all you know.
Only a week earlier, Trump’s America had led the Western world by the nose to protest against China’s new Security Law in Hong Kong which is intended, among other things, to clamp down on anarchist demonstrators in China’s outpost which was seized by Britain during the Opium Wars and ruled by London for 100 years until 1997 when it was returned to China’s quasi sovereignty.
It is wrong, according to Trump and his Western colleagues, for China to control anarchist demonstrators in Hong Kong with the sword (via the new Security Law), but Trump finds no wrong in bringing “heavily-armed military personnel” to kill (synonym: “dominate”) his own people whom he refers to as “thugs”, “arsonists” and “anarchists”.
The Orange One is apparently so orange that he could not even see his words dripping with hypocrisy. Worse, he dared even to hold a Bible aloft in front of the St John’s Church (also known as the “Church of the Presidents”) as the cameras clicked. If he had cared to open the same Bible, he would have heard the Good Lord shouting at him to “do to others as you want them do to you.”
President Trump does not want to address the main issue why thousands of his citizens have been protesting in the streets of 75 American cities for a whole week. Rather he wants to divert attention to the small number of anarchist demonstrators who have been looting shops. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”, the Orange One tweeted. Pity America for electing such a person as their head of state.
To him, walking from the White House to the nearby St John’s Church was a demonstration of his toughness as a President. But if he were truly as tough as he thinks he is, why did he ask the security forces camped near the White House fence to clear the demonstrators before he took the first step?
“Moments before,” as The Guardian reported “peaceful protesters, priests and families among them, had been assaulted by national guardsmen and federal officers: gassed, shot with rubber bullets, forcefully cleared from the president’s path. The president had ordered an assault on his own citizens, in order to stage a PR stunt.”
Why did the Orange One not walk through the angry protesters if he were truly the tough man that he wanted his PR stunt to portray?
Africa must find its voice
All this is cause enough for Continental Africa to join its voice to the current protests in a significant manner, and against the way the US has forever treated its Black citizens and other minorities. Black lives matter, but they have not mattered to the US authorities because since the abolition of slavery in America in December 1865. Africa, the mother continent, has not behaved like a proper mother whose children have been under duress in a foreign land.
For 155 years since 18 December 1865 when the 13th Amendment was formally adopted into the US Constitution, declaring that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to this jurisdiction”, Black America has suffered in quietude without Mother Africa raising a voice in its defence.
In fact, all over the Americas, and also the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and across the Pacific, people of African descent have not had it easy living in those countries and continents. They have been (and still are) discriminated against. They feel isolated and swamped because there is nobody to speak up for them. Africa has not found it needful to act in solidarity with her own children. That attitude must change.
For years, I have been advocating that Africa should mount solidarity diplomacy at the United Nations (through the African Union) and in individual host countries on behalf of our suffering and distressed brothers and sisters who are citizens of those countries. Their pain is our pain. It is also the pain of Mother Africa as a collective.
Therefore, the thundering voice of Africa and Africans must boom across the oceans in defence of our people scattered to the four winds, and especially in the US where Black Lives have not mattered since the first shipload of “20 and odd” African captives landed at Point Comfort (now Fort Monroe National Monument), Virginia, in late August 1619 and were bought as slaves.
Imagine, just three days after George Floyd, whose pitiless killing by asphyxiation at the knee of a cruel Minneapolis police officer had occurred, a double-murder suspect in Lawrenceburg (Tennessee), Sabastian Arzadon, a 22-year-old “white boy”, was given what in the American police lexicon amounted to a “royal treatment” (a bottle of water and wounds treated) before he was driven away by the police.
Arzadon had just killed two people in their apartment hours before, and had run away to hide in a railroad culvert. George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, said to have tried to use a fake $20-note in a market, had his face pinned down hard on the pavement while his neck was distressingly pressed down by the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes, suffocating him, as his two hands were in handcuffs behind his back. Compare the contrast!
Time to show solidarity
Africa has allowed politics and apathy to stand in the way of showing real solidarity with Global Africa where the descendants of Africa’s Old Diaspora live. Concerning Black America, Africa has unwittingly played into the hands of American leaders who have feared for decades that unity between Black America and Black Africa would hurt American national interests.
George Floyd’s death should be the time the blinkers fall from Black Africa’s eyes and allow it to seriously take up its God-given responsibilities of the mother continent that gave birth to Global Africa, especially African-Americans whose lives have not been made to matter by the host society. Speak Africa speak. Let the AU lead the way for action.