Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

How do you stop Corona? Screen the whites!

March 5, 2020

A headline at RFI yesterday: Mauritania sends 15 Italian tourists back. The story was that the tourists, coming from one of the most Corona-prone risks zones on the planet had to stay in their hotel until the health authorities established that they did not pose a health risk to the public.

A reasonable position, taken by all countries.

However, the Italians decided to leave the hotel anyway the next morning and thought themselves merrily on their way until they were intercepted at some 90 kilometres from the capital Nouakchott and sent on their way, according to the story. They didn’t see that coming, apparently.

*

So far, the African continent has seen the grand total of about a dozen cases. This is a still from a few days ago.

Senegal has now acquired a second case (another old Frenchman), South Africa one (who had been on holiday in Italy) and perhaps there are a few new ones as I write this.

Do we see a pattern here? I think we do…

And yet, on France24 the other day, we were treated to the spectacle of a presenter asking with barely concealed astonishment why Africa had, so far, hardly been touched by the Corona virus. An elderly expert (France has an absolutely ENDLESS supply of them) of the renowned Institut Pasteur was on hand to confirm that, indeed, this was “a mystery”.

Indeed.

Why does Africa refuse to do what it is supposed to be doing, i.e. to be the uncontested epicentre of the worst diseases, the most frightening epidemics and all the other afflictions that stalk the planet? How dare Africa deviate from its prescribed role in the scheme of things?

A mystery.

Perhaps the good sir had already forgotten that at the height of the Ebola epidemic in 2014 at least three West African nations had managed to stop the disease from spreading: Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. It has been suggested to me that in the case of Mali there has been help from Médecins sans frontiers, which is plausible. But in the cases of Nigeria and Senegal (which I witnessed myself), the virus was contained as a result of quick coordinated action by the health authorities who identified, traced, isolated and where necessary treated individuals found to be with the virus.

Now mind you: this did not happen in some remote village in, say, deep Guinea where Patient Zero was located. No, this happened in giant agglomerations, connected to the entire world, home to at least four million people (in the case of Dakar) and as many as 20 million (Lagos).

These home-grown success stories received accolades from the World Health Organisation for containing a potentially catastrophic outbreak. Mainstream media missed them almost completely, though. Perhaps the interviewee on France24 was unaware of this story as a result, hence his nonplussed-ness at Africa’s virtually Corona-free status.

For those who respond with ‘Ah well, yes, but that’s because they lack the equipment to diagnose…’ I refer you to the previous two paragraphs that you clearly have not read yet.

Not all 50+plus health systems on the continent are the same. The reason why Ebola could strike in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was because the health systems had collapsed as the result of five decades of criminal negligence in the case of Guinea and more than a decade of civil war in the other two countries. These conditions clearly did not obtain in Senegal and only to a very limited extent in Mali and Nigeria.

What’s that? Oh, sorry, yes! Back to the pattern I asked you about earlier.

This is how they arrive…
Pic: me.

Did you see one? I did. All the Corona cases on the African continent have been brought in by Europeans, mainly Italian and French. So it stands to reason to suggest that the best and the most effective way to prevent the Corona virus from spreading across the African continent is to rigorously SCREEN ALL WHITES that come flying across the Mediterranean for their holidays or whatever it is they do.

Butbutbutbut…doesn’t this look like the reverse of what European nations routinely do to people who do not look…European?

Not really. In this case, the screening has sound logical reasons. While European immigration officers appear to be obsessed by keeping black people out because they are black, African health authorities are wise to isolate whites because they are potential carriers of very dangerous diseases. It’s only fair. After all, there are numerous stories about whites who did carry dangerous diseases and went on to wipe out entire populations in, among others, the Americas.

And that’s not a mystery, mon cher. That’s historical fact.

A tunnel with two dead ends

June 17, 2019

It’s only six-and-a-half years ago when Malian citizens came out in their numbers waving French flags and saluting the then president François Hollande during one of the few truly triumphant moments he must have felt in the course of his otherwise depressingly dreary presidency.

The occasion was of course the relatively quick and easy success of Opération Serval, principally designed to ensure that a jihadist fighting force that occupied Mali’s North and had just crossed a vital line at Konna, in the centre of Mali, never reached Bamako where it could abduct, kill and maim a potential of 7,000 French residents, take hold of the airport and send young men to France with ideas and plans to bomb cafes.

I am, to this day, absolutely convinced that Malians never figured in the president’s calculations.

Fast forward to 2019 and that feeling of adoration Malians felt towards the French has entirely evaporated. Earlier this year a 30-years-old French medic was killed in the border region between Mali and Burkina Faso; Facebook exploded with joy. “Good riddance” and “Allah be praised” were among the mildest reactions. What has changed?

The answer to this question is: too little. Back in 2013 there was an expectation that the French army with its superior firepower and sophisticated reconnaissance capabilities would put an end to this jihad nonsense in short order and that would be it.

Well, they didn’t. Instead, the Opération Serval has morphed into Opération Barkhane, which covers the entire Sahel Region, not just Mali and is headquartered in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad. This is a country that has been ruled for almost thirty years with an iron fist by Idriss Déby Itno, installed by the French secret services and kept in power by Chad’s battle-hardened troops and on three occasions (2005, 2008 and 2019) by swift French military action.

Opération Barkhade has been joined by a UN stabilisation mission with the longest name (MINUSMA) and highest death toll in UN history and a regional anti-terrorist force called G5. Also count in the support and training (and perhaps even combat) missions by the European Union, the United States and heaven knows who else. So, as a Malian citizen you are seeing thousands upon thousands of foreign soldiers entering your country and for all you know they are simply overseeing a situation getting progressively worse. What are you going to make of it?

You are going to think that they might be here for different reasons. This, for instance, is a placard that was carried in one of the numerous anti-French demonstrations happening in the Malian capital and covered in the June 14 edition of the news site Bamada.net

No, there is no evidence for this, as usual. But the sentiment is real, it’s all-pervasive and it is due to the fact that what all these foreign missions actually DO has no visible relationship with what it says on the tin. Add to this the blunders committed by operatives of Opération Barkhane, which now get splashed across the pages of the digital media, and you can easily see that whatever goodwill French military operations had in Mali and beyond has gone, probably for good.

And there is more.

Not only is France now the object of undiluted hostility coming from many a Sahelian country (to the extent that demonstrations are allowed; in Chad the government stops demonstrations with a single SMS message sent to everyone who owns a cellphone) but the French presence is also the object of an entire raft of conspiracy theories, one even more outlandish than the other. Two of the most persistent are that French troops are looking for minerals in the North of Mali (one such story used French troops clearing landmine material in the Central African Republic as evidence) and that France is behind the most recent spate of horrific mass killings that have shocked the nations of Mali and Burkina Faso. One highly prolific twitter account delights in sharing links with stories about French misfortunes and misbehaviours, often using spin that freely crosses the border between information and fake news. A terribly ineffective way to get France out of Africa, if you ask me.

Not lacking in clarity. From Bamada.net

The reason for this wave of outright hostility, and more often than not coming from digital media savvy youth, is history. There is a huge shipload of stories about crimes committed by France, also covered on this blog, for instance its deliberate and destructive negligence in the Central African Republic and its disguised and downright criminal support for Biafra in Nigeria’s civil war. And, of course, who can forget Ivorian writer (now editor-in-chief of the country’s state newspaper Fraternité Matin) Vincent Konan’s deadly satirical Afro-sarcastic Chronicles, which I reviewed here?

There are other issues I have not covered, but which have been written about in books like La Françafrique, le plus long scandale de la République by the late François-Xavier Verschave. Indeed (if I may), my own book on Guinea deals with the French shenanigans in that country at length. So there is more than enough historical fuel for anger against the one former colonial power that seems unable to just pack its bags and go.

And present fuel, too.

One of the things that irks people from Dakar to Niamey is the arrogant attitude that seems to come from too many European individuals who stay in this part of the world. I saw a little example of that many years ago and I have no doubt that there are many more. (In nominally Francophone West Africa everyone who is white is automatically assumed to be French.) One by one, they may seem insignificant incidents but together they add up and too often you see a distinct lack of self-reflection on the part of white people ordering black people about as if it is 1949, not 2019. That definitely must stop.

And the other thing is…opacity. Nothing fuels rumour mongering more than lack of credible information about why you are here and what it is that you do. The many bland statements from French ministers do not fill the information gap. These days, every report about how Opération Barkhane “neutralised” 20 or 30 or 50 (supposed) jihadists is met with complete and utter derision and instructions to “get the H*ll out of my country”. It also renders any rational debate about why France is here and what it actually does, completely impossible.

It is, for instance, rather difficult to discuss France’s role on the continent with someone who is utterly convinced that France will collapse the day it pulls out (or preferably gets kicked out) of Africa when trade statistics put the contribution to French external commerce of the entire continent at 5% with none of the former colonies playing a major role: Nigeria, South Africa and Angola are France’s top three trading partners. Of course, a number of French companies would face difficulties if they withdrew (the logistics and media empire of Bolloré, oil major Total, the uranium company Orano, beverage king Castel and the infrastructure emperor Bouygues being obvious examples) but most if not all of them would survive.

Vessels off Las Palmas, not so long ago a major destination for migrants from West Africa and located on the nearest Europe-controlled Atlantic islands off the African coast.

What we have, in the end, are two sets of unhealthy fixations between the two: most French care about Africa in two ways: immigrants and terrorists and how to keep them out. One of France’s most prominent politicians, Marine le Pen, has successfully managed to conflate immigration and criminal behaviour to create a thoroughly racist and xenophobic political platform that threatens to engulf the nation’s body politic. The majority of people in the Sahel countries see absolutely no good coming from whatever France does and want to see the back of the former colonial power, pronto. These two viewpoints reinforce one another.

Any light at the end of this two-side dead end tunnel? For the time being: not really. Both viewpoints are informed by an obsessive tendency to divert attention away from issues that should be in clear focus: a lack of perspective for too many citizens, the marginalisation of too many citizens and the obscene inequalities both within individual countries (thanks to the destructive neo-liberal project that has captured all these nations) and between the northern and the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. These are things that need obsessive attention, so we can finally turn away from pointing fingers and constructing conspiracy theories – and start working towards solutions that have a better chance to succeed.

Here’s to the triumph of hope over experience, as fellow curmudgeon Oscar Wilde would say.