Coronavirus. The "White Disease" is likely to create a wave of xenophobia in Africa

Frammenti Africani

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Fulvio Beltrami

Fulvio Beltrami
Originario del Nord Italia, sposato con un'africana, da dieci anni vivo in Africa, prima a Nairobi ora a Kampala. Ho lavorato nell’ambito degli aiuti umanitari in vari paesi dell'Africa e dell'Asia.
Da qualche anno ho deciso di condividere la mia conoscenza della Regione dei Grandi Laghi (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, ed Est del Congo RDC) scrivendo articoli sulla regione pubblicati in vari siti web di informazione, come Dillinger, FaiNotizia, African Voices. Dal 2007 ho iniziato la mia carriera professionale come reporter per l’Africa Orientale e Occidentale per L’Indro.
Le fonti delle notizie sono accuratamente scelte tra i mass media regionali, fonti dirette e testimonianze. Un'accurata ricerca dei contesti storici, culturali, sociali e politici è alla base di ogni articolo.

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Frammenti Africani

Apr 7

Coronavirus. The "White Disease" is likely to create a wave of xenophobia in Africa

Acts of xenophobia in Congo, Burundi, Zimbabwe and other African countries against Westerners accused of bringing Coronavirus to Africa. The Covid-19 pandemic is destined to bring out dormant global problems that have remained unsolved for decades. Among them the relationship between the West and Africa, historically based on an often conflicting and violent Eurocentric dominance. The Covid-19 contagion inevitably brings to light the precarious North-South relations where xenophobia phenomena occur in both hemispheres

di Fulvio Beltrami

africa, coronavirus, xenophoby, racism, covid19, world pandemy, north-south

Fulvio Beltrami - 05/04/2020

The data provided on April 4 by the World Health Organization speak of 1,051,635 cases of contagion and 79,332 deaths from Coronavirus on a planetary level. Africa appears to be not particularly affected at the moment. The total number of confirmed cases of infection are 6,342 across the continent equal to less than 0.5% of the infections worldwide. The North African countries are particularly affected with 68% of the cases of contagion recorded on the continent. West African countries follow (among them many French-speaking countries) with 21%.

In South Africa the most serious situation. Alone, the country records 21% with 1,505 cases of contagion. The other African countries do not exceed the 100 quota with the exception of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (134 infections) and Kenya (122).

The low percentages recorded in Africa cannot be explained by the containment measures implemented by various governments. If on the one hand it is true that the majority of African governments have closed borders, launched capillary awareness and prevention campaigns, reduced commercial, productive, banking and public administration activities and have imposed evening curfews, socialization culture and consequent habits of the majority of the African population are rooted and, unfortunately, facilitate the spread of the infection from COVID-19.

The necessary confinement measures are also difficult to implement. At least 60% of the African population works (and survives) in the informal sector, made up of small jobs and businesses capable of supporting daily bread but not allowing people to exit the cycle of poverty. With these percentages it is impossible to carry out a confinement without confronting the net refusal of the population, running the risk of popular revolts. “With the coronavirus I have a chance of dying. If I'm not working, I'm sure. Better to risk taking the disease than starving ». This is the common thought of millions of Africans.

The real reasons for the low percentage of contagion highlighted by the WHO data, could lie in the African climate (suspected of weakening or inhibiting the virus) and in the weakness of public health systems which does not allow to start blanket test campaigns on the population to identify the actual size of the infection.

If at the moment coronavirus seems to progress in slow motion in Africa, there is a worrying escalation of xenophobia aimed at Europeans and Westerners in general. Unfortunately, the data relating to the initial infections show that the virus was "imported" from Europe. Many French and Italians, for example, arrived in Africa before the various African governments decided to close their borders, taking the virus with them. Some were totally unaware of their state of health. Others, unfortunately, were aware that they had been infected but preferred to leave for Africa accusing mild symptoms and unwilling to undergo quarantine period in their countries. A completely different attitude has been adopted by Chinese visitors. The majority of them, who arrived in African countries, placed themselves in voluntary quarantine to avoid the risk of spreading the virus.

Contagion imported from Europe was the main cause of the spread of the epidemic in Africa. Faced with this evidence, the population is reacting instinctively, accusing the "whites" of having brought the virus and death to their countries. This thought is creating disturbing xenophobia phenomena. The first violence against Westerners is already taking place. In Kinshasa, on Friday March 3, a bus carrying westerners to the international airport to be repatriated was attacked by hundreds of unemployed young people, angry at the "white Coronavirus carriers".

The attempt at lynching was foiled only because a few dozen adults managed to bring the threatening crowd to the reason, calming the dangerous situation. The police did not intervene (perhaps sharing the feelings of the young demonstrators) while the defense of the three policemen inside the bus was poor. Fortunately, there were no casualties. Only the windows of the bus broken by the dense stone throw. Western passengers arrived at the airport in serious shock but unharmed.

In Burundi, a special flight was organized from Belgium on Saturday 4 March to repatriate 112 Westerners and their families. A gesture due to the fact that the government (illegally in power since 2015) for political reasons has chosen to deny cases of contagion in its country by affirming to the population and international media that "Burundi is protected by God by virtue of a holy covenant and therefore he will be spared from the world pandemic ”. This non-intervention decision is justified by the need to respect the calendar of presidential elections scheduled for May which should legitimize the party in power since 2005, through a change of make-up to the Presidency.

Burundian authorities have reacted negatively to the repatriation of Westerners, considered to be a lack of trust in the government. At the international airport they prevented relatives of Burundian origin and mestizo children from being able to leave the country. Difficult negotiations are now underway with various Western Embassies including Belgium. The same authorities have decided not to apply the preventive measures recommended by the WHO to prevent the spread of the infection and prevent civil society and Catholic and Protestant churches from promoting awareness initiatives that have not been decided by the authorities.

While the ruling party organizes meetings and concerts scheduled for the election campaign, thus spreading the contagion, many citizens refuse to go to the hospital as rumors circulate that tested positive patients would run the risk of being arrested by the political police. This information is difficult to verify due to the closure of the country to the outside world implemented by the government since 2016, but which has become a truth between social media and the Burundian population.

The episodes in Congo and Burundi were not the first cases of xenophobia linked to the pandemic and the relationship between the North and the South of the world. On March 14, in Zimbabwe, the head of the Defense Portfolio, during a political meeting in Chinhoyi, (north of the country) accused the United States and the European Union of maintaining economic sanctions despite the global pandemic.

"The West has been imposing economic sanctions on us for twenty years to force us to bend to its will. Even now in this difficult moment of health crisis, sanctions continue, demonstrating the true face of whites. " The statements made by the government official have inflamed the population of Zimbabwe now, extremely hostile towards Westerners even if there have not yet been registered cases of violence.

The attack on the West is clearly instrumental and hides political designs, considering that there are only 10 cases registered to date in Zimbabwe. Yet racial hatred seems to have breached the hearts of the population. The sanctions were imposed ten years ago in response to the brutality of the regime of Robert Mugabe, who died in exile in Singapore on September 6, 2019. His reign had started with the post of Prime Minister in April 1980 followed by the first presidential term in December 1987.

Since then, the "African Dinosaur" had controlled the country by plunging it into a monstrous dictatorship thanks to anti-colonial pseudo Pan African propaganda. In the first decade of 2000, Zimbabwe had collapsed economically, increasing the popular anger that led to the revolutionary movements of 2017. Now in its place is General Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former loyal Dinosaur, who rose to the presidency on November 21, 2017 with a coup against Mugabe. The ex-pupil was reconfirmed as President the following year through elections characterized by countless electoral fraud.

The attack on the West with the aim of getting out of the economic crisis and strengthening the Mnangagwa government through the end of the sanctions has received full support from the African Union. On Saturday March 4, the Office of the Heads of State and Governments of the African Union officially asked the United States and the European Union to end the economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan. Request endorsed by the President of the African Union, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa.

At a meeting held in Nairobi on the management of the world pandemic, various experts raised the alarm cry on the wave of xenophobia against whites that is spreading throughout Africa. Minor cases of xenophobia have occurred in Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. In various other African countries, the belief that Coronavirus is the "disease of whites" is increasing, increasing the hatred and resentment that the African have harbored for over 50 years towards the West.

The Kenyan Minister of Health, Mitahi Kagwe, informed that worrying social phenomena have been observed in Kenya where populations change behavior and relationships according to the interlocutor's racial profile. There is fear and mistrust (which may result in open racism) towards the Chinese but above all towards the Europeans and the Italians. A worrying phenomenon given that the tourism industry in Kenya occupies an important place in the national economy. Along the coast, cities like Malindi and Mombasa are very popular tourist destinations full of Italian tourists.

We appeal to all our citizens urging them not to make racial discrimination against foreigners, whatever their nationality. We do not mistreat our guests, and we behave with kindness and cordiality, as we have always done before the coronavirus "asked Minister Kagwe in a press release.

The Covid-19 pandemic is destined to bring out dormant global problems that have remained unsolved for decades. Among them the relationship between the West and Africa, historically based on an often conflicting and violent Eurocentric dominance. The western attempt to block migratory flows has been added to the failure to develop and robbery of natural resources (often carried out in complicity with African governments regardless of their populations). Attempt that created only human rights violations and a worsening of the fracture between continents. A real ideological contradiction, considering that the West is structured on the ideologies of "free market" and "global village" but at the same time prevents cyclical migratory flows by creating the "Fortress Europe".

The closure of borders, adopted by the majority of African countries in an attempt to prevent or slow down the Covid-10 contagion, inevitably brings to light the precarious North-South relations where xenophobia phenomena occur in both hemispheres. We are in an era where the South of the world (through the emergence of new world powers such as China) is claiming the right to development while the North is claiming the right to supremacy. A right that has become impractical because it is based on the exploitation of the natural resources of poor countries through the use of force, be it military or financial. It is precisely these forces and superiorities that are failing in the West, obstinate in maintaining a supremacy that, perhaps, no longer exists or, at best, is gradually crumbling.

In addition to the fact that the pandemic in Africa for the most part has been "imported" from Europe, there are aggravating and reckless behaviors and declarations that do nothing but fuel the xenophobia of Africans supported by the desire for revenge and sentiment of grudge against those who have plotted (with local accomplices) to prevent the development and a life worthy of millions of people.

Jean-Paul Mira, head of the intensive care unit at the hospital in Cochin, Paris and Camille Locht, director of research at French national institute of health Inserm, proposed to transform Africans into laboratory guinea pigs to test a new Covid-19 vaccine has acted as a detonator of a pre-existing explosive situation dictated by decades of non-development and by the source of contagion in Africa which, unfortunately, is more western than Asian.

Although these infamous claims have been condemned by European governments and the medical and scientific world, they have brought back to the memory of Africans the dozens of illegal and often dangerous experiments carried out on human guinea pigs in Africa precisely by exploiting their poverty, their desperation and complacency and corruption of their governments.

Since the late 1990s, American and European multinationals have experimented with dozens of vaccines and medicines of various types in Africa. It is true that the governments had given the necessary permits and that the "guinea pigs" were informed of the risks by signing legal releases. Unfortunately, it is equally true that the consents given by the governments were often the result of corruption or political subjection while the guinea pigs underwent laboratory tests behind a handful of money to be able to eat or in the hope of saving themselves from horrendous epidemics such as Ebola.

Taking advantage of governments whose ultimate concern is the well-being of their populations, and hundreds of women and men brutally starved and hungry, Western multinationals have tested dozens of vaccines and medicines for AIDS, Ebola and various other diseases. Far from European and American laboratories (strictly regulated), multinationals like Bayer have been able to carry out scientific research free from legal and ethical constraints.

Often the results of these experiments were not satisfactory and various vaccines or drugs were classified as "not effective" or "not compatible with human metabolism". The only detail: the still unknown number of African victims of these tests, whether they have died or suffered from pathologies, genetic mutations and chronic diseases deriving from the 'natural effects ". These crimes (because there is no other term to define them) have gone unpunished. The poor in Africa do not have the money to pay a pool of lawyers and try multinational corporations.

Mira and Locht, in their proposal, forgot to say that civil society, religious congregations and ordinary people in Africa rebelled against the experiments imposed by the multinationals, now putting any compliant ruler who signs the necessary authorizations at serious political risk.

The situation was compounded by Inserm's Twitter, where Lotch works. According to the French institute, the sentences of the two researchers have been extrapolated from the general context by social media. According to Inserm, the debate revolved around the potential use of the BCG vaccine (the vaccine against tuberculosis) in the treatment of Covid-19 starting from the observation that the populations that have undergone mass vaccinations against TB (as in Africa) seem more resistant to the virus.

In publishing these Twitter, Inserm introduced the hashtag #FakeNews, with the clear intention of assimilating the declarations of the two researchers to the world of conspiracy, disinformation. This, in the eyes of the Africans, turned out to be the last and intolerable offense directed against their intelligence. "We will also be poor but not stupid," said a dear friend of mine professor at the Makere University in Kampala. A dear friend who now looks at me with different eyes...

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