AFRICA IS NOT FAKE NEWS

“The number of migrants and asylum seekers who arrive in Europe is a small percentage of Africans moving within their continent. They are mostly people who are fleeing conflict, climate change, and the plundering of their land to make room for foreign agricultural multinationals.”

The Vatican’s news agency, Agenzia Fides (14 November 2017) reported on a symposium organised by the Comboni missionaries in Rome, entitled ‘Africa is not fake news’. 

“Migrants from Africa are the victims of a series of global economic and social injustices who call all to work for true justice based on solidarity.” This, according to Agenzia Fides, was the overriding theme of a series of papers delivered at the symposium.

A major fact highlighted at the gathering is that the migration phenomenon primarily regards Africa. Uganda alone, for example, hosts more than a million Sudanese refugees. The number of migrants and asylum seekers who arrive in Europe is a small percentage of Africans moving within their continent. They are mostly people who are fleeing conflict, climate change, and the plundering of their land to make room for foreign agricultural multinationals.

“The phenomenon of migrants that frightens European public opinion is a phenomenon that we [the West] ourselves produce”, pointed out Father Domenico Guarino, a Comboni missionary who, after having worked in Latin America, now works at the community of Palermo supporting and assisting migrants.

One statistic given by Fr. Guarino offered a stark insight into the cause and dimensions of the challenge:

  • Of 30 million hectares of fertile land in the world obtained from so-called “land grabbing”, about half is in Africa.

Luciano Ardesi, a sociologist and expert in land grabbing, said that land grabbing processes have accelerated in the last 10 years, due to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The crisis, he said, resulted in pushing international investors to diversify their investments, and also because of the growing demand for food and the increase in biofuel production.

The phenomenon, the symposium heard, is difficult to monitor with accuracy. This is because most of the contracts between the governments concerned and investors are kept secret. However, some data is known.

Mozambique leads the ranking of African countries affected by the phenomenon:

  • Well over 3 million hectares (10% of its soil) have been rented long-term to multinationals and foreign states.
  • A single contract with a UAE company regarding the granting of 600,000 hectares of cultivable land has caused the displacement of 500,000 peasants who have lost their means of livelihood.

Women are, in turn, the main victims of human trafficking, recalled Sister Gabriella Bottani, Combinian, co-ordinator of Talitha Kum, a worldwide network of consecrated religious against human trafficking. Sr. Bottani recalled that there are trafficked people within Italy, others in neighbouring countries, and those shipped to other continents. According to some estimates, many trafficked Africans were found in 69 nations around the world, including the Americas. It is clear that there are criminal organizations able to mastermind the complexities of global trafficking.

The use of human organs (both for medical purposes and for carrying out “magical” rituals) and prostitution, are the primary reasons of trafficking.

“Hope will come from the awakening of African populations. African solutions to African problems”.

Africa is therefore plundered of its people, its lands and its natural riches. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the main victim of this phenomenon. It is a huge resource of timber, strategic minerals (copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, gold), diamonds and oil. But for the Congolese people, these riches are not a blessing but a curse. Domestic and foreign interests have made the country experience the 32-years of Mobutu’s dictatorship and a period of instability that still persists in order to plunder the country’s resources illegally.

Fr. Elias Sindjalim (Togolese Combinian working in the DRC) pointed out that because of this situation, 86% of the Congolese population is unemployed and those who have a job have very low salaries that have been halved in the last two years due to the depreciation of the national currency. “Hope”, Fr. Elias told Agenzia Fides “will come from the awakening of African populations. African solutions to African problems“.

(L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 14/11/2017)