Africans Deserting Africans in Distress: Whither African Solidarity?

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In the face of the devastating Ebola crisis that has hit the Mano River basin, particularly Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, many nations around the world, especially in Europe, Asia and the United States, have rallied to the rescue.  These nations have contributed lots of  money, shiploads of health and medical supplies and food, as well as health and medical personnel to help these affected countries defeat the deadly virus.

But the response of the sisterly African nations to the distress of the three Ebola affected countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—has been alarmingly negative and patently un-sisterly.

The first negative response came from the fourth MRU nation, Cote d’Ivoire, which suspended flights of Air Ivoire to the affected countries and even closed its seaport to ships hailing there from.  It is the height of irony that when the Cote d’Ivoire itself was hit by a deadly civil war in 2008, hundreds of thousands of Ivorian refugees fled across the border into Liberia, where they were wholeheartedly welcomed by their  Liberian brothers and sisters and their government.  Liberia helped broker the peace between the refugees and their government in Abidjan, paving the way for thousands to return to their homeland.  There are yet many thousands of Ivorian refugees in Liberia, who have not yet felt it safe enough to return home, and their Liberian hosts and the international community, especially the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), are caring for them.

Yet Ivorian President Alhassan Ouattara did not hesitate to close Cote d’Ivoire’s air, land and sea ports to his three sisterly states in distress.

There is also Senegal, which has also closed its border with Guinea and gone on to restrict landing of any airplane traveling from the three affected countries.

Yet both Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and of the African Union (AU).

We come now to another prominent AU member, South Africa, one of whose citizens happens to be President of the leading, oldest and most prominent organization uniting African nations.

But this fact had no bearing on the South African government, when it decided to close its borders to all traffic emanating from the three affected nations. 

The South Africans have conveniently forgotten the colossal solidarity the whole of Africa, especially Liberia, the oldest independent African state, gave to her Black and Colored brothers and sisters suffering all those decades under the inhumane and often deadly yoke of apartheid.   It is well known the role Liberia played in that struggle and how she reached out to its Liberation Movements, including the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and their leaders.  Some of this is recorded in President Nelson Mandela’s  autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

The South African government has also forgotten the HIV/AIDs epidemic that hit that country some years ago.  We know of NO African nation, most certainly not Liberia,  that restricted South Africans from entry  into their borders for fear of the highly contagious, even deadly disease.

The same swiftness with which Pretoria, one of the better endowed African nations, slammed its sanctions against the three affected nations, could have been tempered with a corresponding gesture of compassion, by making a modest  contribution to their brothers and sisters in distress in the three  affected countries, to help them in their fight against  Ebola.  Alas, none was forthcoming.

All of this leads us to ask, whither, African solidarity? 

A senior European diplomat in Monrovia earlier this week called the Daily Observer to explain how the Europeans and Americans had decided to join forces with the three affected MRU nations constructively in the fight against Ebola and to avoid travel and other  restrictions against them.  He ended his call by exclaiming, “Sorry, my dear friend, for African solidarity.”

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