Tanzania Becomes Sole Beans Producer, Feeding 10 African Countries
AllAfrica.com || Tanzania Daily News, By Hazla Omar || 23 April 2017
Tanzania exports over a million metric tonne of beans to ten countries in Africa as well as India, making it the sole producer of the important legume to millions of people on the continent.
That was revealed here during a special agricultural experts meeting aimed at addressing the issue of 'Unlocking potential of seed companies to reach smallholder farmers with quality seeds for improved bean varieties,' in Northern Zone of Tanzania.
The Country Coordinator for International Centre for Agriculture (ICA), Mr Jean Claude, said the neighbouring country, Kenya, alone imports over 200,000 metric tonnes of beans every year, a consignment which constitutes the country's 50 per cent of legumes consumption.
Mr Claude listed other African countries depending on beans from Tanzania as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but again, India across the ocean, is also a good consumer of Tanzanian grown legumes.
But, while beans grown in Tanzania are exported to more than ten countries in Africa as well as Asia, it was pointed out during the meeting that legume production in the country is still far from being satisfactory and hits well below its actual potential, despite commanding good market share elsewhere.
When it comes to beans production, it is Kigoma and Kagera regions that top the bill with each harvesting an average of 90,000 tonnes per season; other precincts in the top seven include Tanga (50,000 tonnes), Kilimanjaro (45,000 tonnes), Geita (35,000 tonnes), Arusha (35,000 tonnes) and Njombe (20,000 tonnes) regions.
Eleven other regions produce around 10,000 tonnes of beans each. The latest total figure for annual legumes production figure for entire country was not readily available, but the area currently placed under beans cultivation has reached over 1.3 million hectares and that nearly 1.5 million metric tonnes used to be harvested in the last few years.
The Principal National Leguminous Crop Researcher, Mr Papias Binagwa, said the consumption of beans among Tanzanians leaves a lot to be desired because, "the consumption per capita stands 19.6 kilogrammes per year which means a person consumes 60 grams a day, which is almost insignificant," he said.
How to Change Everything - African Women Assess Future Scenarios
AllAfrica.com || 19 April 2017
African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) is partnering with the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG)- a cutting edge public policy think tank based in Ghana- to launch the AWDF Futures initiative on 19 April 2017. The launch will take the form of a gathering at IDEG offices in Accra that brings together analysts, thinkers, donors, creatives, activists and programme implementers.
Participants will explore the questions: what is the future of Africa if seen through the lens of women’s rights? What opportunities and potential crises lie ahead? Are our current strategies appropriate in light of where Africa is headed? Using a futures lens, how do we contribute to shaping the most just, promising and democratic futures for Africa?
The discussion is premised on a belief that the future of women’s rights and opportunities in Africa is central to the future of the continent as a whole, and is thus foundational to discussions and decisions around governance, the economy, politics, and the shape of social and cultural life.
Background to the idea
In 2016, AWDF embarked on a strategic planning process focused on the question of how AWDF and African women’s organisations can contribute to shaping the future of Africa. To ground this, AWDF worked with Kenyan foresight practitioner Katindi Shivi Nyonjo to produce a trends analysis – bringing together the gendered data around Africa’s future trajectories. The resulting report, Futures Africa: Trends for Women by 2030 is the first of its kind, offering both statistics and analysis around key political, economic and social trends, and illuminating gaps in the data needed to accurately plan for the future.
Alongside this empirical process, the AWDF staff team and advisors also worked to generate scenario stories- imaging four possible states for Africa in 2030 from a feminist and woman’s rights perspective. The stories are shaped by an analysis that the key independent drivers of change for women in Africa will be:
shifting demographics (age and migration);
the expansion and use of ICTs,
(geo)political power dynamics;
the nature of education.
The scenario stories have been made into an animation series which will be launched at the Future Africa event.
The launch will take the form of a one-day facilitated meeting aimed at encourage debate, dialogue, and imagination. The goal is to spark new thinking and provide both evidence and creative stories that push us as Africans to think about our current priorities and approaches, and where our collective contributions to Africa’s future are headed. Proceedings will be conducted in English.
About the hosts
The African Women’s Development Fund is a feminist pan-African grantmaking foundation supporting African women’s rights organisations and movements. Through grantmaking, institutional capacity building, advocacy and knowledge generation, AWDF invests in building a world where African women can live with dignity and justice and where there is equality and respect for women’s rights. As the first African women’s fund, AWDF is a grantmaking pioneer and an early leader in building African philanthropy. Since it was founded in 2001, AWDF has awarded more than US$29 million to 1,312 women’s organisations in 42 African countries. AWDF is based in Accra, Ghana.
The Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) is a leading civil society think-tank with a forte in critical political and social analysis, transformative policy advocacy, interface capacity building and high-level policy engagements. An independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan policy research and advocacy institute, IDEG seeks to contribute to the establishment of a just and free society in Ghana, West Africa and beyond.
Council of Churches in South Africa: “relieve the President of his responsibilities, and allow for the healing of the nation"
CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 10 April 2017
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has revisited its year-old statement when the body called on President Jacob Zuma to do some soul-searching and had stated, "It is better for the processes to be initiated or negotiated to relieve the President of his responsibilities, and allow for the healing of the nation".
“This call remains as in-season today as it did a year ago, and the spirit of the statement is in-fact intensified by the various challenges of the last week,” SACC have stated in a media release dated Thursday, April 6 following President Zuma’s decision to reshuffle his cabinet during which he fired the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
SACC is an inter-denominational forum bringing together 36 member churches and organizations with the mission to express, “through proclamation and programmes, the united witness of the church in South Africa, especially in matters of national debate.”
“The President and some in government seem to be afflicted with an objectionable outbreak of numbness, insensitivity and imperviousness to what impacts the lives of poor families and the marginalised of our country,” SACC has stated.
In their statement titled, SOUTH AFRICA – BE HEARD, SACC has encouraged all their “member churches and all people of goodwill and various faiths to find the most suitable way to enable their people to feel heard and participate in the actions of their choice around the country – be it a day of lament and prayer in the many places of worship; or through the public show of solidarity where other South Africans are gathered to register their voice.”
SACC’s statement reinforces that of the Catholic Bishops who, on Tuesday, April 4 called on President Zuma to “reconsider his position” as President.
“As we enter the coming week - the week of the suffering of Christ unto death, we encourage all Christians to mount their pain, anguish and their very tangible fears for South Africa, on the cross of the crucified Christ on Good Friday, believing in faith that the national cry for change has been heard, and that the resurrection of our nation will yet manifest, even as our savior, Jesus Christ is risen,” SACC’s statement reads in part.
“Beyond this, the SACC National Church Leaders Forum will convene on April 20 to further reflect on the broader state of the nation, and strengthen the message of hope in its pastoral role to the people, in order to move us closer to the South Africa We Pray For,” SACC has stated in conclusion.
Below is the full text of SACC’s media release statement
South African Council of Churches (SACC): 6 APRIL 2017
SOUTH AFRICA – BE HEARD: SACC
The South African Council of Churches (SACC), following its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of Wednesday 5 April 2017 has revisited its statement of almost a year ago to the day, on April 8 2016, made with all national religious formations, where it called for introspection on the part of the President of South Africa to ‘do the right thing’, saying that "It is better for the processes to be initiated or negotiated to relieve the President of his responsibilities, and allow for the healing of the nation". This call remains as in-season today as it did a year ago, and the spirit of the statement is in-fact intensified by the various challenges of the last week when the removal of a minister who stands in his way is conducted in a way that guarantees the most negative impacts on the livelihoods of ordinary South Africans not protected by State cushions.
The President and some in government seem to be afflicted with an objectionable outbreak of numbness, insensitivity and imperviousness to what impacts the lives of poor families and the marginalised of our country. Police Minister Mbalula's bellicose jingoism of fire for fire and invoking the Marikana tragedy manifests this governmental insensitivity to the pain of society.
The various mandates and rights of government to govern the country should not normally be in question; however the Church questions unreservedly, the capacity of the government to demonstrate any moral consideration of the people in effecting the decisions it is constitutionally required to make, pointing out numerous contradictions in the intentions behind certain government and Presidential decisions.
In 2015, we witnessed the incredulous ‘fire-pool’ demonstration at the President’s private residence. Later that year, the Church spoke out at the attempt to hoodwink the South African public through the ‘redeployment’ of Nhlanhla Nene to a post at the BRICS Bank that has yet to materialise. The Nation endured two years of the President's obdurate refusal to accede to the Public Protector's remedial instructions and pay for his private Nkandla benefits, only for him to tell the Constitutional Court that he'd always wanted to pay. And while on the one hand last week we were told of an ‘Intelligence Report’ exposing a gross conspiracy and a very much treasonable plot on the part of Pravin Gordhan; yet on the other hand we are today expected to believe that there were irreconcilable differences of opinion between Gordhan and President Zuma that motivated his dismissal. The ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach to the justification of decision making processes insults the intelligence of the people and the snowball effect of the too-numerous-to-mention examples of these instances has served as the catalyst for the unification of the people of South Africa against this leadership.
Where those elected into positions of leadership disregard and undermine their responsibility towards the protection of the interests of the people, those people can choose to exercise their collective moral conscience, and this has found full expression in their choice to host numerous activities lead both by the Church and civil society.
We would encourage all our member churches and all people of goodwill and various faiths to find the most suitable way to enable their people to feel heard and participate in the actions of their choice around the country – be it a day of lament and prayer in the many places of worship; or through the public show of solidarity where other South Africans are gathered to register their voice. With peaceful intentions, let all South Africans exercise their right to speak and be heard, without fear of intimidation and violence.
As we enter the coming week - the week of the suffering of Christ unto death, we encourage all Christians to mount their pain, anguish and their very tangible fears for South Africa, on the cross of the crucified Christ on Good Friday, believing in faith that the national cry for change has been heard, and that the resurrection of our nation will yet manifest, even as our savior, Jesus Christ is risen.
Beyond this, the SACC National Church Leaders Forum will convene on April 20 to further reflect on the broader state of the nation, and strengthen the message of hope in its pastoral role to the people, in order to move us closer to the South Africa We Pray For.
SCBC President Calls for Peace as Tribute to Late South Sudanese Bishop Deng, One Month after His Demise
CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 06 March 2017
One month since the death of Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak of the Catholic diocese of Wau in South Sudan, the President of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro of Tombura-Yambio diocese has called on the citizens of the late Bishops’ administrative region to work for peace as a tribute to Bishop Deng.
Bishop Barani made the call in “An Open Letter of Hope and Peace to the Elders of Greater Bahr El Ghazal” dated Thursday, April 6.
“I am writing to you this letter first to thank all the people of South Sudan for giving a dignified burial for Bishop Rudolf and in a special way to ask for another way, very simple but central, to pay tribute to Bishop Rudolf Deng – that is Peace,” Bishop Barani has said.
“Let us from now on pay tribute to Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak’s memory by being Ambassadors for Peace, first in Wau State, second in Greater Bahr El Ghazal and thirdly throughout South Sudan,” Bishop Barani’s letter says.
Bishop Deng died Monday, March 6, at a relative’s residence in the city of Siegburg, Germany, while awaiting an operation that had been scheduled for Tuesday, March 14. He was aged 76.
“The best gift we can give him forever is being part of the reconstruction, reconciliation, and reintegration, regeneration of our country, ravaged by the war waged by us and against ourselves,” SCBC President went on to say.
SCBC brings together Catholic Bishops of the seven dioceses of South Sudan and the two dioceses of Sudan.
Below is the full statement of Bishop Barani’s open letter a month after Bishop Deng’s demise.
N. 00020/CDTY/0017 April 6, 2017
Dear beloved Elders of Greater Bahr El Ghazal,
Ref. An Open Letter of Hope and Peace to the Elders of Greater Bahr El Ghazal
It is exactly one full month when the worst happened to us, the passing on of our beloved Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak of the Catholic Diocese of Wau. We must continue to celebrate Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak. The wound inflicted by his death remains deep and raw and so, as we pray for him, we carry in prayer those for whom his death has left a painful void: the Catholic Diocese of Wau, the family, the people of Greater Bahr El Ghazal, the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, circle of friends and the people of South Sudan.
We surely hold in sadness and with a deep sense of loss. We come before God with empty hands, aware of our need for God’s healing. Over one month now, the enormity of what happened with the death of Bishop Deng Majak has slowly come home to us. ‘The people that walked in darkness’ – that Isaiah speaks of – describes the journey we have made during this one month (March 6th – April 6th); it has been a time of disbelief, shock, loneliness and grief. We struggled – and continue to struggle – to make sense of Bishop’s untimely death.
However, Isaiah goes on to say that ‘the people who walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone’. Where, for Isaiah, does the light come from? He says, in a phrase that we know well: 'For there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid upon his shoulders’.
For Christians this promise of a light coming to those who walk in darkness was fulfilled in the birth of the child Jesus. This is why St John describes Him as ‘a light’: All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men and women, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower.
In spite of all that has happened and all its impact, we continue to believe that Jesus, the light of the world, has accompanied us at every step. He has given us strength to carry a heavy cross; He has opened His compassionate heart to us; He has been close to us when we turned to Him in prayer; He has listened to our prayers for ourselves and for each other.
I am writing to you this letter first to thank all the people of South Sudan for giving a dignified burial for Bishop Rudolf and in a special way to ask for another way, very simple but central, to pay tribute to Bishop Rudolf Deng – that is Peace.
Let us from now on pay tribute to Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak’s memory by being Ambassadors for Peace, first in Wau State, second in Greater Bahr El Ghazal and thirdly throughout South Sudan.
The best gift we can give him forever is being part of the reconstruction, reconciliation, and reintegration, regeneration of our country, ravaged by the war waged by us and against ourselves.
Today April 6, 2017 clocks one full month since Bishop Deng Majak left us; hence I boldly take this solemn occasion to make an earnest appeal first and foremost to the people who come from Greater Bahr El Ghazale, all political leaders and organizations to recognize the urgency and gravity of the situation.
The situation of suffering, death, hunger, hate, revenge killings, huge internal displacement, very poor level of tolerance I saw two weeks ago in the historical city of Wau dragged me into uncontrollable tears. It was not the Wau I knew in the 'eighties where people were identified by the beauty and greatness of Wau.
When we were laying Bishop Deng Majak to rest, I appealed to you the great daughters and sons of Greater Bahr Ghazal to reread your history to appreciate the spiritual, cultural and political richness Wau has had. The people of Bahr El Ghazal have a rich history which has hugely and significantly influenced the entire nation of South Sudan. Please stop, retreat and move together to solve the problem at hand.
It demands of all of us that we act with real respect for human life. It demands that those who still sponsor anger, hate, segregation and violence against one another end such meaningless projects or ideas.
It demands new initiatives to move Greater Bahr El Ghazal and our country forward to freedom as quickly as possible. With this letter I am indeed consulting leaders of civil society, religious leaders, community organizations, business, cultural and other leaders in Greater Bahr El Ghazal to sieze an opportunity on such initiatives.
Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak was your beloved Bishop of the Greater Bahr El Ghazal, please honour him by working hand in hand, each and everyone of you for peace! It is because of this motive that I have chosen to send you this peace-seeking letter.
The people of Greater Bahr El Ghazal should draw their strength from each other as one people. You have common humanity, heritage, history and you are socially interwoven. At his funeral I saw one people, I did not see Fertit, Dinka nor Jur but one people of Wau, who are one, with mixed cultural values by their great history, also by blood. Over the death of Bishop Deng Majak you have shown your care, determination, respect, pride, unity, greatness of Wau, your courage, your love of freedom.
Wau your historical city is now at a very pitiful situation caused to it by her own children. I urge you to consider what has happened and act. I ask you to help stop as soon as possible the spiral cycle of violence, targeted killings, suffering, the spirit of displacement and hate which is now dominating the once great people of Wau.
These losses of youth, children, women, men and elders alike are not occurring in a context of war but sustained act of violence motivated by hate. The attack on innocent civilians seriously undermines all confidence in the one great people of Wau. The killings must stop. The Intellectuals, Elders, Generals, Army, Organized forces, Religious leaders, community leaders, politicians, you have power to change the course of things for the better.
At the core of the crisis within South Sudan’s war-affected communities and regions is the desire to acquire power and secure resources for one group of elites or one ethno-national group at the expense of others. In our current society for example, the country has become fragmented in many directions with government and armed groups on opposite sides. The issue of identity has mixed with culture, heritage and the control of economic resources to create a base of political tension and violence. This activity has undermined the social fabric of our society or nation.
The effects of these conflicts in terms of refugee flows into neighbouring countries and the emergence of internally displaced persons (IDPs) now in the great Wau City, have locked communities as prisoners in churches and UN compounds.
In all of these cases, violence has led to the breakdown of our beloved homes. Human lives have been lost. Infrastructure has been destroyed, education and health services have suffered, and the environment has been damaged. The ties that link people together (Belanda-Bongo-Jur-Dinka-Banya, Golo-Shere-Azande,etc), have been broken, social solidarity has collapsed and political tension has been highly generated. In addition, socio-economic development has also been severely retarded as a result of the bloodshed and destruction caused by conflicts.
If we are looking for reasons why these conflicts have plagued our beloved country South Sudan, we do not need to look any further than into ourselves, especially the leaders. Competing self-interested political and military elites have made use of the divisions and legacies of the past malice.
It is not all bad news from about us as South Sudanese, however. There is enough reason for hope. We have witnessed relative peace, development and economic growth after our national independence shortly in 2011.
I am appealing to you Elders of Greater Bahr El Ghazale in the spirit of the called for National Dialogue to take lead in finding immediate solution to the suffering in Wau and other parts. Something must be done to change the dynamic and preserve the possibility of peaceful resolution.
“Asks” in Light of Events:
As one of the largest power blocs in South Sudan, also as Elders of the region, you have a moral obligation to take action as this situation is disgraceful. The stability of the Historical Wau city, the whole Bahr El Ghazal region and the entire country is hanging in a delicate balance.
I ask that you:
– convene multiple searches for peace by engaging all stakeholders in various communities concerned without pre-conditions. All the processes must be inclusive so that no stone be left unturned in finding solution to the problem urgently at hand.
– Support all groups who sincere seek peace through activities of reconciliation and healing. Allow room for people to speak out and create the ability of listening! If possible you can permit an independent investigation into atrocities carried out by the community against each other and to hold the perpetrators accountable.
– Collectively as Elders of the community in the area you should be seen together publicly voicing unequivocal condemnation of revenge killings, violence which target civilians, and use of hate speech which sponsor tribal sentiments!
– Call urgently for immediate robust humanitarian intervention for the starving people in and outside Wau. There is high desire to encourage the authority to open roads and support aid workers and safe delivery to the needed population. Any failure to provide enough food staff this season will bring serious consequences for the hungry population.
- Call for use of stronger measures of actions to prevent or stop killings of any sort but work more on reconciliation and healing of the wounded society. I strongly encourage that the moral authority of the Elders can be felt and will introduce some significant and meaningful breakthrough on this extremely troubling reality for the suffering communities.
How can our Cultural values of Bhar El Ghazal assist Peace-building?
Elders let me bring you also before I conclude this letter by referring you to one of the riches which you are endowed with. I repeat you have the strength, the power, the influence and obligation to use whatever you have at hand to solve the problems facing the people in Wau and other parts of Bahr El Ghazal.
As you are urged to seek ways and means to solve your problems, you cannot ignore the role that culture can play in enabling you as a people to resolve your disputes and to strengthen the ties that bind you together. People derive their sense of meaning from their culture. What does it mean to be human? What is – or ought to be – the nature of human relations? These notions feed into the attitudes and values that we choose to embrace, which in turn determine how we interact with each other. Cultural attitudes and values throughout the history of the people of Wau State and adjacent regions, therefore, have provide the foundation for the social norms by which you as people exist and live. Through internalizing and sharing these cultural attitudes and values with fellow community members, and by handing them down to future generations, societies can – and do – re-construct themselves on the basis of a particular cultural image.
For Wau State to live and prosper, we must come together! In order to re-establish social solidarity in our war-affected community, a key step would be to find a way for members of these communities to ‘re-inform’ themselves of their rich history of co-existence with a cultural logic that emphasizes sharing and equitable resource distribution. This, in effect, means emphasizing the importance of reviving progressive cultural attitudes and values that can foster a climate within which peace can flourish.
God’s Guidance for Christians in the time of Violence:
My beloved people of Greater Bahr El Ghazal, I write to you as one of your Bishops in South Sudan and above all of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio. The Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio was born of Bahr El Ghazal, it means you are our grandparents in Faith. So I want invite you to seek answers to the current conflict in Jesus Christ in whom the majority of you believe. I wish conflict among Christians were a relatively insignificant problem. I wish we who believe in Jesus could experience the unity he commended to us (John 17:20-24). I wish there wasn’t animosity within communities of believers, in societies, in churches, etc.
But all of this is, I admit, wishful thinking. The fact is that Christians often have a hard time getting along with each other. This has been true from the earliest days of the church. The Apostle Paul, who planted the church in Corinth, wrote what we call 1 Corinthians to the believers there principally because of internal conflict in the church. By the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the tension was largely between Paul and his church.
Perhaps one of the most discouraging things about studying church history, from the first century onward, is to see just how often Christians have been mired in disputes and strife. Sometimes, in our worst moments, we have actually put to death fellow community members who even are Christians. Not a happy story, not at all.
This was not what Jesus intended, to be sure. In his famous “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed:
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
A little earlier, Jesus had said to his disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). To be sure, there are times when followers of Jesus do love each other in an exemplary way. But, far too often, such love is marred by conflict, tension, and outright meanness. And, far too often, we have not dealt with these problems in a loving way.
Therefore, God does not keep a record of our wrongs in that, after he deals with them through the cross, and after we confess and are forgiven, God chooses to look upon us as if we had not sinned. At first he does keep a record of wrongs, however, calling us to account for what we have done that is contrary to his will. But in the end his mercy triumphs as the record of wrongs is nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).
Where does this leave us in our effort to imitate God’s love by not keeping a record of wrongs? Well, it does not mean that we should simply pretend as if a wrongdoing hasn’t happened. (Sure, we should ignore trivial, unintended offenses at times, but this isn’t the main point of our text.) When someone has wronged us, there needs to be an accounting for this wrong. The offender needs to acknowledge the offense so that there can be reconciliation. Ignoring or rationalizing or minimizing sin is yet another form of sin, and must be avoided.
In conclusion I want to thank you for reading this letter and doing something about it. Please pay attention to it and we shall be saved! I also register my sincere thanks to His Excellency the President Salva Kiir and all the government officials for the enormous support they gave us during the funeral of Rudolf Deng. I thank all Cooperating Partners, Dioceses, Ecumenical Bodies, Priests, Religious Brothers and Sisters, the choir and various Church groups, the Lay Faithful and people of good will for your comforting messages of condolence and support-both financial and material.
Let us all live to remember Bishop Rudolf as one who was naturally kind-hearted, friendly, cheerful, and always available to everyone. May God reward him by welcoming him into His heavenly Kingdom!
May the Soul of Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak rest in eternal peace! Be sure of my prayers for you all!
God bless you!
Sincerely yours’ in Christ,
Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio &
President of Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference
African Students No Longer at Ease in India
AllAfrica.com || By Rasna Warah || 02 April 2017
The brutal mob attack on a group of Nigerian students in a shopping mall in the city of Greater Noida has generated a lot of discussion about how Africans in India are treated.
Although the government has condemned the attack, the incident has once again raised the issue of racism in India.
Africans studying in India report being routinely discriminated against by shopkeepers and landlords.
Residents complain that African students fail to assimilate into Indian culture and are responsible for introducing bad habits, such as alcohol and drug abuse, into their society.
Media reports indicate that the Nigerians were attacked because it was believed that they supplied drugs to an Indian man who died of an overdose.
However, past incidents indicate that often Africans are blamed for crimes they have not committed.
Last year, a Tanzanian woman in Bangalore was harassed and nearly stripped naked by a mob after a Sudanese man allegedly ran his car over a woman.
Ironically, the latest incident occurred not long after an Indian engineer was shot dead by a white racist in a bar in Kansas, United States.
That murder generated a lot of furore among Indians in India and America, many of whom favoured Donald Trump's presidency, but who are now having second thoughts about his paranoia-fuelled racist policies that threaten to keep the majority of the world's people, including Indians, from entering the US.
The attacks in Greater Noida and Kansas may have been racially motivated, but they are occurring at a time when ultranationalism and hatred of "the other" are being associated with patriotism in both India and the US.
As one Indian commentator noted, India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s hypernationalistic "Hindutva" ideology has found common cause with Trumpism.
This ideology is fuelled by ignorance. Last week, at a seminar titled, "Connectivity Revisited: India, Kenya and the Indian Ocean", hosted by the Indian High Commission in Kenya, many participants lamented that both Indians and Kenyans have little knowledge of each other's cultures and history.
Yet, India and the East African coast have had trade links for centuries.
When Vasco da Gama arrived in Mombasa in the 15th century, Indians had already established trading positions there.
In the 19th century, most of the commerce in Zanzibar was controlled by Indians.
With the building of the Uganda Railway at the beginning of the 20th century, the East African interior opened up to Indian trade.
Indians also took up clerical and other posts in the British colonial administration. Later, some participated in the struggle for independence.
The descendants of these pioneer Indians are found today across all East Africa.
However, while the history of East African Indians has been widely documented, little is known about the many Africans who went to India and settled there.
People of African descent known as the Sidis have been living in the Indian state of Gujarat for centuries.
Also known as the "African Sufis of Gujarat", the Sidis are known for their Africa-inspired music and dance called Sidi Goma, which they have performed in various parts of the world, including Zanzibar and Kenya.
It is believed that the Sidis' origins lie in East Africa; many of their songs are peppered with Kiswahili words.
Even less known is the fact that many Africans were coopted into India's aristocracy since the 14th century.
These former slaves came mainly from Ethiopia and Sudan and were taken to India by Arab slave traders who sold them to kings, rich merchants and aristocrats.
However, not all of them remained slaves. Some rose through the ranks to become nobles and generals.
One of them, Malik Ambar, a slave-turned-general, held a prominent position in the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in western India in the 17th century.
Evidence of Africans playing a role in India's history can be found in an exhibition of paintings that depict Africans participating in various events, not as slaves but as important members of royal Mughal courts.
The exhibition titled "Africans in India: A Rediscovery", which was recently held in New Delhi and New York, shows that unlike African slaves in the Americas, many African slaves in India rose to hold military and other positions.
For their descendants, however, social mobility has not been easy; they are still classified as among one of India's marginalised "scheduled tribes".