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Page last updated at 07:40 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 08:40 UK

African viewpoint: Why UK election matters

British National Party leader Nick Griffin (left) talks to local resident Suzan Olivacchi (right) as her daughters look on during a campaign tour in Dagenham
The British National Party campaigned to keep Britain white - they lost

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Zimbabwean filmmaker and columnist Farai Sevenzo reflects on the recent election in Britain and why it matters to Africans - even if they are just passing through.

There's a truth rarely acknowledged over in Western capitals that, with the internet and 24-hour rolling satellite news, we Africans are always more informed about them than they are about us.

The topic remained hanging like an unwelcome relative rattling the gate in the rain while everyone pretends to be deaf

Even if you're in a hotel in Johannesburg, Nairobi, Windhoek, Abuja, Libreville or wherever, you will know from the television news airing there but based in Atlanta, London, Paris, Lisbon or Doha that a dangerous oil spill has been shattering the lives of billions of sea creatures, or that a general election in Britain has thrown up the kind of drama we sometimes see in our own countries.

In London the other day, 13 years of a Labour government ended with far less sparkle than they began and Prime Minister Gordon Brown was forced to give up power to a couple of 40-somethings who had not won the election either.

Of course we have witnessed other people's elections before - and we all remember George W Bush in Florida in 2000, or Iran's President Ahmadinejad and then there was President Karzai in Afghanistan - all being appointed under dubious circumstances.

And while we wait for elections in Burundi, Ethiopia and Rwanda, we can see examples all over the world - from present-day Thailand to past-day Zimbabwe - that say this democracy loaf can be a little half-baked and can throw up all manner of fermentations which may not be good for our health.

Drama drama

The expired Labour government loved an African photo opportunity - there was Blair in Sierra Leone, there was Brown pressing the flesh of Aids sufferers in Uganda or funding schools in Mozambique - and pop stars were recruited to spread the word of a caring former colonial power.

What can we expect from this new British coalition government which has joined the ranks of political marriages similar to those we witnessed in Nairobi and Harare?

The recent elections in the UK had their own drama - thankfully short of guns and the body counts of protesters or activists.

But drama nonetheless.

Polish manual workers wait on a street corner for employment in West London
Poles are part of the new breed of immigrants coming to Britain

And it matters who's running what in Western capitals because our national debts, our donor communities, our huge African migrant populations will all be affected by a change of government in one capital or another.

The new Prime Minister, David Cameron, is telling us all of a new kind of politics, which has made him hold hands with the party that came third - Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats - in order to have a big enough majority to run the country during the storm of this global recession.

Rattling the gate

These two men were both very expensively educated, and while the man who came third had not a single person of African origin running as a member of parliament during the campaign, he professed a desire to give the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants here a blanket amnesty so that they could openly contribute to the needy UK economy by being legal.

Mr Cameron had several people of African origin running for him and he confessed on national television to having once met a black man from Plymouth who told him that immigration was out of control.

But last Tuesday when the Liberal-Conservative coalition was formed they decided against this blanket amnesty for immigrants and are currently feeling their way around the problem and are expected to disagree a great deal over the next few years.

The truth of the modern global world is that many of us are everywhere at once - whether we are landing in Europe via dangerous people traffickers and leaking boats, or in exploding aeroplanes.

None of the candidates during the campaign could answer questions on immigration convincingly, and the topic remained hanging like an unwelcome relative rattling the gate in the rain while everyone pretends to be deaf.

Not just

At the last count in the 2001 census, about half a million Africans were said to be living in the UK, but that's nine years ago before the wars and so before the asylum-seekers, before the European Union eased the movements of Africans from Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal's wide expanses of colonial ownership.

Opposition party supporters chant their grievances near to a burning barricade, in Kisumu, western Kenya [file photo: 16 Jan 2008]
The UK elections took a dramatic turn of events but without violence

The detention centres of Oakington, Campsfield, Harmondsworth and Yarl's Wood remain full of Africans awaiting deportation but the hospitals are also full of African medical professionals.

And it is not just doctors and nurses.

There are teachers and academics, parents and grandchildren all keeping alive the dying economies back home with their remittances and of course you will find Africans in the armies of our host nations too.

And should someone one day harness this huge block of votes in the service of one party or another, the overall majority needed to run the country may become more of a certainty.

Since the days of Jomo Kenyatta, Kamuzu Banda or Kwame Nkrumah back in the 1950s, Britain's former African Empire has been coming here.

And when we go back even further, you will find Africans in uniform in the first and second world wars.

Blatant prejudices

Yet the immigration arguments that provided much of the drama of this election seem to have taken an eraser to such a history; and that is because since the European Union became a union, a new breed of immigrant has been landing on these shores from Eastern Europe.

Even the defeated Labour could bask in the glory of victory over such misguided politics in Britain's changing social landscape

They arrived with their skins as their passports, lacking in historical connections to the African continent, with their cold war prejudices and the murders of African students in cities such as Moscow in their headlines.

Could this new breed be what Mr Cameron's black man from Plymouth was complaining about?

And could he have known that Mr Cameron's partners in the EU are parties with a disturbing right-wing and, some would say, fascist bias?

Ugandans holding their passports and praying for visas
Many from across the continent think of themselves as just passing through

Still, Africans should be grateful that in an election where certain parties were standing on the issue of kicking out anyone who cannot trace their roots to pure Britishness, the old parties won the day.

'Wicked, horrible, stupid'

Even the defeated Labour could bask in the glory of victory over such misguided politics in Britain's changing social landscape.

Over in a place called Dagenham, the British National Party were campaigning to keep Britain white.

The leader of this party - Nick Griffin - said it was like campaigning in central Nairobi because there were so many African faces there.

He later admitted that he has never been to central Nairobi but he imagines it is like that.

Another member of his party, one Richard Edmonds, showed even more robust imagination when a white woman refused to take his election leaflets.

"Maybe she's got a black kid, you see?" he said.

"Or maybe her sister's got a black kid - that I think is always the explanation around here. Once they go with blacks, they're part of the black tribe. Wicked, horrible, stupid. I've seen it many, many times."

Because politics offers such extremes - between those who do nothing to protect us and those who do everything to harm us, most Africans preferred to think of themselves as just passing through, and did not vote.


Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

The west has a preset mind vis-a-vis Africans deeply rooted in colonialism and those of Africans are of lesser stock. Whilst they are aggrieving our African brothers and sisters with draconian immigration laws they are busy bludgeoning Africans resources, an old case of Bleeding a leech to fatter a heifer. Be that as it may, its up to us people to reinvest in our land, our cottage industry et al. The dependence on the west has to stop.
Fanuel Oweke, Dubai, UAE

HARSH REALITY!!!!!
Africans should stop complaining about another man's land, let us repair our own, and return to our motherland, we complain about Racism, is tribalism and ethic cleansing not worse in Africa? has Mick Griffin and BNP gathered blacks in Dagenham and killed them? We have no moral right to judge the west, when Africa a land of plenty can not sustain its children, we should be ashamed. if you can not co-exist with the whites, then maybe its time to return to Africa, Can you? Africa problem has never been colonialism, (every country in world was colonised) but us Africans, our greed, and the hate for ourselves. until Africans begin to love each other as one, no matter our social status, there will be no hope. Our birth right is back home, not in the western world... Africans wakeup!!!!!!!
Iyke Omezi, London

I find your comments on eastern european 'immigrants' quite derogatory and also factually incorrect. Those travelling from outside of the EU are immigrants, we contribute a great deal to the economy of the UK, by bringing valuable skills and expertise....just ask anybody who has had a bathroom or toilet or extension adapted into their homes.
Vuddja Liketorimmame, London

i enjoyed reading the article wish i could write like that, this is not a race issue even in my country there is a huge dislike of other Africans.
victor rapulane, pretoria, south africa

Britain need not look south for the source of its immigration problem - it's in Eastern Europe. The reason why Africa is being pinpointed is because you can spot us much more easily. Any black man walking the streets of London is either the son or grandson of an immigrant, or one himself. But Poles, Slovaks, Romanians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Slovenians, and others bear no features that distinguish them from their British neighbours. I am an immigrant from California, where I was born and raised, but here some people assume I'm an asylum seeker from Nigeria. (Why there are any asylum seekers from Nigeria today is a questionable anyway).

Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands brought their troubles on themselves. In an attempt to compete with America political and economic dominance, they scrambled together to create a superstate. However they forgot that there was something that had to be sacrificed in order to being the wealthiest political entity on earth - borders, sovereignty, amongst other things. Some believed earlier on that immigration from the east was a more palatable alternative to black and brown newcomers. No one expected entire nations to empty out into the west. Let's face it. Immigration from Africa never has and never will be a problem. Visa requirements are the strictest against Africans. Africa actually has a lower per capita emigration (or travel) rate than the other continents. We are just being used as the face of a problem Britain has recently found itself. If you expelled all the Africans from Britain, you would still have an immigration problem. But you can't scare English grandmothers with photos of people who look like their babies.
Kelechi, London

Mr Farai's article is very poignant and full of wit. The debate over immigration is one that is felt all over the west. Until western countries stop considering immigration as a battle against the "other" then there will no harmony or room for social cohesion. im sorry but, integration has already happened, you have Africans who have adjusted to their "western" lifestyles. we are here and those of us who have spent 20 or so years living here paying taxes, being part of society have that the same rights as any other citizen. we speak the language, we adapt cultures we vote, we should be recognized. There must be room for multiple identities especially in this modern global world.
Hamdi, CanadaViaKenya

when things happened it makes me think many thing. i dont understand people sometime, some people prefer to receive a dog in their house and shut their door to their fellow human beings all because black.
dom, london

Do you remember that the sun never sets on the British Empire. The west have to wake up and smell the coffee, with the understanding that the human race destine is tied together. The west has become like a "honey cone", if you take the cone and the queen been the bees will follow. As long as the west in the business of taken the resources of the Africa Continent with without any substantial development on the continent or will not pay market price, and continue to keep the best minds they are in for a very big surprise. The Africans will get to these western capitals to find better living conditions. The west must know that gone are the days when they created boogiemen (strong military government) to scare and keep the Africans in line. Civilians are organizing themselves and getting raid of the western stoogies. On the other hand these western capitals do not know or refused to know much labour it entails to extract the materials resources they use to build/cushion their economy with. Robert Nesta Marley stated " you can fool some people all the time, but you can fool all the people all the time" The internet is a powerful tool that is performing wonders. I saw how the Greek's economy went underwater and how the west came to the rescue with cheap loans and there are parallel stories in Africa that western capitals do not care about. However, they continue to exploit the African continent for her human and material resources, but they do want to make available technologies to the Africans to development their continent. The issue of immigration is an old political tool with a new spin. There are truly jobs in these western capitals that the average citizens are not will to do and are done by immigrants. I call them the wheels that grease these western economies. The immigrants are no long trying to belong to these western countries, instead they are using their hard earned dollars/pounds to see if they can affect development/change on the African Continent for the better. This is where immigration is becoming a liabilities to the west.
T. Chuku Welwolo, South Plainfield, NJ, USA

if am right about this debate, i like looking ahead because we cannot change or correct history. if you look at the last election in the UK much was centred around immigration and the economy. as a black person living in the UK i feel the conservatives claim on cupping immigration is cheap politics because the statistics on immigration show that immigration outside europe has fallen while immigration within the EU to the UK is up significantly. this is not about who should come to the UK and who should live, this is about understanding the reason behind why large numbers of people have migrated to the UK. how do we fix the problem especially, with an african understanding? my answer is reform the united nations by allowing african, asian ,european, american equal representation. i would like to see sanctions imposed on any country or individuals selling weapons to troubled countries. countries like switzerland and other tax havens should be held accountable because this countries allow african dictators to hide their wealth there and without such havens, these dictators would have no reason to stash there looted wealth abroad, and hence these dictators would have no other option but to allow democratic political reform. its well known that western leaders, play a blind eye especially where their business interests are not interrupted by their host countries. in fact i believe western countries help these dictators in power for their own business interests. they say what comes are goes around. africans flee their countries for these reasons. lastly western companies operating in africa strive of competition from local industries. by giving political leaders a share of ownership in their multi-billion industries. for example, kenya where there is only 1 brewing company since independence and this is one of the main reason of high unemployment - this is just a tip of an african iceberg.
abdi, london

Britain or Europe is not Africa's problem but our excuse. We can never blame our failures or past failures on colonialism though it had a part to play. As an African living in the UK, I strongly think this article has been unfair on the British perception regarding extending its good will around the world. When we sought for independence what we were asking for was RESPONSIBILITY and when we failed we should blame ourselves and not others and solve our problems as sovereign nations. The whole idea of this article brings to mind the injustices in our society which is always aimed at one and not many. We have a choice to move forward and chart a course that will put everyone on a level playing field. We cannot model a continent on frail ideologies of corrupt dictators and leaders - when we make the likes of Gaddafi, Mugabe and the rest as the billboard or 'poster boys' of African democracy. The blame game led Zimbabwe to the current ruins it's in when they hijacked and abused the right of their people in the name of liberating the masses from white minority dominance or rule just to enrich some selfish ambition. We have been here before and I think it is time we emulate good examples. On the election, the much criticised coalition government in the UK only took less than a week to form a government unlike what have we had seen in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Are we now going to blame the UK on our electoral shortcomings again - bear in mind they also had people who did not vote and they did not go burning down houses. This is the 21st century we can no longer hide our heads.
Gabriel Okodoa, Bolton, Uk

TO MY MIND, MR FARAI'S HAVE AN ATOM OF TRUTH. HE CAN BE A GOOD HISTORIAN, HE TOUCHES EVERY PART OF HISTORY. I LIKE HIS COMMENT. IT IS MARK OF DISRESPECT TO CALL SOMEBODY NAME LIKE YOU (BLACK MAN FROM PLYMOUTH). MR CAMERON SHOULD WITHDRAW HIS COMMENT. THE LIB-DEMOCRAT SUGGESTED AMNESTY TO EVERYONE AND IT WAS RULES AGAINST BY MR CAMERON, BECAUSE, I QUOTE SOMEBODY TOLD HIM THAT BLACK MAN IS THE PROBLEM. MR CAMERON SHOULD UNDERSTAND THAT SOME AFERICAN VOTED FOR HIM. ANYBODY THAT RISE AGAINST THE ANOINTED ONE WILL FAIL.MR CAMERON SHOULD KNOW THAT THE BEST WAY IS TO GIVE AMNESTY TO EVERYBODY,S O THAT THEY WILL HELP TO DEVELOPED THE COUNTRY, BY PAYING THEIR TAX, E.T.C.
Emmanuel Ezenwa, Dublin

Inept leadership, religious intolerance & corruption will no doubt continue to underdevelop Africa for instance Nigeria. Africans will continue to be the highest asylum seekers & migrants who want to leave their country by any necessary means just like Mexican to USA. The solution is for Britain, Europe & USA to initiate a MARSHALL-LIKE political & economic programme to develop & liberate Africa from impoverished poverty. Otherwise they will continue to migrate to Europe, Britain & USA bringing along their bad habits & experience that lower standard of living in this so-called developed world. For instance, some of the Muslim will migrate with their parochial brainwashed religious doctrine in a democratic world. The present calibre of African Leaders are not patriotic enough to liberate & develop Africa. Africa needs a second re-colonization by stronger economies to make it conducive for living. Nigeria for instance with her oil wealth has the poorest populations that live below standard. No electricity, water, healthcares, roads & security for life & property. Africa needs total orientation & change. Otherwise her population will continue looking for avenue to get out this man made impoverished continent. Thanks.
Edmund Mushay Ezurike, Owerri Imo-State Nigeria

Euro-centric imperialism in its greatest display. Why would they learn about us or even be informed about our daily news. The euro-centric media only paint us as poverty enslaved savages dying of Aids, Hunger and misery. The current geopolitical landscape is OK for them because it ensures continuous resource flow from the source (Africa) to the sinks (West). African immigration has now become an issue. This is really a joke. Europeans did not consider immigration when they willing plundered and dehumanized the African people during the slave era and colonial periods, a process continuing today in its many facets, talks of free trade zones, globalization, help me name the rest. Pillaging resources from an area to benefit euro-centric imperialism and not trying to solve economy sustainability of the area next generations is understood as democratic and requires no attention from the media. The draw down effects of this economic racketeering has just begun, wait till Africans leaders become intellectually decolonized and have a major say in resource allocation. A particular conundrum is why after all this political dehumanization, economic adventures through various aids and international programs African nations still yearns for euro-centric solutions to their problems. let us play the idle role also. Focus more on our own problems, people and economy. We Africans need afro-centric solutions to our problems.
Jude Agho, Cameroon

My ethnic origin is "white British", however I am married to a beautiful "black British" Nigerian (British as her father had emigrated many years before and got citizenship, before returning to Nigeria where she was born before the rules changed) and have two wonderful sons (who of course are officially "mixed race"). I attend a church which is predominantly "black" (mainly West African). Presumably the BNP consider me a "race traitor" but only about 3% of the population at most support them. The number of "mixed" marriages (white/black; white/Asian; black/Asian) is increasing rapidly and few people are actively racist. Many, however, are concerned that the UK has a disproportionately large intake of immigrants from many sources and that many aspects of British society are being altered as a direct consequence of this, and some of that fear would appear to be correct. Many of African and Asian origin have the same concerns particularly at a time when jobs are much scarcer. The only way of restricting immigration from the EU is by leaving that body, which will not happen. There is also a sense of unfairness that a significant minority of immigrants are illegals: sometimes failed asylum seekers, sometimes simply those who have overstayed there student or tourist visas. Why should Britain welcome people who are so willing to flout her laws? If the immigration laws today, why not laws on state benefits (oops, some do); or financial fraud (oh, some do that to); or driving laws (hmm, many drive without licences or insurance). Past immigrants sought to integrate and obey the laws, but many now seem to believe that they have a right to come to the UK regardless. Sorry, but no country, particularly one as already crowded as Britain is going to accept that and for all their openness, liberality, generosity of spirit and preparedness to "live and let live" many in Britain are starting to get irritated by the attitude that they are obliged to accept unlimited immigration for any reason, particularly a colonial past that no-one alive today had any influence over. Please also don't expect many Brits to even feign an interest in your country's politics; why should they? If you don't want to know about British politics then don't listen to or watch the BBC, CNN, etc!
John, London, UK

Joe Moore has made interesting comments. I think it is the same with Indians. Indians/Asians are never called British, Australian, Canadians even though many are born in UK, Australia, Canada although they were born in these countries. Some they have been here for 2-3 generations. If you meet white people they always call you as an Indian/Asian but if a white person is born in one of the above countries he is always called as British, Australian or Canadian. I guess there are double standards. There is stigma attached if you are not white. White people need to address these issues before they can say anything to black Africans.
Rickky, Cambridge

If African Leaders had been forthright and taken Africa's destiny in their hands, no single African needs to emigrate and no single British will need to complain about immigration from Africa. Corruption at all levels in Africa is inexcusable. It harms the future of Africa and her capacity to cater for her citizens. From North to South, you will be hard pressed to find a Leader worth his salt. Corruption has been endemic. Let the new wave of British and European prejudice be a wake-up call to African Leaders. These countries poach Africa's best human resources and still turn around in disdain and contempt. Let them be, it is their world.
Paul Ndu, Portharcourt Nigeria

It is very common to meet a European or American who doesn't have a clue where Nigeria, or Kenya, or Senegal is in the world while lots of African can close their eyes and point the location of many European countries on a world map. This and other aspects are all the consequences of colonialism. Africa has always been at the disadvantaged end both in colonial and post colonial time. Thus, all the trouble of immigration, racism, Black British, White African etc. I therefore don't agree Farai was racist in his article. Black People with British passports still experience racism in one way or another, for example, most application forms in the UK requiring you to tick a race you belong to, place blacks with British passports as 'Black British.' If you are British, you are British whether black or white because some of these black kids today can't even trace their roots in Africa or the Caribbean. So, i don't think there is anything wrong if some Africans find it difficult to fully accept White African. These are some of the ills of colonialism and we have to learn to tolerate them because we really don't have much choice
Mimi, USA

First and foremost, African leaders and people in charge of our educational curriculum have a duty to re-write it. We spend so much time learning about the British colonial era and the struggle/movement to independence. On the issue of immigration, I hope the Nigerian authorities would do the right thing-given that there will be a cap on non-EU immigration, we should send back to the UK, all the white men/women working in the Oil industry in Nigeria, especially those companies that are partly/wholly owned by British people. That way, the pensions fund which has major share holding in British Petroleum, would take a massive hit. Let's do what Gaddafi did. Now, every western country wants to be partners with Libya. African leaders need to stop the loot of the nations funds. They should also follow the foot steps of the Chinese in demanding that all African artefacts stole during the colonial era be returned. If we have good leadership, most of us here whether legal or illegal, may not even come to the UK on vacation.
Francis, London UK

Thank you Farai for yet another interesting article. The recent election in the UK is a stark reminder that anything can happen during election time. Who would expect that the UK would be having a coalition government? A system like this would be easily acceptable in Africa or other third world countries but not in a western society. The good thing is that there was no demonstrations, blood shed or vandalism but mutual agreement and team work for the betterment of UK. I am glad too that two Nigerians now sit in the government. That wouldn't have been possible in Nigeria without a god father or the king makers anointing that person.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Europeans went to Africa neither with passports nor visas and completely looted the continent. Britain saw so much gold in Ghana that it named it "Gold Coast". Before Independence for Ghana, Britain had emptied the gold mine in the name of Commonwealth. The same pattern of looting and brigandage was applied to almost all the countries in Africa from South Africa to the northern-most part of Africa. People like Nick Griffin are simply selfish and dishonest. Many Griffins are out there - ignoring the history that is still recent. The bulk of the wealth in Britain came directly or indirectly from Africa and Britain knows this as a fact. The favoured East Europeans immigrants had contributed little to the wealth in the UK, yet they have taken over all the jobs African migrants had hitherto done - making life difficult for migrants from Africa. Let us not forget that migration is a natural history of all animals - including humans. Europeans were the first to migrate to Africa; they (Europeans) should have a reciprocal welcome attitude to Africans. I do not mean that they should throw their doors open; rather they screen African immigrants with respect and dignity and let in those that deserve to come in and not hound all the African immigrants into the prison. Finally, it is the fault of the African governments. They are so irresponsible that they cannot politically defend their nationals in Europe or else where. Many innocent Africans have been murdered in Moscow, London, Paris etc by the right wing organizations that do not like Africans and yet these irresponsible governments never cut diplomatic ties.
JohnnyInternational

American geneticist Spencer Wells in his Documentary "Journey of Man" has traced the geographical dispersal of early human migrations out of Africa. Simply put, all Human beings are of African Ancestry and the DNA proves it. If the law allows one to be naturalised in the UK based on their ancestry, then all human beings are genetically disqualified, white or black we are all genetically African. Who's your daddy's daddy?
Douglas M, Toronto, Canada

I have read this extract and i don't see why Africans should feel offended by anything going on in Britain unless you are their citizen. i think if you want to be comfortable in the UK be a citizen and if you are a sojourner in the land make do or strive much harder because that is the process you have to go through, otherwise let the british run their show and remember there is international laws that they should not violate otherwise the benefits will go to Ocampo.
atieno, kenya

A fascinating and subtle mediation, from a very different perspective, on one of the burning issues of the age: immigration. I fail to see how Joe Moore managed to detect any racism in it? Perhaps he could specify exactly which comments he means?
Peter Brackley, London, UK

l totally agree with Mr Nicolson and sympathise with Joe Moore, and l enjoyed Farai's take on things. l believe in voting and taking part in a 'democratic' right which was not afforded me back home. As an immigrant i find that the more hard working you are the more the system wants to push you out, am looked at suspiciously and l have to work even harder to convince the powers that be that l can sustain myself in their country but you get EU people who are given the red carpet treatment and they contribute less, granted its not all of them as its not all Africans who are hard working but l we not owed something being former colonies at least the benefit of the doubt not your benefits. Am not talking reparations and such just a little respect to let us try and feed our families with out the 20 questions, to that end l voted so that maybe just maybe l might be given the right to decide my future without the home office interfering.
R.Nkomo, Dartford, UK

i wonder what Brits feel like, like its your birth right to move beyond your continent, hold another continent hostage through colonialism and suddenly pretend the effect of this on uk is unbearable as a prime country involve in deceit, prolonged looting of wealth and natural resources of countries they colonised. viewing it from a similar perspective, you colonised this nations, stole there wealth, jeopardise their politics - directly or indirectly and the citizenry runs to you to clean toilets, gutters and you aint grateful nor tolerant? these are jobs even the brits cant do due to saturation of stolen wealth from diverse continents. Every african country colonised by the uk is part of uk - directly or indirectly and no amount of dancing round the story would stop these nations from seeking asylum. a colonial master ought to be tolerant, more importantly since these countries the uk impoverished were tolerant enough to allow the uk entrance several years ago.
kolade, Poland

Enough complain about the western world not knowing much us. We ought to make ourselves relevant. We must tell our own stories. We need to have more positive stories out of Africa. What we have being dealing with is bad leadership, wars and strife. Can you imagine if the election in the UK were held in one African country with the way the out come was - there will be deaths or Court cases. We need to evolve as a people.
Rasaq Ibrahim, Detroit, USA

For someone who appears to be presenting themselves as well-informed, Mr Nicolson of Jersey displays a lack of understanding of the context he refers to - I would be grateful if he could provide some clarity as to how preventing Mrs Mugabe (the first-shopper of Zimbabwe and every bit of a thug as her husband) from spending thousands of her ill-gotten gains in Harrods or along the Champs-Élysées equates to reducing "the entire nation of Zimbabwe to ruin through Sanctions." The sanctions are mainly an asset freeze and visa ban on around 200 named individuals who are senior members of, or closely linked to, Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Quite frankly they are not enough and it is to Africa's repeated shame that it is western nations that have to express outrage and take limited action against this vile regime. Maybe if SADC and the AU were not so gutless and amoral the former colonial powers you so abhor wouldn't have to be involved at all.
Alex, Exeter, UK

Isn't immigration to so many European politicians what stockpiles of rusty nuclear warheads are to any 'superpower' country? Cameron or Clegg, Brown or Nick Griffin these guys know immigration is a big vote winner, all you need to do is take an extremist's stand on it and you are made... If only African governments can get basic things right, I can't imagine anyone wanting to leave their countries for the cold, hard, miserable life in these developed countries. Europe, or America is no paradise!!!!
Chinedu, Barrow

As I appear to be the only 'Brit' responding to this article I can say that there is some truth in what everyone has said. However taking it from my perspective, the glaringly obvious thing everyone has missed is this is a very small Island with a huge population. The EU open border scheme is clearly the biggest problem as pointed out by Kunle and non-EU immigrants get the poor end of the stick. But consider we let everyone into the country, we do not have enough housing, our greenbelt is diminishing, hospitals schools and social services cannot cope. This fuels fear in the Anglo Saxon population (mass unfriendly immigrants into Britain AD 600/800) and gives rise to the popularity of parties like the BNP, they had half a million people vote for them in the last election which is scary. So in my opinion immigration into the UK is not answer but making Africa a sustainable place to live is better.
Allan, Bristol

I have always been bemused that guys in the West do not bother to learn about us, yet we know them so well that we are abreast with even their premier league and know their players as if our lives depend on that info! The only time they bother is when they come to Africa as tourists and even then, they learn just about enough to get by- such as "Jambo Bwana, Habari Yako," and "hakuna matata" which a white tourist mispronounced once and informed his amused and bemused hosts "hakuna matiti". Jokes aside, their level of ignorance about matters African is rather comical if not unacceptable. Put another way, how many Brits know the difference between PNU and ODM? Or even who our PM is? They have to style up and be informed, not behave as if the rest of the world owe them a favour!
Patrick Wachira, Nairobi, Kenya

I read Farai's contribution with interest as I am one of the African immigrants that have relocated to the UK in the last decade, and I am astounded that Farai can be so racist in his comments. I am a white African, and yes I am an African, I was born and bred in Africa, and Africa runs in my veins, I have also left Africa because of being persecuted in my country of birth, but when trying to attend a African conference in Haringey a while back was told that I was not eligible because I was white. I am keen to understand what makes white African inferior to our black countryman, and if Farai is consciously copying his European brethren in what he so aptly manages to paint as some form of discrimination. I love my country but cannot return to it, neither am I a white European nor Accepted as African.
Joe Moore, London

This is a well-written piece and makes interesting reading. The biggest change in the lot of the African immigrants is the arrival of Eastern Europeans. Life has become increasingly difficult for African immigrants. Again most illegal migrants in the continent who have their stay regularised always move to the UK. However, I disagree that most of them do not vote and did not vote in the last election. Most of them that I do know voted and voted for Labour. But as with the first past the post system, their votes are 'wasted' since most of them are usually concentrated in areas like East London, Peckham etc.
YAW NKETIA, GHANAIAN IN UK

After studying the statistics that the net amount of immigration from outside the EU has plummeted over the last 2 years and when the recession hit migrants from outside the EU were most affected one cant help but wonder why the resentment against Africans especially. The irony is they are the ones that contribute most significantly to the economy, working as doctors, lawyers, business owners and in the other extreme working in toilets of clubs and cleaning airports and train/coach stations. What is most outrageous is that several thousand years ago Africans were living peaceful and satisfied lives until the British came took our land from us by force from South Africa to Kenya looted our goods and put them in their museums and then couple of years down the line people like BNP turn around and start a campaign of hate......The British will set a very dangerous precedence for themselves outside these shores...
Toni, Southampton

Former Colonial Powers Responsibilities: I am South African born and used my ancestry right to Nationalise as British. Some say I should be grateful. Our parents and grand-parents all served the queen in the old empire and Second World War, and today they say be grateful. What about those and their descendants who did not have the bloodline but still served the Crown though not voluntarily. I am astounded by the Britishness of today and pride of heritage that is propagated daily on remembrance of kings and queens and the Second World War. The Colonial era however is erased from the memory of British minds today. The enforced divisions and exploitation for profit that occurred in the 1800s up to the 1950s caused African culture to be taken way/distorted and replaced with what we have today. My belief in the commonwealth is simple. Disowning (called independence) needs to be understood by those who debate the subject. Independence happened because it was no longer sustainable and not because it was some pious gesture of goodwill to human kind. My belief is that all Africans and Asians previously under rule should not be restricted as they are today. Mr Mugabe is not a savoury character we know but he will not be there forever. Other dictators have being supported due to commercial interests, but for some reason the former Colonials have decided to reduce the entire nation of Zimbabwe to ruin through Sanctions. So, this silly stancing on a minority black/Asian population in Britain is ludicrous as this is a drop in the ocean compared to the responsibility for the past Colonial legacy that is still in Africa today. It should be a lot worse. What can we do for Africa today through British policy, trade agreements, etc.? Immigration in Britain today is a legacy and should always be debated in the right context.
Mr Nicolson, Jersey, Channel Islands

Quite a lot of British people are ignorant of the politics of EU. Before the blanket freedom for EU citizens to come over to Britain and have access to benefits the first day they enter the UK, there was no such hatred for immigrants from Africa. With the EU free entry and benefits, the pressure became too much for Britain to bear. The leaders are not ready or willing to admit that the problem is not with African migrants but EU migrants - here lies the politics of EU. They do not want to be seen as opposed to EU. For an immigrant from outside EU to be entitled to benefits, s/he must have come in legally and spend a minimum of 4/5 years paying taxes and going through stringent conditions and paying heavily ever-increasing fees to attain that status. Illegal immigrants are even worse off (good for them you may say). They do all manner of works under the worst of conditions to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the global recession made things difficult in the UK and everybody thinks its migrants from outside EU - this is an untrue excuse people give and the leaders are capitalising on the issue for election gain instead of admitting that the burden of EU is becoming unbearable for Britain. Britain has always been a good place to live and work and the UK stands like one rich nation among many poor EU countries. Now that there is no obstacle to movement into Britain, those poor countries' citizens now have opportunity to have their share of the cake. Whatever gains Britain imagined to gain from blanket surrender to EU, the losses outweigh it ten times. In all sincerity, the leaders and political parties should sit down together and have a serious talk on EU issues especially free movement into the UK - it is no time to play politics, it is time for frank talk, openness and truth.
Kunle, London, UK

I find the comment on Eastern Europeans simplistic and unfair.
Leonidas, Athens

Up to now the wealth of the nations has somehow mysteriously and continuously found its way (both legally and ilegally) out of Africa and Asia etc into the "the developed countries". That is the real reason for mass migration. People are following the money that belonged to them in the first place. Corruption in those other countries will continue as long as there are companies in "the West" willing to do "that kind of business".
Bishop Doye Agama, Manchester UK

Each of us in this world is a 'Migrant'. The difference is that some people settled in places before others. As mentioned above, I too find it strange that a black kid born in UK would be refered to as 'Black British' other than just British. So is this nationality/citizenry determined by the color of your skin?Karonay, Kampala

A commentator mentioned "a colonial past that no-one alive today had any influence over".

It is true that the generation of white British today did not have any influence over the cruelty of their forefathers. However they are beneficiaries and must therefore take responsibility. The wealth of British was acquired from the continent you are not ready to stretch your arms to its people-Africa- a very brutish way.

The problem of Britain today is not African immigrants but will they admit that joining the EU has been detrimental? African immigrants work several hours to contribute to the social benefits coffers for so called British people to enjoy. but what do they get in return- each year immigration rules are reviewed to make life more tougher for the African immigrant.Clara, Cambridge

"None of the candidates during the campaign could answer questions on immigration convincingly, and the topic remained hanging like an unwelcome relative rattling the gate in the rain while everyone pretends to be deaf."

The above summarizes a clear cut example of the dilemma we are faced with. Farai mixes great intelligence and wit to ably bring out the point. However; in this case- one can ably describe the scenario as one of the pot calling the kettle black!

Whereas you will find African's diligently serving in the health sector and other critical areas, the African at some point can also be the disturbing relative at the gate.... The trouble is; at what point do you draw the line? What if the relative comes armed with important news and in this case...DIVERSE SKILLS NOT readily available in Britain?

Obviously Britain has unique policies and commitments locally and internationally (unless you lived on Mars all these past 5 years) where African labour can come in handy.
Joseph, Nairobi, Kenya

I did vote in this past election, as did most of my friends of African origin, so I certainly don't identify with this "just passing through" description at all.

As for the outcome for the BNP, the public's emphatic rejection of them was pure testimony that the immigration question was whipped up by some in the mainstream media, for their own reasons.

I personally didn't see much authenticity in the carefully selected question during the leaders debate on Sky News from a person of African origin, (notice I don't say "black"), who said she'd come to Britain as a 2yr old some 30 years ago, and had now noticed immigration was a problem so she wanted to find out what the leaders would do to make Britain fair. Nor did I find Cameron's reference to the "black man" he met in Plymouth, any more than cheap point scoring. It also showed just how detached he really was from the reality of a multicultural Britain.

It is time people starting referring to us by our respectful names and titles we have earned in education, professionalism, sport and all walk of life where we have excelled; not by the colour of our skin.
EC, UK



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