Newspaper article International New York Times

Standing by While Their People Flee

Newspaper article International New York Times

Standing by While Their People Flee

Article excerpt

A solution to the migrant crisis will have to come as much from Africa as elsewhere.

Amid the cries of alarm from some European politicians over the deaths of African migrants in the Mediterranean, the silence of those who should be shouting loudest -- African leaders -- has been deafening.

It is their citizens who are drowning in the hundreds, along with Syrians and Afghans. But there has been barely an anguished word from the continent's excellencies. The lack of reaction -- the chairwoman of the African Union commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, belatedly expressed "condolences" and called for more "dialogue"; and Senegal's president, Macky Sall, offered a "salute to the memory of the victims" -- is revealing.

It is an implicit acknowledgment that life for the overwhelming majority in these countries is so miserable that their leaders are not shocked that thousands would rather risk death at sea than endure it. Rights organizations are flaying European leaders for their inhumanity, though they are largely silent about the responsibility of the Africans. But a solution will have to come as much from Africa as elsewhere.

In the top 10 countries of origin for illegal migrants are Mali, Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal, according to the European border control agency. Yet these four West African nations are not at war. And except in the case of Gambia, they are not especially repressive.

Senegal regularly pats itself on the back for being one of Africa's most successful democracies; Nigeria has a growth rate double that of many Western nations, even after the drop in oil prices. Mali has just emerged from a quasi civil war; and Gambia has a thriving tourist industry, albeit one unfolding in a place that resembles more a vast open-air prison than a nation. Yet in all these places, many can imagine nothing better than risking lives in a rickety boat for an uncertain place in Europe.

"While the West bears some responsibility for this massacre, African leaders, for their part, are standing by, mute, in front of this unprecedented spectacle, which is proof of their failure," an editorial in the Senegalese newspaper Le Quotidien said last week. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.