Foreign relations expert condemn abuse of Kenyans in China and say state has responsibility to repatriate them

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Africa nationals stranded outside a shop in Guangzhou after being evicted from their homes and hotels by Chinese national over coronavirus fears. PHOTO/COURTESY

By PATRICK MAYOYO

The Kenyan government has a responsibility to repatriate its citizens who are stranded in China and are being racially abused and persecuted, international relations don, Prof David Kikaya, has said.

Prof Kikaya in a statement said the first responsibility of a country is to its nationals both at home and abroad and this has been underscored by various statutes.

“At the international level the Preamble to the UN Charter, 26th June 1945, prioritises people by stating that;”We the People of the United Nations….” not nation states. At the local level, this emphasis is domesticated in the Kenyan Constitution, 2010. Chapter One, Article 1.1, inter-alia emphasises;”All Sovereign Power belongs to the People of Kenya…” he said.

Prof Kikaya said it therefore stands to reason that when any citizens of a country are in danger, those to whom this power is delegated have to prioritise their rescue.

“The three arms of Government to whom this power is donated, and expected to move into action are; The Legislature,  Executive and Judiciary. At the forefront in this case is, The Executive.  It was absurd therefore to see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs come up with Evacuation measures that verge on punitive,”  he noted.

The outrage come at a time when Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken callousness and cold-hearted response in helping Kenyans stranded in different cities around the world and particularly those in China who are being abused, tortured and racially discriminated against on claims of transmitting coronavirus.  The ministry’s Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau has said those seeking evacuation would have to foot the cost.

In the past three weeks, scores of Africans including Kenyans among them workers, traders, and students in China’s southern city of Guangzhou and other cities have claimed that they were thrown out of their homes into the streets by their landlords, some hotels and even by government security agencies.

Video evidence of these mistreatments has sparked international outrage. A dozen African countries have summoned their Chinese ambassadors to explain the “inhumane treatment being meted out.”

A coalition of African ambassadors in Beijing delivered a letter to China’s foreign minister demanding an immediate end to all discrimination. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission, also expressed his “extreme concern.” Moses Kuria, a vocal member of the Kenyan Parliament, took a more aggressive stance, calling for the immediate removal of all Chinese nationals in Kenya.

Another don, Prof Bitange Ndemo, who is a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi, said abuse of Africans abroad was unacceptable.

 A viral post shows McDonald’s staff in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China holding a sign that says: “We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant.” PHOTO | COURTESY 

“In the recent past, there have been very disturbing videos circulating, some showing Africans being bludgeoned in China.There have also been claims of Africans being denied health services in the US and Europe. The fact that none of these countries has come out to condemn such acts of discrimination confirms that indeed these ugly incidents continue unabated in a civilised world,” he noted.

Prof Ndemo noted that Malaysia does not even bother to hide racism as they explicitly deny Africans housing (see picture below). Do we really need diplomatic relationship with a country that is explicitly racist?

“On our part, it is shameful that we (individual countries and the African Union in particular) have not protested in the strongest terms possible that our citizens wherever they are, in whatever circumstances, should never be treated as though they were not human beings,” he said in an oped published in Daily Nation.

He said leaders in Kenya and Africa in general had largely remained mum about mistreatment of their fellow citizens abroad because of their vulnerabilities based on their dependency on aid.

“We are also guilty of failure to manage and grow our economies,” he observed.

Prof Ndemo said although many African countries have been celebrating modest growth and complimenting themselves with celebratory phrases like Africa Rising, Africans still consist of 70 per cent of the poor people in the world.

Tony Mathias, an Ugandan exchange student, told Agence France-Presse: “I’ve been sleeping under the bridge for four days with no food to eat. … I cannot buy food anywhere. No shops or restaurants will serve me.”

According to Foreign Policy, in Chinese media, Africans are often characterized as backward or primitive and blackness as unattractive. Virulent racism common on social media is largely unchecked by censors, including claims that Africans are rapists, drug dealers, or AIDS carriers.

Those prejudices have led to a string of incidents amid coronavirus-induced paranoia. On April 4, reports of an infected Nigerian man attacking a Chinese nurse went viral, unleashing a slew of online trolls demanding the cleansing of a city they claimed was “littered with blacks,” according to Foreign Policy.

Three days later, four Nigerians tested positive for the virus after having been seen eating together at a local restaurant. These reports sparked widespread fear that Africans were the primary cause of recent upticks in coronavirus cases.

Diplomatic observers aver that the continued discrimination of Africans in China could harm its relations on the continent. In the past two decades, China has emerged as Africa’s biggest trading partner making it become the two becoming inextricably entwined and China has built roads and railways across the entire continent.

 

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