By Meron Estefanos
A Lost opportunity to deconstruct the root cause and myths associated with migration inside Africa!
On October 26-28, I have the opportunity to attend the a “Panafricaines” meeting in Morocco held under the theme “African migration: a chance for the continent, a responsibility for the media”. According to the organizers the event was designed to be participatory which would lead to the adoption of a roadmap and action of the network for the coming year. The meeting was attended by more than 220 African women journalists, editors, reporters, publications directors, TV, radio, print, magazine and information site organized and financed by Radio 2M.
Morocco is the coordinator of the African Migration issue in the African Union. This event was “part of the dynamics of the ambitious African policy of the [Kingdom of Morocco] conducted for several years.” As I understood it the main goal of the meeting is to “deconstruct the myths associated with migration”. The deconstruction of these myths is largely the responsibility of media. it is due to the fact that the media treatment of migration issues arises, from preconceived ideas, prejudices, regional biases, simplistic treatments and distortion of reality. I was wondering why the African media focus on the deconstruction of the myths associated with African migration a priority while it the priority should have been to tackle the real issues of migration with Africa itself. the agenda looks a bare faced hypocrisy.
Despite all my reservation, I was happy and eager to attend such an event because I believe in the premise “African problems, African solutions”. In most cases, the discussion about resolving the issue of African Migration been handled by Westerners than African intellectuals, media and activists.
In the welcoming session, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita in his speech that “the image of Africa is imported. It is made in foreign editorial offices, loaded with stereotypes, sometimes ideology, and yet integrated and consumed in Africa by Africans. ” He also reminded the women journalists that “Africa will be crushed under the weight of its own image, as long as this image escapes it, because Africa, which is committed to write its own story, also has great interest in shaping its own image”. He also added that Morocco has hosted 50,000 African Migrants.
He remedied the “Les Panafricaines” to find a way to expand the scope of their approach, by privileging “structured information that does not only communicate but mobilizes, […] that does not only call for change, but provokes it, accompanies it, and sometimes even precedes it” Managing Director of 2M Group, Salim Cheikh in addressing the Forum of African Women Journalists, stated that “I hope that the Forum will bring out the premises for fairer, more equitable treatment of the migration issue and that Africa’s voice on this issue will be carried by us Africans “. In this introductory session the was no question and answer session.
After the introductory speech, we visited the International campus in Rabat. I wondered why we visited the campus that has nothing to do with immigrants. This students came to study from different African countries but not migrant who are given opportunity to further their education. To have a firsthand experience Morocco treated other African refugees, I would prefer to visit the refugee camps. We would have been the witness to exemplify Morocco as a model in the treatment of the African migrants.
The next day, October 26,2018, the official opening of the of the second edition of “Les Panafricaines’’ conference which was mainly devoted to the main debate; “From One Bank to the Other, for an Objective look at the Migrants’’. After the introduction by the Director General and the Editor in Chief of 2M, there were other speaker who talked about the myths about migration in general. Then, a television reporter from Italy, Raffaela talked about the issue of immigration in Italy. She pinpointed that racism and the rise of right wing parties in the country. The next speaker was a Ugandan Radio journalist who talked about his own experience in immigration. The discussion on the next one hour was on the issue of racism and how the Europeans discriminate against black Africans and Arabs.
My expectation was not to discuss racism and the rise of right wing but to look into the root cause of African Migration and discuss the mistreatment and cruelty against African migrants on the hands of African countries. I was confused, disappointed and shocked. I enumerated the following facts that were ignored by the panelists: African refuges are treated as slaves in Libya; the death and suffering of thousands of my Eritrean brothers and other Africans in the hands of Egyptian smugglers; the Rwandese and Ugandan Government willingness to host African refuges, who are been illegally deported from Israel for $500Five thousand per refuge; mishandling funds by African government; Xenophobia in South Africa.
The panelist also stated that 80 percent of African refugees are hosted in African countries. But panelist failed to mention why are people leaving Africa; why Eritreans after being refugees in Sudan migrates to a third country in Europe? It is the bad and inefficient treatment of refugees in Africa which is driving them to migrate outside of Africa. While countries are provided with $86 per person, they are not even spending $2 dollars. There is a lack of transparency and accountability on the part African government and immigration officials. They are just building refugee camps as income generation businesses rather than for humanitarian reasons.
The moderator responded by mentioning that it is important to talk about how Europeans behaved, and added that I have a chance to discuss these kind of issues in the workshop in the next day. The next day we have been discussed the following seven predetermined topics: “What Journalistic Treatment of Migration Issues? “; “Wandering Minors, How to Understand a Complex Phenomenon? ; “Women’s Mobility: a New Migratory Dynamic”;”Climate Migration and Food Security”; “Intra-African Migration: a Chance for Development”; “African Migration: the Importance of Reliable Data Availability”; “Structures and Organizational Model of Les Panafricaines Network”.
We were divided in groups of 30 journalist in one room. As I said earlier, being a journalist discussing issues that are provided by the organizer without any question was really disappointing. The next day we heard about the outcome of the workshop and the resolutions that were going to be included in the African Charter of Refugees. This was a major opportunity to discuss issues of concern to Migration in Africa, which would have a potential of creating awareness in our home countries.
First and foremost, the panelist should have focused on the issues that are directly related to Africa migration rather than how the Europeans or Westerners treat migrants. It is our failure as a continent that is creating the migration crisis in African. Africa has been free from colonialism for almost half a century. It would be a shame we are still blaming Europeans for colonialism and racism while we are not willing to address the home grown crisis ourselves. The myths associated with African migrants are the spillover effect of our failure to deal with the root cause of refugees. Most importantly, we should hold our governments responsible. While we are supposed to discuss the political and socio-economic factors which drive African people to become refuges and migrants, our mains focus was on how the European perceive us and treat us.
If my memory served me well the Senior Editor in Chief of the 2M Radio Antenna, Fathia Elaouni, stated that “This is not just another forum, it is not a mere conference. For two days we will really work”. Unfortunately, that is not what I have witnessed. It was a mere conference, where more than 220 journalists participated without getting down to the root causes of African migration which is the violation of human rights and lack of good governance.
I had considered not repeating the experience and not participating in similar conferences in future. But I have changed my mind because missing such kind of opportunities would be unwise. Despite my disappointment I was able to influence few journalist and create friendship with many of them. I am also elected to a committee which enable me to struggle to bring about the issue that we need to focus as African people.
I would like to conclude by saying that the event was a great disappointment and a lost opportunity. We could have done far better than what we did. On the flip side, it was a great opportunity to see the tourist sites and the culture. Morocco is a beautiful county with wonderful culture and food. Saying that, we would have been more productive if we focus more on the issues that matter than the tourist aspects of the trip. Hope next time we will be able to do just what matters first!