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Pambazuka News proposes to address migration dynamics in a special issue in late June. Analysis may include historical, cultural, economic, psychological, developmental, social, legal and political dimensions of this age-old phenomenon.

For a millennia migration was a natural phenomenon that marked the evolution of humanity. In their socio-economic and cultural dimensions, these population movements made current nations crucibles of co-existence of people, ethnic groups, communities of diverse cultural backgrounds, who find commonality in their desire for a decent life – free from hunger, need, exploitation, fear - for their children and themselves.

Yet, today many Africans across the globe and within African countries face political exclusion and rejection. Borders have become walls and the migrant, the refugee, Internally Displaced Person (IDP) is seen as the symbol of all evil (crime, violence, unemployment, etc.) and is often subjected to violent xenophobia or suspicion.

Africa is a continent that has experienced and continues to experience strong movements of migration. These migrations are often internal to the continent, motivated by political, economic and environmental reasons (drought and flooding), or reasons related to conflict (refugees ) etc. There is the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic that continues to internally displace people and create refugees in neighbouring African countries.

Although the continent has regional entities (ECOWAS, SADC, etc.) where conventions and treaties should facilitate the movement of goods and people, the violent outbursts of xenophobia, mass expulsions have become common phenomena, such as in South Africa in May 2008 when other Southern Africans such as Mozambicans, Zimbaweans and Somalis were attacked and killed. This anger was not directed at white immigrants from Europe or the former Soviet Union. Similarly, the decades of conflict in Somalia has led to Somali people being scattered not only in other parts of the world, but also in the East African region, where they have become victims of harassment of the police and intelligence authorities in Kenya. More importantly, it appears Somalis in Kenya are now seen as collaborators in terrorist violence as a result of the September 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack just as many Arabs were seen as “terrorists” in Western capitals soon after 9/11.

The borders of African states remains artificial lines resulting from colonization. On one side or the other of this line live the same people, with the same cultural realities and the same languages. This commonality could be a strong basis to promote the Pan-africanist ideal today, but policies of exclusion, regionalism and marginalisation are prevalent.

The drama of migration is tragically reflected in the shipwrecked boats and bodies that disappear into the Mediterranean sea, or wash up on Spanish beaches; or in the thousands of desperate migrants who regularly throw themselves on the barbed wire of Ceuta and Melilla. Such barbed wire, often electrified, is evident of Europe’s most violent method to barricade itself behind its borders. Israel, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are countries that are no different in their discriminatory practices and treatment of African migrants. Saudi Arabia is also distinguished by regular mass expulsions, rape and sexual harassment of Eritrean and Ethiopian women who seek work in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Migration remains an unstoppable global phenomenon and African populations are at the heart of this movement that will continue to shape the world. But surely if there was a genuine African Union as envisioned by Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and many of Africa’s pioneering Pan-Africanist leaders, factors – such as political persecution, lack of economic opportunities, environmental disaster and conflict- that give rise to migration and IDPs would not disappear overnight, but would radically lessen?

Pambazuka News proposes to address migration dynamics in a special issue in late June 2014.

Analysis may include historical, cultural, economic, psychological, developmental, social, legal and political dimensions of migration.

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