In November 2013, BBC ran a shocking story captioned “I buried my family”. It was the story of 1a 4-year-old girl called Shafa. Shafa cheated death (miraculously) in the Sahara Desert after burying her two sisters and mother – they died of intense heat and dehydration.
Little Shafa and family weren’t alone, but among the passengers (numbering more than a hundred) of two lorries bound for Algeria from Niger Republic. “We are on our way to visit our family members,” the poor girl said, but from all indication, they were on a run – trying to leave behind a woeful existence for opportunities in Algeria and possibly Spain.
But they didn’t enter Algeria, much less Spain. Their drivers turned back on seeing Algerian forces. “They didn’t want to be caught carrying us since it was illegal,” poor Shafa observed.
En route back to Niger, their trucks ran out of fuel and the drivers, after extorting fuel money from them, vanished. More than a hundred passengers were trapped in the Sahara Desert. “We waited for two days – no food, no water – before we decided to start walking.” Eighteen made it back home and raised the alarm but before anything was done, ninety-two migrants had already transmogrified into decomposing corpses. Their belated rescuers couldn’t help but offer them a Muslim burial.
The story of Shafa came to mind because of the pervading but nauseating culture of deafening silence on the part of African leaders on what could be called a weekly report from the Mediterranean Sea – where many African youths in quest for greener pastures in Europe ignorantly make themselves a perfect meal for sea lives.
Why this spike in migration through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea? And why are African youths so desperate to leave Africa? Answering these questions will offer us a perfect analysis of how politics and government have degenerated in the continent.
If governments are working, that is, “doing for the people what they cannot do for themselves”, no African youth will fancy leaving their country, let alone through the Sahara Desert and with derelict ship over Mediterranean. What this is telling us is simple: leadership failure!
Africans are fleeing Africa because of the vicious circle of poverty ravaging the continent. They are fleeing because of the staggering level of unemployment hitting their countries. They are fleeing because their governments lack the vision needed to transform Africa into a better place.
The environment is configured to suit and serve the needs of the elite class and their cronies. Ordinary man in Africa is just a mere pawn in the political chessboard. So tell me why there won’t be migration spike.
Africa is no longer conducive for youths. Everything – virtually everything – is in a state of disarray. No African youth will ever decline any opportunity to leave this continent that our leaders have associated with backwater. What do you expect from a youth from Burundi – where Pierre Nkurunziza is running an illegitimate government – to do when he heard that he could make it to Spain if he gets to Algeria through the Sahara? What do you expect from a youth from Zimbabwe – where god Mugabe reigns – to do when he hears that a ship can take him to Italy only if he could make it to Libya? Or a Nigerian youth – a country in which 90 percent of her youths are potential migrants – who is so convinced of making it Italy if he enters Libya? Or a youth from the failed state of Libya that does not need to cross the Sahara Desert? What do you expect of them?
Each month – nowadays weeks – able and energized African youths leave their families, friends and relations and embark on a perilous journey to Europe through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean. Many die or are even killed by traffickers in the Sahara; dozens drown in the Mediterranean and a few make it to Europe and eventually caught and deported. That’s the plight of an African youth.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), 2,5000 people fled to Italy from North Africa in 2005; the number dwindled to 9,575 in 2009. In 2011, the figure rose to 61,000 and skyrocketed to 130,000 in 2014.
African leaders are uninterested in these reports because they are suffering what Barbara Tuchman dubbed ‘woodheadedness’. Is it not scary that no emergency meeting has been called by AU to consider the matter? Is it not appalling that no campaign has been started by AU to deescalate this spike? Seriously, Africa needs regeneration.
That said, African youths should come to grips that it is only a fool that finds solution in running away from his problem. Africa’s problem centres squarely on leadership and it can only be solved by African youths – so why running away? Also, wearing the cloaks of hard work and contentment will do! The mentality for what we Igbo call ‘ego mbute’ (sharp sharp money) should be jettisoned. You must not travel to Europe or America to make it. If Dangote made it in Nigeria, you too can make it here!
One interesting but paradoxical aspect of this migration spike is the crisis it is generating in Europe. European leaders are complaining about this unprecedented influx in immigration forgetting that you cannot beat a child and at the same time prevent him from crying. They are reaping what they sowed – if Gaddafi was alive, the Libyan route wouldn’t have been this porous.