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OBBO: Progress fuelling deadly journey to Europe…

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CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO
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The UNDP just released a fascinating report titled Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe.

The report draws on the largest survey of its kind. “Almost 2,000 people from 39 African countries in 13 European nations were interviewed, all of whom had arrived in Europe through irregular means and not for asylum or protection-related reasons,” the UNDP boasted.

The short of it is that African migration to Europe is a much more complicated story than it is made out to be. They are surprising insights, and a lot to chew on.

Of the many gems, is that migration to Europe is not all because of poverty in Africa. It is also a result of progress in Africa.

A good “58 per cent of the migrants [surveyed] were either employed or in school at the time of their departure, with the majority of those working earning competitive wages at home,” we learn.

“They are of the ‘Springboard Generation’ – beneficiaries of two decades of remarkable development progress in Africa,” although some 50 per cent of those working still said they were not earning enough.

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My favourite two, however, have to be how migration works differently for women, and what is likely to make a migrant return to Africa.

Female respondents, the report says, perhaps ‘‘jumped the furthest” — “scaling even higher ‘gender fences’ of patriarchal norms at home and exploitation during their journeys abroad — their vulnerability to abuse continues to form part of their experience in Europe.”

However, the gender wage gap between men and women in Africa significantly reverses in Europe, with women earning 11 per cent more, in contrast to the situation where they were earning 26 per cent less in Africa.

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In Europe, women irregular migrants, though still facing sexual exploitation, reported lower levels of deprivation and were more successful in accessing a range of services. They were also in more settled accommodation than male respondents.

The second is that African migrants who do not want to live permanently in Europe are more likely to be earning. Higher proportions of this group also have a legal right to work and are sending money home.

I asked Mohamed Yahya, who was the research director of Scaling Fences, for the quirky juice on this.

His suspicion is that a part of it has got to do with social media.

African migrants in Europe go around taking photos against rich people’s Ferrari’s and fancy places, and posting them on social media even though they are homeless.

Back home, everyone thinks they are living it up. It becomes very difficult for them to return empty-handed, and wearing the mitumba (second-hand clothing) jacket they left with, when their neighbourhood expects them to be decked in Armani suits, and at least spot one gold tooth.

The counter-intuitive reading from that is if Europe wants African migrants to go home, then they should ensure they get work and succeed. The buggers will all troop back home to show off.

Yahya was also the research director on the UNDP’s thoughtful 2017 report Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment.

Recently he was appointed UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria.

Now they’ve made him a big man, we are all praying he won’t stop getting his hands dirty with stuff like Scaling Fences.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is curator of the ‘Wall of Great Africans’ and publisher of explainer site Roguechiefs.com. [email protected]

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Numbers waiting to return keep growing

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By DIANA NDINDA

Yesterday, I told you how ecstatic I was when I learnt that there was a WhatsApp group rallying stranded Kenyans like me, who were yearning to go home.

Not only did I learn that there was a group, but I also joined it. The relief of being in a community of Kenyans brought together by a similar goal was indescribable. I felt at home. I no longer felt as if I was alone in the world.

I could tell from the number of people requesting that their friends be added to the group that we were quite a number.

From that moment on, I began checking my phone every few minutes for any progress. Every new text message brought with it renewed hope of going home soon. The new additions to the group and a few familiar names also gave me confidence.

I would excitedly share with my family and friends every time there was a new development. And sounding even more excited than I was, they would encourage me to hang in there because like me, they could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

By this time, my church back in Kenya, Kahawa West Baptist Church, where I sing in the choir, had learnt of my plight and had got in touch with the Baptist community here in Lagos and requested them to offer me any help they could rally.

The support from the Baptist community in Kenya and the one here was overwhelming. They prayed for me, called and texted me and even contributed money to support me.

CHRISTIAN FAMILY

The comfort of having my church community organising prayers specifically for me and even fasting so that a way could soon be found for me to return continued to encourage me.

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Different people would check on me and even offer to visit, but we agreed that social distancing was important to prevent possible exposure to coronavirus.

As if this support was not enough, many from the Baptist community here in Nigeria were willing to host me in their homes.

Unfortunately, they lived in other towns, and due to the government regulations, I couldn’t travel there.

This wholesome and unconditional support from individuals that I had never met showed me just how important being an active member of a church community is.

Meanwhile, the numbers in the group grew, with the admins regularly updating the list. With each new name, the joy in my heart was palpable.

The sole aim of the group was to rally as many numbers as possible, and everyone who knew a stranded Kenyan would contact them and have them join us.

By the evening of May 21, we hit the 50 mark. The celebration in the group came alive with everyone ready to pack their bags in preparation for the long-awaited trip home.

The effort to put Kenyans stranded in Nigeria together, which had started on April 1, was finally starting to bear fruit.

As I write this, we are at 67 and growing, and we can’t be happier as we look forward to coming home.

Ms Ndinda is Research Manager, Transform Research Africa Ltd. She is stuck in Nigeria, where she has been since March 21. MONDAY: Our representatives, who are in talks with KQ and the Kenyan Embassy in Nigeria, inform us that the repatriation process had been initiated, but will take about two weeks.

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Unity of Kenyans is paramount

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By GICHU KIHORO

Our mind is one of the most fascinating phenomena discernible in nature. While it is the base for all of our perceptions, we know very little of how it works exactly. 

 There are several ways for us to tackle this matter, including from a neuroscience or philosophical perspective. Yet, one of the most interesting ways was developed by Sigmund Freud, more than a hundred years ago.

PSYCHOANALYSIS

 He called his technique psychoanalysis, and he analysed the most inner desires of the mind through its subconscious and implicit exclamations.

As such, he used dreams and slips of the tongue to understand what his patients really desired, deep down. These gave him straight, unfiltered insights into their minds.

 Language is a very important part of this, and every word we use has a distinct meaning.

Sometimes, while we are not consciously aware of it, our mind knows much better. It is aware of the nuances, history and context of every word we use, even if on the surface of it we pay little attention to the words we are choosing.

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 It is interesting to take a closer look at which words we, our family, our elders and our national leaders use, and how we use them.

Especially in difficult times like these, well-chosen words can make all the difference. After all, there are many famous examples in history where a speech, or even a sentence, could lift a whole nation to unknown heights. 

Yet, words can also have the opposite effect. Lately, I have heard much talk about “revenge”.

Politicians, factions, parties, even governments want to take “revenge” on their rivals. Apart from the distinctly violent tone, which reminds of a past that should stay buried for ever, the word itself points to the past.

Etymologically, revenge stems from “to claim or avenge again”, indicating a never-ending circle of violence.

 PEACE AND UNITY

 This is something we believed and hoped to be a thing of the past. After decades of strife, we elected leaders who understood that peace and unity are, above all else, what Kenya needs, and what its leaders need to strive for.

President Uhuru Kenyatta especially made it his mission to embrace former foes, and political rivals for a better and more prosperous future for Kenya.

This is the spirit we need, the spirit responsible for all the strides we have taken towards becoming a medium-income economy by 2030. This is the spirit we need to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.

 The coronavirus provides the world with challenges which it has not seen in at least a century.

Around the world, many countries have taken extraordinary steps to keep their citizens safe and healthy.

The health of Kenyans in the government’s top priority. To defeat the deadly virus, we need to remain united.

 INFIGHTING

All of these attributes contribute to a nation which is optimistic and hopeful about its prospects in the long term. We can’t afford infighting, division and strife to distract us while the world is facing the Covid-19 crisis.

We need to focus on important issues, not ridiculous topics such as appointments to meaningless titles of unimportant outfits.

Rahm Emanuel, one of US President Barack Obama’s top advisors, is known for his statement to “never let a good crisis go to waste”. Us Kenyans should also use this crisis to take a second, better look at our leaders, political and elsewhere. Which ones are the leaders trying to position themselves better for the future, and which ones are the leaders trying to position Kenya better for the future?

The dividing line runs between those pursuing unity and peace, and those stifling and dividing the country.

 These trying times should be used by all of us to sift through and choose the leaders who have our, and not theirs, best interests in mind. Leaders who first and foremost care about peace and unity in Kenya. Leaders which will live up to our national motto and be committed to “Harambee”sprit!

Mr Kihoro is a Research and Data expert. [email protected]

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All of a sudden daily Corona broadcast updates are not a hit

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NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA

By NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
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Last weekend Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the dusk-to-dawn curfew had been extended by a further 21 days. This was one of the many times that we have received communication from the government—for more than 60 days running, including weekends—whether from the ministry of Health or the cabinet secretary informing us of new Covid-19 cases, deaths and recoveries.

In the beginning, we would anxiously wait for the announcement to be made—would it be was it 3pm or 4pm? People would literally wait by their TVs or even radios to listen to government plans on combating the virus.

One of the things I remember keenly about living in the US was that in times of tornadoes, we would get warnings just before one was observed to be near our homes. The first time I ever heard a tornado warning siren was during the wee hours of the morning and it was raining heavily, it was such a heavy downpour with thunderstorms but even through that noise, I heard the siren wailing.

It was unnatural, combined with a constant voice from loud speakers that were stationed all over campus on poles that looked similar to street lights.

The longer I stayed in the US, I began to realise that the noises change depending on the severity of the storm.

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My first year, any siren would scare me to the basement as it was where we were all advised to go, and each building had access to one. But the longer I stayed, I understood the sirens, and sometimes there was no tornado that struck. I did notice that, I grew less afraid.

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Once I took a walk to the library, another time a group of friends and myself went shopping, because we were able to calculate that we had a few hours before a tornado actually hit our city, the sirens had become part of my life.

And that is the thing about fear or living under the unknown. Fear can start out with anxiety and caution. But when you are surrounded by danger, as human beings, we begin to think adaptation— that life must simply go on. How can I adapt to this new sense of normal, especially when it is not sustainable.

All of a sudden, the coronavirus press conferences are not as watched by people as they used to be—as you may not find sanitisers in some matatu’s or at some buildings, and masks are now worn under one’s chin.

So it is not surprising reports indicate that youth are emerging as superspreaders of the virus because they are active and asymptomatic.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, executive director, Siasa Place @NerimaW

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