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Mar-01-2011 16:03printcommentsVideo

Terrorism for Arabs; HIV/AIDS for Africans

In this era of revolution, we need a consistent and aggressive campaign for human rights.

David Kato, murdered Ugandan gay activist

(UGANDA) - Following the murder of David Kato, a Ugandan gay activist in January, homosexuality, a taboo subject in Africa (haven’t forgotten the gagging order “don’t ask, don’t tell” that has been effective in America until recently), resurfaced once again to polarize the “holier than thou” Ugandan majority and those minorities who embraced the universality and indivisibility of human rights.

Since David was murdered after the publication of a tabloid called “The Rolling Stone” that demanded for gays and lesbians to be hanged by printing their name and photograph, it opened a can of worms that created an undesirable international buzz for the regime in Kampala.

Worse, it coincided with a decision for the deportation of a Ugandan asylum seeker named Brenda Namigadde who requested asylum in Britain on the grounds of persecution due to her sexual orientation.

The proverbially “fair and square” British authorities rejected her asylum claim as a bogus one.

Consequently, the head of the United Nations Refugee agency/UNHCR/, Antonio Guterres reminded the world of the necessity of granting refugee status to those “facing persecution for their sexual orientation.”

Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner

Though, other prominent figures also pitched in the matter to give a crash course on human rights such as Ms Navi Pillay, UN High commissioner for human rights, through her writing “What David Kato’s death can teach the world,” none has interested me like the statement from the head of the Refugee agency. In fact, I was determined to poke the Commissioner in a missive I envisaged to title “Mr. Gueterres; what if the asylum seeker is HIV positive, as well as gay?”

Unfortunately, I got distracted by exciting events in North Africa.

Later, I thought, the occasion for such writing has gone by. In no time, however, the upheaval in North Africa necessitated for my fingers to go cracking on the lap top by picking the same issue.

Refugee crisis in North Africa

Historically, the North African countries have been known as more of a transit point for those other Africans who seek to migrate to Europe from the West and Horn of Africa. Until the recent upheaval that rocked Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, almost all these nations had regimes notorious in the abuse of asylum seekers and refugees.

The society itself had no good record of tolerance for “fellow” Africans and migrants.

Tragically, now they themselves are exposed to the crisis that’s forcing them to knock at other people’s doors.

Logically, whenever a given society experiences a crisis that prompts it to flee; it tends to seek sanctuary to the next door neighbors. Hardest hit by this crisis are Tunisia and Libya.

Austrian Interior Minister, Maria Theresa

As they also border the Mediterranean Sea, it’s natural for their people to seek asylum to Europe by crossing the Sea. Unfortunately, the Europeans who often pay lip service to humanitarian causes have shut their respective door on them, save for the few who managed to cross their borders.

Already, nations like Italy are grumbling on account of “a mass influx of Libyan” refugees. Its Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini made a submission to the European Union so that member states share the burden equally. Reports showed that Italian warnings of a “biblical” exodus from Libya were given “a cool reception” by Germany and others. Austrian Interior Minister, Maria Theresa, on the other hand, reminded Italy that her nation had received “hundreds of thousands” of refugees during the Balkan crisis, thus Italy should handle the situation without any complaint.

For a keen observer who has been following humanitarian crisis, the Europeans posturing are an exaggeration. Because; there is no place like Africa that has always carried the brunt of refugee crisis among other unspeakable miseries. In addition, most of African problems have been caused and sustained by these “developed and civilized” nations; first during colonialism, then cold war and now globalization.

Due to their selfish business interest which they call investment coupled with their shortsighted geopolitical interest which they call foreign policy, they never stopped propping up dictators in Africa in the name of “containment of communism” which is replaced by the new gimmick “war on terror.” The end result of all these is repression vis-à-vis simmering anger that culminates with rebellion which in turn causes displacement.

Muammar Qaddafi

When it comes to that, the powers-of this-world, not only abandon the dictator they were propping up. They also slam their door on the face of those people whom they were exploiting in the name of investment. Italy that has been plundering Libya in collusion with Col. Gaddafi without mentioning its behaviour during the colonial times, are now grumbling to take a few more Libyans on its soil. One can see as to how Italy profiteered in Libya by checking on its five big companies that were engaged from oil and gas to motorway projects and aerospace businesses.

However, this is not to say that ruthlessness and meanness is the sole monopoly of Italy. It’s a characteristic that all imperialistic rulers share. Now let’s go to the main theme I picked; how racism has come back through the backdoor with refugee crisis and how the media failed to examine this and in fact served as instruments of propagating institutionalized prejudice to the detriment of vulnerable people that needs utmost protection.

Unpacking the bland description “illegal immigrant”

Among the inalienable rights an individual is supposed to “enjoy” by virtue of his being a human being is the right to freedom of movement inside his own country and outside.

Sadly, the right as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has long been discarded, particularly, by the developed nations.

To get an entry permit to the so-called civilized nations, an African and Asian has to pass a lot of hurdles set up by the respective immigration authorities of these nations. Since the 9/11 incident, anyone with an Arabic sounding name has not only generated mass paranoia in the Western society but also rekindled the not-so extinct prejudice and racism.

Westerns are not willing to face the ugly fact that there should have been more angry and irrational people in Africa and the Arab world, if Timothy McVeigh and his kind are prone to blow up state buildings despite being raised in a “land of opportunity and open” society.

Instead, they invariably explain away their homegrown terrorists as a “disturbed and withdrawn” adult traumatized by his parents divorce and the like. Also all the spontaneous shootings and indiscriminate killings we frequently hear from America to Finland would never subject them to any institutionalized bias. You would also be informed by the international law that “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum.

”Yet, virtually all nations have tightened their immigration rules to the point of denying. With no option, therefore, people seek other means to escape from their predicament, sometimes even desperate means like migrating on a rickety boat sailed by ruthless human traffickers. On a fine day, these are called “boat people;” at other times they are described as “illegal immigrants.” I have never come across any Media outlet that questions this description of people who are exercising their right of seeking asylum to gain entry when denied through the formal and bureaucratic channel.

Who is illegal here?

The one who makes it very hard to obtain a visa to the point of denying the right of movement and the right to seek asylum or the one who seeks to enforce his inalienable right? How can one seek asylum let alone enjoy it if he is turned away at the doorstep?

Yet, when one learns about the worst form of human rights violation that refugees have to endure, the above pales in comparison.

Citing Zuma’s experience to discredit the new ugly face of racism

Like any category of people Africans are also afflicted by HIV/AIDS. If their afflictions seem to be more so than any other people, it’s because of the ineptitude of their rulers that subjects them to abject poverty, abysmal ignorance, instability and displacement. As has been evidenced time and again, an environment like this provides fertile ground for the spread of any contagious disease. Even in the so-called developed nations, those who have been marginalized are always the first to suffer from any outbreak of a disease.

That’s why the HIV prevalence rate is higher among the African-Americans than the Caucasians. The same reason had also first claimed the life of a poor Aborigine man in Australia during the outbreak of H1N1 or swine flu. Remember the immortal words of Louis Pasteur whereby he quipped “The microbe is nothing but the terrain is everything?

”Otherwise, Africans are not in a state of condition that makes them overindulgent in sex to the point of carrying their promiscuity far and wide. They simply don’t have the wherewithal like the Caucasians in North America and Europe whose scandalous behavior invariably makes headlines.

Yet, Africans are stuck with HIV/AIDS. Notwithstanding the fact that a white gay community in Los Angeles was among the first to be linked with HIV/AIDS, the Western scientists via the powerful media at their disposal impressed upon the gullible mass that Africa is the originator of HIV/AIDS.

They even coined the theory of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus/SIV/ believed to be found in chimpanzees and monkeys in Central and Western parts of Africa and dinned it to everybody. In 2009, breaking news that gave a glimmer of hope to the millions of people living with HIV/PLHIV/was released. It was about the first person who got cured of HIV/AIDS completely.

Apparently, the gentleman from America referred to as “The Berlin Patient” was suffering from leukemia as well as being HIV positive. In an attempt to cure his leukemia, it was decided to do a “unique and risky stem cell transplant” on him. A “very special donor” volunteered to donate the stem cell for the transplant whereby the “Berlin patient” was not only cured of leukemia but no longer had any detectable viral load in spite of every possible biopsy and test that included the most ultrasensitive screening for HIV.

Though, it was a German doctor named Gero Hutter who did the transplant on the “Berlin patient,” an American doctor called Lawrence was in close contact. In an interview, he described how they selected the donor from other potential donors for his genetic mutation that equipped him with stem cells resistant to getting infected with virtually all known types of HIV.

He added that it’s a rarity to find such a person since it’s only one to two percent of “white Americans and western Europeans; in about four percent of people from Scandinavian countries and in no Africans, African-Americans or Asians.”

I am not sure whether that is science or pure racism. I do know for a fact, however,that many Africans by sweet default have proven themselves that they are also resistant to getting infected with HIV.

Most had unprotected sexual encounters for long with multiple sexual partners. Since Africa’s border is as wide open as a cheap discotheque from the time of colonialism down to globalization unlike the so-called developed nations, the likelihood of being exposed to “all the known types of HIV” is high.

Thanks to our own statesman who volunteered to make his serostatus public record since his active sexual life that didn’t even hesitate to be in the sack so casually with a known HIV positive lady is also a public knowledge, we have a solid proof to discredit the American scientist.Indeed, Jacob Zuma should be hailed for enabling us to defend the good name of our continent.

Much hype on “zero discrimination”

There was this advertisement I have seen being played over and over on one of the Ugandan TV channels to sensitize people on how to be safe from HIV/AIDS. One clip shows a lady running away from a bedridden AIDS patient only to return in a while after seeing how other people are taking care of him tenderly.

Another shows how a young lady was ostracized in what looks like a College café upon rumors that she is HIV positive.

After some time, a couple of students decided to join her in a friendly manner. And always these clips end with a phrase that says “Imagine an HIV free generation; it begins with you!

”Invariably, these advertisements sounded hollow and hypocritical to me. While the biggest discrimination and stigmatization PLHIV suffer from has been institutionalized at the international level, NGOs like the one who sponsored the above advertisement never had the courage to address that issue. To me, the United Nations that oversees the so-called international community also lacks sincerity and commitment to see the implementation of its goals encapsulated with mottos such as “zero discrimination.”

While it’s the moral duty of developed nations to lift the burden of refugee crisis from poorer nations as per the international humanitarian law, almost all have closed their borders to asylum seekers and refugees stranded in nations that are no better than their own from which they fled.

However,there are some nations that pretend to share the problem in the name of “special humanitarian” programme whereby they come to Africa and cherry pick those refugees who are young, robust and bright after a rigorous medical check up. While it’s reasonable to check a traveler for any contagious disease that gets transmitted by air and casual contact, to conduct mandatory test for HIV on a refugee for the mere purpose of exclusion is not only inhuman but a crime.

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Yet, that is what’s routinely being done by nations such as Australia. Also there seems to be no coordination between the various agencies in the UN. That’s what I felt when the UNAIDS chief, Michel Sidibe feigned ignorance and shock in August 2010 upon “discovering” Australia’s exclusionary policy towards PLHIV travelers.

UNAIDS chief, Michel Sidibe

Yet,on top of the history of Australian influential politicians public utterance such as Pauline Hanson’s suggestion to close Australia for “diseased South Africans with AIDS,” UNHCR too confirmed in 2009 in a submission made to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Inquiry via the regional office for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific that Australia indeed discriminates against PLHIV refugees. In summation, what the so-called international community has granted grudgingly and after dilly-dallying to PLHIV in poorer nations is the availability of cheap ARVs under a fancy term called “generic.”

Otherwise,it has always been paying lip service like the current fad of shedding crocodile tears for the mass rape victims of Congolese refugees. Most of these ladies who have surely been exposed to the risk of infection by HIV are only supposed to subsist themselves on ARV in their respective refugee camps on top of feeling grateful to the “international community” that facilitated this “privilege” for them.

Meanwhile,every year on World Refugee Day/June 20/and World AIDS Day/December 1/,we continue to hear rhetoric on “zero discrimination” and promise of funding even from nations such as Australia that exclude PLHIV refugees on the lame excuse of “high cost” on health care. Until those entrusted to promote humanitarian causes and human rights equally condemn abuses in America, Australia,China, Saudi Arabia etc, ganging up on a republic of NGOs such as Uganda, just because it’s unable to foot its own bill is tantamount to hegemony, no defense of human rights. Also instead of empowering those genuine human rights defenders to eradicate homophobia in a sea of illiteracy, superstition and religious extremism, it makes it harder for them.

A case in point; despite the legalization of same sex marriage in South Africa, sexual minorities still get abused with impunity. In order to build trust and consensus on human rights, therefore, the likes of Mr. Gueterres should refrain from pointing out human rights issues in a periodic and superficial way. In this era of revolution, we need a consistent and aggressive campaign for human rights. An Ethiopian Refugee in Uganda

________________________________________
Kiflu Hussain is an attorney based in Uganda. He says his passion for writing came from reading, and that it’s inevitable that the more one reads, the more one develops the urge to write. Kiflu has published articles in Ethiopia on the English Reporter, then a weekly newspaper along with a few Amharic articles on the defunct Addis Zena. It was after he and his family found refuge in Uganda, that he began contributing writings to the local papers and various websites such as Daily Monitor, Uganda Record, The New Vision, Ethioquestnews, Garowe Online, WardheerNews etc.

The reason for this is clear. Ethiopia, despite being a seat of the African Union had never produced a regime that allows even the minimum space for dialogue that other people in Africa enjoy so naturally. So Kiflu's ending up as a refugee in Uganda is a blessing in disguise for it accorded him with the opportunity to write. He says at the same time he learned, unfortunately, that his refugee status would be what showed how deep the hypocrisy of the “international community” goes. We at Salem-News.com are honored to carry this gentleman's work and we hope that in the process, western people may come to appreciate the struggle of refugees throughout the world.

You can write to Kiflu at this address: E-mail;kiflukam@yahoo.com




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stdsingle March 2, 2011 12:31 am (Pacific time)

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