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Whose interests does the Ugandan embassy in China serve?

In the wake of state-inspired sanctions that sparked off xenophobic campaigns against Africans in China’s city of Guangzhou, I was not only shocked but also disappointed by snail-like speed by which the situation was handled.

While I am yet to get my head around how the Africans, who haven’t been able to travel for more than two months, can be feared to spark off the second wave of the Covid-19 in China, I have been disappointed by the dilly-dallying speed by which African states - Uganda in particular - have intervened to protect their citizens from oppression.

First, with the looming declines in donor funds from Western countries during the post-Covid-19 pandemic era, remittances from Uganda’s diaspora are more than ever going to remain a crucial source of foreign currencies.

It is, therefore, an expression of a twisted mentality of priorities when Ugandans who are abroad cry out for help when in trouble and do not get the necessary and timely protection from the government.

Secondly, of all countries, China should be the last nation from where Ugandans, just like any other Africans, should face any form of xenophobic attacks. As the adage goes, those who sleep in glass houses cannot be expected to throw stones at other people’s houses.

What has happened to the affected Africans is purely a matter of racial segregation as those who are attacked are identified by the amount of melanin they have in their skin.

Considering that there are several Chinese who can easily be identified visibly, plus the vast amounts of investments China has in Uganda, common sense dictates that it would be in the best interest of China to ensure that no Uganda faces any unmitigated form of xenophobic attacks.

Yet, I understand that if someone is known for chewing live termites challenging them to eat white ants might seem like a waste of time. If what is happening to the Ugandans in China happens to even just one Chinese, the powers that be in Uganda will be summoned by the Chinese ambassador and get instructions to ensure that the injustice does not continue.

That would be followed by a deployment of all tribes of covert and overt security detail with armory in the affected areas to protect the rights and ensure the safety of the Chinese people who are facing any form of oppression.

The protection would be followed by a thunderous pronouncement from the president in the line of “we will shoot to kill anyone who disturbs the peace of our good Chinese investors.” Needless to say, the whole world is going through so much pain right now due to the Covid-19 pandemic that the last thing one wants is to witness xenophobic attacks on innocent Chinese living in Uganda simply because both the Ugandan government and the Chinese government did not act early enough.

Interestingly, although the significance of learning other languages is a topic I can return to in the near future, I must state here that the willingness and commitment to learn other people’s language, without coercion, is perhaps the best expression of interest and admiration in and for those whose language is learned. It is, therefore, no secret that there is an ongoing cordial relationship between Ugandans and Chinese.

Uganda has even taken a bigger stop of integrating Mandarin in the new education curriculum and there are various institutions in Uganda that are offering crush lessons in Mandarin. If both the Chinese and the Ugandan government share a mutual acknowledgement of the importance of the ongoing relationship, any xenophobic attacks on either national should always attract immediate condemnation and actions to restore justice in the shortest period possible.

Also, when we talk of intervention, we do not hope that Uganda should always go to war with China - even if war were a plausible option - just because some Ugandans are being oppressed in China. Neither are we asking for the Ugandan government to immediately cut off economic ties with China.

Sometimes, all it takes to save people from oppression is the immediate publicity of the oppression and strong statements of condemnation from the powers that be. Therefore, however toothless it would seem, a timely official statement of condemnation from the Ugandan government, with specific ultimatums would suffice. Perhaps, a visit to some of the affected Ugandans in China by any official from the Ugandan consulate in China would serve even better.

When facing oppression in a foreign land, it matters most to know that there is someone one out there who cares. And it is very reassuring if that timely concern comes from one’s own government.

This article was published on The Ugandan Observer.


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