Marginalized Populations in Distress: With them, let’s talk about them

They are suffering in their little corners, far from the spotlight and the debates that are supposed to concern them, but without their voices, without their opinion. Others speak of them, In the third person, and act on their behalf. Depending on the areas and agenda, they can be treated as a foil for local politicians or as mere pieces on the chestnut tree, for supposed humanitarian organizations. Women, men and children displaced or deported; these people cherish the dream always renewed but not (yet) achieved back home. 

Thousands of them, over the years, and in circumstances of instability when the horizon darkens for the indigenous people, fill prisons across the continent by their multitude, if they do not blacken the picture of the victims of pandemic crises. The prospects are receding, the future is darkened while their host country offers hospitality in an environment of hostility. They do not seem to matter, as the reasons for thinking of them evolve in a downward curve. 

Crammed into African jails, which are otherwise unsanitary and often ravaged by COVID 19, they are the victims of local, national or international systems that are restraining them, after having created them in internal or sub-regional conflicts, without end. For them, there is no fair trial or just handling of their cases. Committed patriots, but with no resources other than derisory means of denunciation, continue to give voice, without ever opening up avenues for these damned of a land that condemns them to painful death that, by default, turns into deliverance. The question is now more than topical: who can rise above the political positioning debates, to talk about the marginalized populations of Africa who are suffering in a pandemic tunnel whose end flees before medical-pharmaceutical experts and political decision-makers? 

Who is to remind us that the Black Mauritanians unjustly deported from their historic homeland in 1989 and 1990, continue to languish in the refugee camps in Senegal and Mali? Those among them who believed in the voluntary repatriation plan became refugees in their own countries, thus adding to the list of victims of state racism that was established as a rule in Mauritania. 

What about the political prisoners, those who even the United Nations Human Rights Council has said are arbitrarily detained? Their lives are now in danger, in the face of COVID 19. In Cameroon, Marafa Hamidou Yaya was recently hospitalized following an infection due to the pandemic. It was only a matter of time before he succumbed to the coronavirus. Had it not been for the indignant appeals of his fellow citizens and friends through newspapers and social media, Marafa Hamidou Yaya would not have received any form of care in his cell, located in a military camp in the heart of the capital, Yaounde. 

The Marafa Hamidou Yaya file exposes the limitations of the Human Rights Council. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for a charge as gross as “intellectual complicity” in the misappropriation of public funds. A provision that does not exist in the laws of the country. According to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Arrest and Detention, Marafa Hamidou Yaya has been in prison for nearly 10 years. However, neither this Council, nor the Human Rights Committee, nor even the efforts of Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have succeeded in convincing the Cameroonian Government to release this High Civilian Dignitary.

There are thousands of Marafa Hamidou Yayas in Africa. There are many of them in Guinea, a country that Alpha Condé has decided to turn into an open-air prison. It is our duty to speak out against the injustices that are rife in our continent and that affect the most marginalised populations. They are suffering, they continue to suffer and have almost lost what is most important in life: hope.

Abda Wone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.