By Jenerali Ulimwengu
This past month, the whole of Europe has been seriously enmeshed in a debate on migration and its effects on European politics, so much so that one finds something to link Portugal’s victory in the Euro 2016 and Brexit.
The two teams that played in the final match both had a number of extremely un-European looking players, players whose complexion suggested they must have come from our beloved continent at one time or another.
Some had names that could not help but be African, totally unembellished — names like Cissoko, Matuidi, Pogba, etc. Others had had undergone plastic surgery, but their faces just couldn’t lie.
It was clear to see that some serious migratory activity must have taken place for these young men to be representing France and Portugal.
The fact of a painful past was, as it usually does on these occasions, displayed in full colour. Part of it may be the colonial ties that brought together France and Portugal on the one hand and what we now call Guinea Bissau, Angola and Senegal on the other.
Into that migratory logic is written the remarkable sporting prowess we have witnessed in the Americas, in countries such as the US, Cuba, Jamaica and Panama, where the great grandchildren of cotton pickers and sugarcane cutters are simply stunning when they come onto the field. Today it is impossible to even imagine these countries competing in the Olympics without their “Africans.”
Still they are not wholeheartedly wanted by their “adopted” countries. Iceland’s national soccer coach forgot the most basic rules of civility after he lost to France by suggesting that the French team was really African, a sentiment expressed by old Jean-Marie Le Penn a long time ago, and which must be in the minds of many a European as they see the grandsons of the Mandingo donning their national colours even when they cannot quite sing “la Marseillaise.”
But the celebration is genuine every time they win. The Portuguese have not yet recovered from the ecstasy created by the lone goal by which they beat France, even though the scorer was born in Bissau. The losing finalists, France, have found a new hero in Cissoko, with such an obvious name.
Yes, an important cause of Brexit is xenophobia, and it is not limited to Britain alone; many other Europeans feel like Boris Johnson, the new foreign secretary.
Ironically, Boris is himself the great grandson of a Turk, but you wouldn’t know it. As a member of the British parliament reminded his fellow citizens some time ago, there is so much mixed blood in the country that it is hypocritical to try to create an insular Britain.
By the way, if Britain were to do a full, unmitigated Brexit and decide to kick out all foreigners, the country will find it no longer has a royal family. Not that they need one, but it may take a lot of getting used to.
Already a number of people he must work with have expressed negative views of the man, calling him a liar and an irresponsible politician. It will be interesting to watch as he navigates that space.
All that may change as Mrs May tries to make the best of a bad situation. As someone said, you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, but it is impossible once you have your omelette to get your eggs back.
It is the kind of situation that the last prime minster, David Cameron, must be happy he does not have to handle.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam.
Source: All Africa