Africa should be open to Africans

2016-03-30 06:00
KAMOGELO SEE-KOEI, journalist and blogger. Photo: Supplied

KAMOGELO SEE-KOEI, journalist and blogger. Photo: Supplied

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A FEW years ago I had an opportunity to travel to Istanbul in Turkey.

To say that I was excited would be the understatement of the decade.

I was to stay there for two full weeks. It was a work trip, but it is not everyday that one gets a chance to travel abroad on the tab of the company, so a holiday it would also be.

There I was about to travel to foreign shores and the child in me could not be contained, so I started with preparations.

Together with several of my colleagues who were attending the World Water Forum, I applied for a visa.

I had an option to wait until I arrived in Istanbul at the Ataturk Airport to apply for a visa, but my heart and the excitement would not allow me to wait until crossing seas to get this vital document.

Suffice to say I did not go with this option. I wanted to be safe and have all my ducks in a row when I got to Istanbul.

I applied at the Pretoria-based Turkish embassy and within days the visa was approved.

Never had I imagined the gross embarrassment I would be subjected to by the Turkish police at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

I was hurled from the arrival queue where my documents were to be checked. My passport was taken and inspected with all sorts of devices. Even a magnifying glass was used to inspect the photo in the passport.

How I did not pee in my pants is still a shock to me to this day. I was that scared. But I had not done anything wrong.

Oh, except for acknow-ledging by nodding to the only other black person I saw in that entire airport. Against my better judgement I should also point out that I was the only black person in my entire delegation. My boss lady, the only other black person from the CSIR that year, would join us a few days later.

I digress.

Yes, I was standing there in that huge airport with all my documents in the hands of the police.

They proceeded to direct me to the infamous booth.

I was asked about 20 times what I was doing in Turkey. “I’m here for the water forum,” I would respond.

This was an international event. Surely, these officers were aware that all different nations would be landing on their shores.

Why were they embarrassing me like this, I kept asking myself. I wanted to cry, I wanted to go back home immediately. But my papers were not with me.

By that time my colleagues were running around the airport looking for help. Remember that being white, they fitted right in with how European women look, even though they were staunch Afrikaner girls Z a brunette and a blond and there I was with my dreadlocks in a booth being asked all sorts of questions.

Ultimately my colleagues saw a World Water Forum stall and asked for help. I was helped.

But this account is similar to accounts by many other Africans who are humiliated on a daily basis in European countries, whether they have papers or not.

When the president of Ghana, John Dramani Mahaba, recently announced that citizens of countries that are members of the African Union could apply for visas once in Ghana, I welcomed the news.

Finally, an African head of state had realised the importance and significance of opening Africa to Africans.

As things stand, citizens of African countries Z more than anyone else Z struggle to get into this country.

There is still a saddening level of self-loathing that we see in how we deal with other Africans.

Until we start loving and embracing each other as Africans, such as how Mr Mahaba has demonstrated, we will not be able to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.

We need to open Africa to Africans and not subject them to similar humiliation they face when they enter Europe and other parts of the world.

  • A salute to Ghana for setting a good example. This blog was lifted from

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