“Hear My Cry Oh! Africa
Deep in an unknown chilled cage I lie
Frozen with ice of pain and stained by
My hot African blood suddenly gone cold
Someone must tell me…what did I do wrong?”
This is just one paragraph from a poem written by Samuel Panyin Yalley, High Commissioner of Ghana to India, in memory of Masunda Kitada Oliver, an African post-graduate student of Congolese origin who was beaten to death in Delhi last Friday night.
On Thursday, Yalley distributed the poem to fellow envoys and Indian officials who had gathered here to mark Africa Day. “I was so shocked at the incident, so I penned my thoughts. Justice needs to be done for this young man,” Yalley told The Indian Express.
The envoys had gathered for the event after initially conveying that it should be postponed following the brutal assault on Oliver following a dispute with three men over hailing an autorickshaw in Vasant Kunj.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said that Indian shops and establishments in Congo’s capital Kinshasa were attacked and gunshots fired, injuring two Indians, in what is believed to be retaliatory attacks over Oliver’s killing.
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In Delhi, the African envoys said they took “very seriously the firm assurances by the Government of India in its determination to ensure that India continues to serve as a safe, secure and friendly destination for African students”.
Led by Eritrea Ambassador Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam, who is also dean of the African diplomatic corps, the envoys wore a sombre look, as they attended the event at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations conference room and auditorium.
Woldemariam started the proceedings with a minute’s silence in memory of Oliver. In a written statement, on behalf of African envoys, he said, “The high-ranking officials of the Government of India, after offering deep condolences and regrets, made a number of commitments aimed at ensuring that the concerns raised by the African group were addressed and ultimately resolved.”
Nigerian High Commissioner Sola Enikanolaiye said “racism and Afro-phobia” were issues of “major concern”. He called Oliver’s death a “barbaric attack and a murder in cold blood”.
”Such incidents have taken place in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and several parts of the country. It has raised very serious concerns about the safety of African students,” he said.
Enikanolaiye said authorities must take “pro-active” steps and “concrete action” against the accused. “Police also need to respond. There have been many instances when there has been lack of response by police,” he alleged.
Referring to the Oliver incident, Mbuya Isaac G Munlo, High Commissioner of Malawi, said it was a “day of reflection”. “The challenge for us is to reflect. It is usually not very easy. We will have to enhance understanding about each other,” he said.
Meanwhile, responding to the attacks in Kinhasa, MEA’s official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that a Note Verbale was issued to Congo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a copy to the Ministry of Interior and police to ensure the safety of life and property of all Indians residing there.
”It has come to notice of our mission in Kinshasa that some Indian establishments and shops in the commercial areas were attacked on May 23 and May 25 as a reaction perhaps to the killing of the Congolese national in New Delhi last Friday. It has also been reported that there were some gunshots fired injuring a couple of Indians living in the area. Our Ambassador took up the matter immediately with the Congolese Foreign Ministry,” said Swarup.
He added that as per latest reports, no further incidents of violence had been reported since Wednesday evening.
Concluding his poem on Oliver’s death, the Ghana High Commissioner wrote: “Never let the blood I shed be in vain. Never let my name and pain be forgotten; in this strange land of incredible magic and charms…Let the great rivers of Africa, the Nile, the Great Congo, The Tangayika the Volta, Receive my blood from the Ganges.”