Here's a fascinating commentary in Kenya’s Daily Nation by Simwogerere Kyazze exploring the mindset of the African Diaspora. Using Irish-American novelist Frank McCourt’s works Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis as templates for the “voluntary” emigration of necessity (leave the homeland or die), Mr. Kyazze, a Ugandan, fears that Africa’s best and brightest are permanently abandoning her and will never come home.
It is through stories such as Angela's Ashes and 'Tis that one appreciates the trauma of forced migration as well as the fierce determination of people to hold onto what they think is 'home'. As such US citizens have turned their hyphenated existences into an oxymoron – Irish-Americans; African-Americans; Asian-Americans; Jewish-Americans; Vietnamese-Americans; Cuban-Americans; etc.Mr. Kyazze cites an article in The New African, "Killing Us Softly," which states that:
As with Mr. McCourt's Irish-Americans, most hyphenated Americans, Britons and other citizens in the North emigrated to escape (with the exceptions of the African-Americans, descendants of African slaves forcibly transplanted from the continent). They were escaping famine (the Irish), genocide (the Jews), or war (the Vietnamese). Not only were they welcomed in their new homes, many flourished too.
The new millennium is going to be about the emptying of the African continent, yet the difference between our search for a new home, and those of years past is that the continent is blighted by the entire gamut of things that forced other peoples to emigrate.
The problem is not that the continent cannot produce highly-trained and skilled human resources, the problem is that today they are being taken away faster than Africa can replenish them. Various estimates suggest that between 20% and 50% of the top African brains and skilled personnel now reside outside the continent, and most maintain minimal professional contact with the motherland. Numerically speaking, this translates into tens of thousands of experienced, highly trained and skilled doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, writers, scientists, business people, university lecturers, accountants, administrators, computer experts, artists, lawyers, town planners, etc. They, their children and their children’s children are lost to the continent as they are almost certain to stay in their new adopted countries in the West.Though Mr. Kyazze recounts incidents of racism to which many Africans most certainly are subject in their various adopted homelands, he still contends that most will never entertain the thought of making a permanent return to their places of birth because,
[T]he reason why people can leave Vietnam and still go back with their families is because it had a war, which ended. They leave Korea and return because it had a war, which ended. They leave Ireland and return because it had a famine, which ended. They leave wherever and return because in each of these places the social upheaval starts. And ends.Occasional racism is better than death, it seems.
Not so in Africa. What would an Eritrean go back to; an Egyptian; a Tunisian; a Sudanese; an Ethiopian; a Nigerian?
Many Africans who leave cannot envision an end to the constant turmoil—the wars, the genocides, the starvation episodes, the plagues and the corruption—which seem to have an unshakeable grip on virtually that entire continent.
As a counterexample, upon his matriculation from an American university, my father went back to his native Kenya while the new nation was in the midst of being born--gaining its independence from the UK. However, it is easy to see why and how the idealism which he undoubtedly possessed back then--as a man in his twenties—has morphed into the type of grim
cynicism realism which he expresses in his weekly Daily Nation columns. Even in Kenya, which has the reputation of having one of the most stable and reasonably democratic of governments in Africa (not an incredibly high standard), tribalism and bribery are the norms.
In spite of these realities, I hope and pray for the best for Kenya in its latest quest toward reform. Could it spread?