Wednesday, 27 June 2007

A Plea to Abolish Visa Trade

The transportation of Africans to America and the Caribbean from the 16th to the 19th centuries known as slave trade was eventually abolished at the very time no one expected. It was like yesterday when minds of slave merchants were rendered unwholesome by contaminants pollution. Their complex mental state brought a seemingly endless tears to a people of the same genetic stock. But one day the tears stopped. The "new" minds started viewing the fad as crude and uncivilized. The slave owners then broke down in tears, admitting extreme cruelty. Have we forgotten so soon?

At the peak of that period, had someone stood at the market, foretold by divine inspiration that such barbarous act would soon be destroyed completely, the fragile and confused minds of that period would definitely dismiss such prophesy as hopeless optimism. Even they would have persecuted such thought like the Holy son. Likewise if someone had predicted that Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi man who ruled his people with tempestuous mind, would be conquered in a snake or mouse hole, and subsequently hanged, no one would have listened to such doomsday prophesy.

But it happened. And there comes a time when the minds of those who engage in visa trade would become repentant, having realized that such manner of acting is almost similar to the slavery period. The good thing is the fact that the crusade has already started even though it is still at the incipient stage. The EU (European Union) initiative to open its borders for the benefits of citizens of member states is commendable. Gone were the days when they too must struggle for visa before crossing one border to another.

Certain minds may consider it quite unrealistic calling for the abolition of visa trade, which has been the practice for donkey years. One needs an official on a passport, permitting the bearer to enter the country making the endorsement. However, methinks this visa thing berates the notion of freedom of movement in which all nations profess to cherish. Okay, I also understand there's limit to freedom. But we cannot overlook the impact of this phenomenon called visa. As with other things, Africans are bearing the brute. For Africans, visa has brought back tears of slavery period.

Many have perished in Italian or Spanish water. They often drown while attempting to cross to the other side of the Atlantic after their visa applications must have been rejected. Such tragedies have been shown many times on International Cable News Organisations. Majority believe the street of America for example, is paved with dollars; some do envisage harvesting euros on the trees in Europe, etc. And I am talking about youths who are skillful. Uche Nworah, the author of The Long Harmattan Season , told the story of how it took him six months to reach Germany in search of a better life. Many are yet to tell their own story, while many would never be able to tell it because the dead have no story to tell.

Isn’t it ironic? In those days the slave merchants went to Africa, exploited and forced the inhabitants to relinquish their responsibilities, and robbed them of their dignity. These human traders then shared the slaves among themselves without the latter’s consent. And now that the descendants of the former slaves are willing to embark on similar voyage voluntarily, the door is being closed ala visa. Interestingly enough, there are expectant mothers and fathers in Africa who would go the extra mile in order to deliver their babies in America or Britain or other "advanced" nations. Things like this, and or the readiness to die while pursuing greener pasture in the Western world is what I call The Second Slavery Ship. It is a metaphor for inept rulers who have failed their continent – at least for now.

Africans are dying at alarming rate in order to search for a better life in America or Britain or even Asia (Do I need to repeat?). Some have been knocked out due to mental and physical insult. Some have been subjected to inhumane interrogation at different embassies. We have been told of a winner of American Lottery Visa who was asked during interview the exact position her husband enjoys most when making love! Or the colour of her husband’s favourite underwear! Some have been shot while attempting to beat border patrols.. Some have frozen to death. It is sometimes a mixed up situations which can even confuse the most enlightened ones. Abolition of visa trade may be a practical way to curb human trafficking, which has become a global big business.

But who cares? Let them perish – all of them if need be. The world population is on the verge of alarming anyway. These people are just breeding like pigs, and without contributing to the development of the world. They are parasites who could not advance their own course of thought. Theirs is an environment where the strong pummel the weak, and the latter much of a crawler to fight for the best portion. It is a society where a soldier loves peace, and a Bishop war. They solely rely on the Western world to feed them, cancel their debts, and greedily demand reparation for slavery. Do they still live on trees? Do they think at all?

Whereas Rudolph Lewis, Editor Chicken Bones: A Journal, says "Africa gave up enslaved men, women, and children by the hundreds of thousands who brought America many gifts (not only labor but music, dance, and words) that have enriched the cultural and social life of the modern United States... Africa also supplied the uranium (of Congo mines) used to produce the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki…" Obviously this is not enough for African continent to be regarded as one in a million. It must do than just begging for aids here and there. Its rulers must get started, for apparently they have been in a blissful sleep while others are burning the candle at both ends to maintain highest standard of living – for their citizens.

So I am going to argue here that this visa thing is a class thing. The more a country is respected in terms of international economic power, the more its citizens are exempted from visa burden. The so-called advanced or industrial nations allow their citizens to cross borders without hindrance. For example, the United States of America waives visa in the case of citizens from Canada, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Japan, France and so on. In return American citizens are visa free to many places on earth. The twenty-five member states of European Union also open borders for their citizens to cross with absolute ease. There is also Schengen Staten comprises of Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Austria, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. A bearer of such visa can use it to cross any of the members borders .

But how can I agitate for Africans to be visa free to the rest of the world when they even need visa before travelling within their continent. What the policy makers have failed to realize however, is that the more people are restricted, the more the urge for them to loose free. Human nature does not enjoy being caged. Perhaps the thirst for migration would decline if people know they can actually move without hindrance. I remember how my uncles and aunts used to travel to "London" or "Yankee" without any aim of settling there. Those were the days when Nigerians were visa free to Britain, and when American or European visas were not a do or die affair.

How can I be calling for a visa free world in this era of terrorism! Am I so insensitive? Where was I on the day bomb went off in Britain and Spain respectively killing hundreds of innocent people? Where was I on 9/11? In fact, America should deport all undocumented aliens in its midst. Since America is still practicing death penalty, an act other "civilized nations" abhor, it can go further to get rid off all criminals in the region. Of course I am aware that the so-called terrorists might exploit such generosity of visa free world to perpetrate their nefarious acts. Yet we can find solution – if we want – without necessary punishing innocent soul whose aim is basically freedom and, or lusher pastures.

In conclusion, I should not forget to mention the arrogance of certain embassies in Nigeria and Africa at large. Apart from the ill-treatment of visa applicants, they are guilty of damaging their passports as well. If visa was refused, the passport would be badly stamped. Why? Is it a crime to apply for a visa? If an application for a visa was unsuccessful, why not return the passport without tampering with it? Under what law could someone tamper with another woman’s property and go scot-free! Lord Embassies do it to Africans whenever the former arrogantly stamp passports without issuing visas. I don’t know about you but my Nigerian passport is very dear to me. But I know that if slavery could be abolished, so is this visa thing. En, abolish am.

copyright 2007

This is a revised edition

1 comment:

Ethics in said...

Ex-Museveni Maid Sues Whitaker

The Monitor (Kampala)
6 July 2007
Posted to the web 5 July 2007

By Grace Matsiko

An American adviser to the NRM government on trade and investment has lost a preliminary appeal in a U.S. court to dismiss a fraud case filed against her by her Ugandan housemaid.

Ms Idah Zirintusa, a former State House employee, sued Ms Rosa Whitaker in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for fraud, unjust enrichment, and illegal interference with her earlier contract with State House.

Ms Zirintusa alleges in court papers that Ms Whitaker entered into a three-year oral employment contract with her promising four times the wage she earned in Uganda, full tuition at an American college, food, and shelter.

It is further alleged that Ms Whitaker promised Ms Zirintusa to make separate payments to support her family in Uganda.

In the pleadings, a copy of which Daily Monitor has obtained, Ms Zirintusa further says that Ms Whitaker violated various provisions of the US Fair Labour Standards Act, D.C. Payment and Collection of Wages Law, and D.C. Minimum Wage Act by failing to pay her the minimum wage and overtime fee to which she was entitled for the domestic services she provided Ms Whitaker and her friend Ms Pauline Harris.

Ms Whitaker worked as the assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa under President Bill Clinton, and during the early years of Mr George W. Bush's presidency.

In that job, she "developed and implemented the African Growth and Opportunity Act and other bilateral and multilateral trade policy initiatives towards Africa".

When she left the trade representative's office, Ms Whitaker founded The Whitaker Group, a consultancy firm that advises several African countries, including Uganda, on international business issues.

The Whitaker Group officials were recently in Uganda pushing for increased production of organic cotton to make apparel for the American market.

In her defence, Ms Whitaker argues that Ms Zirintusa could not sustain her claims because she was not legally permitted to work in the United States.

She also argues that her accuser is not entitled to overtime pay under either federal or Washington D.C. law because Ms Zirintusa lived in her employer's home - in this case Ms Whitaker's home.

Ms Whitaker bases her defence in part on the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which makes it illegal for aliens to sue for breach of contract. In its ruling, however, the judge allowed Ms Zirintusa to proceed with the suit.

The court stated that nothing in IRCA prohibits undocumented workers from asserting their labour rights under the US Fair Labor Standards Act.

The court also ruled that Ms Whitaker acted fraudulently when she "made material misstatements of fact" in January 2003, September 2003, and July 2004.

The court found that Ms Whitaker falsely promised Ms Zirintusa that if she accepted her offer of employment, the American lobbyist would provide payments for the care and support of the accuser's family in Uganda.

According to the court's ruling, Ms Whitaker made these representations knowing they were false and Ms Zirintusa reasonably relied on the misstatements to sell her possessions at a significant loss and leave her family in Uganda to work for Ms Whitaker in the United States.

"The Court finds that these facts are sufficient to overcome a motion for judgment on the pleadings," reads part of the January 3, 2007 ruling.

Ms Zirintusa, who once worked as a catering officer at State House Nakasero, arrived in the United States on August 18, 2004 on a student visa.

On the issue of unjust enrichment, the court held that Ms Zirintusa proved that Ms Harris had received a benefit at Ms Zirintusa's expense by accepting domestic services without paying for those services.

Ms Zirintusa, who still lives in the United States, is now demanding full compensation for the value of the services rendered.

The court is yet to set a date to hear the Ugandan's compensation claims against Ms Whitaker. Efforts to reach both women for further comment were unsuccessful.

President Museveni's press secretary said he was not aware of the case. "If it is true that there was an employment agreement," Mr Tamale Mirundi said, "then that lady has a right to sue."