“Voluntary colonialism” is the West’s anti-immigration strategy

Ramona Wadi shares her perspective on so-called “voluntary colonialism,” an effort to stem migration from Africa to Europe. (Photo courtesy Ramona Wadi)

The African Union has outlined its aspirations for the continent in its development plan “Agenda 2063.” It affirms its vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.”

Meanwhile, the international community reduces Africa to two convenient facades: as a source of unwanted migration and as a resource to be plundered.

So far, the EU’s proposals have included increasing surveillance and militarization of the Mediterranean. In his 2018 State of the Union address, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker proposed an additional 10,000 border guards to “protect our external borders.” He also stated, “Africa does not need charity, it needs fair partnerships. And Europe needs this partnership just as much.”

His last sentence may prove to hold more keys to an agenda that has been creeping on Africa silently under the guise of aid and development.

In November, a statement by Germany’s Africa Commissioner Gunter Nooke propelled the international community’s prime motivations to the fore. Departing from migration and the European Union’s failure to find solutions to the issue, Nooke flaunted the possibilities of “voluntary colonialism” in Africa. In an interview with the BBC, he explained that foreign bodies, such as the EU and the World Bank would acquire land in African countries to build and develop, with the purported aim of ending migration to Europe.

Nooke’s proposal traces its origins to the concept of charter cities promoted by U.S. economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Paul Romer. He argues that surrendering territory voluntarily does not constitute colonialism. However, the ramifications of such a hypothetical surrender in Africa would provide an opportunity for the international community to legitimize land grabs and the ensuing exploitation.

Europe’s contention and dislike for immigration is no longer discussed discreetly. As Italy and Malta conjured their own arena to promote anti-refugee discourse, with both governments insisting they would refuse safe haven for the rescued people aboard NGO ships, other news was reeking in of migrants who drowned off the coast of Libya, and others who were retained in Libya’s camps. In its scramble for purported solutions, the EU, like other international bodies, refused a discussion of the politics that created refugees and their trajectories towards the countries that exploited them in the first place.

Promoting the concept of voluntary colonialism will have several implications for African countries. Its supporters will only laud one side of the story — the reduction of migration to Europe.

The proposal impinges on African territory by building upon the prevailing anti-refugee sentiment which has become a vote decider in many elections. It also assumes that refugees seek out Europe as an option. Hence the idea of replicating a European system in Africa, according to voluntary colonialism, will bring what refugees purportedly want to their territory. Proponents of the system once again make use of the mainstream European narrative, mostly associated with Africans classified as economic migrants, to bring a so-called choice to the continent.

The EU is one of the bodies touted as an option for the hypothetical scheme. Its member states include former colonizers of African nations and its policies illustrate all too well that there will be no evaluation of the historical processes that resulted in Africans seeking Europe’s shores for refuge.

Previous colonial domination by European countries wrought changes in Africa through massacres, the installing of puppet governments and incitement between tribes in order to allow a level of continued discordance that leaves an open door for new infiltration. It was only last August that Germany handed over the remains of Namibia’s colonial victims from 1904-1908 — without a formal government apology. Belgium’s colonization of the Congo resulted in the genocide of 10-15 million victims.

Migration may prove to be the excuse needed to perfect the colonization of Africa in a manner that is appealing to the West and its purported human rights agenda. The financial costs associated with migration would fade from public scrutiny as governments would promote containing migration as an investment initiative. The fact that such proposals run contrary to the African Union’s aspirations is of no concern to the individuals promoting “voluntary colonialism.”

The mechanisms for Africa’s subjugation are already in place and set to become even more entrenched. In addition to the historical colonial violence and exploitation, Africa has also suffered in terms of militarization, with the United States expanding its presence across the continent through AFRICOM. National Security Adviser John Bolton has suggested that the organization’s headquarters should relocate from Germany to Africa, stating, “The Pentagon has been clear for some period of time after AFRICOM was created that it ought to be in the theatre it’s responsible for.”

A key observation to U.S. presence in Africa can also be applied to EU standards. In 2004, a report titled “Weak States and US National Security” outlined that “weak and failed states matter to American security, American values and the prospects for global economic growth upon which the American economy depends.”

The creation of failed states through colonization and foreign intervention — the responsibility of which lies with the U.S., NATO and the EU, is eliminated — the reason being that it is the end result of a failed state that matters and the opportunities to legitimize the theft of a continent.

Having a permanent base which is normalized through the concept of cities and empowerment allows foreign political actors to promote a form of colonialism that is in line with parameters that have been extended to allow as many variations of violations possible while retaining a façade of human rights.

Not to mention the fact that there is nothing voluntary about an imposed plan that forces the African continent to subjugate itself to a permanent foreign presence.

Clearly, the end of the colonial era is nowhere in sight.

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