“Othering” others


By Fekadu Alemu

Sarbet down to Mexico, Resembling Bole, is a place where someone can have an exposure to meet different diplomats, foreigners and foreign workers of AU. The last March, 2017 event was a sudden story, a South African Inhabitant happens to me and saying “I feel less consolation,” he whispers, looking at me immediately after sharing the chair in Minchin Café in front of Canada Embassy, Sarbet to Gerbrial road. “Coming out from South Africa and feel a relief at least for a week”, he added once warm introduction. Still I didn’t get him what he is talking about. I know Ogbango Grobler is a new face and I asked “when did you arrive?” after a fraction of seconds hush he replied, “Following the last xenophobic attack” with miffed facemask.

Now I start to apprehend Ogbango Grobler’s notion on the dichotomy outlook in the continent of Africa; poverty, high illiterate over its historical richness, exclusive culture and lavish resource. On the contrary, the unresolved African delinquent irregular and regular migration and other new challenges like terrorism, xenophobia and intolerance which are exposing Africa hopeless futurity unless we didn’t worked on our solidarity. In fact, this is not the only African contest; Europe is also facing the same tricky.

I doubt whether I had stepped into his notion, but Grobler is drinking his order of coffee. He told me in the beginning as he came to Addis Ababa for the first time, AU headquarters, for a week assembly. The issue is “how to combating terrorism and group based attack in the continent of Africa.” His mourned and unrest face prescribed me to confer my interest to talk on the issue he raised above. One of the hot issues is “xenophobic” attack which was started in 2008 and escalated year to year on fellow Africans, especially, Nigerians by South Africans.

Perhaps he may not be attentive to talk to me in detail about the assembly, but after the conversation he had with the waitress I told him as I am a Masters student at Addis Ababa University and asked him the position of AU leaders on irregular migration to Europe, terrorism on the continent and group based attack specifically xenophobia in South Africa. He kept silent and disturbed for a moment before he replied to me. Unexpectedly Grobler said “The unresolved migration to Europe and Xenophobia in South Africa and other problems will make the continent hopeless futurity. “You Ethiopian have no problem I think, you are simply asking me”, he said. But it was a question for me why he was so worried about? Because I assume that he has good job and good salary as African Union employee.

“The problem of ̔othering̕ others is continue damaging Western countries, the following is Africa. In fact, it starts in South Africa” Grobler start to narrate how he lost both of his Nigerian friends due to xenophobic attack in South Africa and the other one is horrors of modern slavery on way across the Sahara to Libya. Muhammed Yusuf and Adama Isoomah a 24, 26-years-old Nigerians came to South Africa and grew up with Ogbango Grobler in Pretoria.


But, even if you grew together, you wouldn’t join college together, live and work. Life always brought individuals in different line. Yusuf had one small window-shop in Atteridgeville. He died because he is Nigerian small business man where dozens of Nigerians were targeted in Atteridgeville, outside Pretoria last February, 2017. This is unforgettable and ugly history which Grobler will never overlook.” Grobler did not stop telling me. He continued to describe, “The other Adama Isoomah, 26 had no job in south Africa, who travelled to Libya looking for work, or hoping to sail to Europe, who was instead sucked into a grim and violent world of slave markets, private prisons, and brutal forced brothels.” An Ivory Coast survival told him, because Isoomah has no money he has been sold, tortured and finally the Ivory Coast man forced to watch while they killed Isoomah himself. These all quiet intrudes Ogbango Brobler.

Grobler says “we consider ourselves as brotherhood since we grew up together in South Africa. I have no brother in our family, they were my brothers, friends, and even we had been together in one room ….. While we were in high school; I remember all what we did” he added.

Of course, the problem of “othering” is reckless for Africa not Europe. I start to convert the conversation to rely on the cradle of “othering” problems to curtail Groble’s deep woe.  Our brothers who are immigrant, migrant born in United States and in different Europe countries are killed by the right or white extremists. They often become victims of various forms of exploitation and discrimination – during recruitment, on their journey or at their new place of work.

I read a story end of last April in the New York Times that right-wing terrorism might be the most severe security threat in the United States; Dylann Roof killed nine people in his shooting rampage at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. Similar events have been recorded in many Western European countries, as well as in Russia and Eastern Europe. However, the public debate has not ascribed the same level of importance to the threat from the extreme right as it has regularly with Islamist extremism.



The western ideology of “othering” white supremacist or extreme right wings, anti-immigration and Islamphobia are creating a problem to the world like the ideology of terrorism, xenophobia and ethnic hate, and violence on earth.  That is why Europe or western is experienced with ISIS, Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, and Hamas in the eyes of Israel, Taliban and other terrorist groups. When you come to Africa; Al-shababa and Boko-haram are the other terrorist groups in Africa and Xenophobia in South Africa. Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 2016: stated that west has a long history of violent acts perpetrated by extreme right-wing actors. Since 2012, the refugee crisis across Europe has contributed to an upsurge in support for right-wing parties and violent networks. Xenophobic and anti-immigration crimes and social movements have increased in almost all European countries.

In an interview made by the Guardian journalist after the Paris attacks in 2015, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls explained that “it’s difficult to construct a single term that captures the variegated expressions of a broad prejudice.” In which he refused to use the term “Islamaphobia,” This statement proposes the term “othering” as an answer to Valls’s challenge.

Othering” is a broadly inclusive conceptual framework that captures expressions of prejudice and behaviors such as atavism and tribalism. Millions of Americans were shocked and alarmed when presidential hopeful, and leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, not only announced his intent to build a wall along the United States-Mexican border to keep out “criminals and rapists,” but also demanded a ban on Muslim immigrants, even Syrian refugees, from entering the United States. The idea of stoking anxiety, resentment, or fear of the “other” is not a new electoral strategy in American politics. Appeals to nativism, racism, and xenophobia are evident in almost every period of American history.

A study found that “Political strategies informed by “othering” are hardly unique to the United States or even democracies. Aristotle and other ancient Greeks warned of “demagogues”—leaders who used rhetoric to incite fear for political gain. Many autocratic and authoritarian leaders strengthen nationalism or resentment or fears of the “other” to prop up or reinforce their own support. Such demagoguery usually involves more than mere appeals to latent fear or prejudice in the population. Demagogues actively inculcate and organize that fear into a political force. Where prejudice was latent, it is being activated; where it is absent, it is being fostered…….” Andy Borgham, page 312, 2014

The problem of “othering” is still a chaos in Europe, “The racially and politically motivated murders of nine men and women in Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church exposed the post-9/11 Western tendency to define terrorism along racial and religious lines. Americans were reminded that domestic anti-terrorism activities traditionally focused on attacks carried out by white men, including the Oklahoma City and Olympic Park bombings, and that white supremacist groups are among America’s oldest continuing terrorist threats. America’s inadequate initial response to this attack should serve as an example to the United Kingdom, France, and others whose national discourses often conflate the strategy of terrorism with the ideology of Islamic extremism.” But, all of them are still victimized with different explosions in altered times.  The recent Manchester Arena concert explosion in United Kingdom is an example of terrorist attacks recapping in Europe.

The International Business Times, November 18, 2015, emphasis on “Othering” and put a recommendation against it, “Pluralism and multiculturalism are solutions to the problem of othering that provide space for not only tolerance or accommodation of difference but that ultimately support the creation of new inclusive narratives, identities, and structures. If the idea of creating new identities seems radical, consider how recent American national identity is in a historical context, let alone the myriad forms of gender and sex-based identities have emerged only in recent years.”

I know how it is tough for Grobler to sit-down in the assembly and discuss about the issue that snatched his two African brothers. He continues asking me “why France fires the refugees, why Germany planned to support African migrants to stay in their home and want to fund billion dollars for job creation, why Donald Trump have ban on migration, religion, region and ethnic based executive order.” The notion is clear it is the problem of “othering” others or group based (one side religion, the other side geographic centered, ethnic hate… anti-immigration … so forth.)


“South Africa concerned body says it is the problem of Nigerian; Nigeria says it is the problem of South African. Grobler says, “Candidly speaking Nigerians are good in making business than South Africans. Grobler become cool and turned in to world view. “Yet, others argue that the Nigeria government is morally defeated to challenge foreign territories for maltreating their nationals because, internally, the Nigerian government has failed woefully to protect its citizens against fellow citizens.”

An article wrote by Juliana Agbo and Omonu Yax Nelson on “Xenophobic attacks and the challenges of African solidarity” clearly stated that “Most striking from the SSA’s revelation is the fact that 63% of the extra-judicial killings are perpetrated by the South African Police. What has left International Affairs experts and laymen alike, wondering aloud, is the fact that, despite the subtle approach adopted by Nigerian authorities to sort out the whole saga, the South African authorities’ lackadaisical disposition towards the plight of the victims of xenophobic attacks and extra-judicial killings portends that these actions are pre-meditated.”

It is also understood that “Othering” others or group based prejudice emanated from west by sentencing immigrants like “…..they stole our job, they did not respect our culture, they didn’t recognize white over blacks……etc.” The white people are forgetting as we are living in a multicultural global world. The same thing is happing in South Africa with Nigerians. The xenophobic attack report tells us, the incident is not only attack Nigerians but also other black Africans. Therefore it is all about black-on-black violence.

An International Affairs analyst claimed that “the South African leaders at all levels are accomplices in these dastardly acts. To prove his point, he alluded to the 2015 rioting in Durban, which broke out, following comments by Goodwill Zwelithini, king of the Zulu ethnic group and figurehead of the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, which criticized the presence of immigrants in South Africa. Zwelithini later said his comments had been misinterpreted and that he had only criticized high crime levels. A time-proven African saying has it that, ‘If you rescue an animal from being killed, it will speed-off but if you save a human being, he will turn around and kill you.’ This saying perhaps, explains the South African scenario. Angling on this contradiction, experts has tried to offer some explanations to the real cause of xenophobia. This theory says the crisis has conspiracy undertone. According to this school of thought, the mistrust and hatred amongst other Africans and black South Africans is the hangover of Apartheid legacies.”

On the other hand, the majority both politicians have taken the current situation as a good weapon by politicizing migration and scapegoating migrants for socioeconomic problems such as unemployment, migration anxieties, and deteriorating social cohesion. Here in Africa group based hating started and killed many brothers in South Africa, we don’t know where it will goes next except the people of Africa and authorities able to eradicate this inhuman activity. I and Ogbango Grobler want to stop the discussion with a notion Grobler borrowed from South African Ambassador, Lulu Louis Mnguni, “So as to reduce the desperateness among our people which most times lead to mutual suspicion and hatred, I think another thing we can do is to address the issue of poverty.”

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