Auma Obama at the Thalia Lessingtage in Hamburg

Auma Obama at the Lessingtage in Hamburg 2014

Auma Obama was at the Lessingtage in Hamburg on 26th January this year. To those who might have missed. The lecture was given in German. You can read the “summary” of the lecture in English before or watch the lecture in German below.

Integration in Germany means, to become German, that Germans don’t have to change.

Fear of change. Fear of something foreign.

Imagine Auma in a dirndl. Most would wonder what is she unto. What is wrong with her and what is she trying to become? It doesn’t work. Being different is ok.  Being different is yours.

Menschen kit Migrationshintergrund (Memms) instead of Ausländer. Ausländische Abstammung. Those are the ones who look different on the street. It becomes a problem because not all Memms look it e.g. from Holland. It increases discrimination.

It’s not fair to seclude them only because of their outward appearance. Because most of this seclusion is based on fear of foreign. These people should inform themselves but most of these people are lazy in getting information.

I lived in Germany for 16years and worked hard to learn your language and understand your culture. On the other hand, we have people who come to Kenya for a week and become experts on Africa. You have take time to face your fears to be able to understand other people and cultures.

But to those who are afraid of refugees, don’t worry most of the refugees are far away from here. Those who go to Lampedusa are the exception. Most refugees move from within African cities. In Kenya we have thousands of them that will never make it here. Only 3-5% refugees actually move out of their country. Those we have that move are the “intellectuals” who don’t come in boats but in planes and come for a long time or for life. That’s the brain-drain. Most African refugees don’t come to Europe, they remain on the continent. This is different in Europe where there’s more migration due to job-insecurity, the European forced-migration.

The difference is, when people speak of Europeans migrating, it’s called Auswanderung while when Africans move, it is fleeing “Flüchten” despite the fact that all are moving looking for better opportunities or are being forced to move. But why the different naming? (We all know why)

Africa is very rich we have Uranium, Diamonds, Bauxite, Gold. We have more than any other continent. We don’t know how to use them for our own benefit. Land is a “new” attraction,  in Europe everyone wants to eat organic foods but they don’t have enough land to produce it, and for that they have to look to Africa. Africa is being exploited (ausgebeutet). People in Africa are being displaced and their land is taken away with little to no compensation. The young people are forced to move to the cities looking for jobs. Some argue that the politicians should take care of them, but they don’t. These young people are refugees but not political refugees. The road to Lampedusa from Mali is long, not just geographically but also physically, emotionally and psychologically.

These people aren’t just fleeing poverty. Our resources are our biggest problems. The International community takes our resources to satisfy their demands then forces us to migrate. If we looked at the refugees in Europe with this background in mind, we’d view them very differently.

Ghana is the third largest gold producer in the world, but the people are very poor. It’s characterised as an emerging economy but what is the measuring unit (Maßstab)? The European standards. When you see how many people  are poor and how many are rich, then we remain an emerging economy. Most people live from less than a dollar. People have to do more. Some argue that these people are corrupt. Which is true but it takes two to tango, one is the African politician the other is the one with the BMW car keys on the table. It’s time to change the way things are done, we have to take the reigns. We can’t wait for the Germans or Europeans to take care of our resources. If Germans found natural resources, they wouldn’t allow some African to run a mine and only give the Germans 5% but we do it. We have to change how we do things.

Africans have debts they have to pay for. We make it hard to Africans to do business in Africa and thus have African business owners competing with foreign blue chip companies because from our understanding the foreign investors bring more money into the country. But all these have foreign bank accounts.

Once I went back to Kenya and worked at the University and earned an eighth of what a German professor earned despite doing the same job. I came back to Germany and went back as an expatriate and earned as one. This destroys a lot politically and economically. It’s wrong for the people in a country to earn terribly in comparison to foreigners. We have to improve the living standards of the “indigens”, cause when that happens we flee. But when we flee, we can’t be considered “economic” refugees. We can’t say “I#m a doctor and couldn’t find a job in my country thus moving abroad”. Instead we have to show some form of abuse or torture in order to move.

It is frustrating when young educated Africans try to change things by discussing what is happening on the continent, most want to just dismiss it.

There is also ranking. Why categorise those born here and live here even if their parents came to Germany as refugees? This reminds you of “something”, let’s not allow it to happen again.

Most Mimis have identity problems. They retreat to their homes and try to find themselves in their language. This seems to get the neighbours angrier, why do these people never talk to anyone, they only speak their language and dress in their “odd clothes”. But has any of you ever tried to talk to these people, or invite them over for tea or cake? This shows you have understood that that is your fellow human because at one point you’ll need them ones. I know it’s not easy, but try it. Please understand people before you judge them or seclude them.

When you invite this lady to tea, take time to know them and dialogue with them. The objective here isn’t to just have tea with foreigners but more of learning from one another. “give and take”, to ensure you had culture addition.

The problem is this discussion is only taking part within “intellectuals” and “token” experts. I have been invited to discussions on topics I wasn’t an expert on, instead of having real experts to discuss.

“Refugees are here to stay.”

Refugees are part of this society. We’re all foreigners.

Germany has a rich culture, the language, philosophy, poetry, music compositions and the technology. Do you think all this is pure German? That it has not been influenced by other cultures?

We have to be tolerant, just like we have to eat. It has to be part of our lives. Tolerance is the basis of relationships with family, colleagues e.t.c Maybe you can measure it by checking who has most friends. The more friends, the higher their level of tolerance.

We identify our right to existence to our culture. People are fighting more because they want to maintain their identity and autonomy. This shows how important tolerance is. Considering our socio-economic problems we face, we have to look at how we can put our houses in order, not just for us but for our children.

We have to start small, from our relationship with our relatives and siblings to our relationship with our neighbours. There’ll be a ripple effect. We can’t hide our heads in the sand thinking our lives are perfect. Regardless of what this happens in the world, it will affect you.

I also learned that I was different but to me that wasn’t in the negative. I knew I was different but in being different I wanted to be respected, recognised and accepted as different. I just didn’t want to be recognised as different but also to be taken seriously in an honest way.

We love the word Globalisation, everybody loves the word, it sounds .Being intercultural is part of globalisation. This has to start early. Children in school shouldn’t only learn about how great Germany is, but also on how to learn from other cultures. When we think of how other cultures can add to our own culture, then our fears of foreign things reduces.

If for example you took children to the main shopping street with a video game where they could erase everything foreign found on the shopping street. You’d have very few things left on that street but all these things are foreign but we accept them, so why not accept the people as well.

It’s ok to be different. It’s my identity. I wouldn’t think of it as a compliment if someone told me I’m very German. I have try to speak the language well but I want to maintain my identity. I learnt a lot in Germany and it has made me who I am today. I wish more people would try living in foreign cultures. Everyone wants to be welcomed in a foreign place but if you don’t welcome foreigners in your home country, how do you expect to be welcomed in a foreign country?

What I’m trying to say is there are other political reasons why people move and those are international political problems. You can’t say people are poor or lazy. The reasons are political and economical. Some of the trading policies are wrong. How can it be that organic chicken in most African supermarkets are more expensive than the frozen _____ from holland? In most west African countries you don’t get fresh milk, only powdered milk. How is that possible when we live and depend on agriculture? In Europe everywhere you go there’s tarmac and pavements, how can it be that this is where our agricultural products come from here? Our politicians shouldn’t allow this. We shouldn’t allow this to happen.

Most of the refugees don’t want to leave. I lived here, I know. Most of these people would like to go back home but can’t because those left home think they live better lives here. But in their country their fled to, they can’t find jobs and continue to flee from the host society. This isn’t right.

As Africans, we consume what we don’t produce and what we produce we don’t consume. The best we produce comes to Europe. We have to look at the refugees here differently. They aren’t just here to take away your jobs and destroy your society.

We need respect and work together honestly.

Most look at Africa as a country instead of as a continent. When we look at Africa as a country then it means Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi don’t exist.  Surprisingly, South Africa isn’t considered Africa. Maybe it means South Africa isn’t very “African”. We talk of “development” aid but development to what? In the 70s, the donors came to develop without mentioning what they wanted to develop. The donors weren’t concrete and that is why they are projects on women, on aids, on malaria and yet people live the same lives. Most of the projects have no concrete goals.”Development” has to be defined.

Poverty is no excuse, it’s no excuse not to do anything or to remain passive because some grey haired donor will come with some money to do it.

You have to start with yourself. If it’s the European who starts by saying they want to help people in Africa or if it is the African who decides they want to get out of their misery.

Wirtschafte Zusammenarbeit  has to be considered as economic not as help. Truth is this is usually used to get contracts for their country’s companies. When we add “Economic”, then we can compete. We want to be part of the exchange, let it be trade.

Let’s not confuse philanthropy with “developmental aid”. Philanthropy is needed in cases of emergency but that shouldn’t be how we handle Africa, that isn’t sustainable.

You have to decide your destiny. You are your future. Don’t just let people use you.

Europeans who come to Africa, be honest with the people. Some are poor in Europe and come to Kenya pretending to be rich. This perception that white people are rich has to be changed. Be honest when you are in Kenya, let people know you actually have no money. Some of these poor people in Kenya though have learnt what to tell these “poverty” tourists in order to get something from them. Both of them are wrong in their actions and this has to change.

For a long time we’ve spoken about teaching people how to fish instead of giving them fish, but we need to start asking people if they even eat fish. Let there be dialogue.

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