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Africa Day

Africa Day Is Observed in Switzerland

Switzerland-2016-05-28-Africa Day Is Observed in Switzerland

Biel/Bienne, Switzerland—The responsibility of migrants was the topic of discussion at the 2016 Africa Day celebration attended by around 35 people.

Ambassadors for Peace Armando Okito and Johnson Belangenyi were the main organizers, in cooperation with the Swiss chapters of UPF and its affiliated organization Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP).

Other groups supporting the meeting were the Association Culturelle des Africains de Suisse, Swiss-Exile Foundation, Mubyeyi Foundation, Youth for Human Rights, and the Swiss African Forum.

The theme of the meeting, held on May 28, was “The Migrant’s Responsibility toward Development Here and There.”

The event opened with a rhythmic beat of a djembe drum in the neighborhood, followed by speeches from the organizers and an introduction to Africa Day from Chantal Chételat Komagata, the secretary general of UPF-Switzerland. More and more organizations have supported this event since 2010, when she first organized it, Mrs. Komagata said. She said she was glad that this year several African organizations had taken the initiative in organizing it. Mrs. Komagata mentioned that over the years the celebration has been held in different locations in Biel and last year in the capital, Bern. This year’s meeting originally was meant to take place in a large room but ended up being under a roof with two sides open, just as in Africa.

A debate and discussion took place, moderated by Johnson Belangenyi. Six panelists expressed their viewpoints on the topic of the event.

Noëmie Komagata was asked to open the debate and explain, from a medical student’s viewpoint, what the expectations are for migrants in her country. She said that she also experienced being a migrant from Japan, and said that her main advice for people coming from elsewhere is threefold: gratitude, even in the midst of missing one’s country and having to integrate; sharing the skills acquired here with people at home; and sharing their spirituality and values with people here.

Roda Molimbi Nzambe spoke of having established some industries in his country, giving 150 people work and the means to live a good life. Marie Mubyeyi explained her plans for her hometown in Uganda; she is writing a book about her experiences in order to prevent others from making the same mistakes. Gerry Abrahamse told of his experience of being a migrant from South Africa and how his family had to flee to Zambia after many innocent children had been killed. Armando Okito stressed the necessity of educating one’s relatives in the home country about the reality of earning money in Switzerland; if they expect to live off the money that they receive from Switzerland, they may not take responsibility for their own lives. Koffi Owoussi said he is lending his house to orphans in Togo and paying for their studies at university, asking the older ones to support the younger ones so that his project can be sustainable and educational in how to live for the sake of others.

The debate and discussion were then opened to the audience. Several participants expressed their sorrow at the many deaths in the Mediterranean of refugees trying to reach Europe. They reflected on how to prevent people from escaping from their homes only to die in the sea or live miserable lives in Europe while waiting to be either accepted or sent back home. When some had tried to discourage their relatives from following them to Europe, the relatives responded that if life was so bad in Europe, why didn’t they come back to Africa?

The event ended with a meal of African cuisine provided by some of the participants.  Everyone danced and talked while various groups gave out flyers and information about their projects.

Africa Day first was declared on May 25, 1963, to commemorate the founding of the Organization of African Unity, which presently is recognized as the African Union (AU). On that day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African countries signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. [1] “The African Union, comprised of 53 member states, has brought together the continent of Africa to collectively address the challenges it has faced, such as armed conflict, climate change and poverty.” [2] Since its founding, people celebrate this day annually in different places in the world.

 


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa_Day#cite_note-1

[2] http://www.africaday.info/about.html

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