Kenyan and Egyptian diplomats divided on racism scandal
Earlier this month, outrage erupted on social media after it emerged that an Egyptian minister referred to sub-Saharan Africans as “dogs and slaves.” This was spilled by Yvonne Khamati, the Chairperson of the African Diplomatic CorpsTechnical Committee, who was at a United Nations Environmental Assembly meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya. During the meeting, the Egyptian deputy minister for the environment Mohamed Hesham Shoeir allegedly made derogatory comments towards Africa within hearing distance of other African delegates.
Khamati wrote a memorandum in response to this incident criticizing the misconduct and demanding an apology from Egypt. She also called for Egypt to step down from representing Africa in any leadership position. The Egyptian government has in turn demanded its own apology which may be a typical case of, “you’re racist for pointing out my racism.”
Through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt claimed foul over generalization and the questions raised about Egypt’s Africanness. They expressed concern that the memo generalizes Egypt as a country due to one man’s remarks. Egypt also pointed out that there is no proof of this event ever taking place claiming that there were no Egyptian officials present at the closing meeting in question. Meanwhile Shoeir insists the memorandum included mistakes and generalizations
#WeAreSorryAfrica but trusted sources found nothing of those allegations true. so with all due respect this rumor should come to an end.
— Ibrahim Negm (@IbrahimNegm) June 1, 2016
Meanwhile Egyptians tweeted in solidarity with other Africans using the hashtag #WeAreSorryAfrica. While some using the hashtag took the stance of their government, objecting over generalization and lack of evidence, most have used the tag to apologize over the incident. Supporters tweeted with #WeAreSorryAfrica to counter questions raised as to whether Egyptians consider themselves African in the first place.
I hereby declare that the Egyptian minister that made those racist comments does not represent me #wearesorryafrica
— Ahmed Adel (@click_mobinil) May 31, 2016
While it is left to be determined if and why Khamati would have made up the entire thing, an investigation into the matter has apparently been ordered. Yet, the elephant in the room that is being ignored is the racism against dark-skinned people that exists in North African countries, including Egypt. This racism cannot and should not be denied. It should not be swept under the carpet. African countries need to have honest discussions about prejudice, including ethnic discrimination and racism. This afforded an opportunity to have that talk but it seems to have been missed, devolving into a diplomatic spat and lots of deflecting.
Is enough being done to combat racism against dark skinned people in Egypt? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or telling me on Twitter @rafeeeeta