New Delhi: Outraged over the recent killing of a Congolese national, African countries have demanded concrete steps against “racism and Afro-phobia" and sought deferment of the celebrations of Africa Day by India, which on Wednesday assured them of safety and security of their nationals.
The envoys of the African nations, taking strong exception to killing of Congolese national Masonda Ketada Oliver last week, said they will not attend the “Africa Day" celebrations scheduled on Thursday and that India must take “concrete steps" to guarantee the safety and security of its African nationals.
Dean of African Group Head of Missions and Ambassador of Eritrea Alem Tsehage Woldemariam said the envoys of 42 African countries met and deliberated extensively on recent attacks against its nationals.
“The Indian government is strongly enjoined to take urgent steps to guarantee the safety of Africans in India including appropriate programmes of public awareness that will address the problem of racism and Afro-phobia in India," he said in a statement.
He also said that the African envoys have asked for a postponement of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)-organised event to mark Africa Day on Thursday because the African Community in India, including students, are in a “state of mourning in memory of the slain African students in the last few years, including Oliver.
Responding to the concerns of the African envoys, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the government has directed the concerned authorities to take stringent action against the culprits involved in killing of the Congolese national.
“When I came to know about the unfortunate killing of a Congo national in Delhi, we directed stringent action against the culprits. I would like to assure African students in India that this an unfortunate and painful incident involving local goons," she tweeted.
Minister of state for external affairs V.K. Singh has been asked to meet the heads of missions of African countries to assure them India’s commitment towards safety and security of the African nationals, she added. Oliver was beaten to death last week in Vasant Kunj area following a brawl over hiring of an autorickshaw.
Swaraj said she has also asked Lt governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung to take necessary steps and ensure that the case of murder of Oliver is tried by a fast track court. The external affairs ministry, in a statement, said Swaraj was personally monitoring the matter and assured the African envoys that safety and security of their nationals will be ensured.
The MEA said secretary (economic relations) Amar Sinha who handles the relations with Africa, met a group of African heads of missions on Tuesday, including the dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, the Ambassador of Eritrea and assured them that stringent punishment will be given to those found guilty.
“Secretary (ER) also pointed out that all criminal acts should not be seen as racially-motivated. Thousands of African students continue to pursue their education in India without any issues. “Government of India deeply values its relations with foreign students, particularly those from Africa with which India has had a historically close relationship. We will ensure that African students continue to find a welcome home in India and such unfortunate incidents do not recur," it said.
Sinha explained to them that immediately on receipt of information on the last week’s incident, the MEA got in touch with the Delhi police, which acted “promptly". “Two suspects have already been arrested while one is on the run. We will ensure that justice is done and stringent punishment given to those involved in the attack," said the MEA.
Woldermariam said the envoys have expressed deep concerns that several attacks and harassment of African students in India “have gone unresolved without diligent prosecution and conviction of perpetrators."
“They strongly condemn the brutal killing of the African and calls on the Indian government to take concrete steps to guarantee the safety and security of Africans in India," he said and added, “They have also decided not to participate in the celebrations, except the cultural troupe from the Kingdom Lesotho. This is because the African Community in India, including the students, are in a state of mourning in memory of the slain African students in the last few years including Mr Oliver."