A LETTER FROM GERMANY: What crosses your mind when you hear the word “politics”?
– Prof. Brando Okolo
What crosses your mind when you hear the word “politics”? Is it power, governance, negotiation of personal or group interests or is it merely another profession such as banking or acting or teaching? I have to confess that the word “politics” conjures a sense of “taking-advantage-of” or “manipulating a situation”.
Truth though is that without politics people will lack representation. One’s interests will not be accommodated, discussed fairly or protected without politics. Africans have been residing and establishing Afro-European brands of cultural societies in Europe and indeed in Germany. 2007 marks the year of third generation Africans in Germany. One generation is equivalent to about 25 years. A simple calculation will indicate that Africans have been on the German social scene for the past 75 years, doing business, paying taxes, receiving social services, getting married to the indigene lady or gentleman and operating just as every law abiding citizen would. This interactive weave gets seemly undetachable as the years go by because biological ties are involved, family bonds are involved and heritage is in the making. The politics of such a process must interest both Germans and Africans alike since both cultures and peoples have strong representation.
Afro-Germans do not appear to be interested in becoming a part of the political establishment in Germany. There appears to be no encouragement from the political system to get them involved in mainstream politics. I have not read of any known law preventing people of African ancestry from participating in German politics. Have you then paused to ask why politics does not interest you as an individual of Afro-German persuasions? Don’t you care about how decisions which affect your family are made? Is Germany not where you labour and consolidate your human essence? You have proudly lived in this country for the past thirty-some years and yet you do not feel integrated enough to participate in politics. Why is this so?
What will it take to get Afro-Germans interested in German politics?
– Please send your response to the Editor of this magazine but first I wish to make a proposal-
Picture this; you have made this land your home long enough to see your grandchildren start college – a law is one day passed by the political establishment which may hinder the chances of your descendants ever having access to opportunities open to only people of local ancestry – but you argue that your spouse is of local ancestry hence making your child qualified for consideration – you are told that this law will require some clarification and that it might take some time before a capable official sorts this out – after a couple of years the law is interpreted by a legal officer – your child is then allowed to benefit from this service but first needs to wait another year or more because there is a waiting queue.
Isn’t this a rather irritating scenario? Yes it is but consider that it might become real and yes you will be deeply irritated by it when it does play-out. If you do not take interest and begin now to participate in politics your irritation will peak after you have read this article then ten years down the road you have an obnoxious encounter with the law because you lack political representation.
How can Afro-Germans begin to position themselves in German politics? First we need to research mainstream political parties, identify those that accommodate human rights and then seek membership to such parties. Politics is a business of numbers; the more membership present, the more political capital accrued. Grass-root is the first place to start showing interest. Turn-out when it is voting time in your municipal and participate in the voting process. When your local representative calls for a meeting of citizens or party members please be present as this is a clear indication of your efforts at integrating into the civil society. You may ask your local party representative to visit a community gathering (Afro-German church or any of the social meetings Afro-Germans usually organize) for a time of discussion with the people. A political figure with interest in African affairs may be invited to speak at any of the festivals organised by Afro-Germans. These are examples of ways to exercise political will. Young Germans of African ancestry with respectable social and educational pedigree should be scouted and groomed for political positions. This process can take only 10 to 15 years if one can begin now. At the end of the grooming time surely there must be someone ready to stand for political office at the local, regional or national level. It will merely require a conscious effort on our part to see this process through.
There are campaigns funded by the government to enable people of none German origin or Germans who do not feel at home to become socially integrated. It is the desire of government that a process of this sort succeeds because such an approach will make society more cohesive, safe to live in and above all easy to govern.
Whatever your business as an Afro-German, please do it with great decency. Be law abiding, do not engage in activities which will jeopardize the progress of the people whom you represent. The social circumstance of the Afro-German individual hangs on a very insecure scale. This individual is often viewed differently by the popular society because of how the popular media portrays the individual. This popular notion needs to be reviewed and corrected. One way of achieving this is to first get our act and in-houses fixed. Our children must know that they belong here. They have to be thought that hard work, honesty, obedience and a good heart are elements that can help one make a valuable impression in the society where one lives and operates. We must encourage our children to get educated and follow a professional career line. If we can begin to do this now then there are reasonable chances that a generation from now the civil-rights of the Afro-German can be put to good use.
It is my hope that this article sets you on the starting end of a continuum of socio-political awareness. Our participation in German politics is crucial. Standing on the sidelines will ensure that issues regarding our welfare will not be fairly considered. Remember that without a vote your voice cannot be heard at the political playground no matter how loud you scream for recognition.
Professor Brando Okolo, African Heritage Man of the year 2011 is a full Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the German University in Cairo – Egypt, article first published 2007.