Dear African heads of states,
I come through this open letter to draw your attention on an issue that threatens the existence of our people. It is the Ebola virus that you know has destroyed thousands of lives in West Africa in the past six months. The latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that more than 4,500 people have already died from the virus that is spreading very fast and more than 9,000 people are currently infected. The most frightening part is that the WHO estimates that by the end of this year, the virus could infect on average 10,000 people per week. With a mortality rate of nearly 70%, this implies that by the end of the year, if nothing is done, nearly 7,000 Africans will allegedly die every week from the Ebola virus.
Never in our history have we been threatened and affected by an outbreak like this. Certainly, malaria, HIV-AIDS and hunger have not been kind to us, but at least in these cases, contamination is not as rapid as in Ebola’s, which makes it more dangerous than all the epidemics that we have faced in the past.
If I am writing you this letter, it is because I am sickened, saddened and disturbed by your indifference to such a serious issue. According to the UN, we need $ 1 billion to contain and eradicate Ebola in affected countries namely in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. To date, we have the United States and the European Union that claim to have invested nearly $ 250 million in this fight. China for its part provided medical equipment worth $ 5 million. Japan has contributed $ 22 million, and Cuba has sent more than a hundred health professionals just to name a few. The African Development Bank and the World Bank intend to put $ 400 million altogether in the war against Ebola.
But dear African leaders, the only effort you have officially made on your part to contain the outbreak of Ebola is to isolate your brothers and sisters in Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. When it is not Kenya that is banning flights from Liberia, it is Ghana that’s doing it with Nigeria or it is Ivory Coast and Senegal that are closing their borders to neighboring countries affected by Ebola or again Morocco that withdrew from the organization of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) for fear of Ebola. While these are preventive measures to protect your nations (and I can only encourage such efforts), let me tell you that when your neighbor's house is burning, it is not enough to close your doors and windows to prevent the flames from consuming your own home. Your actions that are not accompanied by any support whatsoever to your neighbors can be interpreted as follows: "These people should not come here and contaminate us; let them die there.”
I am very disappointed by your indifference and angry that so far, most of the efforts of the world to contain this virus are foreign to Africa. I do not deny the fact that we are almost all poor, but I also know as an African that solidarity exists in our culture. In our communities, when a tragedy occurs, everybody contributes in its way to solve the problem: from the richest to the less privileged, from graduates to illiterates, from the oldest to the youngest. But now I realize that you contemporary African leaders do not embody this culture and are the total opposite of those who fought for the independence of these countries you claim to rule today. At the time of Kwame Nkrumah, Sylvanus Olympio, Julius Nyerere, Modibo Keita, Sekou Toure, Habib Bourguiba, Jomo Kenyatta to name these few, Guinea wasn’t troubled when France destroyed its assets after its independence because friend countries provided Guinea with the human, financial and material resources it needed. Mandela was able to rely on many of these leaders to fight apartheid in South Africa. Zimbabwe has also benefited from the support of neighbors and friends to chase away "Rhodesians" and free itself from Great Britain; examples are numerous.
You, the new generation of African leaders are a true disgrace to your predecessors. You are so nonchalant, negligent and passive to the suffering of your people and the pain of your neighbors that I wonder if you really are Africans. You are some of the richest heads of states in the world while we, your people are the poorest human beings on earth. It never occurs to you to empower us or to work for our emancipation. All that matters to you is how to plunder our resources together with your colonial masters and beg for more aid for a so called development that is nowhere to be found. None of you is able to donate few million dollars to support Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone but I am convinced that if Obama invites you to Washington for a US-Africa Summit on Ebola, you will find the funds to go accompanied by a hundred servants to have fun in the most expensive hotels in the U.S at taxpayers’ expense. You are the only leaders in the world able to spend $ 1,000 to beg for $ 10 from international institutions because you are apparently vaccinated against common sense, dignity and shame.
Dear African leaders, I refuse to say that I am ashamed to be African because my continent is plagued by irresponsible leaders like you. I refuse to lose hope and think that you will remain in power eternally or will not change. I refuse to let you endanger the lives of our people by ignoring your indifference to the Ebola virus. I know many of you are heartless but you are definitely not brainless because people who embezzle billions of public money cannot be stupid. So I beg your brain to stop thinking about how to embezzle our money or rig the next elections just for a few days and focus on how to eradicate Ebola.
For your information, no one is immune against this virus and your family and you can also get it. I do not want to see Africa turned into medieval Europe that had half of its population decimated by the bubonic plague. Like some European kings in the days, you may also be infected and die of Ebola if the virus is not eradicated. And do not think that the way you travel to Europe, America and Asia for treatment when you are suffering from tooth decay, sore hair or nail cancer, your guests will welcome you if you are infected by the Ebola virus. It is in Africa that you will die and no one will offer you a diamond encrusted gold coffin just the way you lovers of extravagance dream of. It is at the crematorium that you will end and no one will be paid to cry because Ebola has put a stop to fancy funerals.
On a less sarcastic note, I invite you to show solidarity and common sense for once. Help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone which are sister countries, fight Ebola. Do not do it for us, the African people because we know that our interests are the last of your concerns. Do it for yourselves in order to have the chance to live long and continue to plunder our resources for ever and ever as you know how to, because in Africa, as painful as life can be, nobody wants to die.
Farida Bemba Nabourema
Disillusioned Togolese citizen