Indians, Lebanese and Black Africans

In East Africa, it’s the Indians. In West Africa, it’s the Lebanese. Communities of long-time immigrants who have made Africa their home, but who have tenuous, strained relationships with their fellow residents. They often prosper, owning several businesses, homes, hotels, even corporations — and they employ Nigerians, Liberians, Ugandans, Kenyans and other native Africans to work for them while helping to fuel along fragile economies.

An OK agreement for all, it would seem, but things are never that easy. Black Africans complain of mistreatment and disrespect from these immigrants: in fact, when you ask a Liberian or Kenyan about a Lebanese or Indian, the reaction is usually mocking and full of distaste, and sometimes vitriolic. Many Lebanese and Indians, however, say that they genuinely harbor no ill will towards black Africans and even consider themselves Africans.

When the resentment towards these immigrants builds, it can turn deadly very quickly, as it did the day I witnessed a bloody protest in Uganda. The day echoed former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s expelling of Indian-Ugandans a few decades ago. I wonder what’s next for these tension-filled relationships.

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