In a fire-fighting exercise after killing of a Congolese youth, India today assured African countries of safety of their nationals and tried to persuade their envoys to attend an ICCR-hosted Africa Day event here tomorrow.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her junior minister V K Singh went into damage-control mode after the African Heads of Missions (HoMs) sought deferment of the event, expressing outrage over the recent killing and demanded steps against “racism and Afro-phobia”.
While Swaraj assured that India was committed towards the safety and security of African nationals, Singh met the representatives of African heads of missions to assuage their concerns while strongly condemning the killing of the youth here last week.
According to Indian officials, Singh “impressed on the African HoMs the need to continue the tradition (Africa Day celebrations) but also said that India would be guided by them in the matter” after which the African side said they will revert on the issue after deliberating on it internally.
They said the African side seemed to be satisfied with Indian efforts to bring to book the culprits of recent attack and were likely to attend the celeberations tomorrow.
When asked if they will attend the celebrations tomorrow, Dean of African Group Head of Missions and Ambassador of Eritrea Alem Tsehage Woldemariam said, “Let’s see. There is still a day left,” in an apparent indication that they may participate in the event.
Earlier, the envoys of the 42 African nations, taking strong exception to killing of Congolese national Masonda Ketada Oliver last week, said they will not attend the “Africa Day” celebrations as 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.”
“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.
However, the MEA in a separate statement said all criminal acts should not be seen as racially-motivated.
Oliver was beaten to death last week in Vasant Kunj area of South Delhi following a brawl over hiring of an autorickshaw.