Twenty years ago…
It happened on August 2, 1999. Two African teenagers were discovered in Brussels, dead in the landing gear of an Airbus A330-300, the flight reference of the now non-existent Belgian airline Sabena, which covered the route Bamako-Conakry-Brussels. They had died of cold. Their names were Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara. They were 14 and 15 years old respectively. One of them held a letter addressed to the leaders of Europe to his chest. Probably, without the existence of that letter, this tragic accident would have gone unnoticed by the media. Two more people, on the endless list of unknown immigrants who die every day in the attempt to reach Europe, is not relevant news.
What attracted the attention of public opinion was that letter to European leaders, explaining the reasons for their complicated adventure, pleading with them to take into consideration the difficult situation of students in Africa and asking for help on their behalf. It is worth reading it, despite its style, a style that is sought above all when choosing the right words to address European leaders, but always with unquestionable courtesy. It goes like this:
Excellencies, Messrs. members and officials of Europe,
We have the honorable pleasure and the great confidence in you to write this letter to speak to you about the objective of our journey and the suffering of us, the children and young people of Africa.
But first of all, we present to you life’s most delicious, charming and respected greetings. To this effect, be our support and our assistance. You are for us, in Africa, those to whom it is necessary to request relief. We implore you, for the love of your continent, for the feeling that you have towards your people and especially for the affinity and love that you have for your children whom you love for a lifetime. Furthermore, for the love and meekness of our creator God the omnipotent one who gave you all the good experiences, wealth and ability to well construct and well organize your continent to become the most beautiful one and most admirable among the others.
Messrs. members and officials of Europe, we call out for your solidarity and your kindness for the relief of Africa. Do help us, we suffer enormously in Africa, we have problems and some shortcomings regarding the rights of the child.
In terms of problems, we have war, disease, malnutrition, etc. As for the rights of the child in Africa, and especially in Guinea, we have too many schools but a great lack of education and training. Only in the private schools can one have a good education and good training, but it takes a great sum of money. Now, our parents are poor and it is necessary for them to feed us. Furthermore, we have no sports schools where we could practice soccer, basketball or tennis.
This is the reason, we, African children and youth, ask you to create a big efficient organization for Africa to allow us to progress.
Therefore, if you see that we have sacrificed ourselves and risked our lives, this is because we suffer too much in Africa and that we need you to fight against poverty and to put an end to the war in Africa. Nevertheless, we want to learn, and we ask you to help us in Africa learn to be like you.
Finally, we appeal to you to excuse us very, very much for daring to write this letter to you, the great personages to whom we owe much respect. And do not forget it is to you whom we must lament about the weakness of our abilities in Africa.
Beyond the style of the letter of these two teenagers, there is its lucid and moving content, even if it obtained few results. No one expected this tragic event to alter the European Union’s migration policy. The world of politics and economics that we have built is complicated and complex; it does not, unfortunately, admit of solutions based on feelings. The world is only simple for the simple at heart. But I believe that your gesture was worthwhile. And the cries of anguish of so many marginalised people who need our solidarity and commitment to greater justice are certainly worth it today.
Agustín Arteche Gorostegui, M.Afr.
From the Spanish M.Afr. Magazine Afrikana N°199 of December 2019