What struck me when I saw the sitting plan of the BA77 flight on which Jimmy Mubenga died on October 12 was his seat’s proximity to the toilet at the back of the plane. Also was the fact that he was hedged in left right and centre by hefty security operatives. As London Guardian reported, on that same flight, there were British, American and Canadian engineers going to make money for themselves and families from Angola’s lucrative oil fields, diamonds, gold and copper mines. Jimmy Mubenga is the only citizen going back to his own country in chains, seated by the back toilets.
Angola is five times bigger than UK in land mass, it is Africa’s largest producer of oil but it ranked 162 out of 177 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index. 95% of the population live in extreme poverty (less than 76 US cents per day). Nearly 60% of the population is illiterate while over 60% have no access to potable water. And UK companies there like other multinationals continue to rake in billions every year from that country indifferent to plight of the Angolan peoples. This is why Jimmy chose to migrate to the UK in the first place. The paper reported that on the plane Jimmy was energetically resisting deportation. No, he was energetically resisting the imminence of protracted hunger and poverty; he was resisting an unjust economic order that skewered his country resources away from him to the benefit of western powers. “Help me! Help me… they are going to kill me…” were jimmy’s cries in the plane when he was heavily restrained by the security operatives. None of BA’s pilots or stewards called for a doctor on board, neither did any of those expatriate passengers going to Angola for a better life moved from their seat nor raised their voices to save Jimmy. Michael, an American oil worker on board said: “For the rest of the my life I’m always going to have that at the back of my mind – could I have done something? That is going to bother me every time I go to sleep. I didn’t get involved because I was scared I would get kicked off the flight and lose my job. But that man paid a higher price than I would have.”
It is that same dynamic of indifference on the plane that plays out on the ground in Angola, Nigeria, Congo or any where multinational companies squirrel away billions annually while being indifferent to the plight of natives who live on less than a dollar a day and yet they are legitimately entitled to those squirreled resources. When Nigerians led by Ayodeji Omotade bothered to challenge the British police about the inhuman force meted out on another deportee in a BA 75 flight in 2008, not only did the pilot ordered him and his cohorts off the plane and BA barring him for life for being “disruptive,” the police strip Mr Omotade of his cash and charged him to court.
That same week when Jimmy was killed on board, American commanders were agitated, running helter skelter after bungling the rescue of a British citizen kidnapped in Afghanistan. It took General Petraeus to fly over to London within days and president Obama to call to reassure the prime minster and console the family. Had Jimmy Mubenga being an Australian, or a Canadian or an American, what happened on the BA 77 flight would never had been. Two years ago, the British girls that were convicted of drug related offences in Ghana were later released to the British high commission in Accra. Even Alan Hodgson who was sentenced to 20 years in Ghana prison for the same drug related crime was later released to complete his term in London. Simon Mann who with Margaret Thatcher’s son was convicted of a coup plot against the government of the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea was sentence to 34 years. He severed only one year. As British citizens, they are not entitled to serve in African prisons. And yet earlier this year, over 80 Caribbean and African women where on six weeks hunger strike in Yarl Wood detention centre protesting the violent and vicious ways they and their children are being treated to. Eliud Nyenze a Kenyan died crawling on the floor in Oakington detention centre after his repeated cries for medical attention were ignored by the authorities. The Nigerian businessman Frank Ogboru died also screaming, “I can’t breathe, I can breathe” when he was restraint by four policemen in Woolwich in 2006.
The degree of respect UK shows to a foreigner is proportional to the respect they show his/her country of origin. The maltreatment of Jimmy was not just an isolated case on the plane, it is routine treatment of citizens of lesser countries that is most manifest in the detention centres, ports of entry, and in the discriminatory immigration laws. Had the London Guardian not bullied the case into national attention by making it a front page headline for two consecutive days amidst other ‘worthwhile’ issues, a lot of people would not have known that such is going on. Neither Osman Rasul Mohammed, the destitute Iraqi Kurd nor the Serkyhs, that Ukrainian family of three waited for the I-can’t-breathe inducing security operatives to sweep on them when they lost their bid to stay in the UK, they all voluntarily recourse to suicide.
The top countries of origin of those in detention camps or on deportation charter flights are Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigerian and Congo. These are countries which UK has non-consensual intercourse with either militarily and or economically. It is an estimate of unreciprocal respect.