African diplomats have demanded an apology from Egypt after one of its envoys allegedly referred to sub-Saharan Africans as “dogs and slaves.”
The incident occurred during the recently held United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.
In a memo titled “Egypt’s Misconduct during the Second Session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly,” Kenyan diplomat Yvonne Khamati accused the unnamed Cairo official of making the derogatory remarks during a debate about the Gaza Strip.
Apparently, the conference went beyond its schedule and lasted until early hours of the morning but the ministers were still unable to vote on any resolutions. The comment was made towards the end of the session.
Khamati, who is also the chair of the African Diplomatic Corps Technical Committee, addressed the letter to the dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Kelebert Nkomani, and a few other top U.N. officials.
“During our consultations with Egypt, the head of the Egyptian delegation and current president of AMCEN dismissed our concerns by informing that they would speak in their sovereign capacity and to that extent, referred to Sub-Saharan Africa as DOGS AND SLAVES, in Arabic,” it read.
The term AMCEN refers to the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment.
“We feel that these uncivilized, racist, discriminatory and vindictive utterances do not advance the vision of the 2063 African Agenda and the Pan-Africanism that was advocated by the founding fathers of the African Union,” Khamati said in a press statement. “This issue should be raised to the Permanent Representative Committee in Addis Ababa, New York, Vienna, Geneva, and subsequently to the Heads of State summit to be held in Kigali, Rwanda in July 2016.”
African diplomats have also called for Egypt to be banned from representing their continent.
Meanwhile, Egypt claims there is no evidence of any such remarks made by a Cairo official.
“It is completely unacceptable to make the mistake of generalizing and making flimsy accusations against the Egyptian state and people that cast doubt on its African identity,” the country’s foreign ministry said in its statement.
The black community and other minorities have long complained of racism and discrimination in Egypt, which is why some people (though offended) did not find the comments surprising.
“The Egyptian has only said aloud what every single Arab and white man say beneath their breath. Indeed Africans in Arab countries are referred to as dogs or slaves (haji). So he just said what Arabs have said to themselves and their children for generations,” said an online user.