African diplomats boycott national event in India to mourn deaths of black students killed by mobs

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in France on November 30, 2015. PHOTO | ALAIN JOCARD | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Asian state's External Affairs minister says attacks have embarrassed it.

The Indian government is in a race to improve its image after African diplomats in New Delhi boycotted a national event.

The African Group of Heads of Missions (AGHM), an association of the continent’s envoys in New Delhi, said it boycotted Africa Day celebrations organised by the Indian government to mourn deaths of black students killed by mobs.

“The African group of heads of missions has requested a postponement of the event. It has also decided not to participate in the celebrations, except for the cultural troupe from Lesotho,” said a statement signed by the group's dean, Alem Woldemariam, who is also the Eritrean Ambassador to India. “This is because the African community in India is in a state of mourning following the killing of students in the last few years.”

A group set upon a Congolese student and killed him last week.

The diplomats, including Kenyan High Commissioner to India Florence Weche, met on Tuesday and agreed to recommend their governments not to send students to India.

“Given the pervading climate of fear and insecurity, the African heads of missions are left with little option than to consider recommending to their governments not to send new students to India unless and until their safety is guaranteed,” the statement said.

Ms Weche told the Nation that the ambassadors would only honour the day through celebrations organised by AGHM as was the tradition.

“We are at the Africa Day reception organised by our missions in Delhi. No Africans will attend the function tomorrow that is organised by the Indian council of cultural affairs,” she said.

TERMED UNFORTUNATE

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wrote on her Twitter page yesterday that the attacks had embarrassed her country and termed the latest killing as unfortunate.

She said officials would meet with the diplomats and later the students to assure them of their safety.

“We will also launch a sensitisation campaign to drive the message that such incidents against foreigners embarrass the country,” she said.

Africa Day is celebrated on May 25 to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963.

The Indian government through the Council for Cultural Relations was to hold similar celebration in New Delhi.

The Congolese postgraduate student was attacked in southern Delhi after an altercation with locals over who should hire a rickshaw.

Yesterday, the Indian embassy in Kinshasa advised its nationals in the DR Congo to “keep a low profile for the next couple of days” in order to avoid being hurt or killed in retaliatory attacks.

According to the envoys in Delhi, the Congolese—Oliver Kitada Masunda, 29—and his friend identified as Samuel, were attacked on May 20 after visiting a friend. On their way back, they stopped a rickshaw but as they walked towards it, a group of Indians boarded it.

“Oliver protested and an argument ensued. The Indians got off the auto-rickshaw and began beating him,” Woldemariam said.

A passer-by who stopped to help was equally beaten and the attackers only fled when they saw their victim unconscious.

Oliver was taken to a private hospital but died as he was being transferred to All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences.

In February, a Tanzanian student was attacked by a crowd in the southern city of Bengaluru, 2,000km from Delhi.

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