NEW DELHI: A full-blown diplomatic disaster engulfed India on Wednesday after African nations threatened to boycott the Centre’s showpiece Africa Day celebrations over the road-rage murder of a Congolese citizen in Delhi last week.
India’s efforts to defuse the crisis didn’t yield desired results, though foreign minister Sushma Swaraj moved swiftly to reassure African envoys of the safety of their nationals, including students studying in the country.
Junior foreign minister Gen (retired) VK Singh met representatives of African mission heads in an attempt to salvage the situation after New Delhi was asked to take concrete steps against “racism and Afro-phobia”.
The crisis was triggered by the murder of Masonda Ketada Oliver, a 29-year-old from Congo, who was beaten to death by three men in an altercation over hiring an autorickshaw in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj on Friday.
Singh condemned the crime In the past two years, the Modi government has carved out a new standing for India on the e global stage. At home, however, it continues to o grapple with challenges that cloud its tenure and assured strongest legal action. But 42 envoys of the 54-nation continent didn’t commit anything to the minister, saying they would get back to the foreign ministry.
The Group of African Heads of Mission said in a statement on Tuesday it has decided to boycott the Africa Day event organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) on Thursday since the community is mourning Oliver’s death.
While the ICCR programme remained uncertain, Africa Day events organised by the missions were not cancelled on Wednesday. The Centre’s economic relations secretary Amar Sinha attended the functions “to underscore India’s continuing support to Africa”, sources said.
The African group had also threatened to tell their governments to not send students to India in view of the climate of fear and insecurity “unless and until their safety can be granted”.
“...Several attacks and harassment of Africans have gone unnoticed without diligent prosecution and conviction of perpetrators,” said a statement by Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, ambassador of Eritrea and dean of the group.