British Africans: Voting strategically in UK elections


The UK census of 2001 indicates 1,148,738 of Black British recorded as living in the country at the time. The figure does not include people of mixed Black and another ethnicity.  It appears among the group Black Africans now outnumber Afro-Caribbeans in the UK. Largest subgroups of the Black British community are Nigerians, Jamaicans, Ghanaians and Zimbabweans.

Although that census showed only 1.1 million Black British people, there were an estimated 1.4 million Black people in England alone in 2007, some community estimates suggest the figure to be much higher (with the possibility of up to 3 million Nigerians and 1.5 million Ghanaians in the UK). In other European countries, Black people have big communities, particularly in France, Germany, and Italy. For example, Senegalese and Malians are the most represented national groups, especially in France.

There are other African nationalities less visible in European statistics: Somalis, Kenyans, Ugandans, or Rwandans. All these communities moved to Europe for multiple and sometime complex reasons. One particular case is of Rwandans after the 1994 genocide in their country. A number of years have passed since the tragedy that country encountered. Tim Whewell’s film, ‘What is the true price of Rwanda’s recovery’, which passed on Newsnight on Wednesday 31/3/10 at 10.30 pm on BBC Two, portrays among other things a picture of Rwanda today including strong ties between the country and Britain. The British government, as Rwanda’s biggest bilateral donor, donates about £50m ($75m) a year in aid, most of which goes straight into central government coffers.

However, for the last 16 years, Paul Kagame’s government has suppressed most human rights the West takes for granted. ‘There is practically no freedom of expression, political space for any kind of opposition is extremely limited, and anyone trying to criticise or challenge the government is subject to intimidation or threats or worse,” says Carina Tertsakian from Human Rights Watch.

Rwanda has in the past been accused by UN experts of interfering in his neighbours’ affairs, by supporting militias, namely CNDP of ex chef rebel Nkunda, to illegally exploiting mineral resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and cause mayhem in Eastern Congo. This involvement in looting other countries’ wealth resulted in some Rwanda’s partners for development suspending or reducing their financial support.

Further to the tally of millions of lives which has been lost in the Great Lakes region for the last 15 years, this because of the violent policies of the duo Paul Kagame/ Kaguta Museveni, for example British Africans who come from that region would like to see a change in the unconditional support that Britain gives to these two criminal regimes.

In the mentioned film, Tim Whewell concludes saying that whoever between Labour and Tories British political parties will win the general elections, support to Paul Kagame’s regime would remain. What if the Liberal Democrats get a substantial fraction of Westminster power? Will such waste of British taxpayers’ money go on strengthening criminal dictatorships in Rwanda and Uganda?

“We have a situation where British money is serving to prop up a (Rwandan) government that is routinely violating the rights of its citizens,’ says Carina Tertsakian from Human Rights Watch.

British Africans, who are from the Great Lakes region in particular and eligible to vote in UK, have opted to vote neither Labour nor Conservatives, because of current UK ties with Rwanda and Uganda regimes. They would rather for example vote for Liberal Democrats if this party could pledge significant change in UK foreign policy towards the two countries and put more pressure for more democracy and respect of human rights.

UK voters from that region have started campaigning on above issues among their communities.


2 responses to “British Africans: Voting strategically in UK elections

  1. I do agree with your point saying that UK is different from the US for Black people to engage politically and lobby for change of policies towards Africa. If British Africans are not organized around that issue, is it intentionally or disinterest?
    Organising for Africa (OfA) is a platform which could work out relevant and effective strategies to remedy the situation. As they say: an identified problem is a solved problem.


  2. Unlike in the United States of America, the Africans or simply British Africans have never used their votes in exchange for something new in the home countries, and to be honest only a little percent can be counted to be interested in taking part in elections. This is what needs to be sorted out first before moving to lobbying political British elites to take into consideration the impact of British africans participation. With regard to the British foreign policy towards Rwanda, it is important to clarify that genocide was, by far, a successful campaign that any events that ever affected Africa and Britisg people have been buying into that political gesture to help Rwanda move forward whether this means that women and girls in Eastern Congo are raped by Rwandan soldiers who use British tax payers’ money to buy weapons, it is entirely a different case. Even if Kagame has to leave power today, Kabila in Congo is not different from Kagame, Museveni or Mugabe. They all have in mind to hang on power and carry the business as usual. Is it not a waste that Kabila who had huge support in stealing an election that was supposed to open up political space in Congo has turned to be will to remove the UN mission from Congo in the effort to bring in the Rwandan army to help him to further extend the control of his power base. The election in the United Kingdom will bring any change to Rwanda, Congo, Uganda or any other country in africa regardless of the party that wins it.

    Philippe Mandangi
    UDPS Senior Representative in the UK
    Senior Political Advisor for the International Congolese Rights.


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