Diasporian News of Sunday, 23 April 2006
Source: Kester Kenn Klomegah in Moscow
?Never, never and never again to allow barbarism in the society? was the clear message as the St. Petersburg branch of the Organisation of African Unity called on authorities and individuals to help scale down racially motivated violence in Russia?s second largest city. ?Racially or religiously motivated violence against any person poses great threats to the entire multicultural community and is a violation of basic human rights,? the organization said in a statement.
The organisation made up of 53 African States made the collective demand to clean up the society of crimes in the wake of another murder of a Senegalese, Lamzar Samba. He was shot to death with a hunting rifle [engraved with a swastika and the words ?White Power?] by nationalist group who had declared hatred for foreigners and non-Russians. Samba, aged 28, was hit to the neck and died on the spot outside the popular Apollo nightclub. He was a final year student of the St. Petersburg Communications University.
According to Interfax news agency report an unidentified assailant went on a shooting spree when the foreigners, who study at St. Petersburg?s Communications University, and the student murdered in the attack was a member of a public human rights organisation that supports people of African origin who live in Russia.
An organised anti-racist rally outside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg had developed into an unauthorized procession along the city?s main thoroughfare, Nevsky Prospekt, media reports indicated. After the rally about 3,000 participants proceeded to Nevsky Prospekt and chanted ?Down with Nazism!? as they moved away from the city center. Police have tried to force them to the sidewalk but the group, led by African students, constantly returned to the road.
?This time they really don?t have contact with Africans again. They have resorted to the use of guns, killing poor Africans,? deputy head of the African Unity, Desire Deffo said. ?First they would beat us up. Then, they attacked us with knives and now they?ve moved on to guns.?
The latest Russian anecdote which appeared reads: ?Russia cannot protect poor African students on their corridor and yet it was sending Russian troops to Africa to protect Africans.?
Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia has spoken against double standards in treating manifestations of xenophobia. ?It is horrible when someone is insulted, beaten up, or even killed only because of their ethnicity or the color of their skin. Such crimes, as well as the desecration of houses of worship and public offenses of ethnic or religious feelings, must be punished with the utmost rigor of the law,? Alexy said in an interview. ?Society should react to such crimes, regardless of who suffered from them - a [ethnic] Russian or a member of another ethnic group, our citizen or a foreigner,? he said.
A true believer and educated person will never become ?an extremist, fanatic, or aggressive nationalist. This is why our Church is insisting that schoolchildren be taught about various peoples and religions and, what is most important, about their own faith and culture, be it Orthodox, Islamic, Judaic, Buddhist, or some other,? he said.
The Foreign Ministry issued an official statement on its website expressing its condolences and added ?the law enforcement bodies of St. Petersburg have launched a criminal probe? while one Russian extremist website run by a group calling itself Party of Freedom welcomed Samba?s death with a report headlined ?The City Cleanup Continues.?
The latest incident had prompted Russian and foreign human rights groups to raise concerns over the alarming spread of racist and xenophobic attitudes in the country. St. Petersburg is the hometown of Russia?s President Vladimir Putin and the venue for Group of Eight [G-8] industrialised countries summit scheduled to take place in July 2006.