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Africans React Angrily to French Riots, Still Apply for Visas


Many north and west Africans are reacting angrily to the ongoing riots in France, accusing the French government of persecution against residents of African descent. But, despite their dismay, many Africans are also still hoping to get a visa to study or work in their former colonial power.

It was the accidental death of two teenagers of Mauritanian and Tunisian origin that sparked consecutive days of rioting in France mostly by youth of African descent coming from neglected areas.

A Mauritanian social commentator, Salem Bokari, says reaction across the region has been one of outrage, not against the rioters, but against the French government.

"They are feeling that France is against Africans, the interest and the humanity and the respect of human rights of African immigrants in France," he said. "They find that the government of France is responsible for all the crisis because of discrimination against Africans and the poverty of most of them."

Another Mauritanian, Mamadou Tagourla, has set up a non-governmental organization to help young Africans who pass through Mauritania, trying to get to France.

He warns them of police persecution, as well as racism. But he also tells them they must respect laws, or else he says, a difficult situation could become worse.

Despite the fact many will end up living in near-delinquent situations, he says he understands their desire to go. He says there are even fewer prospects for youth in Africa. Even with good diplomas, they often cannot find jobs. He says African governments are, "catastrophic for offering opportunities."

In Dakar, at the French consulate, a steady stream of Senegalese waits patiently in line, every day, carrying folders stuffed with documents, in hopes of obtaining a visa.

One of them, Daniel, is trying to get one for studies.

He says the rioting in France does not shock him, and that he will be going to study, if he gets accepted, not to cause trouble.

He says every society has discrimination and that coping with it is a question of survival.

Another waiting in line, Oumar Dienne, is hoping to get a job.

He says he has seen the violence and the racism on television, but that his will to go is too strong. He says it's been his wish for a long time to get to France.

But he says he hopes everyone in France - the rioters, the politicians, the ministers, the police - can find their senses again, reconcile and find solutions, and that people should stop being so afraid of each other or divided in terms of where they come from.

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