The book explores the way that discourses on the rights of minorities as persons with a discernable identity and as citizens of nations have been constructed historically. The creation of modern states in Africa following colonialism and the contestation over political and economic resources have enforced a distinction between those who control these resources and those left in the margins. As is often the case, although not exclusively so, political and economic control by a numerical majority and the ethnically dominated politics of modern African states have created differentiations that often left minorities at a disadvantage. These disparities that exist between the majority and minority have profound implications for political stability and economic and social equity.
Another motivation for this volume is the unfolding immigration cases and asylum petitions by the huge numbers of African immigrants who found themselves in legal limbo in the western countries. The accelerated pace of human migration from Africa to countries of Europe and North America in the last two decades produced a new set of approaches in examining human relations across Africa and the state response. The sudden surge in the asylum-seeking applications, for instance, among African immigrants arriving in the United States from the mid-1980s was unprecedented and led to calls by those in the human rights community to examine anew the unfolding reports from Africa of human rights abuses. The cases ranged from petitions against female genital mutilation (FGM) to those fleeing wars, political and religious persecution, and abuses based on one's ethnic affiliation or minority status.
The dilemma of these immigrants was brought to light by practitioners in the immigration legal community as they found themselves overwhelmed by the influx of immigrants from across the continent of Africa. Urgent attention was required along with expert opinions on the cultural conditions and knowledge of the political and religious climate. For example, academics and researchers in related fields were sought out by the legal community on an increasing basis to provide an understanding of the conditions in African countries and offer opinions that would help in providing assistance in legal representations to countless immigrants who were being processed through the immigration system.