The acting executive director of the pan-African health organisation, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr Ahmed Ogwell, has complained that he was mistreated at passport control at the Frankfurt airport as if he wanted to stay in Europe illegally. He came to Germany to attend the 2022 World Health Summit, which opened in Berlin on Sunday (16 October).
“First they invite you, then they humiliate you,” Ogwell had written on Twitter on Friday. Because of the incident, the high-ranking official ostensibly decided to “return to my beautiful continent” before the end of the conference.
The incident has received widespread coverage on social media, with even the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressing concern.
The German police has however rejected the accusations of racism and insisted that their encounter with the Africa CDC director followed normal process. According to the Federal Police, the entry questioning had taken a total of four minutes and had been carried out lawfully in every respect. It had been a standardised entry check of a third-country national requiring a visa. The African scientist had behaved uncooperatively by refusing to answer questions “that we ask every traveller”, the statement claims.
Afterwards, the Africa CDC director was allowed to enter the country and then flew on to Berlin to attend the World Health Summit. However, Dr Ogwell twitted on Monday that he was back in Africa even though the conference ends on Tuesday. “Good morning. I’m safely back in #Africa, home to the most resilient human beings I know,” he said, adding: “Don’t reduce ur dignity to fit someone else’s prejudices – you’ll be feeding a wolf that will one day devour you“.
Fraport, the company that operates the Frankfurt Airport, has expressed its regret over the incident. It welcomes all passengers and does not tolerate any form of discrimination or racism, the company said. Fraport has requested Dr Ogwell, a Kenyan national, to submit further information about the incident in writing.
Travellers from African countries have often complained about being treated disrespectfully and sometimes refused entry at Frankfurt Airport despite holding valid visas and official invitations.
Africa CDC, based in Addis Ababa, is a joint institution of the member states of the African Union. Its task is to strengthen public health on the continent.