33.2 C
New York
Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Francis Anekwe Oborji: Pan-Africanism and Today’s Self-determination Struggle [MUST READ]

Must read

For a working definition of Pan-Africanism, however, Ghelawdewos Araia, furnishes us with the following:

“Pan-Africanism is the belief that people of African descent have common interests and should be unified. Historically, Pan-Africanism has often taken the shape of a political or cultural movement. There are many varieties of Pan-Africanism. In its narrowest interpretation, Pan-Africanists envision a unified African ‘nation’ where all people of the African Diaspora can live. In more general terms, Pan-Africanism is the sentiment that people of African descent have a great deal in common, a fact that deserves notice and even celebration.” – (See Ghelawdewos Araia, “The Historical and Ideological Foundations of Pan-Africanism” (2006).

In recent times, there have been a kind of a resurgence of the old ideals of the Pan-Africanism rhetoric, especially, among some young Africans, intellectuals, public speakers, and social media influencers. Most of whom are Africans residing in the Diasporas, but also in the major cities in different countries of the continent.

The neo-Pan-Africanism rhetoric among the African youths today was most noticeable during the recent standoff between France and its former colonies in West African Sahel region, namely, Niger Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Conakry, among others. Since then, the movement is gaining more and more renewed momentum, especially among the young Africans through the social media internet networking.

At the same time, however, there have emerged in recent times, in some of the present-day colonial, arbitrarily created African nation states with dangerous cultural, ethnic and religious diversities, some groups of ‘freedom fighting’ movements (or rather ‘neo-separatist’ movements), agitating for self-determination, a kind of ‘second independence’ of their own region or ethnic-nationality from the domineering ethnic and religious groups. These agitations for referendum for self-determination and second-independence from the domineering ethnic-groups are, also championed by the African youths from the aggrieved and short-changed ethnic-nationalities or geopolitical regions in the country concerned. These are demanding that their people or rather indigenous ethnic-nationality/geopolitical region, be granted the legal means of conducting referendum for self-determination and independence to enable them form their own sovereign independent state away from the country where they found themselves today.

However, the aim of our present article is to demonstrate that there is no conflict between Pan-Africanism and the growing call for independence and self-determination of the aggrieved indigenous ethnic nationalities or geopolitical regions in different European colonial created African nation states. The article aims to demonstrate that granting self-determination through referendum to those major ethnic nationalities/geopolitical regions agitating for it, is indeed, the right thing to do. Referendum for self-determination itself, is a legitimate means of conflict-resolution. Moreover, as experience has shown, and following the ongoing ethnic-cleansings, pogroms and wars of genocides in different countries of Africa, since the political independence in the 1960s to the present-day, what that is telling us is that the present configuration of different African nation states, which we inherited from the European colonial powers at independence, is not working. It has never worked and will never work.

Therefore, instead of us killing ourselves in Africa because some individuals want the colonial boundaries to remain as something sacrosanct, for their selfish interest and self-serving political ambitions, it is better that we separate to relate well as neighboring independent African nation states of our choice and making. This will allow our respective diverse and  different indigenous African peoples/ethnic nationalities, with often conflicting value systems, worldviews, different cultures, religions, languages and philosophy of life, that were forcefully, merged together into one arbitrarily created artificial nation state by the European colonial powers, to begin to breathe fresh air, and be freed from the age-long neo-colonial yoke.

Therefore, it is high time, each group or ethnic-nationality/geopolitical region in those African countries, no matter how many they are in population or landmass, that want to opt out of the present colonial arrangement of that country (e.g., like Nigeria), be allowed to do so without military intimidation or threats of wars by the central government/domineering ethnic groups. They should be allowed to form their own sovereign independent nation state. In this way, African peoples will begin to experience what sovereign independent nation state truly is. That is, in their own ‘new’ sovereign independent state to be created through referendum for self-determination by the people themselves. A nation-state that they can truly call their own.

Only then will the African people, begin to feel that they are truly a free and independent people, strong, safe and secured in their ancestral lands, have control over their own affairs. Because they have their own independent sovereign nation state, founded on the principles of the rule of law, respect for their fundamental human rights, dignity and cultural identity as a people or ethnic nationality, major cultural and regional group with shared history and cultural affinity. That is, respect for their fundamental human and peoples’ rights for self-determination, self-rule, and freedom as a people created in the image and likeness of God. These are rights, which are today, not guaranteed for majority of the Africans in their respective colonial inherited artificial nation states in the continent. This is the crux of the matter!

Pan-Africanism Defined

It was in the twentieth century that Pan-Africanism emerged as a distinct political movement initially formed and led by people from the Diaspora (people of African heritage living outside of the Continent), … to “protest stealing of lands in the colonies, racial discrimination and deal with other issues of interest to Blacks.”

The most significant of its’ early organized conferences was the 5th Congress in Manchester in 1945. For the first time, a large number of Africans from the continent were present and the meeting provided impetus and momentum for the numerous post-World War II independence movements in Africa.  The Manchester Congress also reserved the right of the colonized, once peaceful methods had been exhausted, to use force to take forward their struggle for self-determination. – (See, Ghelawdewos Araia, “The Historical and Ideological Foundations of Pan-Africanism”, from Institute for Development and Education for Africa (3 November 2006).

The Oxford Reference Dictionary, defines Pan-Africanism as follows: “A movement seeking unity within Africa. It became a positive force with the London Pan-African Conference of 1900. An international convention in the USA in 1920 was largely inspired by the Jamaican Marcus Garvey. The invasion of Ethiopia by Italy in 1935 produced a strong reaction within Africa, stimulating anti-colonial nationalism. The Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945 was dominated by Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Kwame Nkrumah, and by the ‘father of Pan-Africanism’, the American W.E. Du Bois. In 1958, a conference of independent African states was held in Accra, followed by two conferences in Monrovia in 1959 and 1961. In 1963 in Addis Ababa, 32 independent African nation states founded the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), by which time Pan-Africanism, had moved from being an ideal into practical politics.”

According to Ghelawdewos Araia, “in subsequent decades perhaps the most-prominent current of ideas that can be called Pan-Africanist has been the Afrocentric movement, as espoused by such black intellectuals as Molefi Asante of Temple University, Cheikh Anta Diop of Senegal, the American historian Carter G. Woodson, and Maulana Ron Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa. With its roots in the 1960s, Afrocentrism gained particular popularity in the United States during the 1980s. The movement emphasizes African modes of thought and culture as a corrective to the long tradition of European cultural and intellectual domination.”

In other words, ‘Pan-Africanism’ can be said to have its origins in the struggles of the African people against enslavement and colonization. And this struggle may be traced back to the first resistance on slave ships – rebellions and suicides – through constant plantation and colonial uprisings and the “Back to Africa” movements of the nineteenth century.

However, it was in the twentieth century that Pan-Africanism emerged as a distinct political movement initially formed and led by people from the Diaspora (people of African heritage living outside of the Continent). In 1900, the Trinindadian barrister – Henry Sylvester Williams – called a conference that took place in Westminster Hall, London to “protest stealing of lands in the colonies, racial discrimination and deal with other issues of interest to Blacks.”

The conference drafted a letter to the Queen of England and other European rulers appealing to them to fight racism and grant independence to their colonies. Once again, as said before, it was the African American scholar and writer Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois who convened the first Pan-African Congress in 1919, in Paris, France. Again, it demanded independence for African nations. Further congresses – essentially extended meetings of like-minded Africans searching for a way forward – were held in 1921 (London, Brussels, Paris), 1923 (London and Lisbon), 1927 (New York).

Each reiterated and refined the demands for rights and freedom and built  support for the cause. Perhaps, the most significant was the 5th Congress in Manchester in 1945. For the first time, a large number of Africans from the continent were present and the meeting provided impetus and momentum for the numerous post-war World War II independence movements in Africa.

The Manchester Congress also reserved the right of the colonized, once peaceful methods had been exhausted, to use force to take forward their struggle for self-determination. Just over a decade later in 1958, Kwame Nkrumah, first leader of independent Ghana called a meeting in the capital city, Accra, of all the independent African states – Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Liberia, Morocco and Ethiopia – in order that they should recommit themselves to supporting independence for the rest of Africa.

By 1963, there were 31 independent African nation states. Some were agitating for immediate continental political union while others favored slower steps towards unity. From the exchanges between the two camps, however, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed in May, 1963. Moreover, throughout the twentieth century, cultural Pan-Africanism weaved through the political narrative – the Harlem Renaissance, Francophone philosophies of Negritude, Afrocentrism, Rastafarianism and Hip Hop. Artists of African origin and heritage have found inspiration in and been drawn to exploring and communicating their connections with the Continent.

Furthermore, Post-independence era saw the emergence of a new generation of African writers – such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Bessie Head, among others. They gave voice to issues that could be recognized throughout the Continent through their writings and other intellectual activities linked to promoting African dignity, culture and renaissance.  The 6th Pan African Congress in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in 1974, could have been said to have been inspired by the radical Black movements sweeping the Diaspora espousing militant Black pride and fighting white domination with Black separatist organizations. The Congress was attended by 52 delegations from Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, Britain and the Pacific. Disappointed by the OAU’s lack of engagement with the Diaspora, this Congress restated the global unity of Black peoples struggling for liberation.

Again, inspired by the principles of self-reliance being instituted by the Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, many hoped also to give concrete support to the new wave of independence movements in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe and South Africa – but the Congress was unable to create clear structures to enable such action. The 7th and last Congress in Kampala, Uganda in 1994 sort to rectify this by setting up a permanent organizational structure to carry forward decisions taken at the Congress meetings.

Still, divisions and debates remained – was Pan Africanism a movement of the people or had it now been taken over by governments, were Black Africans of Sub-Saharan origin the only true Africans? Pan Africanism is no different from any other broad based and passionate political movement. It contains diverse and sometimes opposing opinions about the best way to fulfill the common objective of the self-determination of Africa and African peoples around the world.

The 7th Congress aimed to reconcile differences and create a wide and open coalition of all citizens of African countries and Diasporic people of African heritage who wished to commit themselves to the liberation of the Continent and the Diaspora. There have been no further congresses but Pan Africanism remains a vital force in Continental and Diasporic culture and politics.

All said and done, today, however, the concern of majority of the aggrieved indigenous ethnic-nationalities trapped in different colonial artificial created African nation states with dangerous diversity is about their survival as distinct peoples, each with its own value system, religion, language, philosophy of life, worldview, civilization and cultural identity to protect and preserve for future generations. It is about security of lives and property of their people. Some of them, as ethnic-group, have been under constant attacks and threats of extermination by the domineering ethnic group/groups that control the central government, politics, economy and the military.

This is why we should be wary of anybody, projecting Pan-Africanism of the old, without first of all, addressing this fundamental problem. And of those championing a ‘disinterested’ or rather, ‘blind’ multiculturalism, ‘diversity as strength’ as a way forward for the continued existence of those colonial created artificial African nation states.

The fact remains that the present political impasse in most of the colonial created artificial African nation states with dangerous diversity, is beyond the jargons of the Pan-Africanism of the old, as well as that of the slogans of multiculturalism, diversity as strength, restructuring or rotational-presidency. These, unfortunately, have been the political jargons that for years, dominated the public debate on this matter in Nigeria and some other African countries. Succumbing to any of these political jargons or trappings in Africa today, in order to sound politically correct, will only amount to effort in futility!

To be continued

Francis Anekwe Oborji is a Roman Catholic Priest. He lives in Rome where he is a Professor of missiology (mission theology) in a Pontifical University. He can be reached by email HERE.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

More articles

- Advertisement -The Fast Track to Earning Income as a Publisher
- Advertisement -The Fast Track to Earning Income as a Publisher
- Advertisement -Top 20 Blogs Lifestyle

Latest article