On the 25th May 1963 the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now known as the African Union(AU) was founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with 32 African governments as signatories.
The aims of the OAU were to:
* Promote the unity and solidarity of the African states and act as a collective voice for the African continent (This was important to secure Africa’s long term economic and political future);
* Coordinate and intensify the cooperation of African states in order to achieve a better life for the people of Africa; and
* Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of African states.
The OAU was also dedicated to the eradication of all forms of colonialism, as, at the time of its establishment, there were several states that had not yet won their independence or were under minority rule.
The question we need to ask is have all those objectives been achieved, fifty years later? Did anybody think that fifty years after these declarations were made and adopted, three African countries – South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon – would vote alongside the United States and former colonial powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya which eventually led to the overthrow of that country’s leader Moammar Gaddafi and his ultimate assassination?
In his 1959 inaugural speech, four years before the founding of the OAU, the Pan Africanist Congress founding President Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe said, “Our relation to the States in Afrika may be stated precisely and briefly by quoting from George Padmore’s book, ‘Pan Africanism or Communism’. Discussing the future of Afrika, Padmore observes that “there is a growing feeling among politically conscious Africans throughout the continent that their destiny is one, that what happens in one part of Afrika to Africans must affect Africans living in other parts”. We honour Ghana as the first independent state in modern Afrika which, under the courageous nationalist leadership of Dr. Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party, actively interested itself in the liberation of the whole continent from White domination, and has held out the vision of a democratic United States of Afrika. We regard it as the sacred duty of every African state to strive ceaselessly and energetically for the creation of a United States of Afrika, stretching from Cape to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar”.
Padmore’s book, from which Sobukwe quoted was published around 1957, referred to politically conscious Africans. Yet in 2013 we still have African heads of state that lack political consciousness, who have sold out Libya and Ivory Coast for a mesh of pottage. There are African countries that are hosting foreign military bases in the form of the United States of America’s Africom.
When Sobukwe speaks about white domination he means foreign domination such as colonialism and imperialism. In his August 1959 Heroes Day speech Sobukwe opened his speech thus: “Mr. Speaker Sir, Sons and Daughters of Afrika. Just over three months ago, on the 6th April, we met in the Communal Hall in Orlando, Johannesburg, to launch the ship of freedom, the Pan Africanist Congress. On that historic day the African people declared total war against white domination, not only in South Africa but throughout the continent.” He continued to say, “Throughout the continent of Afrika the struggle is being relentlessly waged against the historical anachronisms of imperialism, colonialism and white supremacy”.
The existence of Africom bases on the African continent 54 years after Sobukwe denounced imperialism and colonialism is indicative of the fact that Africa is retrogressing. That is why members of the ruling ANC elite are trying to expunge the name of this great African thinker and revolutionary from South African history books and from the collective consciousness of the African people. That is why when Nigerian head of state Goodluck Jonathan addressed the South African parliament in May this year he omitted the name of Sobukwe among those he regarded as South Africa’s liberation heroes. How can this Nigerian President mention Steve Biko, Sobukwe’s protégé and ignore Sobukwe, his mentor? How can this Nigerian President overlook Sobukwe who in his 1959 inaugural speech mentioned Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of the Nigerian nationalist leaders who was in the forefront of the anti-colonialist struggle in Nigeria and was that country’s first President? It is because of leaders such as these that Africa is where it is after 50 years of independence. It is these leaders who deliberately overlook or do not understand the importance of culture in national liberation.
As Amilcar Cabral said in his 1970 paper on National Liberation Culture, “The objective of national liberation is, therefore, to reclaim the right usurped by imperialist domination, namely: the liberation of the process of development of national productive forces. Therefore, national liberation takes place when, and only when, national productive forces are completely free of all kinds of foreign domination. The liberation of productive forces and consequently the ability to determine the mode of production most appropriate to the evolution of the liberated people necessarily opens up new prospects for the cultural development of the society in question, by returning to that society all its capacity to create progress”.
Today Africa is not experiencing progress because the continent’s productive forces have not been liberated from foreign domination. African countries still follow an inappropriate mode of production which will not result in returning to Africans societies their capacity to create progress.
It is clear from what Cabral said that anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist African leaders like Sobukwe and Kwame Nkrumah understood that for Africa to realize progress they needed to fight against imperialism and colonialism. They spoke about the central role of the masses in the struggle and spoke against divisions based on ethnic/tribal affiliations and class stratification. Cabral went on to say that the experience of colonial domination shows that the colonizers not only creates a system to repress the cultural life of the colonized people but he also provokes and develops the cultural alienation of a part of the population, either by so-called assimilation of indigenous people, or by creating a social gap between the indigenous elites and the popular masses. As a result of this process of dividing or of deepening the divisions in the society, it happens that a considerable part of the population, notably the urban or peasant petite bourgeoisie, assimilates the colonizer’s mentality, considers itself culturally superior to its own people and ignores or looks down upon their cultural values. This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behavior of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement.
One of the challenges facing Africa today is the dichotomy between the masses and the ruling elite. An example is the top-down approach of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). There was no input from the masses. The elite enjoy the fruits of freedom alone. In South Africa the ruling ANC has created “the black middle class” through tender rigging and the so-called Black Economic Empowerment which benefits friends and relatives of members of the ruling ANC. For example, President Jacob Zuma and his family are in a dubious relationship with an Indian family, the Guptas, whose family chartered airbus recently landed at an air force base. This family enjoys the largesse of the ANC government. When this blatantly parasitic relationship raises the ire of the South African people, the ruling elite just does not get it, in American parlance. The ANC’s investment outfit Chancellor House benefits from doing business with the ANC government. There is conflation between the ruling party and government. There is clearly this disconnect between the masses and the ruling elite who seem to live in cloud cuckoo land.
African countries must develop legitimate and independent governance institutions. The abuse of state power for personal gain or for the benefit of the ruling parties must be stopped. Colonial constitutions must be done away with and be replaced by constitutions in which citizens have had input. Leadership in Africa, as the late Dr Cheikh Anta Diop said, is a problem.
Opposition parties and civil society organizations should not be regarded as the enemy or seen to be against African governments. Finally, Africa must fight against imperialism and neocolonialism by providing political education and ideological reorientation to the African people and their leaders.
HAPPY FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY TO THE AFRICAN MASSES!
By Sam Ditshego
The writer is a Senior Researcher at the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI).