The Sunday News
Lovemore Ranga Mataire
PERSISTENT political disturbances in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Somalia and even Burundi have put into focus the urgent need for African leaders to rethink about the need to concretise continental unity beyond rhetoric and critically examine the ramifications of foreign military interventions in our domestic affairs.
While the internal dynamics of these individual countries are acknowledged, one can never dismiss the existence of foreign political interference in fomenting tribal animosity in DRC, Burundi, Somalia and South Sudan.
While some analysts may want to dismiss the disturbances as simply the work of power hungry individuals, a closer look at the conflict zones will reveal that the absence of real continental unity has made it porous for foreign military and political forces with nefarious motives to enter the fray.
Given this grim picture, is it not time that continental leaders move away from paying lip-service to African unity and revisit the tenets of the Organisation of African Unity as enunciated by the forefathers of African nationalism in the mould of Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Haile Salassie, George Padmore, Marcus Garvey and others if the continent is to realise real peace and development?
It is sad that the most dominant voice that pervades the continent today is that of African pessimists who advance the view that times have changed and that achieving African unity as envisaged by Kwame Nkrumah and others is nothing but a flitting illusion. This kind of reason always cite internal dynamics of individual countries, language and tribal barriers coupled with demands of a global dynamic system that has created a virtual world without borders as main factors impinging the galvanisation of African people into a real unity project.
As far back as 1963, Kwame Nkrumah was himself conscious of this pessimism pervading the African consciousness when he highlighted that: “I have often been accused of a ‘policy of impossible’. But I cannot believe in the impossibility of achieving African union anymore than I could ever have thought of the impossibility of attaining African freedom…Africa must unite.
We have before us not only an opportunity but a historical duty.”
But against this grim picture painted by pessimists, historical reality beckons. It is that historical reality that informs us that the strongest social and intellectual movements to resolve Africa’s debilitating status and bring hope to its people has been the Pan-Africanist movements. Is it not a historical fact that Pan-Africanism became a positive force following conventions in London and America in the early 1900s and that its inspiring proponents included Jamaican Marcus Garvey and later in the 1950s the likes of Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Sekou Toure, Nkrumah and African-American scholar W.E. B Dubois?
It was these Pan-Africanist movements that later culminated in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity when 32 independent African nations gathered in Addis Ababa in 1963 and turned the idea of unity into practicality.
The failure therefore by current continental leadership to nurture the legacy of pan-Africanism for the benefit of the post-colonial generation is a serious abrogation of duty. But the project of uniting Africans as envisaged by the founding fathers of African unity is not longer than the preserve task of continental political leaders. In the current epoch, the pan-African movement has continued, fuelled and revived by such pan-Africanists as the Ethiopian Professor Mammo Muchie who has written profusely and passionately about the need for Africans to return to the “source” to find appropriate remedies in dealing with the current problems besetting the continent.
Thus in his latest writings in The Making of the Africa-Nation Prof Muchie advances the view that: “Politically, pan-Africanism has been expressed as the construction of a pan-African identity through the development of a shared goal and social and historical experience of struggling to lift Africa from its untenable status as a marginal, oppressed and largely written off continent…It is a process which comes by sustained fostering of communication, conversation, deliberation, dialogue, coordination, cooperation and solidarity amongst the population in Africa equal and different African citizens based on sustained development of a shared identity, consciousness and interest irrespective of colour, creed, racial origin and so on.”
Prof Muchie just like most pan-Africanists was convinced that there was need to establish shared value and vision worthy of shaping, mediating and putting effective mechanisms for resolving intractable conflicts and stimulate and inspire the capabilities of citizens and communities in order to achieve harmony in a shared conception of an African identity.
Indeed, the shared conception envisaged by Prof Muchie must be a universal value which is not constrained by partial interests, cultural particularism, state-natonisms, ethnic primordial loyalties, racial classifications and other desultory practices, capable of commanding moral and political authority, much like Christ, Mohammad or Bhudha commanded religious authority.
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to realise that one of the major causes of political upheavals in Africa in the post-colonial era has been the lack of concrete unity among African nations. Does the common adage “united we stand, divided we fall” no longer bear any meaning in this present epoch where citizens seem to be motivated by individual survival instincts instead of communal survival?
Isn’t it time that the African Union moves tentatively to make the dream of a strategic standby military and diplomatic force capable of dealing with upshots of political disturbances on the continent a reality as envisaged by Nkrumah and his peers?
The fact that Africans speak different languages and practice different religions does not form the basis for making them suffer under the regime of specificity and reject the building of a consciousness of universality.
The right to a universal African identity does not challenge the right to remain different, speak different languages or worship different deities. Indians speak different languages and practice different religions but this has not prevented them from overcoming specific attributes and proclaiming an Indian identity.
Just like India, there is no reason why Africans cannot transform into a nation overcoming the tyranny of specificity and constructing a universal future. In Africa, Tanzania has achieved the ideal of a national universal African-Tanzanian by overcoming ethnic self-assertions.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has come up with a remarkable suggestion on how to disentangle ourselves from the condemnation of Africans into ‘unite-able’ items by suggesting that we acquire universality through our shared history of resistance, consciousness, challenges and the problems we face. Mbeki’s suggestion includes our desire to become renascent as an important step in finding the missing national common denominator to unite Africa.
The challenge confronting Africa today is the realisation by its citizenry of the futility of the continued fragmentation of the continent as a recipe for continued subjugation and control by erstwhile colonisers bent on fomenting tribal, ethnic and religious hatred in order to make us weaker for their nefarious machinations.