Joseph Stiglitz noted:
In Africa, the high aspirations following colonial independence have been largely unfulfilled. Instead, the continent plunges deeper into misery, as incomes fall and standards of living decline. The hard-won improvements in life expectancy gained in the past few decades have begun to reverse. While the scourge of AIDS is at the center of decline, poverty is also a killer. Even countries that have abandoned African socialism, managed to install reasonably honest governments, balanced their budgets, and kept inflation down find that they simply cannot attract private investors.1
I argue that despite the willingness of some leaders to effect change, and the continued struggles of Africans to improve their economic and political conditions, the African state, in its current form, will not be able to produce consistent policies that engender social progress and new national visions.
There has been, however, no consensus about the pragmatic significance of pan-Africanism across social classes and countries:
The discussion about its significance, both in Africa and in the African diaspora, continues to attract scholars and students of African politics and history. As an ideology and intellectual discourse … pan-Africanism is not new in terms of its intellectual position as to what directions Africa should take and the kind of projects that should be developed to allow Africans to set up institutions of societal transformation. But at the policy and political level, pan-Africanist advocates have not seized or created any real opportunity for its actualisation ... In other words, they have not been creative, imaginative, and daring enough to translate this ideology into political actions.5
Pan-Africanists have mostly articulated the issues of unity across geopolitical boundaries in an intellectualistic, abstract, ahistorical, and apolitical fashion. Furthermore, definitions and interpretations of pan-Africanism have produced various meanings, which have been difficult to actualise as policy frameworks. Policy formulation requires a high level of political realism. Thus, some common characteristics of pan-Africanism must be identified and their meanings explored.
From George Padmore, W. E. B. Dubois, and Kwame Nkrumah to Thomas Sankara, pan-Africanism has generally included the following aims: the search for common cultural specificities and affinities among Africans and the actualisation of intellectual liaisons among them based on “race”, ethnicity, geography, and history. These objectives were to foster an understanding and appreciation of the African cultures, which should be the foundation of politics. Thus, pan-Africanism embodies an ethnic/racial, cultural, and continental unity of some kind.
Pan-Africanism is essentially an international phenomenon embedded in multicultural linguistic expression. It is an element of the discourse of international diplomacy and the international political economy. Despite the proliferation of actors in international relations, the state, with its claim of sovereignty and the imperatives of international law, is still the major operating actor:
We all are citizens with or without rights in some states. These states name us, give us cultural identities, and define where we can operate. The states define geopolitical boundaries and the social environment in which citizens operate. We speak the languages that have been defined by the states. Despite the marginalisation and segmentation of the state the world over, it is still a major actor in international relations and the international political economy.6
Although political pan-Africanism, especially as interpreted by Nkrumah, called for the establishment of a federal African state in the 1960s, cultural pan-Africanism has focused on the search for a common cultural symbolism and historical linkages. Any possibility for transforming pan-Africanism as an ideological alternative to existing systems of governance must be discussed within the framework of the centrality of the state. Its discourse should include the invention of new theories and practices of diplomacy, and co-operation among Africans, their states, and the rest of the world.
By Naiwu Osahon
The World Pan African Movement
We know, for instance, that DuBois was half black and never tired of reminding everyone who cared to listen to him about his aristocratic white half. Mind you, his was very much the era of the darker you are the further down the social ladder of progress you were confined. So, DuBois had no respect for Garvey, not because Garvey was dark hopefully.
Ask any African in the streets of Europe and America about the 6thPAC and you would draw a blank. Ask any grassroots African on the continent about Pan Africanism today and he would think you are speaking Greek. The 6thPAC has not stopped the continued racial rape and murder of our people in the Diaspora nor has it educated Africans on the continent, sixteen years later, to think beyond the severely circumscribed OAU.
Only the 5th congress was able to make immediate direct impact on our lives with its independence fire sweeping rapidly across colonial Africa soon after the congress. The 5thPAC set the standard by which to measure the success of all future PACs. The 6thPAC, therefore, was no more than a boring charade and if Pan Africanism is to be saved now, it must be moved beyond the constraining walls of our Ivory Towers, the deadly hold of our narrow-minded political leaders and deposited squarely on the laps of virgin Africans.
These were precisely the sources of my motivation when I began the campaign in 1982, as a private initiative, for the 7th Pan African Congress to convene within three years in a liberated African country. My principal ambition was to use the congress to institutionalise the Pan African Movement and unite the black world. I was building a farm house facility (I called the Monument to African civilisation), at Ilogbo-Eremi in the Badagry local government area of Lagos State in Nigeria, at the time, as venue for the 7th Pan- African Congress. The idea was to set up a possible meeting place that would be grand and yet rural in setting and relatively cost free to participants, to avoid recourse to government subvention or sponsoreship and, therefore, influence. At the time, I thought that the congress could hold in Nigeria in 1985. A picture of the still being constructed ‘Monument’ was eventually published in the Guardian newspaper of Nigeria, on Saturday February 4th 1984, with the following caption:
” This is the house Mr Naiwu Osahon is building. When completed, it would be one of the most unique, artistically designed houses ever built any where, says Mr Osahon of the house located on a suburban farmland. Mr. Osahon, ……………on the proposed retreat for local and visiting artistes says: ‘Discussions are already being held abroad about holding the next Pan African Congress at the Craftfarm House in 1985.”
Obstacles which I considered were mainly responsible for our disunity and lack of focus as a family included:
(1) Foreign religions and ideologies (which in all respects treat us as inferior human beings). These pull us in all sorts of directions to keep us divided despite our being the most marginalised people on the face of the earth right now. It is not in the interest of any dominating ideology for victims to unite or have a common focus. Peculiar spirituality serves to bind and encourage claims of ownership and birthright. Religion or spirituality is the greatest mobilising strategy available to man and we have nothing of our own as a rallying force like Islam is to the Arabs or Judaism to the Jews.
(2) Allowing colonisers (particularly Arabs who do not consider themselves even remotely as Pan Africanists) to participate in and sponsor our congresses. Arab occupiers of Northern Africa continue to exploit and dominate original African native owners of the land. The war in Sudan is ethnic cleansing against our race and is funded massively by the Arab League through Libya and Saudi Arabia. Arabs have their League but do not want blacks to have one. We as a race have not been able to focus on how to liberate Northern African blacks as we have done against white racists in Southern Africa because Northern Africa Arabs are equal partners with blacks in the OAU.
(3) Allowing our ‘Movement’ to be hijacked by reactionary African political leaders running our governments. These are leaders tied to the apron strings of our colonial masters for hand-outs which our leaders promptly divert to their individual private accounts abroad for personal gains. They are too busy enriching themselves at our expense to care about our collective welfare.
I strongly believed that while we could excuse the OAU perhaps, to serve the interest of all and sundry as a continental contraption, our ‘Movement’ cannot afford such a luxury. Not when there is liberation, reparations and repatriation wars still to be fought and won world-wide. Our Movement must aggresively tackle racism and our marginalisation if we are ever to collectively make progress as a people. And our ‘Movement’ must remain permanently on the alert thereafter. The best guarantee of this is a civil society controlled ‘Movement’ with grassroots Africans from the continent linking with the grassroots black Diaspora to wrestle power from our opportunistic political elite controlling our governments. The grassroots black world need to take their collective destiny into their own hands through an institutionalised ‘Movement’ that gives equal treatment to both governments and individual delegations. I was implacable over the 7thPAC institutionalising the Pan African Movement as a vibrant civil society compliment or challenge to the lame-duck OAU.
To keep rancour to the barest minimim at congresses, I insisted that decisions and resolutions of the ‘Movement’ must be fine-tuned and worked out at preparatory conferences and workshops etc in advance, with congress being used only to endorse. The preparatory activities of the 7thPAC were, therefore, to focus principally on the following three planks:
AFRICAN UNION (AU)
The latest version of the African Union concept started from a totally discredited non-black source with an OAU’s special meeting bankrolled by Muamar Gaddafi in Sirte, Libya in 1999. Gaddafi, as we all know is the rascal or Satan behind all the modern civil wars in Africa. From Chad to Liberia to Sierra Leone, Gaddafi had his fingers on the rotten, smellie pie. He financed and trained Museveni’s gorilla adventure and he is the leading sustainer of Arab pogrom against Africans in the Sudan right now. After failing to build his, the United States of the Arab world dream, he turned to halpless Africa for relevance in international politics. His interest in the African Union is fiendish and totally opportunistic and was designed to lead to the setting up of the AU’s headquarters in Sirte, Libya with Muamar Gaddafi as the United States of Africa’s first President.
At first, Gaddafi’s dream project was opposed by Presidents Obasanjo of Nigeria and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa in what may have been no more than a power struggle between the personalities involved. President Obasanjo and Abdoulai Wade of Senegal opposed the Reparations for Slavery and Colonialism strategy of the black world at the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in South Africa. Mbeki, of course, is pocketed by apartheid architects in South Africa. General Abacha’s regime in Nigeria, during a moment of discomfort with Mbeki, described Mbeki’s government as a structure with white skin and black head. He probably believed the tail wags the head.
During our struggle to assert our 7thPAC variance in the 1990′s, one of our most formidable foes in Senegal was Abdoulai Wade. Wade who had strong links with the anti-African ‘Labour International,’ in collaboration with Pierre T. Sane of Amnesty International and a Senegalese based in Canada tried to prempty 7thPAC to convene what they called PANAF ’92 to deliver the black world on a platter to their French government cohorts. Wade as the leader of the P.D.S party was reputed for creating confusion and mayhem in the ranks of opposition political parties in Senegal before he became the country’s President. His antecedence is decidedly Western oriented so it was no surprise that along with Gaddafi, Obasanjo and Mbeki they crafted a constitution that delivers the AU as a neo-colonial appendage of the West. These leaders are not Pan-Africanists and do not love Africa or the black world. They are in all these for selfish personal gains (crumbs), from under the tables of their Western benefactors.
The Obasanjo-Mbeki cabal went down on their knees to beg the West for a $64 billion handout but instead got $6 billion spread over a period of years. A Pan-Africanist friend, Lester Lewis, believes that, that is where the NEEEEPAD name comes from. Obviously, the $6 billion bailout is to enable us continue to buy the loads of KNEEPADS we are going to need from the West. The deputy leader of the World Pan African Movement, Charles C. Roach who is based in Canada, describing the African leaders begging scene at the 2002 G8 conference in Canada, said: “There is an amusing photograph of Prime Minister Chretien of Canada sitting astride a kneeling camel on his recent trip to Algeria and five other African countries over the NEPAD issue. The Prime Minister is entreating the camel not to stand up and this is understandable, because the way a camel gets up, unfolding its long legs is a roller-coaster ride for anyone on its back. Symbolically, Chretien was telling the African camel to stay on its knees while he perches on its back.”
Earlier this year, President Moi of Kenya, said in a speech in Blantyre, Malawi that Africa was doomed to perpetual poverty and backwardness unless African leaders free themselves of egocentricity. That “no country in the West had an obligation to baby-sit and spoon-feed independent African nations. African leaders must accept this fact, however unsettling, and rethink about their development strategies.” Recently too, President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia was reported to have described NEPAD as a charter for beggars. Hear him: “NEPAD would not work. ….Africa is the richest continent in terms of mineral resources, but because of ignorance, Africa in economic terms, is the poorest continent and we Africans are the laughing stock of humanity. We have failed because some of us are agents of the same people we are supposed to fight against. We produce the bulk of the world’s raw materials so why are we still poor? Some of us are fighting proxy wars in Africa for the benefit of others. Africa has never colonised anyone. Some people who prolonged apartheid are now waving the flag of democracy and freedom. The African debt is not globalised, it is Africanised.”
At a forum in Addis Ababa in March 2002, Prof Shadrack Gutto of South Africa’s University of the Witwaterstrand asked why NEPAD was presented first to the G8 before African governments had a chance to discuss it. Mr. Wiseman Nkuhlu, the South African president’s special adviser on NEPAD, provided the not so wise answer at the forum that it is because African governments have been pre-occupied with building the AU. In answer to another question at the forum, Mr. Nkuhlu admitted that consultation with civil society “is not where we would like it.”
If the Obasanjo-Mbeki cabal, set up by the West to perpetuate our developmental pains would not consult with even their colleagues in African governments before inflicting the culture of the begging bowl on Africa all over again, does the African civil society have a right to expect a miracle from the AU? Where does that leave the black Diaspora in the scheme of things? What about ‘Reparations’ and Repatriation’?
The answer is for African civil society to link up with the black Diaspora civil society to impose a vibrant, uncompromising institutionalised ‘ Movement’ on the black world, independent of African governments’ control. The two priority areas of activities of the institutionalised ‘Movement’ would be: (a) To pressurise the AU to produce a Pan-African Passport (PAP) to enable any black or African, regardless of nationality, return home to Africa at will without let or hindrance. (b) To compel the West and Arabs, by any means necessary, to pay Reparations to the black world. This is, therefore our ‘ CALL’ to all Africans, African organisations, institutions and NGO’s of goodwill, wherever they may be in the world, to nominate their representatives to the 8thPAC International Co-ordinating Committee working to convene the Eight Pan-African Congress within the next three to five years in Africa to launch the Institutionalised Pan-African Movement.
By Naiwu Osahon
The World Pan African Movement
7th August, 2002.