Perspectives/ African Liberation Day

Prof. Munchie/
Prof. Muchie/

By Prof. Mammo Muchie

Africa Day for Pan-African Education

African Liberation Day falls on 25 May every year. But how many Africans of today know that, and more so, what it is? With the current African narrative changing the global view of the continent, the time to use African Liberation Day or even the month of May to promote pan-Africanism for unity and renaissance, couldn’t be more opportune.

Africa Freedom Day was first mooted on 15 April 1958 (just a year after Ghana won its independence from British rule on 6 March 1957) at a conference convened by Kwame Nkrumah to push and bring urgency for the attainment of political freedom for the majority of African countries, which were still under the colonial yoke. Two years later, 1960 would be declared the Africa Year when 17 states won formal independence from their colonisers in that year. A mere three years later, in 1963, Africa birthed the august Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May, a day which was formerly named Africa Day and which also saw Africa Freedom Day, renamed African Liberation Day. These are simple, yet poignant facts that are not widely known, let alone celebrated with the importance they should be bestowed with. For example while the South African government acknowledged in a statement to mark the 2015 Africa Day, that “this is the day to mark the progress that we, as Africans, have made, while reflecting upon the common challenges we face in a globalenvironment,” 25 May is not even marked as a national holiday in the country.

Although some countries celebrate Africa Day, the festivities are usually reduced to sports, dancing contests or music festivals. There are few, if any, linked activities that bring in the real values of Pan-Africanism, or education activities that highlight its ideals. Some may argue that it is better to celebrate African liberation in any form than to fail to do so entirely, but it is also very important that value is added to the celebrations by including comprehensive educational activities rich in PanAfrican ideals In South Africa, back in 2010 we initiated a series of educational conferences called African Unity for Renaissance. We started by highlighting the historic wrong that is the derided Scramble for Africa which happened at the 1884 Berlin Conference, when colonial greed ensured Africa was dissected among its imperial rulers for its wealth, which killed any form of African self-rule in its wake. And the status quo remained for over 125 years. The main drive at our conferences is to turn African Liberation Day into a real education tool. We bring together scholars, the youth, the media, governments from both Africa and outside the continent as well as civil society and other stakeholders to discuss and share sustainable knowledge, innovations and creativity that can help provide African solutions to Africa’s problems.

The activities that we do at the conference could be provided as a guide to the type of activities that would add more value to African Liberation Day. Is Africa where it should be? In one of our conferences we debated a few questions including: “Has Africa achieved full agency to be its own leader in the 21st and 22nd century? When will the African consensus free itself from the Washington Consensus or any other powerful influence? Is Africa where it should be 125 years after the Scramble for Africa?”

These are some of the issues African Liberation Day celebrations should be addressing. undoubtedly, formal decolonisation has not freed Africa from continuing to exist in a state of fragmentation and one where it remains vulnerable to the insidious and cynical ploy of unending divide and rule. As the Kenyan liberation stalwart Tom Mboya once put it: “The Europeans want me to agree that Kenya is different from Ghana. I won’t agree. They are fundamentally the same… Kenya is an African country.” As we celebrate African Liberation Day therefore, African people, wherever they are, should value the fact that they are African first, above all other identities.

There is a vital need to remove from the African discourse, what I term “colonially contaminated mental software viruses”, such as what is seen in this quote by Blaise Diagne, a Senegalese politician, taken from Africa Since 1875 by Robin Hallett (pub. 1922): “We Frenchmen of Africa wish to remain French, for France has given us every liberty and accepted us without reservation…” How about this quote by the late Gabonese President Omar Bongo: “Africa without France is like a car without a driver, France without Africa is like a car without petrol.” I could even go one further. The grand Papa himself, Félix Houphouët-Boigny – first President of Côte d’Ivoire, is quoted in David Lamb’s The Africans proclaiming: “To those who speak of a Pan-African union, I ask, what are we supposed to share? Each other’s poverty?” IS it too much to ask therefore, that from the current disunity and fragmentation in Africa, a paradigm shift is needed in the way we Africans view ourselves. We are not French, English or Portuguese or any other identity derived or mimicked from externality. Africa has been unjustly inferiorised and to continue to mimic externality is to deny the rich Africanity and it is also a failure on our part, to accept and appreciate our own humanity.

Micro-states and Cecil Rhodes Africans need to stop using the bygone colonial presence to continually define themselves. In addition, the legacy of arbitrary and irrational geopolitical division of Africans has exacerbated the ethnic rivalries in the continent. It created a whole range of largely unviable states, which are still trying to forge nations within the boundaries bequeathed from colonialism. Yet in true form, of the 54 states in Africa, 22 can be categorised as microstates, each consisting of less than 5 million people; another 12 are mini-states, each having between 5 and 10 million people only. States go to war to protect borders, which they should have rejected. And any meaningful development project within such ministates and micro-states, fractured along ethnic lines has proved difficult to pull off. From his grave, colonial mastermind Cecil Rhodes, must be pondering with glee his words about Africa: “l contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimen of human being, what an alteration there would be in them if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence…if there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible…” Need I say more? For Africa as a whole, independence still remains just a first stage towards total liberation. True and final freedom will only happen after complete African unity and renaissance – this is yet to be realised, and is a good point for reflection as we mark African Liberation Day and month.


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