Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem:

I wonder how many readers knew that yesterday, May 25, was Africa Liberation Day.   Do not be ashamed if you did not notice it. I am not sure if many noticed the day either  in many African countries and among different African Diaspora communities. In years gone by the Day used to be marked  officially by several governments and unofficially celebrated by many groups in Africa and the diaspora. Now there are only scattered activities by people who have not given up on the belief that A different Africa is possible’. It is a day of solidarity with the various struggles of African peoples for justice, equality, human dignity, freedom, unity  and liberation. It was founded in 1958  (April 15) and called AFRICA FREEDOM DAY, as a result of the first All African People’s conferences called by the indomitable Osagyefo, Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah is the  foremost Pan Africanist of all times, a fact remembered and honoured by Africans world wide who voted him Greatest African of the Millennium  in a BBC poll in 2000 despite orchestrated campaigns by supporters of other living or dead claimants. The two conferences of 1958 were called by Nkrumah as Prime Minister of newly independent Ghana, to show solidarity and plan strategies for the total liberation of Africa from colonialism. Those conferences brought together the few independent countries of Africa and the representatives of nationalists groups and liberation movements from across Africa and a few observers from the Diaspora. Frantz Fanon was there with the Algerian Liberation Movement against French Colonialism, FLN, and it was in the second of those two conferences that the charismatic Patrice Lumumba was introduced to  the world and three years  after he led Congo to freedom but was assassinated in a grand conspiracy between erstwhile colonial interests and local reactionaries, aided and abetted by complacent UN and global powers namely  the US, France , Belgium. Does the story not sound too familiar more than  four decades later? How times have changed but somehow , remarkably, remained the same when it comes to exploitation of Africa’s resources and oppression of Africans.

When the Organisation of African Unity  (OAU) was formed in Addis, May 25 1963, Africa Freedom Day became AFRICA LIBERATION DAY (ALD) as a symbol of the resolve, commitment and support of all Africa for the total decolonisation of the continent. As the wind of change’ blew away colonial rule from most of Africa it dug in in former Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique and settler colonialism in apartheid South Africa, occupied Namibia and Ian Smith’s Rhodesia (Zimbabwe since 1980). Consequently ALD became synonymous with solidarity with these struggles and the near total support and solidarity that they enjoyed among all Africans at home and Diaspora and lovers of freedom globally.

Unfortunately while Africa was united against apartheid and colonialism the same could not be said for the struggles against the neo-colonialism that turned independence to a new form of dependence and oppression of African peoples. The same leaders that were giving support for the Liberation of South Africa were busy stifling the aspirations of their own peoples for real independence and an end to neo-colonial power relations. While Africa was united against colonialism it was divided in the face of neo-colonialism and internal oppression by fellow Africans. Instead of independence from colonialism developing into meaningful cooperation to advance to concrete Pan Africanism and All African Union and government, the agenda shifted to the elite maintaining power in the various artificial states bequeathed by colonialism. Increasingly it became power for the sake of it in one state after the other. Consequently Africa became more vulnerable for the cold warriors, unequal international power relations, debt crisis, etc.

As Africa became a byword for the poorest cousins of the rest of the world there is no surprise that the enthusiasm for Africa Day disappeared in many countries. There was also triumphalism after the successful defeat of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. All Africans and friends of Africa were genuinely euphoric that South Africa became free in our life times. Somehow it was wrongly felt that Africa has finished its Liberation wars. The OAU even officially closed its Africa Liberation Committee based in Dar es Salaam!

But even in South Africa itself the end of apartheid ,as important as it was,  became the beginning of a new struggle for the majority of the people to fully reclaim their dignity and control their society. The Agenda of liberation cannot be finished, it will only change from one generation to the other.

Nkrumah’s famous dictum that the independence of Ghana is meaningless without the total liberation of Africa’ is still true today and even more relevant. While then it was regarded as the utopian wish of a romantic Pan Africanist,  in the face of  today’s dual threat of recolonisation and rapacious globalisation, those words should be made the opening sentence of the national anthem of every country in Africa.

In the past few years Africa has been returning to the drawing board of Pan Africanism. The new African Union with all its contradictions and the various struggles within and outside it represent an advance from the past while we seek further clarity and decisive action towards the future. It offers a wider scope for all Africans to be part of the solution instead of just complaining about the many problems. Instead of constantly enumerating what this leader or that leader is doing wrong why don’t you ask yourself what, no matter how small, you are doing as an individual, a member of an organisation, part of a community, your profession and in whatever station you are, to advance the cause of Africa and the dignity of the African. We all can do something or do nothing. As we say in the Pan African Movement: don’t agonise! Organise!’. Just as thought: if people are no longer connecting to the historical inspirations for Africa Day why don’t we agitate for a proclamation of an African Union Day (JULY 9) as symbol of our commitment to make Pan Africanism relevant for our times and the younger generation?