New Internationalist

The Colours Of Our Future

Issue 326

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The Colours of Our Future

Amos Sawyer
Former President of Liberia

[image, unknown]
Amos Sawyerr

I think the Pan-Africanist orientation has to adjust with changing times. We still have a lack of Pan-Africanist solidarity in this post-Cold War age. We have let our internal contradictions have the better part of our own existence. We now have a serious problem containing or preventing those differences from taking on violent proportions.

I think it is actually a strong Pan-Africanist solidarity that will strengthen us more than anything. We have not been able to organize a sense of direction from inside using our own intellectual resources and our own sense of destiny, of history. It is sometimes disheartening when in a major initiative such as the one we have just had [a conference on war-affected children in West Africa], we needed a push from the Canadians to bring to the fore the relevance of children's issues to our development strategies, to conflict resolution, conflict prevention. It is a cause for worry; at what point do we take control and what point do we begin to formulate our own orientation?

 

Lalla Ben Barka
Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

Photo by LYDIA MULUGETA
Lalla Ben Barka

I strongly believe that Pan-Africanism is even more relevant today than it was in the 1960s. Then it was necessarily visionary but it was this very idealism that served to limit Pan-Africanism to a dream, limiting its scope and to a large extent derailing it. When the hard reality of development set in, the ideals of Pan-Africanism were quietly forgotten and were put on the shelf to gather dust. Yet Africa's place as an equal partner at the global table can only be assured if it thinks and acts regionally.

[image, unknown] ECA is the regional arm of the United Nations in Africa. At the same time it is a key marker in the African institutional landscape. It is no mistake that it was named the Economic Commission for Africa. We are very concerned that the onus for policy decision-making on Africa's key challenges has over the years shifted away from Africans themselves. We firmly believe that Africa's development must be owned and led by Africans. We vigorously promote this ownership in our various activities. For me, this is what makes ECA a uniquely Pan-African institution. It is part of the international network of development organizations, and yet it has a core commitment to Pan-Africanism. When you consider that Africa is the world's last and greatest development challenge, for me as an educated African woman, working at ECA is a privilege and a challenge that drives me on a daily basis.

 

Gamal Nkrumah
Son of Ghana's independence leader, now a journalist based in Cairo, Egypt

[image, unknown] I am an internationalist, first and foremost, and I believe in one race - the human race. I believe in humanity. But justice demands, at this historical juncture, that Africa and Africans be given their rightful due. Uniting Africa is the only way the dignity of the African in international affairs can be achieved. African unity is the only way for Africa to achieve economic salvation and to progress towards a meaningful development process beneficial for all.

Pan-Africanism for me means continental African unity. The Arabs of North Africa and other peoples such as Egypt's Copts and Nubians and the Berbers of the Maghreb countries are part and parcel of Africa. They have suffered from colonialism and neo-colonialism. All Africans, north and south of the Sahara, share the colonial legacy and anti-imperialist struggle. Africa must unite and only then will the aspirations of African people the world over be fulfilled.

 

Emmanuel Dankwa
Chair of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

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Emmanuel Dankwa

For me it is exciting to see countries in Africa not seeing themselves as Francophone, Anglophone, Lusophone or as from the Maghreb, but as people belonging to one body, seeing the problems of Africa as common problems. This idea of African renaissance has some meaning. Take the case of Mozambique's floods, in which we saw South Africa committing so many resources; white South Africans risking their lives to save the lives of black people in another African country. Under a different dispensation, not very long ago, those people would not have been considered beings worthy of living in the same space. We are seeing ourselves as one people with similar problems, seeing that those with resources should try and help those without. For me that is a positive move.

I see countries coming together, undertaking to observe and guarantee human rights in a way that is surprising. In all, 53 countries in Africa have bound themselves to observe, to guarantee and to assure the freedoms and rights of their peoples. And that is a very important step.

 

Muammar Qadhafi
President of Libya

Photo by VANYA KEWLEY / CAMERA PRESS
Muammar Qadhafi

All borders in Africa should be lifted and Africans from South Africa be able to travel freely to Libya, reside there and have the right to own property. Any attempt to repulse this change would be a betrayal of Africa.

Africa is a continent with resources bigger than those of Europe and those of America. In fact Europe and America live on stealing the wealth of Africa. When they are deprived of the wealth of Africa the two continents of Europe and North America will begin the countdown to the Abyss and Africa will start to go up.

[image, unknown] Here is Africa; here are fruits and waters. What do you need your white skin for in North Africa? It will only isolate you and force you to humiliation before Europe and America. What is this shortsighted thinking? Why are you fooling our forthcoming generations by isolating them on the island between the barren Sahara and the salty sea to kowtow before a United Europe?...

We would like to unite one thousand tribes. We should turn them into the United States of Africa.

It is stupid to set up borders inside Africa. This is like going to an ocean and establishing borders. Who can erect borders on the surface of the ocean amidst the pounding waves?

 

Hassan Sunmonu
Secretary-General of the Organization of African Trades Union Unity (OATUU), which represents 75 national unions and 25 million workers across Africa

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Hassan Sunmonu

I see myself as a Pan-Africanist. I revere those founding fathers who even in those dark days of colonialism saw the need, the usefulness of Pan-Africanism. The founding of the OATUU is a testimony to their vision.

The trade unions, as one of the best-organized elements of civil society in our continent, are in a very good position to push things forward at the national level, at the sub-regional level, at the continental level. Not only on bread-and-butter issues of collective bargaining and so on, but on other things that would make for durable people's participation, democracy and development. Without the spirit of Pan-Africanism everybody would like to be big fishes in small lakes, rather than small fishes in big oceans.

 

Susan Rice
An African-American who is now US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Susan Rice
Susan Rice

Almost 50 per cent of Africans are under the age of 15. These are young people who can develop fierce brand loyalties for everything from soft drinks to blue jeans. Africa, a market of approximately 700 million potential consumers, truly represents the last frontier for US exporters and investors... We have a significant humanitarian stake in Africa and strong cultural and historical ties to the African people. Some 12 per cent of Americans, almost 33 million people, trace their roots to the African continent. Many Americans, not just African-Americans, feel a strong obligation to better the lives of people throughout Africa. They care not only about helping to prevent and resolve conflicts but also about responding effectively alongside the international community to crises and humanitarian disasters...

The United States must invest the dollars to help educate Africa's dreamers, to train its entrepreneurs, to ease the path for traders and investors, to fight terrorists, to catch drug traffickers and illicit weapons merchants, to help feed the hungry, house the displaced, and stop the dying. We must do so not simply as a moral imperative, but because it is manifestly in our own national interest to help build lasting prosperity and security in Africa.

 

The late Julius Nyerere
Former President of Tanzania, speaking in Ghana in 1997

Photo by CAMERA PRESS
Julius Nyerere

This is my plea to the new generation of African leaders and African peoples: work for unity with firm conviction that without unity there is no future for Africa. That is, of course, if we still want to have a place under the sun. I reject the glorification of the nation-state which we have inherited from colonialism, and the artificial nations we are trying to forge from that inheritance. We are all Africans trying very hard to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians. Fortunately for Africa we have not been completely successful...

Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated. And it will therefore increase the effectiveness of the decisions we make and try to implement for our development.

My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and the peoples
of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and
determination, and carry it forward.

Photo Credits:
BEN BARKA: UNITED NATIONS / LYDIA MULUGETA
QADHAFI: VANYA KEWLEY / CAMERA PRESS
NYERERE: CAMERA PRESS

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