Africaâ€™s Liberation: Against the Four Headed Beast!
You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future. — Thomas Sankara 1985
The imperative of African liberation require that we mobile our all. The African drum must be implored to burst the eardrums of servitude, imposed chains and self created borders of death. The African drum must be beaten into a silence which will conjure up the madness of dreams so that we may speak the language of the dead and see more clearly the chains which keep us in darkness, denied and despised. Let the African drum, snap. Cow hide, goat hide break asunder!
Listen to Suzanne CÃ©saire’s call and lets embrace “the domain of the strange, the marvelous and the fantastic, a domain scorned by people of certain inclinations. Here is the freed image, dazzling and beautiful, with a beauty that could not be more unexpected and overwhelming. Here are the poet, the painter, and the artist, presiding over the metamorphoses and the inversions of the world under the sign of hallucination and madness.”
Beat the drum and hear the voice of Sankara from beyond the grave; “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness”. The African drum has been beaten for too long to lull a continent besieged into a deep sleep whilst her intestine are devoured by ferocious beasts of death. Let our ancestors show their hands, for we shall no longer accept guidance from those who died serving the master who kills Africa.
Our ancestors are those who perished fighting so that we may live again-
Against the US of Africa
This conference coincides with the “grand debate” by African leaders in Ghana, that place which gave us the first concrete possibility of fighting and winning against the colonial yoke, Nkrumah showed the way, but didn’t reach the Promised Land. Let me say from the beginning that I am glad that the “grand debate” fizzled out without hemming this continent officially into the four borders of hell signified by the four beastly heads- European settler colonialism from the south, Arab Settler Colonial attach from the North, Black colonialist from every state house liberal democratic parliaments, and finally imperial attack from above. Those who are sitting in Accra have no right to further sink this continent into untold suffering. The idea of uniting African under the current condition is not only a frightening prospect but an idea which must be fought and killed before it further suffocates us all. How can agents of death! Imperialism, white supremacy and Arab-supremacy be architects of liberation?
There is something charmingly disarming about calls to for African unity. But unity against what? Unity for what? Unity of whom? Revolutionary Pan Africanism (Casablanca current) lost against the Reactionary Pan Africanism (Monrovia current) in the 1963 formation of the OAU. Nyerere to his credit conceded in 1997, that he was wrong Nkrumah was right!
It has to be asked would it had been better for the radical Casablanca group to have got on their way, steered clear of the OAU. Would de-colonisation have taken longer? Would the defeat of the radical stream of Pan Africanism not perhaps given itself a better chance? Well, we have to start all over again, but in doing so we need a clearer picture of what are the key hurdles facing a revolutionary Pan African project.
I want to propose that there are four main problems which i see as the heads of the anti-African liberation monster. The four headed beast! Which must be slain for Africa be free!
1. European Settler colonial political and social reality in the Southern Africa (SA, Zim, Angola, Moz etc) 2. Black colonialist agents of neo-colonialism in state houses 3. Arab settler expansionism from the north 4. Imperial attack from above
What unites these heads is the beast of capitalist greed, sustaining itself on the basis of looting Africa. I am aware of other fault lines such as xenophobia, patriarchy, homophobia, tribalism etc. but it seem to me that the four moments signify the fundamental questions which must also be confronted.
1. European Setter colonial reality lead by post Apartheid SA.
Post colonial/apartheid Southern African socio-political formation remain in the main organized to serve settler interests.
-Class formation (who works who owns the means of production and e-expropriate labour)
-Means of official cultural expressions (super structure) – education the arts etc
-How Political power is exercised and the state formation
The effect of this post colonial reality is that the majority who were excluded remain excluded.
50% population below poverty line, 40% unemployment, 60% young blacks have no means of income generation. 80% of the land in about 65,000 white settler farmer hands. I million evictions from farms.
In SA the wave of violent crime has been attributed to these phenomena- a reaction to the war waged by the settler set up and their new connections. The above is related to the second head of this beast
2. Black Colonialist in service of neo-colonialism. Cabral identified the conditions which produced the neo-colonial sell-out.
“that the national liberation struggle is a revolutionary struggle, and that it is not over at the moment when the flag is hoisted and the national anthem is played…”
(SA we let our children sing die stem! The National anthem of the coloniser and brutaliser)…
Cabral goes on to say “an independent state must be a liberation movement in power or it will not be independence”. Fanon spoke about “making it in the white world”
Chinweizu is scathing-
“they didn’t go into office to dig out colonialism root and branch, or t build people’s power, or to protect their people against imperialism… having taken over the political administration created by the white colonialists, their aim were limited to taking the white residential areas…”
Later he says referring to the limits of independence in practice-
“on each country’s “independence day”, it simply moved from being ruled and exploited for imperialism by white expatriate colonialist to being ruled and exploited for imperialism by black comprador colonialists”
An analysis of the move from Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU), will show that the move didn’t signify a break but rather a confirmation of the triumph of the Monrovian current of Pan Africanism- the victory of the reactionary arm of the pan Africanism. SA brought in the neo-liberal Washington consensus- Gear policy, reinvented the African Renaissance as a the ideological arm and NEPAD the Africanisation of our home based structural adjustment programme.
As SA spoke about African unity, the African Renaissance, Thabo Mbeki reduced many to tears with his meaningless “I’m An African” speech. But at the same time SA also built a huge concentration camp for black Africans in Johannesburg called Lindela. Also made entry in SA difficult for Africans. But allows movement of money and animals.
Our unemployed, poor and marginalized took their queue from the political class who speaks with forked tongues and started campaigns of attack, and murder! They cried more Makwerekwere! than we are all Africans! In sense we could argue that the black colonialist project signify two moments in the Haitian revolution of 1804- between the current represented by Toussaint (the mandela of Haiti), and Dessalines (the Lumumba of Haiti). Dessalines was moved by the accomodationist project of his comrade in arms Tousaint to declare to the masses fighting masses (in 1804 )…
“Your struggles against tyranny are not yet over…. our laws, our custom, our cities, everything bears the characteristic of the French… and yet you believe yourselves free and independent of that republic”…
Dessalines says this in the face of Toussaint’s accommodation with the French after having defeated them in battle. We all know what happened to him in the hands of Napoleon, his friend. Looking at what amounts to a sell-out organized by Toussaint after the historic victory against the French. Again Dessalines was moved to cry-
“And what a dishonorable absurdity – conquering in order to be slaves! ”
Following Tousssant’s spirit of compromise and accommodation, our beloved Nelson Mandela takes the matter a little further as he writes in his autobiography:
“After being released from prison, I set about plans to build a country house for myself in Qunu. By autumn 1993, the house was complete. It was based on the floor plan of the house I had lived in at Victor Vester. People often commented on this, but the answer was simple: the Victor Vester house was the first spacious and comfortable home I ever stayed in, and I liked it very much. I was familiar with its dimensions, so at Qunu I would not have to wander at night looking for the kitchen.” [Long Walk to Freedom: 728]
Now Victor Vester is a Prison, where Mandela was kept for 14 months before his release in 1990. Chinweizu reflects on this matter thus:
“In a world where symbolism matters, his choice to build for himself a replica of the prison warder’s residence must have reassured the Broederbond leaders–the intellectual inventors of Apartheid who were then orchestrating a transfer of office to some appropriate blacks who would preserve white supremacy behind a mask of black majority rule — that Mandela was their man for the job. A man who would voluntarily build for himself a replica of his prison accommodation could be trusted not to pull down the system he would soon be managing for his jailers! ”
Need we say more?
3. The Arab Settler colonialism from the North
Firstly there are major psychological and ideological hurdles we need to confront when dealing with subject. In Setswana we would be taking about Khupa marama — that which must never be spoken about. The Arab/Afro encounter in the past and in the contemporary is a matter which evokes great emotion. I think it has also built an effective silencing mechanism.
1. the one raising the issue a narrow racialist 2. Tribal chauvinist
3. against African unity 4. indirectly supporter of imperialism 5. Have no class analysis 6. not informed about the historical evolution of the North Africa 7. Being divisive!
Well, I have questions which trouble my conscience. I am not comfortable to simply gloss over the matter. I am not impressed with how some Pan Africanists have dealt with the issue. I also know that this is a complicated matter- as if we don’t already have major problems. But, to avoid this issue is to be hypocrites.
I raise these issues without pretending to have any clear answers. I hope we can assist each other on this one.
Why is it that Arab slave trade is never discussed nor reparations sought for it? If this matter was resolved how was it resolved?
What is it about the Arab slave trade and transatlantic slave experience, which makes the one more repugnant than the other?
What happened to Africans captured for the middle east slave markets?
How does the experience of Arab Slavery continue to manifest and define the encounters between the Arab in African and the African?
Well that is history! What about today? What do we make of Sudan, Darfur, Mauratania, and Chad…the role and position of Gadhafi in the Arab expansionism. In 1972 Ghadhafi decided to condemned the Zanzibari 1964 revolution which freed Africans from Arab settler colonialism. Opoku Agyeman (Sudaness Scholar), records Ghaddafi’s stalk October 1972, Tripoli-
“Zanzibar, was all Muslim and almost all the people were Arabs, …in 1964, the enemies of Zanzibar plotted and staged a massacre in which they slaughtered over 20, 000 Arabs in Zanzibar. It was the most notorious massacre in the world… all the Arabs were annihilated in Zanzibar and the African rule was developed there” (p 15)
He also went ahead and captured uranium rich AUOZOU strip 1973 which was part of Chad.. He has been an active member of the Arab league at different times. Currently he is in an accommodation project with American imperialism. In light of these how can Ghaddafi be seen as a progressive force for the unity and liberation of Africa?
In Accra, Ghaddafi’s failure to launch his USA, has been described as the same as Nkrumah’s defeat in 1963- nothing could be farther from the truth. Ghadaffi’s project is not similar to Nkrumah’s project. The defeat of the USA must be celebrated, but not because those who opposed Ghaddafi did so in the interest of Africa. Personal petty jealousies, usual African leader “it must my project syndrome”, different imperial masters interests, and I think the sheer unruliness of the African continent in the face of further colonialism, should be credited for the current temporary defeat. The threat has not gone away.
So its not thanks to Thabo, but the failure was more in spite of Thabo Mbeki and others who represent the black colonialist current. So neither those who opposed the USA nor those who were for the USA represents progress or liberation- if I’m wrong, I’d be happy to be shown what these two currents have done in practice to challenge imperialism today.
On the 22 February 2003, some people from the African continent and the Diaspora met in Johannesburg to discuss the issue of Arab led Slavery of Africans. They declared after their meetings amongst others that:
“WE regonise the Arab-led slave trade of the Arab people predates the trans-Atlantic slave trade by a millennium, and represents the largest and, in time the longest involuntary removal of any indigenous people in the history of humanity”
They also declared amongst others that the amnesia around Arab Slave Trade needed to be confronted, that the AU deal with the matter, that contemporary slavery of Africans in the Afro-Arab border lands be given the attention it deserves. The main question for me is how do we move forward on the matter which addressed these questions. I don’t think ignoring them is an option.
Fourth head of this beast is Imperialism
i think it enough to say our continent is currently ideological and politically organised to serve imperialism. George Bush is not even afraid to tell us that Thabo Mbeki is his point man in Africa. Independent Ghana, and Tanzania have between 40% and 50% of their annual budgets funded by imperialism. They can claim to be forced into structural adjustment programmes. SA on the other hand, has less than 1% of its budgets as aid, it has gone into voluntary enslavement- others have called it “home grown structural adjustment programme”. So we are doing unto ourselves what the enemy would otherwise to unto us!
Bush is setting up the Africomand military surveillance and capabilities in strategic points on the continent. And our leaders have kept their mounths shut! Africa’s armies are regularly trained by the UK, EU and USA, so are our intelligence services. So we are hemmed in by the violent arm of imperialism right in our national borders.
My point is that Africa’s liberation will have to contend with these four borders (black colonialist, European Settler political and economic structure from the South, Arab expansionism from the north, and imperial attack from above), we have to confront these if we wish to make progress towards genuine emancipation.
So what are the elements of a Revolutionary Pan Africanism? Walter Rodney’s intervention at the 1974, sixth pan Africanist Congress remains relevant:
That the principal enemies of the African people are the capitalist class in the USA, Western Europe and Japan; (I would add China to day)
That African liberation and unity will be realized only through struggle against the African allies of international capital;
That African freedom and development requires disengagement from international monopoly capital;
That exploitation of Africans can be terminated only through the construction of a Socialist society;
That the contemporary African state boundaries must be removed to make way for genuine politico-economic unity of the continent; That the unity of Africa requires the unity of the progressive groups, organizations and institutions, rather than merely being the preserve of states;
That Pan-Africanism must be an internationalist, anti-imperialist and Socialist weapon.
We must add the African Diaspora! Black people are under attack everywhere!
USA blacks about 40% of prison population but only 12% of the USA population. Same anomaly on death row and those legally leached. Mumia Abu Jamal (whose been on death row for over 20 years) and Asata Sakhur still in exile in Cuba represent the truth of continued persecution of blacks in America.
We cant forget how Hurricane Katrina chose the black community because white racism has ensured who will suffer/die from preventable causes.
Solution from below!
Projects of existing attacks on the colonial border. It is by focusing on the ordinary people’s struggle, which will produced better possibilities for Africa’s liberation. The solution has to come from below as a matter of principle. Some of the important potential revolutionary energy points which need further investigation and elaboration are the following;
1. cross border traders (women leadership) 2. small scale producers- delinked from the international money system 3. the Massai (continue to move beyond and against the border) 4. Zimbabwean land occupiers (note I don’t say anything about Mugabe) 5. the stubborn ever present African migrants in the West (attacking the imperial border right there) 6. Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend)
What’s the relationship between the intellectual class and these movements?
I raise these as examples of everyday resistance against the colonial border. I recognize that these movements/energy points are riddled with contradictions, all I’m trying to do is see if we can elevate them for analysis and engagement.
Alongside these dispersed actual existing heroic efforts of our people for a border less Africa- there MUST be an explicit political project aimed at inspiring the emancipation of the continent. We need a country or countries from which to spread a revolutionary Pan Africanism. A Venezuela of Africa!
This takes me to Zimbabwe. From where I am sitting, Zimbabwe is a squandered opportunity. Imperialism has done everything it can really do, to a people and has not brought Zanu-PF down. Imagine if Mugabe was conducting a real revolutionary experiment? If in Zimbabwe we had a thorough going anti-imperialist struggle, what a great example it would be! What the Zim situation suggests to me is that going against the imperialism today is possible even if we start from one nation state level. It seem to me that we need to think seriously about this project… where do we start, and what is required? But such a project can not been seen outside of the existing real struggles of our people to be free!
Our leaders are fools and greedy or both
Presented by me at the Towards an Africa Without Borders conference, Durban, 5-8 July 2007.