Tomorrow will be Africa Freedom Day. I would be remiss not to acknowledge this august day in our continent’s torrid history. It remains pertinent for me to mention, against the backdrop of reactionary forces meddling with Africa’s upward trajectory that this continent deserves a new dawn championed by those with a new leadership ethos. Across Africa, there are celebrations via music, dance and theatre to mark the occasion. Jeys Marabini is one of those artistes marking the day in Bulawayo.
By Admire Kudita
The idea of self-determination drove the First Congress of Independent African States held in Ghana on April 15 1958. It was convened by the then Prime Minister of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah. The congress had representatives from Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Ghana to name a few.The conference was in essence a preamble to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963. And exploitation.The spirit of the conference was to emphasise and affirm African solidarity in the fight against foreign domination and exploitation. The conference called for the establishment of an African Freedom Day to “…mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.” In 1963, on 25 May African states and representatives from liberation movements met in Addis Ababa to form the OAU.The day remains a day to celebrate African self-determination and brotherhood. What holds us back?
Any society and culture will experience entropy if it fails to renew itself with new ideas and a definite sense of direction which is undergirded by enduring values. Some of these values were exemplified in the blockbuster so-called Afrofuturistic movie Black Panther. I watched this movie together with author Mzana Mthimkhulu, who is an erstwhile comrade in arms. Afterwards, we walked in light drizzle chatting about the aspirational values of the movie before going our separate ways. For instance, the idea of a technologically advanced African society that is able to not only defend against enemy forces but one actually able to donate something to a needy world was one we found poignant.
A vision thing
But this is a vision thing. Without a vision, people perish as the Good Book says. Vision is however not enough. We need entreched values for which we are willing to pay the ultimate price. These values must be the values of embracing our diversity, inclusivity, accountability, diligence, excellence, justice and peace. Our public institutions must be guided by such values.This is the only way to survive the onslaught of the enemy. We need a sense of real camaraderie not only amongst African nations but also within African societies. Ethnicity looms too large and ethnic mobilisation in political arenas is the default setting of incompetent and myopic politicians.
Hence we have had the Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe genocides. Additionally, xenophonia is a mere outcrop of an existing problem that starts within communities because of prejudice and skewed development trajectories. How easy must it have been for the coloniser to take advantage of pre-existing tribal fissures and resource allocation?
The borders that exist hamper intra-Africa trade but perhaps self-preservation lies at the heart of the refusal to integrate and leverage on our collective strength as a continent facing similar challenges. We should be able to traverse the continent without a problem at any African border. This is a long shot however. The dream of Garvey remains a pipe dream and the likes of Muammar Gaddafi may have died for it.Why does the African self sabotage? No I am not an Afro-pessimist. I love my people but the truth should set us free. We need to heal the African soul by insisting on values and principles without regard to ethnicity. It should not matter within our nation which tribe a person belongs to as long as they are competent and conduct business for the public good.
The leadership crisis
Now here is a question to the leaders of the continent: why does it seem necessary for you to operate between the extreme of dictactorship and mediocrity? Either African leaders are presiding over a robber baron cabal pilfering public funds with impunity in a long-standing authoritarian government or it’s a volatile wartorn region full of laughing hyenas and crying children (think Liberia, Sudan, Congo and Sierra Leone). The African chiefs of yore, save for a few, were not much better it seems. How did slavery proliferate? In some cases, as in Dahomey, the kings resisted the abolition of their lucrative human trafficking enterprise of the slave trade. I have little respect for chiefs who are puny in mind and deed. I am yet to encounter many African chiefs in our African past of the ilk of Samori Toure (go and read up on him).
Where is our Wakanda?
I suppose African people are as human as humans come and maybe too human. They have the tendencies to self destruct. The proposition I find in movies like Black Panther and its director Ryan Coogler’s allusion to the US Black Panther movement of the 60s and 70s promoting black power, is of an Africa steeped in a progressive tech-driven society ruled by a monarch though the idea of a progressive monarchy is somewhat an oxymoron. The idea of monarchy is an enduring and fractious one, it seems, especially if you consider Swaziland which is ruled by a monarchy. Some critics will contend that it is backward and held back by the dictatorship of the king there. I have yet to visit Swaziland. South Africa has a prominent monarchy in KwaZulu Natal. This is an idea that refuses to go, for indeed even in Matabeleland there have been murmurings and actions to revive the Ndebele monarchy. Tanzania and Rwanda appear to be pushing toward a Wakanda dream. The question is: at what cost ?
It does seem to me that Africa will have to either evolve from the dalliances with absolute rule and monarchial tendencies or resolve the schizophrenia and settle for its kings and queens. Maybe then can we move forward in terms of social amenities and improvement of our economies? I doubt that the latter path will yield much in terms of actual development. There will forever be tension between those who arrogate to themselves the right to lord it over us and those who are subjugated. The human spirit yearns for freedom of action and thought.
Authoritarianism is antithetical to enduring socio-economic development. The fallibility of man is central to the demise of such an idea of government. Napoleon tried it. Hitler tried it. Mugabe tried it. What abides is the vision of a world in which people are not held back by ethnicity and race. What beckons is a world in which man is the centrepiece of God’s creation and is treasured and allowed to realise his full potential.
African Heads of State and Government adopted Agenda 2063, which is the blueprint for Africa’s development. The document reads in part: “… a call for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny”. Let’s insist upon, commit, enshrine and defend those values with all our might.