Amil­car Cabral: A mir­ror to Pan-African­ist cer­tainty

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Pan-African­ism draws us closer to the ac­cu­racy of our com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence as Africans no mat­ter where we are in the world; be it in Canada, Zim­babwe, Latin-Amer­ica and the Caribbeans. In our re­spec­tive and dis­placed con­di­tion­al­ity to colo­nial­ity our un­equiv­o­cal yearn­ing is to re­turn to the gen­e­sis of our civil­i­sa­tion which was rup­tured by cen­turies of ex­ter­nal dom­i­na­tion — now co­her­ing us to be part of a dis­crim­i­na­tory and asym­met­ri­cal or­der of be­long­ing.

Our quest for hor­i­zon­tal en­gage­ment has only been sus­tained by the philoso­phies of re­sis­tance which di­rect our moral cam­pus in the fight against ver­ti­cally set pa­ram­e­ters of power, knowl­edge and be­ing. The same is noted by Amil­car Cabral (1966):

“Although the colo­nial and neo­colo­nial sit­u­a­tions are iden­ti­cal in essence, and the main as­pect of the strug­gle against im­pe­ri­al­ism is neo-colo­nial­ist, we feel it is vi­tal to dis­tin­guish in prac­tice these two sit­u­a­tions.

“In fact the hor­i­zon­tal struc­ture, how­ever, it may dif­fer from the na­tive so­ci­ety, and the ab­sence of a po­lit­i­cal power com­posed of na­tional el­e­ments in the colo­nial sit­u­a­tion make pos­si­ble the cre­ation of a wide front of unity and strug­gle, which is vi­tal to the suc­cess of the na­tional lib­er­a­tion move­ment. But this pos­si­bil­ity does not re­move the need for a rig­or­ous anal­y­sis of the na­tive so­cial struc­ture, of the ten­den­cies of its evo­lu­tion, and for the adop­tion in prac­tice of ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures for en­sur­ing true na­tional lib­er­a­tion.

“While recog­nis­ing that each move­ment knows best what to do in its own case, one of these mea­sures seems to us in­dis­pens­able, namely, the cre­ation of a firmly united van­guard, con­scious of the true mean­ing and ob­jec­tive of the na­tional lib­er­a­tion strug­gle which it must lead.”

To bring the con­text much closer to home beyond the transcon­ti­nen­tal Afro-per­spec­tive, na­tion­al­ism creates a unique and nec­es­sary rem­i­nisce on the pro­tracted strug­gle that Africa has en­dured in pur­suit of her lib­er­a­tion from for­eign dom­i­na­tion.

We re­flect and in­tro­spect on how this course has been suc­cess­ful and how it still con­tin­ues to be a defin­ing mark of how the agenda to be gen­uinely post-colo­nial has been stag­nated by our mis­guided fix­a­tion to nor­ma­tive gram­mars of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, so­cial co­he­sion and in­te­gra­tion.

In the process, we re­mem­ber how we have failed to cede due dili­gence to the ideas which must shape our com­mit­ment to en­gag­ing Africa’s en­e­mies par­tic­u­larly those who have been his­tor­i­cally sworn to de­hu­man­is­ing us; ex­ploit­ing our nat­u­ral re­sources and thriv­ing on our su­per­fi­cial par­a­digms of dif­fer­ence to cre­ate de­coys of na­tion-mak­ing in­sol­ven­cies in African pol­i­tics.

There­fore, to­day as we en­gage our global com­pa­tri­ots’ per­spec­tive to de­vel­op­ment, their ap­proaches to “good gov­er­nance” and their in­sti­tu­tions of cap­i­tal; do we have the ad­e­quate ide­o­log­i­cal ca­pac­ity to de­fend our own in­ter­ests; par­tic­u­larly block­ing the fur­ther ex­ploita­tion of our peo­ple?

We are in an un­end­ing strug­gle, but there is no doubt that Africa’s re­sis­tance to im­pe­ri­al­ism (now com­pro­mised by our quest to be like “oth­ers”) has pro­duced many heroic fig­ures. How­ever, it’s not over un­til it’s over. As Africa con­tin­ues to grap­ple with neo-colo­nial­ism; neo-lib­er­al­ism and glob­al­ism many more heroes will be pro­duced.

In my book, Pan-African­ism: The Cra­dle, the Present and the Fu­ture (2014), I ar­gue that the process of safe­guard­ing Africa’s place in the epis­temic realm de­fines the ba­sis of our “thought-power”. His­tor­i­cally, our strug­gle nat­u­rally pro­duced charis­matic fore­run­ners for the in­tel­lec­tual jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of our uni­ver­sal anti-op­pres­sion rou­tines. These are men and women of val­our with un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the an­ti­im­pe­rial re­sis­tance. They are the voices against the ped­a­gogy of op­pres­sion. Many of them, some turn­ing in their graves still give vi­sion and direc­tion to our con­sumed path to over­com­ing the nor­malcy of im­pe­rial dic­tates.

These were (are) res­o­lute fig­ures who re­jected av­enues of es­capism from the con­di­tions set by im­pe­rial hege­mony and the supremacy of oli­gop­oly cap­i­tal bent on ex­ploit­ing Africa and her peo­ple. In so do­ing then, these men and women of char­ac­ter live for­ever in our mind­ful­ness of the present and the fu­ture. We cel­e­brate how they have reaf­firmed the ba­sis for the op­pressed to as­sume their right­ful place in time and in space. Amil­car Cabral is one such a revered char­ac­ter.

Beyond his in­flu­ence in the po­lit­i­cal af­fairs of his moth­er­land, Guinea (Bis­sau), Cabral is re­mem­bered for his remarkable heroic ex­ploits in the bat­tle for Africa’s iden­tity preser­va­tion. Cabral’s con­tem­po­raries as a stu­dent in­cluded Agostinho Neto and Mario de An­drade (who were key in the for­ma­tion of the Pop­u­lar Move­ment for the Lib­er­a­tion of An­gola-MPLA). His other pan-African com­pa­tri­ots in­cluded Ed­uardo Mond­lane, and Marcelino dos San­tos (found­ing fa­thers of the Mozam­bique Lib­er­a­tio Front-FRELIMO).

These men all re­jected Por­tu­gal’s right to de­fine the lives of African peo­ple. They sim­ply com­mit­ted them­selves to re­ject­ing Por­tuguese con­quest.

Cabral stud­ied in Por­tu­gal with Africans from other Por­tuguese colonies. His raise as an in­tel­lec­tual dates back to the edgy epoch in the em­bry­otic suc­cess of African na­tion­al­ist move­ments.

At that point, this group of thoughtlead­ers across the con­ti­nent and some in the di­as­pora were now con­tend­ing the given of democ­racy, free­dom and equal­ity.

They were earnest to break down colo­nial sub­jec­tiv­ity hence their en­light­ened per­spec­tives were key in fram­ing the agenda of de­coloni­sa­tion. Many Africans had even fought and died for “in­de­pen­dence” of their colo­nial masters.

The con­di­tions of colo­nial­ism unique to Guinea (Bis­sau) and on the Cape Verde Is­lands were in­flu­en­tial in con­tribut­ing to Cabral’s in­put to the anti-colo­nial fight. To the mass of the peo­ple, colo­nial­ism un­der the Por­tuguese meant op­pres­sion and down­grad­ing the val­ues of hu­man lib­erty and dig­nity.

More than 99 per­cent of the na­tive pop­u­la­tion was il­lit­er­ate; thus rightly sub­stan­ti­at­ing an or­gan­ised marginal­i­sa­tion in terms of ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion.

Dur­ing that time the coun­try’s in­di­genes had a high in­fant mor­tal­ity rate not to men­tion the coun­try’s over­all poor health de­liv­ery sys­tem par­tic­u­larly in Black com­mu­ni­ties. There were never more than 11 doc­tors for the coun­try’s en­tire ru­ral pop­u­la­tion, or one doc­tor for ev­ery 45 000 Africans.

The Por­tuguese Gov­ern­ment had a de­lib­er­ate struc­ture set to deny the ma­jor­ity’s ac­cess to a wide range of pub­lic goods and services. On the con­trary, the mi­nor­ity en­joyed ad­e­quate pub­lic service de­liv­ery and the wide right of en­try to de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

It was such con­di­tions which in­formed Cabral’s raise as a voice of re­sis­tance. As a thought-leader he was in­stru­men­tal in shap­ing the thought course of Guinea’s re­sis­tance:

“Fac­tors ex­ter­nal to the so­cioe­co­nomic whole can in­flu­ence, more or less sig­nif­i­cantly, the process of de­vel­op­ment of classes, ac­cel­er­at­ing it, slow­ing it down and even caus­ing re­gres­sions.

“When, for what­ever rea­son, the in­flu­ence of these fac­tors ceases, the process re­as­sumes its in­de­pen­dence and its rhythm is then de­ter­mined not only be the spe­cific in­ter­nal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the whole, but also by the re­sul­tant of the ef­fect pro­duced in it by the tem­po­rary ac­tion of the ex­ter­nal fac­tors. On a strictly in­ter­nal level the rhythm of the process may vary, but it re­mains con­tin­u­ous and pro­gres­sive. Sud­den progress is only pos­si­ble as a func­tion of vi­o­lent al­ter­ations — mu­ta­tions — in the level of pro­duc­tive forces or in the pat­tern of own­er­ship. These vi­o­lent trans­for­ma­tions car­ried out within the process of de­vel­op­ment of classes, as a re­sult of mu­ta­tions in the level of pro­duc­tive forces or in the pat­tern of own­er­ship, are gen­er­ally called, in eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal lan­guage, rev­o­lu­tions.” (ibid)

The ref­er­ences made to Cabral’s words sig­nify the ex­tent to which he is a sig­nif­i­cant African po­lit­i­cal the­o­rist. Through his fram­ing of the­ory to ex­plain the con­di­tion of the African in his coun­try he be­came a lead­ing thought pow­er­house against the struc­tured sub­al­ter­nity of the African in the global or­der. From the time of his as­sas­si­na­tion, on Jan­uary 20, 1973 — Cabral for­ever sym­bol­ises our de­ter­mi­na­tion to free­dom as a race and as hu­man­ity at large.

The present or­der of­fers us strug­gles not so dif­fer­ent from those fought by Cabral, Neto, Nkrumah, Mu­gabe, Keny­atta, Mbeki and oth­ers.

To­day de­mands us to re­visit the tem­plate of re­sis­tance which was set by the found­ing fa­thers if we are to achieve mean­ing­ful de­vel­op­ment in Africa.

The path has been set, we just have to fol­low in the right direc­tion towards Africa’s real as­pi­ra­tions to be free.

Why pan-African­ism is of essence? The cross-sec­tional con­ver­gence in the var­i­ous di­ag­no­sis of the African prob­lem also pro­duces a seam­less con­duit for rein­vent­ing the idea of panAfrican­ism. This pur­ports to en­hance the con­ti­nent’s po­ten­tial to erad­i­cate most so­cio-eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges af­fect­ing it.

The need to rein­vent pan-African­ism is also strate­gic in strength­en­ing the in­ter­ac­tional ben­e­fits of Africans at home and those abroad in this age of glob­al­i­sa­tion. This is be­cause pan-African­ism needs to en­gage the con­tin­ued re­ju­ve­na­tion of the im­pe­rial thought-power which sub­jected Africa to de­vel­op­men­tal marginal­i­sa­tion.

Pan-African­ism must be rel­e­vant enough to grap­ple with the shift­ing im­pacts of im­pe­rial hege­mony and the para­doxes it im­poses to the char­ac­ter of the post-colo­nial state.


Richard Ma­homva is an in­de­pen­dent re­searcher and a lit­er­a­ture afi­cionado in­ter­ested in ar­chi­tec­ture of gov­er­nance in Africa and po­lit­i­cal the­ory. Feed­back: ALTHOUGH I agree that wild an­i­mals is very im­por­tant and should not be abused or killed, I feel it is very un­fair to us hu­mans when these vi­cious and very dan­ger­ous wild an­i­mals start to at­tack or kill peo­ple.

The de­part­ment of Parks and Wildlife should not wait un­til vil­lagers are killed by an­i­mals such as lions and buf­faloes.

Although many peo­ple have been at­tacked by an­i­mals the de­part­ment in many cases waits un­til peo­ple are in­jured or even killed.

Vil­lagers in Hwange and sur­round­ing ar­eas have been com­plain­ing for a very long time now that they have so far lost a lot of their do­mes­tic an­i­mals such as goats, sheep, don­keys and cat­tle to wild an­i­mals but it looks like very lit­tle is be­ing done to help these vil­lagers who are now starv­ing af­ter all their crops such as maize and sorghum were de­stroyed by ele­phants.

Last year a Grade Seven pupil was at­tacked and killed by a lion while on his way to school in Dete Dis­trict.

Vil­lagers had ear­lier on re­ported to the de­part­ment about the prob­lem an­i­mal but rangers only started hunt­ing down the lion af­ter an in­no­cent life was lost.

If the de­part­ment had re­sponded in time many lives would have been saved.

We heard that an el­derly woman was also killed by a lion when she went out of her hut in the evening to fetch fire­wood. Other vil­lagers tried to come to her res­cue af­ter hear­ing her screams but all their ef­forts were in vain as they ar­rived late af­ter she had al­ready been killed.

Re­cently the same thing hap­pened in Zvava­hera Vil­lage which is un­der Chief Nyashanu in Buhera where a 10year-old boy was snatched by a hyena while play­ing with his sib­lings in the evening.

The in­ci­dent plunged the whole com­mu­nity into deep mourn­ing. This in­ci­dent was even car­ried by the Man­ica Post. We ex­pect to see a change in the fu­ture.

Ed­dious Ma­sundire-Shumba, Zvava­hera Vil­lage, Mu­zokomba-Buhera.

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