Why pan-African­ism has failed Africans

Cape Argus - - OPINION - ROY MUROYI Roy Muroyi is an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal­her­itage spe­cial­ist.

“By far the great­est wrong which the de­part­ing colo­nial­ists in­flicted on us, and which we now con­tinue to in­flict on our­selves in our present state of dis­unity, was to leave us di­vided into eco­nom­i­cally un­vi­able states which bear no pos­si­bil­ity of real de­vel­op­ment…” Kwame Nkrumah THE DOC­TRINE of pan-African­ism used to be a charm­ing doc­trine when the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Mar­cus Gar­vey, Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe and many more African gi­ants preached it. It con­tained val­ues that ed­i­fied and pro­moted the African spirit and it was a com­mon be­lief that Africans had a com­mon in­ter­est.

The unity of the peo­ples of Africa was em­broiled in it, such that peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries would feel like one peo­ple. Pan-African­ism spoke to the daily strug­gles of the African per­son and how pos­si­bly the strug­gles could be turned into pos­i­tives. Pan-African­ism was em­bod­ied in and linked to so­cial­ism. The pro­mo­tion of so­cial­ism and the erad­i­ca­tion of the colo­nial em­pire in Africa was made pos­si­ble by pan-African lead­ers.

Zim­babwe, for ex­am­ple, was to be helped by coun­tries such as Botswana, Zam­bia, Tan­za­nia and Mozam­bique. Their lead­ers em­pha­sised the unity of south­ern Africa and en­sured that the set­tler regime was iso­lated.

Coun­tries such as South Africa that were to re­ceive their in­de­pen­dence in the early 1990s also got sup­port from Zim­babwe and the rest of the lib­er­ated coun­tries. This was pan-African­ism at its best. It was driven by states­men who did not put their in­ter­ests first but were driven by a na­tion­al­ism that went beyond the geo­graphic borders im­posed by the set­tler regime.

The com­ing of in­de­pen­dence en­sured a whole new dis­pen­sa­tion, but most African coun­tries failed to re­alise the in­de­pen­dence they were fight­ing for. In­de­pen­dence by def­i­ni­tion of democ­racy and so­cial­ism be­came a myth, with most of our lib­er­a­tion move­ments claim­ing to have a mo­nop­oly over the peo­ple they lib­er­ated.

Dic­ta­tors started to show their true colours; some be­came even more dic­ta­to­rial than the set­tler regimes. Among the no­table dic­ta­tors were Mobutu Sese Seko, Muam­mar Gaddafi, Robert Mu­gabe and Idi Amin. All hopes of hav­ing a United States of Africa crum­bled.

The con­ti­nent was again taken back to a class sys­tem – the elite class emerged, only this time the elite class were those in power, those who claimed to rep­re­sent the peo­ple. Re­sources that were meant to be shared with the peo­ple be­came state re­sources, which they con­stantly tapped into to build their em­pires. The doc­trine of so­cial­ism be­came far-fetched. The hopes of a United Africa em­broiled in so­cial­ism were crushed.

Africans aren’t the only ones to blame for the fail­ure of pan-African­ism. The de­vel­oped world has thrown span­ners in Africa’s progress. Bril­liant minds like Thomas Sankara faced op­po­si­tion from Euro­peans. He pro­moted lo­cal prod­ucts as op­posed to im­ported prod­ucts. His poli­cies didn’t go down well with the French who re­garded Africa as one of their mar­kets for fin­ished goods. As a re­sult, Sankara was as­sas­si­nated and re­placed with a French pup­pet.

It was driven by states­men who did not put their in­ter­ests first and by a na­tion­al­ism that went beyond borders

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