Why pan-Africanism has failed Africans
“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