Pan-Africanism or Continentalism?

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‘YOU can’t understand what is going on in Mississippi if you don’t understand what is going on in the Congo – they’re both the same. The same interests are at work in the Congo that are at work in Mississippi. The same stakes – no difference whatsoever.’ – Malcolm X The linkage of Continental Africa with its Diaspora is now a matter of time – it is inevitable. Unfortunately we see this linkage being realized as a reaction to events around the world and not as deliberate policy by African governments. Pan-Africanism finds its place in a world order in which Africa will not dominate the world stage, but as Alexander Crummel projected, Pan-Africanism will be yet another link in world humanity. All those who have worked to advance the Pan-African project have had to contend with accusations of useless theorizing, imprac-tically and daydreaming. Those amongst us who oppose Pan-Africanism have been described as “Beaten People”, those who have lost the will to struggle. But throughout modern history no people have advanced without a sound philosophical rationalization of their situation. This rationalization most often takes a spiritual form. For others materialism fulfils their needs. It is the Pan-Africanists who through the contemporary period have provided these needs. E. Griffith in his book ‘The African Dream, Martin. R. Delaney and the Emergence of Pan-African Thought’, published in 1975, described Delaney as the foremost African American exponent of Pan-Africanism in the nineteenth century. Delaney began as an abolitionist and later advanced emigration to Africa as an alternative to the black man’s burden in America. Delaney was born on the 6th May 1812 in the U.S.A. His attachment to Africa was a major factor in his Pan-African view. He believed that black people from the New World should join with Africans to build a viable nationality in continental Africa. Martin Delaney published a newspaper and subsequently studied medicine. Delaney is described as a ‘coloniza-tionist’ which was the description given to a white person wishing to establish black enclosures in Africa or elsewhere, whereas an emigrationist was the description for a black man who advocated migration to Africa or the Caribbean, where Africa-Americans would become an integral part of the social order in the new motherland. Delaney was born of a free mother and a slave father. His early experience of racism shaped his nationalism. Delaney studied at Harvard Medical School. He attended the Emigration Convention in Toronto in 1851. In 1854 he organized the Emigration Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. He organized the Second and Third Emigration Conventions. In 1859 he travelled to Liberia and Nigeria. He spent a year in Africa. Whereas Delaney began as a romanticist, he practically linked the Diaspora to the continent. His strong point was objectives, with less emphasis on practicalities. Alexander Crummel was born free in New York on 3rd March 1818 and died in 1898. He studied at Cambridge University. He lived in Africa for twenty years, returning to America to live for the last twenty years of his life. For Crummel Pan-Africanism was a stage towards the long-term goal of human unity. It was whilst he was in Liberia that Crummel came to believe that the African masses are the moving force in the Pan-African project. What Crummel learnt in Africa he took back to America, where he influenced intellectual circles and persons such as W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois, has been described as the intellectual heir of Crummel, who believed that intellectual and moral excellence must be the foundation for any meaningful African unity. Crummel corresponded with Sylvester Williams who convened the Pan-African Conference in London in 1900. Crummel befriended Blyden in Liberia. Other names in the Pan-African lexicon are Henry Sylvester Willams, Ras Makonnen, Marcus Gar-vey, Sekou Toure, Kwame Nkrumah and Harry Hay-wood. In the formulation of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) matters commenced with Kwame Nkrumah seeking support for proposals designed to create a union along the lines of the U.S.A or Russia. These proposals were developed in the form of a personal communication addressed to all the Heads of State, presenting specific proposals for the creation of a central Pan-African organization. First an All African Committee of Foreign Ministers would be established as a permanent body of officials and experts to work out the machinery of a union government for Africa. The conclusion of the work of this Committee would go to the Praesidum of Heads of State, of independent countries, which would meet to adopt a Constitution. There were to be separate Commissions to formulate plans for a common foreign policy, a common defence program, as well as a common citizenship. Almost immediately the Conference rejected Nkrumah’s ideas of a political union, opting for a more pragmatic approach, for a looser Union of Sovereign States. Nkrumah opposed the gradualist approach. The Charter of the OAU drafted in 1963 fails to make reference to the work of the Pan-Africanists in advancing Pan-Africanism and creating the conditions for the launch of the OAU. The Charter fails to acknowledge the Diaspora. Likewise, when the African Union was created in the first years of the 21st Century, it failed to accord equal rights to the Diaspora. Indications are that North Africa has insisted on the exclusion of the Diaspora from both the OAU and the AU, it being instinctively hostile to the link of Africa South of the Sahara with its Diaspora. It is ancient wisdom that the linkage of Africa South of the Sahara with the African Diaspora will create the real motor for African self-sustaining development. What is required is an African national organ to which all African people belong, without connection to the neo-colonial states imposed by the Berlin Conference of 1884-5, which deliberately divided Africa, so as to weaken it. In 1963 and again in 2001-2 African governments opted for Continentalism, that is the unity of the Continent, as their best option for the future. In these choices the people were not consulted. It is suggested that the alternative Pan-African option is Pan-Africanism, that is, the unity of Africa South of the Sahara with the African Diaspora. The combination of Pan-Africanism and African Nationalism would be unstoppable, African Nationalism being constituted by the African Nation properly called, being Africa South of the Sahara, plus the African Diaspora. Pan-Africanism represents the best option we have. The research work of Prof Kwesi Prah on culture, language and history is instructive. Prah in February 1991 defined nationality as ‘pertaining to culture, history, geography, sometimes language, religion and other attributes that a given people have which identifies them to a common history, culture and tradition. All these attributes don’t have to be present to the same extent in order to define a nationality, but nationality needs to have consciousness of the combined effects of these attributes as a feature for itself.’ Prah continues: ‘There is a need to distinguish between citizenship and nationality – citizens of a state can be of various nationalities, while citizenship requires the acknowledgement of equal rights for all nationalities within a state, nationality per se transcends citizenship and transcends often state borders, especially in the African case.’ Another anomaly was that despite the creation of the OAU/AU, virtually no country in Southern Africa, for example, made any serious effort to teach Pan-African history in its schools, which was treated generally as a non-event, therefore distorting the vision of the future leaders. Walter Rodney provides us with the most succinct analysis of the relevance of Pan-Africanism. He describes Pan-Africanism as a progressive sentiment which was advanced by those elements of the African middle classes, which were uncompromising in the struggle against colonialism. Even today this privileged educated group is tasked to express mass grievances. In the struggle for independence this group proved themselves reformers not revolutionaries. Once independence was attained the political elites in Africa in general have been unable to affect meaningful unity out of the fear that Pan-Africanism will rob them of their narrow self-interests (e.g. land, cars, etc.). According to Rodney, objectively the ruling classes oppose Pan-Africanism and have no interest in the consciousness of the people about their history and the reality of their interests. Finally, Du Bois in his congratulatory message sent to Nkrumah on the attainment of Ghana’s independence in 1957 spelt out the objectives of Pan-Africanism. Du Bois said Pan-Africanism should stress peace and should not be a party to any military alliance. It should avoid subjection to and ownership by foreign capitalists who seek to get rich on African labour and raw materials. It should seek to build a society founded on old African communal life, rejecting the exaggerated private initiative of the west and allying itself with the social programs of progressive nations. Central to the Pan-African agenda, according to Du Bois, is the issue of the status and treatment of black Africans in modern civilization.