By Andrew N. Matjila
Once again African leaders graced Kwame Nkrumah’s famous capital on our continent, Accra, to deliberate, not as is generally the case, on matters of economics and developmental value, but on a very unusual matter of crucial importance to the future of our continent, viz, UNITY.
This time around, our leaders had nudged each other to be more forthright and daring, and to place the finger on a question that is haunting us all – men and women, rich and poor, black, coloured and white: “Shall we ever be united on the African continent?” If such matters as unity were historically dealt with strictly according to the alphabetical order of things, then “b” for black, surely comes long before “w” for white. Africans should have been first to be free and united, when whites were still languishing in the precincts of Stonehenge?
But unfortunately, as things turned out since creation, it was the “whites” who did it before us. Be that as it may, darkies will now have to take the bull by the horns and face realities.
Unity is definitely not just an option to be considered casually, but a decisive road that must be followed as true as Vasco Da Gama discovered the sea route to India. Hence the summit in Ghana by African leaders, to hammer out ideas to a roadmap for such an eventuality. Ghana, of course, set the pace for African liberation 50 years ago. Nkrumah did not then just put his country on the map, nay.
He put Africa on the map, prompting the Prime Minister of Great Britain Sir Harold McMillan to declare his winds of change barely three years later.
Is the African Unity debate just a big yawn of tired politicians veranda-talking to the young aspirant leaders of today? Has unity indeed become just another conundrum on the African scene? How often does one hear the man in the street expressing thoughts of African unity? People are most of the time worried about where their next meal will come from. Unity? With whom? Many people are leaving their own countries as refugees to settle elsewhere. The Great Escape nowadays is from west and North Africa into Europe, to find employment opportunities, and a new home, by black men and women.
This exodus will increase in momentum as the years pass by. People on the continent are losing confidence with their leaders’ ability to lead them into the future, and want to try the former colonizers. But why go back to the very people who enslaved us for so long?
The answer is not hard to find: Colonisers did not differentiate one black man from another, educated or not. We were all simply John, or native boys.
Nowadays, the black boss often wants to know whose son, or whose uncle, or whose relative, or what surname one is before a decision can be made to offer employment. If statistics are correct, and I should think SABC Africa has established that they are, because they state it with certainty, then three million Zimbabweans have crossed the border into South Africa as refugees.
Where could these poor people have gone to if South Africa was still under white rule? One shudders to imagine what could have happened to three million people, almost twice the population of Namibia, if there was no sanctuary to flee to south of their country. And the white government would of course have exploited the situation at the UN. ‘Look.” They would have retorted, “how a black government treats its own black people”. This kind of scenario paints a picture of African unity still being a few light years away, because we cannot honestly treat each other in this manner when we fought to free ourselves from white rule for so long. It is no idle talk that our former colonial masters enjoy beer in the bars of Europe reminiscing on Africa and African governments.
That being the case, uniting a people is no bed of roses. The not so poor want to know why they must be united with the struggling Joneses next door. It has been like that throughout history. The powerful have always gone out on raids to kill, maim and rob the weak and powerless.
The poor have always been taxed and bled dry until you had the French Revolution, and many other revolutions. But the African approach needs careful monitoring. It cannot just be unity per se without a unifying force.
And the unifying force must be something or someone to be reckoned with.
Thus, the poor states of Africa will definitely opt for taking the plunge, immediately. The well-to-do will want to kick their heels for some time, to ponder on the various options at their disposal. The in-betweens i.e., the not rich but not poor either, will bide their time to see which way the wind blows.
As I see it, leadership will play a pivotal role in the final analysis. Africa still has to get its Washington, or its Abraham Lincoln, or its Churchill, or its Bismarck, and, yes, maybe its Napoleon, its Alexander the Great, its, its, Hitler, who knows? One President in Africa referred to as “The Black Napoleon,” because of his militaristic style and ambitious outlook. Some say if Shaka’s army was on horseback, and armed with guns and cannons like Napoleon, the history of Southern Africa could quite possibly have been written in Zulu only. But Africa does need a unifying force in a human body,that will not only shout slogans of “unity,” “one Africa, one nation,” “Africa unite,” “Get rid of whites,” and many such unhelpful mouth-drying consolation expressions which sometimes lead to unwarranted and distasteful expletives. Some of Africa’s politicians still have a long way to go to not only espouse democracy, but to understand it fully, and to practise it like Tony Blair and George Bush.
To begin with, some of George Bush’s top officials in Government are not members of his Party, but simply experts (patriots) who serve America. Some of Tony Blair’s MP’s often vote against him in Parliament, not even behind his back, but in full view of all and sundry, while their dissenting votes are counted.
Well, well, one should try to vote against one’s leader in a so-called Third World Parliament, and one will be on the streets forever.
The continent of Africa therefore, will never be united until such time as we have blue democrats who see the continent with one set of eyes, and not a pair for Francophone countries, Arab countries of the north, Swahili east Africa, SADC southern Africa, and Indian Ocean Africa. And this is no easy task indeed.
Personally, I would not hold it against any leader today who says, “Me, I’m not ready for such a venture.” Gaddafi really wants to open the big book of roll-call to get everyone to sign and get it over and done with. It’s good to have a man like him who sets the political cat among the pigeons, so to speak. It dulls the fright of the unknown.
But, as I said earlier, we need leaders in Africa who do not butter each other with “my brother, my brother”. The word has become such a misnomer it is irritating.
Whenever one has done wrong, or wants a favour: “Oh, my brother!” Not meaning “My biological brother” of course. I remember a politician in Namibia some time ago who preferred to use “countrymen,” and “country women.” I find this more mature and meaningful, than my brother. The time for platitudes and favour-seeking is long gone.
But the choice is of course anybody’s to indulge himself/herself. As I said earlier, Africa can no longer afford leaders who waste time with political appetizers like “my brother”.
We need a leader in Africa who can rap men and women on the fingers when they go wrong.
When people mess up with the economies of their countries or the rights of their people, there should be a leader who does not spare anyone.
Given the current situation on the continent where summits do not even come near to rapping their colleagues on the fingers, the general fine print of a communiqu??????’??