Pan-Afrikanism in Namibia: Alive or Dying Out?

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By Henny H. Seibeb, Bernadus C. Swartbooi and T. Elijah Ngurare

‘I beg to direct your attention to Africa: I know that in a few years I shall be cut off in that country, which is now open: Do not let it be shut again! I go back to Africa to try to make an open path for commerce and Christianity; do you carry out the work which I begun. I leave the work which I begun. I leave it with you’

David Livingstone, European Missionary-Explorer

“The missionary says that we are the children of God like our White brothers … but just look at us. Dogs, slaves, worse than baboons on the rocks … that is how you treat us”
A Herero to a German Settler

“The Hottentots have no aeroplanes, and because of that the Boers and the British can bomb them out of their holes and huts and ultimately subdue them. But around these American cities and this Western World we have many Negroes who can fly in aeroplanes. Why not build some, and when the Hottentots need aeroplanes to combat aeroplanes, why not give them of our technical ability and help them to put over the big job that all of us want done”

Marcus Garvey

In using these quotes, it is not our intention to reopen the wounds of the past, but in our view, these wounds have not yet healed completely because the ‘bandage’ continues to be cut by the realities of the relationship between the ‘Master Race vs. the Slave Race’.

We are aware of the sensitivity of this characterization but judging the behaviour of our modern Africa both as individual States and people, there is increasing evidence to substantiate the dominance of the ‘Master Race’ and its subjugation of the ‘Slave Race’.

The negrophobic attacks in South Africa as well as Kenya are examples that whilst we slaughter ourselves over crumbs from the capitalist table, the European neo-colonisers remain in control of our means of production, our economies and prices of African strategic raw materials.

In this opinion piece, we argue that the only practical and realistic way for us as a people and continent to truly free ourselves from the mental shackles of colonialism and regain our true self-determination and economic independence is through Pan-Afrikanism.

Clearly, since the advent of Europeans in Africa, our continent and people have not known real peace, stability and tranquility. Instead in the place of peace came war, in the place of stability came the drawing of arbitrary colonial borders (in 1884-5) and in the place of tranquility came slavery, racism and colonialism.

The African people were exported and sold as commodities in Europe, North America, South America and the Caribbean. The Constitution of the United States of America even declared an African as being 3/5 of a human being. Indeed, this African Holocaust began with the ‘European Renaissance’ in Italy in 1400 and since then slavery, colonialism and racism have ravaged the African continent and its people for centuries.

It was the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism that destroyed Africa and underdeveloped it. In his book “How Europe underdeveloped Africa”, Dr Walter Rodney gives a vivid picture of this African tragedy. Slavery and colonialism were made possible by the so-called European Renaissance. The authors of this renaissance used the compass and gunpowder. These Chinese inventions for peaceful purposes were used by Europeans to steal the land and wealth of Africans.

It was as a result of this that visionary leaders of African descent advocated that all Africans – wherever they might be – should unite to end slavery, colonialism and racism. As a result of these events African people worldwide began to realize that they faced common problems (slavery, colonization, and racism), and that it would be to their benefit to work together in an effort to solve these problems.

Out of this realization came the Pan-African Conferences of 1900 (London), 1919 (Paris), 1921 (London, Brussels, Paris), 1923 (London), 1927 (New York), and the last official one was in the 1940s.

As Motsoko Pheko points out in his article in The Sowetan (1999), Pan-Afrikanism is a movement began in 1776, however, the fifth Pan-African Congress held in Manchester, England, in 1945 advanced Pan-Afrikanism and applied it to the decolonisation of the African continent politically.

Some African leaders involved in this noble cause were giants such as Kwame Nkrumah, William du Bois, Jomo Kenyatta, Robert Sobukwe and Patrice Lumumba. In other words, “Pan-Afrikanism includes the intellectual, political and economic cooperation that should lead to the political unity of Africa.

The Pan-Afrikan alternative provides a framework for African unity.” It also fosters radical change in the colonial structures of the economy, and the implementation of an inward-looking strategy of production and development.

It calls for the unification of financial markets, economic integration, a new strategy for initial capital accumulation and the design of a new political map for Africa. Contemporary Africa is beset with difficulties rooted in its inability to unite territorially. The consequences have been national economies incapable of developing because of geographical, economic and political reasons.

We must accept this truth, and take it as our prime duty, if the restoration of Africa is to become a reality. Today we have currencies and passports which allegedly identify us from one another. Yet our currencies lose their values at the borders where we willingly surrender to the power of the Euro and American Dollar.

Our national passports are used to restrict the movements of Africans but not of Europeans and Anglo-Saxons from America and elsewhere.

It is imperative to quote Pheko further when he states that: “The artificial borders that separate the national territories in the region are divisive of people united by history and divisive of regions united by geography to the extent that they are the subject of disputes and conflicts between African states.

“SADC must strive for a community that transcends the economic level and strive for the territorial and political unification of Africa. This is the only way for the continent to become a great modern power. This is the only protection against neo-liberalism and globalisation.”

Pan-Afrikanism demands that the riches of Africa be used for the benefit, upliftment, development and enjoyment of the African people.

Pan-Afrikanism is a system of equitably sharing food, clothing, homes, education, healthcare, wealth, land, work, security of life and happiness. Pan-Afrikanism is the privilege of the African people to love themselves and to give themselves and their way of life respect and preference.

In other words there should be no need to sell white dolls in predominantly black neighbourhoods or countries because such dolls are not made in the image of Africans but of Europeans. The only window out of this self-imposed slavery is Pan-Afrikanism.

The current problems of Africa therefore are ‘neo-slavery, neo-racism, neo-colonialism, globalisation and neo-apartheid’. So why Pan-Afrikanism, because it was developed by outstanding African scholars, political scientists, historians and philosophers living in Africa and the Diaspora. It was conceived in the womb of Africa.

It is a product made in Africa by Africans. Pan-Afrikanism is the oldest vision in Africa. No other ideology has successfully challenged Pan-Afrikanism intellectually. In other words, we do not need ‘coconut academics’ today who look black outside but white inside, NO, we need genuine African scholars, political scientists, historians and philosophers living in and the Diaspora to provide a salvation of the Afro-centric ideals espoused by great African visionaries of yesteryears.

Pan-Afrikanism in Namibia Yesterday

The national resistance wars of 1904-05 certainly had a lasting effect on the indigenous people’s lifestyle and views regarding Whites in Namibia in terms of Unity and Solidarity.

Since the popular uprising by Hereros and Namas was crushed brutally by Lothar von Trotha’s commando, many of the indigenous leaders were forced to sign protection treaties and surrendered to German Imperial Forces.

From July 1915, the South African regime took over the control of the Namibian territory from Germany, ending 30 years of German colonial rule.

Although there had been a change in regime from one master to the other, the oppressive policies remained largely unchanged. Between 1920 and 1925, resistance against colonial rule assumed a variety of forms unparallel in Namibian history (Tony Emmet).

This period also witnessed the emergence of new forms of political organizations and ideological strands that transcended pre-colonial divisions and began laying a basis for national unity.

Among various organizations that were established were the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), the African People’s Organisation (APO) and the South West Africa National Congress (SWANC).

Tony Emmet notes that “UNIA with its Pan-Africanist platform proved remarkably successful, spreading from the industrial center of L?

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