AFRICANGLOBE – Before we proceed to define what African liberation is, there is need to perceive and agree on the definition of who is an “African”. It would be a fatal mistake to assume that anybody on the African continent today including those who deny that identity is African.
On the other hand, it would equally be serious a mistake bordering on ignorance of history to perceive that people of African descent domiciled outside the continent, for example in the Americas, Europe, Asia or Oceania, are not Africans.
The Africans are the only race in the last 1,000 years that has been raped, brutalised, denied its humanity, commoditised, exported like goods, its natural resources stolen by Europeans and Asians, its societies torn apart, their social bonds disrupted and compartmentalised into colonial territories.
The history of the African people and people of African descent has in short been that of tremendous tribulations at the hands of nearly all the other races.
No human race has gone through such a legacy and possesses such historical indignity.
An African therefore is one who or whose ancestors have gone through this experience and heritage. Black colour, although a characteristic feature of many of us, does not alone define who is African.
Let’s now attempt to define ‘African liberation’, what are its parameters and which social and political forces pursue this liberation struggle?
In the context of decolonisation, African liberation has been seen as process leading to independence from European colonial rule.
Although that may be a significant aspect of it, African liberation is a socio-cultural and political process for self-rediscovery, self-re-humanisation and return with dignity into human history.
Colonialism and dependence on Europe removed our people from history.
Liberation essentially is the return of the African people on the continent and in the Diaspora back into history such that they take their rightful place in the course of human development. This process in the final analysis must translate into transforming the oppressive reality by which the Africans have been submerged in for centuries. Its main parameters are social and cultural emancipation, political independence, economic vibrancy, unity of the African people on the continent with their kin and kith in the Diaspora.
The oppressive reality the Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora find themselves in is the reality of neo-colonialism – maintaining colonial relationships through diplomatic and economic strings which perpetuate economic exploitation and the robbing of the continent’s natural resources through such institutions as the Lome Convention [I, II, III & IV], the Cotonou Protocol -2000, which have perpetuated African’s dependence on the European Union.
Europe continues to exploit Africans through such agreements made by African leaders who never cared for their people.
It is a relationship in which Africa suffers capital flight to Europe, America and Asia to the tune of billions of dollars per year with a corresponding pauperisation of the Africans as manifested in the human development indices of most of these countries.
A synoptic view of the African political landscape reveals astounding reality of conflicts, civil wars, famine, preventable diseases, and many other epidemics. Fifty years of flag independence most African countries still find themselves in fiscal deficit which must be covered by donors – a sad reminder that it is “not yet uhuru”.
They are unable to feed their own people or provide the minimum of life requirements and as a result Africans risk their lives fleeing to become voluntary slaves in Europe, the Middle East and America.
Africa is witnessing a brain drain to the West and this works negatively for Africa’s development.
In historical perspective, African liberation and the struggle thereof is not something new. It also didn’t start with the struggle for decolonisation in the 1950s and ‘60s.
The process started against the European and Arab aggression many centuries ago. We may have to remind ourselves of the struggles against European slave merchants on the Atlantic coastal areas of Africa; against the Arab slave expeditions along the Indian Ocean coastal areas of East Africa and in the Nile Valley across the Red Sea.
Africans played heroic roles against this human tragedy.
The Africans also didn’t accept lying down European colonialism after the Berlin Conference 1884.
We may have to remind ourselves of the Mahdi’s uprising against the corrupt Turco-Egyptian state in northern Sudan. It is a matter of fact many participated albeit as slaves in the war against the European power.
The defeat of the Italians at Adowa in 1895 by the Ethiopians under Menelik II is a vivid reminder that African people always cherished freedom in their lands.
The struggle for freedom as manifested by decolonisation of Africa was long drawn out against European colonial administration.
It also included the political, military and diplomatic actions against apartheid in South Africa which ended with majority rule in 1994.
The situation in South Africa had been describes as “internal colonialism” – in which the dominant political class, representing the social, economic and political interests of the predatory white racists, captured the state and used it to dominate, oppress and exploit the majority of the citizens.
This internal colonialism was more vicious and ruthless than the European colonialism.
Social And Political Forces For African Liberation
The African struggle for freedom started in earnest with the process of decolonisation. This struggle took different forms ranging from negotiations [Lancaster talks] for countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania [British East Africa], Nigeria, Ghana, Cameron [British West Africa], Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger [French West Africa] among others; to revolutionary armed struggle as it occurred with the Portuguese [Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau] and French colonies [Algeria] or with armed struggle against internal colonialism as in the case of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Sudan.
The unfortunate outcome of this struggle for freedom and independence was the confirmation of Africa’s division in the images of its former colonial masters and the perpetuation of their respective zones of influence.
Africa emerged divided and fragmented after decolonisation.
In Sudan peoples like the Acholi, Madi, Kakwa, Masaai, Zaghawa, Azande, Beja, Anyuak just to mention a few find themselves today divided by the colonial borders of the countries surrounding the Sudan.
The situation is the same in many regions of Africa.
The attempt in Addis Ababa in 1962 to forge African unity in formation of Organisation for African Unity (OAU) quickly turned into leadership club, which affirmed the colonial division of Africa.
It became a “unity” of African leaders to perpetuate the colonial legacy of oppression, marginalisation and political exclusion of sections of their citizenry.
The first phase of African liberation therefore faltered.
The result of this “false start in Africa” is the present crisis in which the continent is embroiled. Conflicts, civil wars, military coups, economic depression, refugees, internal displacement, are all symptoms of a serious error of judgment of our independence leaders.
There is no African state that has not had a military coup, civil war, tribal wars and conflicts, etc.
African liberation is therefore a struggle against neo-colonial state.
It can only occur in the context of a continental movement to which the Africans in the Diaspora may subscribe to.
A continental movement which involves all the social and political forces united in their different and variegated political parties and organisations, associations, and unions.
A “Pan African Movement” capable of capturing the aspirations of the African people and unite them in solidarity with one another and with the African Diaspora.
The Africans may borrow a leaf from the Pan Arab Movement and solidarity in terms of its form and structure but with a different social and cultural content.