For instance, the AU has located the development of the Afrikan continent within the hegemonic-western-neo-liberal ideological paradigm by among others, setting as key development benchmarks the installation of liberal democracy, holding regular elections, having free-market-economies, that are mainly geared towards attracting foreign investment and meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Nothing about reclaiming the land, wealth and dignity of Black people, that were (and continue to be) taken through covert and overt imperialist conquests.
One of the programmes that perhaps best illustrates the AU’s inclination towards neo-liberalism is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development or NEPAD. The dominant thinking within the AU seems to be that Afrika’s economic problems are primarily problems of poor governance, infrastructure, low economic growth rates and armed conflict, and that once these are solved the majority of Afrika’s people will automatically experience meaningful development in their lives. Or as the gospel of the high-priests of capitalism often goes: ‘The benefits of economic growth will trickle down to all.’ What about who owns the wealth of Afrika?
This thinking is not just neo-liberalist to the core, but seems to operate along a logic that says, inorder to advance themselves, meaningfully, Afrikan states and Blacks in general, should behave as though the fight against slavery, white supremacy and western imperialism is over, and what Afrikans must now focus on is to manage their countries and economies ‘responsibility’, and the rest will take care of itself.
It is also instructive to note that, given its influence at the time, through its former head of state, President Thabo Mbeki, South Africa was instrumental in shaping the AU’s neo-liberal deportment. Therefore, instead of championing Afrika’s extrication from the clutches of white supremacist-monopoly capital the AU dedicated a lot of its time to fighting for Afrika’s integration into the global power constellation of white-supremacist-western imperialism.
As a consequence, today, much of Afrika’s minerals and other forms of wealth, remain under foreign control. This is not always obvious, because many of Afrika’s governing elite- are essentially the Mantshingilanes of western interests. This should bring us closer to the real reasons behind the persistence of armed conflict in Afrika (and other parts of the world), particularly in such mineral-rich countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Nigeria and Libya.
It would be extremely difficult to find an armed conflict in Afrika, which is not, in some way, a manifestation of the phenomenon of proxy imperialist wars. Just as in the era of the OAU, armed conflict in Afrika today (and other parts of the world) is largely orchestrated by western intelligence agencies – in defence of the interests of foreign Multi-National Corporations.
This is particularly true for those MNCs involved in the oil business, and explains why, as alluded to earlier, imperialist nations like France continue to control the political and economic affairs of their former colonies on our continent. Therefore, to attribute armed conflict in Afrika purely to ethnic or religious chauvinism or state corruption- is not just an act of intellectual laziness, but also a treacherous tactic to conceal the real cause of armed conflict in Afrika: economics. Put differently, religious and ethnic chauvinism are merely used to fuel the fire – they didn’t start it. The hegemony of neo-liberalism over Afrika’s contemporary politics and economics also helps us to understand why it was possible for western intelligence operativesto come into Libya and ferment the kind of climate that led to the brutal assassination of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
History must record that, even though they had the option to abstain, as Russia, China, Brazil and others did-in March 2011, at meeting of the UN Security Council, South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon, voted in support of imperialist countries such as the USA, France and Britain, to get the repugnant Resolution 1973 passed. Their votes effectively facilitated the armed invasion of a fellow Afrikan state and legitimised the brutal political assassination of a fellow Afrikan. Is it unreasonable to wonder whether they would have done the same thing to President Mugabe? Definitely not!
The brash impunity of neo-liberalism is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that despite the many atrocities that they have and continue to commit, the Western warlords of our time, like George Bush (senior and junior), Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, David Cameron and of course, Barrack Obama, are not likely to appear in front of the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity in various parts of the world and in particular those committed against Black people.
These and related factors overwhelmingly point to the fact that not only has the AU betrayed the OAU’s mission of liberating Afrika, but also, as a collective, the current crop of Afrikan leaders are not advancing a structured project against white-supremacist-western imperialism. And it is for this reason, that the Black radical movement in Azania must never apologise for supporting Black people in Zimbabwe in their quest to reclaim their land and wealth.
THE TASK OF RE-IMAGINING THE PAN-AFRIKANIST QUEST FOR BLACK POWER IN THE 21ST CENTURY
One of the cardinal challenges that arise out of the disturbing context we have painted is an urgent need for a radical and fearless re-think of the meaning of liberation, Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power, in the context of where Black people find themselves today. To fulfil this task honestly, at a theoretical and ideological level, those concerned with the destiny of Black people must grapple with some of those vexing questions that others prefer to avoid. Some of these are:
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of radical Black nationalisms that fail to properly theorise around the questions of land and the national question, the race, class and gender dialectic, ethnic and religious chauvinism, crude afro and homophobia, neo-liberalism and predatory environmental imperialism?
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean, in the context of the long-standing struggle for self-determination by the Sahrawi of Western Sahara, under the leadership of the Polisario Front?
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of the burgeoning struggle for self-determination by the Toureg of Mali, under the leadership of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA)?
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of the recent uprisings in Arab-speaking Afrika?
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of the over 40 year liberation struggle of the Black (Black is used here for emphasis) Melanesians of Papua, under the leadership of the OPM, KNPB and the Free Papua Movement? From the 1960, onwards, successive Indonesian regimes have been carrying-out ruthless campaigns of genocide against the Melanesians of Papua and West Papua, systematically killing over 500 000 Blacks. This genocide against our relatives is probably the biggest political injustice of our time – yet it doesn’t enjoy the attention it deserves. In fact, it is almost a forgotten genocide.
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of the continued persecution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur?
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of the structural anti-Black violence that Blacks in North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East, continue to be subjected to?
• What do Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of a ruthlessly uni-polar world, which is characterised by the military authoritarianism of the USA and its allies, under the leadership of a US President who is partly of Afrikan extraction?
• And in the Azanian context, what do Pan- Afrikanism and Black Power mean in the context of politically weak Pan-Afrikanist and Black Consciousness political formations, the growing grip of anti-Black neo-liberalism on mainstream Black politics, and the profound paradox wherein an essentially landless, economically enslaved, powerless Black majority, periodically pause to proudly celebrate “Freedom day”?
As we seek answers to these and other such questions, we should perhaps also bear in mind the point made by the Azanian scholar, Pumla Gqola, in her book, A Renegade Called Simphiwe, wherein she argues that:
‘…It is important that a critique of power not end with reaction, but that it goes further to imagine something new, more exciting, and more pleasurable. Picture what we can create if we dare to give ourselves permission to imagine freely. It is important to create alternatives just as it is important to speak truth to power.’
If we are indeed going to create alternatives, as Gqola suggests, and are to give Black people a real and meaningful fighting chance to reclaim their dignity, then there are few urgent and practical tasks we must perform.
First, there is a need to strengthen (and protect) existing Black institutions that are geared towards advancing the ideals of Pan-Afrikanism and Black Power and where possible, build new ones, particularly in those areas where poor Black people reside.
Second, white supremacy, slavery, colonialism, capitalism and now neo-liberalism are essentially systematic and structural forms of violence against Black people and the poor people in general, and for this reason we need to have programmes that deliberately equip our people (especially Black young people), to defend themselves against these (and related) evils – not just intellectually, but also physically, if the situation so requires (as it often does). People don’t usually mess with groups that know how to defend themselves.
Third, in the Azanian context, those of my generation who are associated with the various Pan- Afrikanist, Black Consciousness and Socialist oriented organisations must cease to be petty, swallow their narrow-minded pride and begin to have a serious conversation about forming a united Black Front. Our people and their daily reality urgently require collective action. However, we must guard against such a conversation being driven by what Michela Wrong refers to as the ‘It’s our turn to eat’ mindset.
Such a conversation must be inspired by the need to re-ignite the Azanian Revolution for land and genuine national liberation, and give our people genuine and renewed hope. Accordingly, this conversation must include Pan-Afrikanist and Black Consciousness movements in North, Central and South America, The Caribbean, Europe, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.
I would like to leave you with the words of Pianke Nubiyang, who believes that:
‘It is time for change and that change will come when Blacks who speak Spanish, French, Dutch, Portugese, Yoruba and Arabic (in Sudan) realize that we are Black Afrikans first and foremost and no matter which colonial language we speak, RACE IS THE ISSUE, and in Latin America as well as Arabic-speaking North Africa, or even West Papua, it’s our Blackness and Afrikan being that pushes people to attack us.’
Inspired by the wisdom of Nubiyang, my main message to us here today is that, given where we find ourselves as a continent and people, it does seem to me that there can be no liberated Afrika or Black Power if there is no Black unity first.