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02.08.2002 Feature Article

THE AFRICAN HISTORY: An Extract From The Review Of GAMAL NKRUMAH

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(The Son Of Our First President-Dr. Kwame Nkrumah) (AL-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 462, 30 Dec., 1999).

Today’s disillusioned young ask many painful, but pertinent questions “ was national liberation really necessary? Are we actually better off today in the post independence period?”. In the sixties there were thundering certainties. Today, there is only acrimonious scepticism and paralyzing political indecision. The pain of the past cannot be assuaged, because the present is far from satisfactory and the future looks bleak. Africa was milked dry by European invaders for the past five centuries – The Portuguese navigator Joao de Santarem, landed in Elimina on West Africa’s Gold Coast in 1470. From that same coast emerged the father of Gamal Nkrumah, called Kwame Nkrumah. This is how he described his father – Kwame Nkrumah symbolise the resolve of a vanquished people and the rebirth of the victimised continent, Africa. According to Gamal Nkrumah, his father was as much a man of his times as a man ahead of his times---- that latter characteristics proved to be both the secret of his success and the cause of his own undoing. Nkrumah emerged at the right historical moment, but the continent was not ready for his political message. “ The independence of Ghana is meaningless without the total liberation of Africa”. For Africa, 1957 was a watershed year. The British West Africa colony of Gold Coast became independent as Ghana – the name of the medieval African Empire fabled as the “ Land of Gold “. Guinea followed in Ghana’s footsteps in 1958 and in 1960 no less than 14 Africa countries gained their independence. Harold Macmillan ( Former British Prime Minister) in a speech to the South African parliament in 1960, made the famous comment that ‘” a wind of change “ was blowing through Africa. The Africa anti-colonial struggle has had a noble history. However, its short-lived glory has culminated in the hugely disappointing political quagmire of the post-independence period. Nightmarishly, the past returned to haunt Africa like a ghost that refused to be exorcised. In the first half of the 20th century, Africa was reduced to the status of a “ Child of Europe’. As the century unfolded, Africa struggled to wean itself from the west’s cultural, economics and political stranglehold. In the early decades of the 20th century, the west to Africans was essentially Europe: the Europe of the colonial powers that ruled the continent with an iron fist. Africa had been progressively humbled by Europe in almost every sphere, until the tide was turned when Europe was embroiled in world war II. With the atrocities of the war, the Holocaust and the racism of the Nazi ideology, Europe ceased to represent the ideal and Africa gained the moral upper hand, at least for a decade or two. Africa’s triumph was short-lived. Towards the final years of the 20th century, Africa was fast becoming merely an appendage of America. The United States had usurped the role Europe traditionally played in Africa. The old resolved to rid the continent of European domination that climaxed with Africa’s anti-colonial and national liberation struggles in the 1950s and 1960s, has succumbed to the advance of Pax Americana. Washington, not Paris or London now holds the strings to peace and prosperity in Africa. A majority of Africa leaders subscribed to this hypothesis and base their policies on the logic of Pax Americana. The most politically consequential year for 20th century Africa did not even belong to that most eventful of centuries. The year was 1884, when representative of European powers meeting in German capital Berlin, carved up the continent according to European spheres of influence. Colonial entities that bore no relation whatsoever to the cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious realities that existed on the African continent were concocted by European colonialists and cartographers. The 1884 Berlin conference not only spelt disaster for pre-colonial African political entities, but condemned Africans to suffer those dreamed up in Berlin. The conference also officially inaugurated one of the most brutal chapters in the continent’s history – the “ scramble for Africa”. The Germans had all but wiped out the Herero people of Namibia, Britain had pacified and formally annexed the bellicose Ashanti empire in west Africa in 1900, and humbled the hitherto invincible Zulu warriors of south Africa in the battles of Rorke’s Drift and Ulundi in 1879. France had vanquished numerous Muslim emirates and Sultanates in central, west and north-west Africa, only to be checked by Britain at Fashoda, Sudan, in 1898. Africa has not yet recovered from the calamity visited upon it in the aftermath of Berlin. Indeed, Africa is still waiting for the iron cuffs and shackles of Berlin’s legacy to be unlocked. The war between the British and the Boer was in full swing at the end of the 19th century. The Boer people; European, mainly Dutch, settlers who had made Southern Africa their homeland by displacing, enslaving and ruthlessly annihilating indigenous African tribes- were finally subdued when they reluctantly recognized British sovereignty over South Africa and signed the Treaty of Vereering in 1902. Khartoum, of course, inadvertently played a significant role in the last decade of the 20th century when a military coup ousted the democratically-elected government of the Sadig Al-Mahdi ( A great grandson of the 19th century messianic leader Mohamed Ahmad Al-mahdi) . Mohamed Ahmad Al-mahdi’s militant Islamist warriors first penetrated deep inside what is today southern sudan, incorporating a whole swathe of territory in eastern and central Africa, far beyond the boundaries of today’s Republic of Sudan, into a theocratic empire under their black, red, and green banner of an orthodox, but decidedly African, Islam. Had it not been for European colonialism, the forces of Islam driving southwards from Khartoum, and westward from the ocean island-Sultanate of Zanzibar would undoubtedly have reached the African shores of the Atlantic…………… Race has been a principal factor in African politics in the 20th century. When coupled with religion, race becomes a most dangerous combustible issue. People south of the Sahara, have not forgotten the Arab slave trade which both preceded and outlasted the European slave trade and are highly critical of what they see as persisting racist attitudes in North Africa. European settlers in Southern Africa, the so-called Afrikaans, who have made Africa their home for some 400 years, still tenaciously hold on to their European cultural heritage including the protestant christianity they fled Europe for. The descendants of Arabs who conquered the entire northern two-fifths of the continent still look towards Arabia for their cultural roots and they influenced the cultures of not only the Nile Valley and the Maghreb (Northwest Africa), but also the cultural expression of the Islamised peoples of much of West Africa, parts of Central Africa and entire East Africa Indian Ocean Coastline. The Islamisation was inextricably intertwined with slave raids, devastating Jihad and an alien militaristic and patriarchal culture oriented towards Arabia and Islam, which sharply contrasted with the African-centered very often matrilineal and ritual-laden cultures of traditional African……………… Negritude, or black cultural nationalism, which was infused with a strong dose of Francophilia, was also more prevalent in French-speaking Africa. The main proponent of Negritude was former Senegalese president Leopold Sedar Senghor. But Negritude was first used as a political concept in French literature in 1939 by Aime Cesaire, a French citizen of Caribbean origin. The philosophy of negritude was also anti-marxist. In 1971, at a conference of Negritude in Dakar, Senegal, Senghor sited Negritude within the context of other liberation theories saying “ the real ideological conflict was not between Pan-Arabism and Negritude, but between the two nationalist concept on the one hand and marxism-leninism on the other”. In the cold war years, those who espoused the philosophy of Negritude were the most opposed to linking what was termed “ Black liberation” with the “ international struggle against capitalism and imperialism”, to use the language of those times. A focus on the former gave rise to the founding of a leaque of Black African states in the late 1970s at the urging of the former Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seku as an alternative to the more inclusive Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Founded in 1963, the OAU grouped African Countries north and south of the sahara. On the other hand, African leaders like Sekou Toure and Kwame Nrumah staged a concerted attack on Negritude. Nkrumah, with his close friendship and association with Gamal Abdel Nasser, was instrumental including Arab-Africa in the continental Pan-African project and the OAU. The incorporation of Arab Africa in the pan-African project was strengthened by the creation of the so-called Casablanca Group in 1961, which included Ghana, Guinea, Egypt, Mali, Morocco and the Algerian National Liberation Front…………………………….. Pan-Africanism: - Africans in diaspora played a prominent role in shaping the course of development in Africa, particularly in its formative stages. Within this context the philosophy of Pan-Africanism stood out. This philosophy, and with it the seeds of African independence and unity movements, were deeply rooted in the politics of Africa students that emerged in the colonial metropolitan powers, namely, Britain, France and Portugal. African-American emancipation and struggles aimed at the elimination of racial segregation and discrimination in the United States played a vital role in raising the political consciousness of Africa’s independence leaders. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria both first Presidents of their respective countries studied in the USA. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah later wrote that his American experience left an indelible mark on the development of his political thinking. Jamaican-born Marcus Mosiah Garvey had perhaps the most significant impact on the development of the political consciousness of people of African descent in Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean as well as continental Africa………………….. Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the USA in early 1920’s. The early stages of the Pan-Africanism movement was often called “ Ethiopianism”. Ethiopia at that time was the only country on the continent which had not been subjected to colonial rule. The Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 engendered a great surge of Pan-African sentiment and became a rally point for activists. Several conferences of the Pan-African movement were held but the fifth Pan-African congress held in Manchester, England in 1927, saw participation by an unprecedented number of continental Africans, as opposed to diaspora Africans from the USA and Europe who dominated previous conferences. Among the Africans who participated were kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Peter Abrahams of South Africa. “ For the first time, there was strong worker and student participation, and most of the 200 delegates who attended came from Africa. They represented the re-awakening of African political consciousness and it was no surprise when the congress adopted socialism as its political philosophy “ wrote Nkrumah. Nkrumah returned to his native Gold Coast soon after that congress to pioneer the independence struggle, and was elected Prime Minister in 1954. ……………….Back in the USA, Africa-American scholar W.E.B DuBois’s passport had been confiscated by the State Department…………. , Nkrumah promptly invited DuBois to come and live in Ghana, and the veteran Pan-Africanist, at that time, well over 09 years of age, renounced his American citizenship and became a Ghanaian national……………….. The Anti-Apartheid Struggle: Former South African President Nelson Mandela personified Africans triumph over racial discrimination, still, the “ Dark continent “ maintained a sombre mood throughout this century. Even in South Africa, the yawning gap between rich and poor, and that between black and white, mars Mandela’s noble anti-apartheid struggle. The drive towards political independence was delayed in Southern Africa because of European settler resistance to “ Black majority rule “. In Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa the whites refused to hand over power to the indigenous Africans. Denied a recourse to peaceful political action and agitation for independence, indigenous Africans in these countries took up armed struggle. The greatest unfinished business of the 20th century is over is overturning the legacy of racial discrimination in Southern Africa. In spite of independence, most indigenous Africans in Zimbabwe have a very small income and poverty is on the rise. Wealth is still highly concentrated in the hands of a few, and much of this still predominantly in white hands. ……………………………………………………… The South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): The act did not have the mandate to punish those who committed the heinous crimes of the apartheid era, among the most appalling of which were the use of chemical and biological warfare on the country’s indigenous African population, it was empowered to grant amnesty to those who admitted to committing human right abuses between 1960 and 1994 who could prove that their acts were politically motivated. Former president Nelson Mandela established the commission and chaired by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “ The purpose of finding out the truth is not in order for people to be prosecuted, it is so that we can use the truth as part of the process of healing our nation “, explained Archbishop Tutu. Among the many atrocities investigated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was the prison death of celebrated political activist Steve Biko in September 1977 and the April 1993 assassination of the charismatic communist leader, Chris Hani. …………………………. South Africa’s apartheid past can neither be forgotten nor forgiven. Some apartheid landmarks like the once notorious Robben Island, have been turned into tourist sites, providing instant history for their consumption. Now, This is My Take. (Yaw Boaten) The dream of Africa Unity still lives on, with the establishment of the Africa Union (AU) to replace the OAU-(Organisation of Africa Unity). Unlike the OAU which had only four affiliate institutions, the AU will have no less than 17 institutions, including an African Parliament, An Africa Central Bank and an African Commission, similar in purpose to the European Commission. With the development of computers and other means of communication, Africans all over the globe can now contribute their knowledge and wealth to uplift the continent. We need to institute measures that will enable us to trade freely and probably adopt a common currency which I think we will very soon. We should never lose hope despite our unpleasant past and try always to adopt a “ can do “ attitude. The saying goes " He who laughs last laughs best”. The micro-loan project is very important particularly in the rural areas. The private sector development is very important. We need to encourage the development of small businesses including significantly, the Agric-base industries. The era of looking up to government to provide everything is gone. This is what the former United States President J. A. Kennedy had to say “ Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. The observance of good governance (transparency in government transactions), the rule of law and measures put in place to check corruption are very significant. We have to be willing to work hard and always be conscious of the problems that we face. We need leaders who are fair-minded and have a vision. We should learn to love ourselves and our brothers and sister, trying always to help each other out. Our governments must concentrate on the developments of infrastructure, this could significantly lead to direct foreign investment with the resultant creation of jobs. We should however, not put our minds solely on foreign investment, we should learn hard to initial our own business projects and see them work.

Boaten Yaw
Boaten Yaw, © 2002

The author has 7 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: BoatenYaw

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