The Hope Of Africa Is Not Pan-Africanism
This year marked the 60th anniversary since Kwame Nkrumah organised the All-African Peoples' Conference in Accra, Ghana. As part of the commemoration, different conferences, framed around the theme of Pan-Africanism, were held in many parts of the world. In Cambridge, the Cambridge University Ghanaian Society in collaboration with Black Cantabs Society and African Studies and Scholars Union invited the voluble Pan-Africanist and civil rights advocate, Bob Brown, to the University on November 29, 2018 to speak to the subject of Pan-Africanism. The event was held at Wolfson College, under the theme: The Pan-African Promise: Past, Present and Futures.
On 6-8 December 2018, another conference was held at Birmingham City University (Birmingham, UK), under the theme: Re-Engaging Pan-Africanism Conference. The University of Ghana was not left out. The Institute of African Studies at the University also mobilised students, scholars, and activists to commemorate the event.
As an African Studies student, the history of Pan-Africanism as an ideological and socio-political movement was part of my academic menu. I was taught to believe that the success of colonialism and neocolonialism was/is predicated on the disunity inherent among Africans. While many scholars and activists were not very clear about the focus and direction, as well as the philosophical grounding of Pan-Africanism, the common thread that many Pan-Africanists shared and continue to share is that the hope of Africa is framed around continental and inter-continental unity. We are constantly told that once Africa is united, development (however we conceptualise it) would be the default consequence.
Over the years, I have read quite a bit on Pan-Africanism. My provisional conclusion is that the ideological foundation of Pan-Africanism informed some political decisions and initiatives. For Pan-Africanists, like Edward Wilmot Blyden, Africans in Liberia, who had no touch with the English, needed some form of colonisation to bring them to the light of the 'modern/civilised' world. Others like Marcus Garvey felt that it was only a strong bond between continental Africans and diasporan Africans, understood in the logic of the Back to Africa Movement that held the key to preempting the evils of colonialism. W.E.B. Du Bois was rather of the view that Africans in the diaspora did not need to relocate to continental Africa before they could contribute to the progress of Africans anywhere in the world.
It is clear that the 'Fathers' of Pan-Africanism did not have a clear sense of the direction of the movement. In the end, Marcus Garvey could not go to Africa, while Du Bois relocated to Ghana and died there. It was the 1945 congress in Manchester that saw the large-scale involvement of continental Africans in the movement. It was there that Kwame Nkrumah developed his philosophy of Pan-Africanism to the full. When he became the president of Ghana, he organised the All-African Peoples' Conference to encourage unity among Africans to liberate the rest of the continent from the yoke of colonialism. Many of the non-Ghanaian participants went to their respective countries to engender the struggle against colonialism. It is, therefore, not coincidental that by the 1960s, many countries in Africa had had their political independence from colonialism.
Over the years, ethnic, linguistic, religious, economic, political, and ideological pluralities in Africa have been identified as formidable obstacles to achieving the ideals of Pan-Africanism. My own understanding is that right from the beginning, many of the leaders in Africa did not define clearly what was to be the main means of uniting the continent - political or economic, or both.
Regardless of the successes or perceived failures of the Pan-African ideals, I am inclined to think that the hope of Africa is not Pan-Africanism. Africans could unite, but if they ignore a remapping of the attitudes of Africans, the quest for development would continue to be a fleeting illusion. Until we eschew corruption, destructive partisan politics, religious fanaticism, ethnocentrism, nepotism, pilfering, self-centeredness, afrophobia, and the practice of sorcery, no amount of touting the ideals of Pan-Africanism will save the continent. These were the attitudes that lightened the burden of the exploiters of Africa.
It is also these attitudes that have enslaved Africans in the quagmires of poor sanitation and squalid living conditions, abject poverty, illiteracy, diseases, political famine, and conflicts. While I do not underestimate the debilitating force of neocolonialism, the West or East cannot exploit Africans without the complicity of some Africans. History informs us that slavery and colonialism were made possible with the full collaboration of some Africans. Until Africans allowed negative attitudes to divide their front, no European or Arab could exploit them.
Consequently, I hold the view that the progress of Africans is not Pan-Africanism. The hope of Africa will come from a change of attitude. Instead of harping misguided and vague concepts and ideologies, Africans should enforce the ideal human and divine values that will propel the progress of the continent. As Christians in Africa, I suggest the three main solutions to redefining and reengaging the development of the continent.
First, instead of reinventing the dead gods of Kemetism (which most Pan-Africanists advocate), African Christians should invoke the ideal values of the Christian faith. The Christian values of equality, checks and balances, selflessness, love, peace, gentleness, unity and equality, we-feeling, kindness, and humility should be brought to the public sphere. There should be 'secular’ institutions, working alongside religious institutions, to enforce these values.
Second, Christians should eschew partisan politics. They should direct their focus and energy to supporting any political party that has the burden and aspiration of developing the continent of Africa on sound Christian ethical values. In relation to this, Christians should go into politics to contribute to infusing Christian values into the African political system. The Bible says that a nation is built on the pillars of righteousness. Sin is a reproach to any nation.
Finally, Christians should not shy away from counteracting falsehood, enshrined in neo-traditionalism, neo-paganism, and Kemetism, with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth of Jesus Christ frees us from the materialistic and epicurean bent that generates corruption and unhealthy competition.
In conclusion, instead of focusing on the parochialism and defunct ideals of Pan-Africanism, Africans should focus on moral and ethical reengineering to birth the African renaissance. The challenge of Africa is not political, but moral and ethical. Sound Christian ethics alone can unite Africa, not some politically charged and emotive ideologies. While Africans may disagree and split hairs over political and economic ideologies, at least, we can all agree that cheating, corruption, pilfering, selfishness, and partisan politics are a reproach to the progress of the continent. Since these are all ethical issues (springing from corrupt hearts), it reinforces my call for moral and ethical reengineering in Africa. In the end, we need the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone is able to transform hearts and head. Anyone interested in knowing how Christian values changed and positively shaped the world of England should read Charles J. Ryle’s: “Christian Leaders of the 18th Century.”
Charles Prempeh ([email protected]), African University College of Communications, Accra
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."
Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.