By Nassoro Kitunda in Tanzania
There is a great and sometimes intense debate now on the reality of Pan-Africanism, as compared to the days of Kwame Nkrumah and other proponents who coined the ideology. Some wonder whether this ideology still exists, 45 years after Nkrumah’s death. Others feel that Pan-Africanism is an outdated ideology that was washed away by the abolition of slavery and the disappearance of colonialism.
Pan-Africanism is a concept that was initially anti-slavery and anti-colonial amongst black people of Africa and the diaspora in the late 19th century. However, through the ensuing decades its aims have evolved. This ideology has covered calls for African unity, both as a continent and as a people; nationalism, independence, political and economic cooperation, and historical and cultural awareness. Current proponents of Pan-Africanism do not restrict it to the colour of one’s skin, but to the dismantling of artificial boundaries created by capitalists following the Berlin Conference of 1884, which agreed to not only colonise the continent but also oppress its citizens. The idea is that workers and peasants in Africa should unite and reclaim their continent, cultural values and dignity.
Doubts about the true existence of this ideology could be blamed on the wrong history that has been written by imperialists about Africa. For example, Africa has been depicted as a continent of wars, poverty, confusion, and all sorts of vices. A false story and propaganda has been told that there has never been and can never be unity in Africa. Yet, it is a continent that the colonialists continue to exploit for raw materials and cheap labour.
This debate is very broad; there was a time in Tanzania when graduates of various universities discussed Pan-Africanism. But very few of us understood what this concept meant then and what it stands for today. Imperialism and neo-liberalism have made us forget the importance and meaning of Pan Africanism. The reality is that Pan Africanism today is the same as Pan-Africanism at inception; it is about emancipation of the human race. Pan-Africanism espouses unity of purpose against an oppressive system of social classes created by imperialists.
On the other hand, we have a misrepresentation of the Pan-Africanism concept by some opportunists. It is an ideology that some unscrupulous people have used to gain political and economic capital. Yet the noble values of Pan-Africanism still remain unexplained to the majority of our people, political leaders included. So, Pan Pan-Africanism has become a commodity that is sold and profits are realised from it. The truth about Pan-Africanism has been distorted, and some members of the movement have been frustrated and have fallen out.
Today, we see and hear outright imperialists claim Pan-Africanism and make political mileage out of this ideology. This in itself signifies that the imperialist out there realises and appreciates the spirit of Pan-Africanism. That Pan-Africanism is alive today more than ever before is the truth. Imperialists are scared of the unity embodied in this ideology and try as much to distort facts associated with the Pan-African Movement. And they continually paint Africa as a continent with backward minds and not ready to develop.
As a matter of fact, Pan-Africanism is very important today in helping break social classes created by capitalists. In my life I’ve seen that the feeling of oneness never decreases; a feeling of unity still exists among peoples of the continent. It is the fruits of Pan-Africanism that every imperialist is scared of, hence the continued distortion of the true meaning of this ideology. We need more than ever before to conscientise ourselves through study and engagement on this ideology in order to deepen our understanding.
We need as a people to start seeing, analysing and challenging the schemes and evils of imperialism: its unfairness on our history, and its many limitations as compared to Pan-Africanism. Truly, this is the only solution for the unity of all human race on the continent.