“We must unite now or perish”
~Kwame Nrumah, echoing John Hendrick Clark in a speech given at the founding of the OAU, Addis Ababa, 24 May 1963.
There has recently been a rise in seemingly orchestrated, systematic attacks on the tenets of Pan-Africanism, especially personal attacks on those of its proponents who were crucial to its development, on the continent and beyond, that take the form of inferring these individuals were misguided, or question their qualifications, intelligence, and sometimes sanity.
This campaign, usually spearheaded by very highly educated men, professors or lecturers at the highest institutions of learning in "developed" countries, flaunting African colors and erudition, is as pathetic and disheartening as the reality these men exist within.
Personal attacks on Pan-Africanists, with intent to discredit, are ultimately aimed at the movement itself. But then, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to see just why Pan-Africanism is an imperative for Africans.
Observe the incompatible mentalities formerly similar people have developed over such a short period of time, and, as if this were not enough, continental Africans are already so in the grips of artificial identities forced on them by imperialists they actually talk of their nationalities as if they were referring to race itself. A Ghanaian is not only a Ghanaian, a national of Ghana, but is a member of a race in its own right, even though we all know there is more to Ghanaians than meets the eye.
It goes without saying that African national demarcations do not reflect the ethno-cultural realities on the ground, and as such do nothing to keep the profile of their own people. Some African ethnicities form tiny minorities, completely surrounded by larger ethnicities that are more advantaged, and the needs of such tiny groups cannot be addressed. Other ethnicities are split between two, sometimes three different countries, each part forced to learn a different official language, each part considered a nationality in its own right. Sometimes, as was the case with the Germans under the cold war, movement between countries can become restricted, but usually passports are required to pass from one country to another. In most cases, power is more or less exclusively in the hands of a single ethnic group, and resentment grows. This means that, for many African people, no real identification occurs with the country in which they live, meaning the various republics are not considered "homes" in the same manner the Dutch would consider Holland their home. One doesn't need to do much thinking to realize the attitude people within the borders will have towards the entity they reside in, and also see just why there is so much wanton robbery of state coffers in high places. It is hard to imagine a man robbing a place he feels is his home in the same manner Africans in high places rob their own countries.
Keeping in mind the past and achievements of the people of this continent, what this chaotic state of affairs, and a lot of other negative activities by Africans in our day says is mental and physical degeneration has really set in, and is bound to go but one way. It reveals acceptance on our part of colonialism as the only system possible for us. We are probably in the last phase of a process that was designed by colonialists who forced cultures and identities on us, against our will, with a lot of our own blood spilt in resistance. What is more disconcerting is the fact the strongest voices against Pan-Africanism, the only movement capable of bringing order to this chaos, including the abolition of colonial borders that lie at the center of the problem, are actually African. Suffice to say how adjusted and comfortable these people are with the way things are going is both a measure of the intelligence their academic qualifications obscure from sight; and a measure of how successful our colonizer's efforts to shove these same people, and unfortunately our entire continent into the colonial straitjacket have been, what with Africans doing the rest of the shoving themselves. This is indeed the actualization of the best dreams of the colonizing commission.
As far back as 1853, a British minister, Lord Grey, put the agenda of the colonial powers into words. "The true policy I believe to be" he said, "the formation of a regular government on the European model, so that the interference of the British authorities may be less and less required". This policy, known today as neocolonialism, was understood and observed, and on many occasions paraphrased by many colonial authorities in the colonies up till the time that the territories became independent.
A typical example of the resolve of the colonial powers, the ultimate determination to make colonialism a permanent aspect of the African continent is to be found in the works and writings of the person of Gordon Guggisberg, the governor of the Gold Coast from 1919. Believing greatly in the "imperial mother's" mission to help Africans, this governor strived tirelessly to improve the colonial system so as to make it stronger. Guggisberg, who believed the colonial system the only possible system there could be, believed, like his ancestor Lord Grey, that the goal was to make Africans take over, and run it themselves.
The documented activities of the colonial authorities aimed to strengthen colonialism, to make true the ultimate goal. Towards the period that the colonial powers were allowing Africans to form their own political organizations, the presence of colonial officers on the continent was ever on the increase, a fact that is unknown by most people in Africa today who believe European powers were reducing the numbers of such people as they handed power to the natives. The obvious aim of this exercise was to leave no stones unturned.
In the British colonies, they had more or less made sure that there could be no comebacks. They had had more than enough time to prepare for such a state. The transitional period, the actual handing over of power after an African leader had been chosen, was as a result smooth in their territories. The individuals who led the civil rights movements that fought for equal rights to begin with, were trusted. Later, when these were to show their true colors, they would be removed by whatever means necessary, as swiftly as was possible. In the French and Portuguese colonies however, the situation was quite different. Here, men whose crime was possibly charisma, intelligence or descent from the original ruling families, were thrown into jail before they had committed any crimes. Police here were instructed to shoot indiscriminately into crowds that gathered for any reason whatsoever. It is impossible to explain this madness any other way than that, given the complexity of the situation, the Portuguese and French felt they had no other option. They felt pushed against a wall. To them, the continuation of the colonial dream called for such drastic, and on the surface, frenzied measures.
The designs that grew out of this "dedicated work" are the African republics we know today, including the stultified mentalities of those who reside in these colonial divides. If Lord Grey or Gordon Guggisberg were to come back from the dead, they would immediately recognize the state of the continent as a product of their work, give or take a few flaws here and there.
Seen in this light, it becomes painfully clear the continent has lost this leg of the battle. It would be correct to say Africans have been completely outwitted. There is a pressing need for reeducation of the masses, starting with a lot of our intellectuals who feel by contributing to the final fall of Pan-Africanism they will usher in a new, prosperous era in Africa; who are solely motivated by the need to belong to something big, and are now members of this big house, and working hard to destroy its enemies, while, unbeknownst to them, in reality they've simply sold their own souls to the devil. We require to enable awareness of what is really happening, that enemies of worldwide African unity in our midst are doing nothing better than fulfilling the dreams of our enemies as we speak. We require at this juncture to look closely at the mentalities of the continent and the manner in which the continent is designed today, and prioritize the search for a solution to the borders that prevents this situation from getting worse. Because there was a lot of cultural suffocation and our identity was tampered with, what's crucial is the need to forge a new identity for our people, and this identity should by necessity "exclude" the 100 or so years we have been colonized, and the reason for this has already been made clear.
Many would argue here that an identity is an identity, no matter how convoluted the journey to the acquisition of this identity has been, that one cannot pick out certain aspects of the past, and discard others (colonialism in this case) in order to forge a new identity. Such an identity would be false, they assert. An identity is rather a taking into account of all the parts that have played a role in its creation.
Still, the various identities that Africans stick to today, and the different mentalities that have resulted, even between members of the same tribe who live in different countries, especially when these countries have different "official" languages, are illogical, and incompatible with a thinking people. They obscure our past because they were gained by denial of this, by deceit of the very people who bear the cultures and identities. The knowledge we have of who we are today excludes truths that would make us know who we really are, where we came from, so that we are unable in our time to properly project into an attainable future, a necessity to control of one's destiny. The simple truth is our colonizers and enslavers couldn't exploit the fruits of African resources and labor if they had not affected a lobotomy on our conscious. The dirtying, denigrating and vilifying of African culture, the successful attempt to have Africans feel like making distance with these renounced ways, the replacement with other non African truths (or lies)/ways, and mostly, with nothing at all, was done to force Africans to accept inferiority, a position that aids in the exploitation of Africans since, when in the grips of this complex Africans put and accept western ways above their own, making them prone to agree to western orders, and ultimately the primacy of western interests above their own.
The identity that Africans should forge to redeem themselves from colonial chains has to do away with a colonial identity that by its very nature is designed to negate or deny real African culture, real African identity, so that we are unable to look back and embrace our real selves in the past, and know ourselves in the present. Our identity has to be one made by our own people for the benefit of our people, after we have redeemed ourselves from the deceit we have been forced to live by, and have redesigned our societies according to an order we know reflects who the people really are, and will therefore benefit all. Africa can not become a home to Africans if the present colonial designs stay intact, if it is not redesigned by Africans to reflect the ethno-cultural realities on the ground. With this will disappear or be diminished a lot of the vices we experience in our day that bring our people down, including tribalism and corruption. As I said already, it is very hard for any man or woman to rob a place he feels is his home, and it will be impossible for there to be tribalism where ethnicities are autonomous on a federated continent where unity is understood to be mutually beneficial.
The only way to get to this state is to use the past; not as a model, but as a guide to the formation of these new identities. The goal is to stay who we are come what may, and manage our lives so that nobody can take advantage of us. This is similar to keeping track of self, and we all know what happens when an individual cannot do this. Staying who we are requires knowledge of who we are. A man who doesn't know who he is cannot know how to maintain that which he is. Oblivious to his true nature, he can go whichever way the wind blows since self-monitoring's prerequisite is "prior self knowledge". If I do not know myself, but someone else does know who I am, then I will forever stay at the other's whims. If we Africans no longer know who we are, which is clearly the case, then the clue to this we will find in our ancestors, their ways, their languages, their institutions, tracking this all the way into the present. They are, after all, this version we carry around with us. They are us at a later date, to put it awkwardly. There is nothing we have that they didn't have, no potentials we possess that were not inherent in them. Ultimately, this identity will have to be forged on a few cues.
Marcus Garvey says, "a nation with no knowledge of its history (and culture) is like a tree without roots", outlining the importance of being able to relate to the past in order to understand the present and deal with the future. A more genial way to look at it is Maurena Karenga's way: "A people will never look forward to posterity who never looked backward to their ancestors". Human societies behave much like an individual does with regards knowledge of self. They do not want to lose track of themselves because the consequences are dire. They are built like a tree rooted firmly into the earth. Descendants look backward to their past as they look forward to their future. The culture they build is based on experiences they go through as a group, on a journey of maturity much like an individual's, which is why tradition is also nothing more than a group's accumulated wisdom. Only unnatural situations can cause interference to this natural order, which happens to be the inheritance of colonialism or slavery in the case of modern day Africans. But then this goes with the territory. The point of bequeathing Africans such an inheritance is to sever this link to our past, to remove our knowledge of self so that we lose our collective mind, and, wondering the earth like fools, can be robbed much more effectively.
It is clearly evident that we are playing the game by the ground rules set by the colonizing commission, by people who have shown repeatedly they have no respect for their own selves as reflected in their willingness to change their own history as befits the moment, or advantage, as such anchoring their own image of self in a suspended reality. People who do not mind tampering with history, and as such their own identity, who knowingly cause their own society to lose track of itself, are obviously oblivious of the harm this can do to self and environment, otherwise they would not indulge in such an activity. This is to say our colonizers were as misled and brainwashed themselves as we have become under the system they created. We have accepted definitions of self set in motion in 1885 in Berlin, when men who were more concerned with human and natural resources sat down and drew squares on a map, sharing as such the spoils of wars they knew they could win with ease, slicing the land on which my ancestors had roamed for ages like a cake. We have taken on systems of rule that are much more backward and dictatorial than much of the pluralistic systems our ancestors developed, have acquired a mentality of leadership that is a throwback to prehistory in our case, one of which is the north European Viking line of development where, very recently, the only way to get to the throne was by killing siblings, rather than through the rules set by society, of which maternal lineage is one. This is obviously retrogression, for the rule of the jungle era, though it reared its head here and there in Africa, was a surpassed stage. The traditional idea of the role of a leader in society has also become decadent, where now he is the most pampered person on the block, and not the one who brings order to chaos, the allegorical equivalent being the intermediary between the divine and mortals.
It is crucial for us to keep in mind who we really are goes much farther back than what we have been made to think, and takes a route very different from the one found in present history books. There has never been a tribe, or race of people called Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria, or Ghana, and non has so far been created for the duration that these names have been in use, and non is about to be created anytime soon. There are ruins called Zimbabwe, but, even though the people here have spent a little over a century living in this area formerly called Southern Rhodesia, the former and latter name has only made a mark on their idea of what they are in official speak, because, unlike others across the seas who readily call themselves what they also call their country, names of African countries are still felt by the people to say little, if nothing, of what they feel they are. As intimated already, a people believing they can create a prosperous existence on such a chaotic foundation are as deluded as it gets, and will end up making that final walk into the wall of time. Obviously, correction is the first step to taking the matter of the race's survival into our hands. Let it be remembered this cannot be done regionally, since, like a disease, it has infected the entirety of our organism, the lines the colonizers drew across the continent a mask over its true face. Faults are connected throughout the system, and, to date, there has only been one ideal that has found the correct approach that constitutes the sole cure for this particular affliction. Pan-Africanism is undoubtedly it.