FEATURE ARTICLE

Chief Charles A. TakuSaturday, June 5, 2010
charto_us@yahoo.com
Washington, DC, USA

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AFRICA AT 50!: ANY REASON TO CELEBRATE?

INTRODUCTION

have chosen the above topic with so much pain. This pain is informed by the fact that as a Lawyer working on cases emanating from several years of senseless wars that have torn the African Continent apart, leading to the slaughter in Millions of valuable human life, I often try as I could not to relive the pain and humiliation of my personal experiences. The questions that may not find ready answers, are, what are the rationale behind these wars? How come it those persons perceived as liberators like President Paul Kagame have once in power put in place regimes that are more oppressive than the ones they replaced with arms for being oppressive? And how does the world perceive we Africans when we stand by and see liberators of yesterday take part in the slaughter of more than six million people in Eastern Congo, use the Judiciary of their own countries to stifle political dissent, thus making it possible for the country to slide back to war and anarchy?


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How come it that dictatorship has replaced multiparty democracy on the continent and constitutions are manipulated to eternalize individuals and their families in power? How come it, that election have become mere smokescreen to retain power through fraud, making change through the barrel of the gun a viable alternative to free and fair democratic elections?

In the face of the gruesome picture that answers to these and other questions may elicit, are there some leaders who still inspire hope for a bright and prosperous Africa?

These plethoras of hard questions with answers hard to swallow compel Africa and all black people the world over to commit ourselves once more to start a meaningful debate about the future of Africa and the place of the black race in a changing world.

I have attempted to answer some of these questions in this paper.

AN INSPIRING ENCOUNTER.

The 14 of February 2003 shall remain indelible in my memory.

On that day, I stumbled unto an occasion at Impala Hotel in Arusha Tanzania. That occasion was the opening of the Africa Youth Parliament Liaison Office in Arusha Tanzania. The guest of honour was His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete then MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Tanzania; now President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

This occasion took place at a tense moment in the history of the world.

The world was at war at different fronts and the future of humanity seemed uncertain.

HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other lethal diseases were taking a toll on African Countries; threatening to wipe out a whole generation of people from the face of the earth.

African economies were collapsing one after another due in the main to mismanagement, poor economic policies and corruption.

In search of a panacea, many African Countries turned to the IMF and the World Bank. These institutions gave loans with conditions attached that in essence required the recipients to resell African economies to Western economic interests based on terms imposed on them.

In the midst of this helplessness, African Countries like most of the world witnessed on a daily basis the horrors of war and unprecedented violence coming from Iraq.

In the midst of all these problems afflicting the continent and the rest of the world, peace and progress loving people of the world sought a "Noah's Arc" to salvage the world, but there was none. Significantly, there was a paucity of a critical African voice to initiate and frame a debate on these issues with a view of eliciting an appropriate African solution to these problems.

Many African leaders exhibited such timidity and mediocrity on the issues; to the extent that several African masses were dumbfounded about which direction their leaders were leading them.

For those who could remember, these great challenges called for big ideas about how to confront them. But the great ideas that once chatted the way forward for Africa and the black race died with their proponents like the Osagefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Nwalimu Dr Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Dr Nnamdi Azikewe ( Zik of Africa), Henry Sylvester Williams, George Padmore, WEB Dubois, CLR James, Walter Rodney, Franz Fanon, Ernest Oundie, Obafemi Awolowo, Ruben Um Nyobe, Felix Roland Moumi etc.

For me, therefore, the 14 of February 2010 would have been like any ordinary day in life had I not stumbled on that occasion at the Impala Hotel and listened to the speech of His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

After that speech, I was compelled to take the opportunity of my contribution to make a brief observation. In it, I told the audience that upon listening to Hon Kikwete; I was convinced that the moment of the great ideas to debate solutions to great African problems had come. I said that, I saw before me a reincarnation of the great Osagefo, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Mwalimu Dr Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Zik of Africa, Obafemi Awolowo, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba and several others.

This was a full two years before President Kikwete became president of Tanzania, in 2005. In his brief response, in his usual humility, he wondered if he will for ever, be able to attain the level of achievement of the great leaders I mentioned.

In his memorable address to the youths that day, he enjoined them and all the youths the world over to say no to war, no to diseases, no to HIV/ AIDS, no to poverty. He told them that Africa must count on its self, in particular its youth to develop the continent. For this to materialize, the African youth must take their destiny into their own hands. To fight poverty and disease, he called for Africa to develop its abundant natural resources for the benefit of Africans. With this speech he generated a debate on some of the subjects that hitherto no African leader had the courage to talk about; at least not publicly as President Kikwete did.

Two years thereafter, Kikwete was overwhelmingly elected President of the United Republic of Tanzania and shortly thereafter, he was elected by his peers as the Chairman of the African Union and took his message on behalf of Africa to the General Assembly of the United Nations. By so doing, he gave Africa a critical voice on topical issues affecting the world in time of need.

In so doing, he jumpstarted and refocused debate on crucial malaise afflicting Africa and much of the world.

By criticising war, he laid a foundation for the current policy of the US administration that no longer sees the world within the prism of "those who are not with us are against us". When I listened to President Obama's memorable speech in Cairo to the Moslem world, it took my mind back to that 14 February 2003 at Mpala Hotel Arusha when I listened to President Kikwete address the youth.

For his contribution to the great debate on global issues as well as African problems at a moment of paucity of such ideas, Kikwete emerged as a critical voice for Africa in time of need. President George Bush whose war and other policies President Kikwete opposed, honoured Africa and Tanzania through him by paying a historic visit to Tanzania, one of the very few to the continent.

Upon becoming President of the United States, President Kikwete was the first African President to be invited to the White House by President Obama. When the African Union brokered peace initiative in Kenya between President Kibaki and Raila Odinga was at the brink of failure despite tremendous efforts by the former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, Kikwete flew into Nairobi and performed the miracle. By the evening of his day of arrival, a comprehensive peace deal was signed, ending the conflict that had claimed more than 1,500 lives and threatened to throw Kenya and the volatile sub region into a major conflict.

This well conceived and timely intervention came on the hills of the call made by the Rwandan warlord Paul Kagame for the Kenyan Army to stage a coup and take power, a call considered by informed observers and diplomatic sources as reckless but which in some ways remains a cause of unease and anxiety within the East African Community that Rwanda is now a full member.

I have singled out the case of President Kikwete to start this paper to establish from the beginning that despite the bleak record that I may paint about the performance of the Continent over almost half a century, Africa should remain hopeful nevertheless, for the discernible failures that afflict the continent are not due to lack of resources but of leadership.

THE STATE OF AFRICA.

Africa is sick; very sick indeed. It is safe to state that at 50, there is nothing to celebrate. Rather than celebrate, Africa should be engaged in a moment of soul searching to find out where we went wrong and to generate ideas about how to resolve the myriad problems afflicting the continent.

Johann Kriegler paints the following fairly accurate picture of Africa: "The times for politically correct platitudes about "developing" countries in Africa has passed. Such characterizations are more often than not misnomers. Most African Countries are not developing but regressing, that is, regressing in terms of criteria that are most important for gauging the quality of life:- infant mortality, life expectancy, per capita income, CDP, of course, the incidence of HIV/ AIDS. Many Countries have negative economic growth, while others wallow close to zero per cent growth rate. When Colonial Europeans spoke of "Darkest Continent" it might have been Victorian Melodrama, but now, large swaps of Africa are now truly benighted. War, famine, pestilence and death are merely apocalyptic spectres but a stack reality for all to see. In the great lakes region, in the Horn and the Western Bulge, strife has brought bloodshed and misery for millions of helpless bystanders. The most lasting and the most telling legacy of Africa's involvement with the developed world since world war two, is the AK 47, with the landmine a close second. However, cynicism about the immobility of Africa is a cheap shot and devotion is an easy way out".

There is no gainsaying that Africa is a victim of its colonial heritage. It is also true that many African problems are self inflicted. For that reason, according to Peter Schwab, Africa is its own worse enemy.

In his book Africa: A continent self destructs, Peter Schwabs writes "Since the end of the cold war in 1991, a host of African states have all but ceased to exist as functioning entities. They have disintegrated entirely. The only circumstance that defines them is an orderly set of concocted lines drawn on a map that distinguishes them from their neighbours and in the middle of which the name of the country is designated"

The role of Western countries in the affairs of Africa, Peter Schwab writes, "has not only been one of disappointment and incompetence but also has often been insulting, condescending, and racist. It has as well been malicious, since it was based almost solely on imperial, colonial or cold war interest". According to the writer, "Jacque Foccat a consummate security aide to former French President Charles De Gaulle claimed that during the 1960s France demanded strict obedience from its former African colonies and that in 1968, he 'auditioned"Omer Bongo before he allowing him to become president of Gabon. While eight years earlier, he had ordered the assassination of Felix Moumie, an opposition leader in Cameroon.

Joel D.Barkan in 'Democracy in Africa: What future? , posits that "The first liberation of Africa was the transition from colonial independent rule that swept the continent, except in the South, between, 1956 -1964. In the perspective of the West, this process of decolonisation was supposed to be a transition to democracy. It created more than 40 new states with democratic institutions, following the holding of multiparty elections for new African led governments. These governments were overthrown by coups or lapsed into dictatorships- one party role.

There emerged a series of clientelist regimes that were the instruments of neopatrimonial or personal role by the likes of Mobutu Sesse Seko in the former Zaire, Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya and Paul Biya in Cameroon. Parties built their regimes around a political boss rather than a strong party apparatus and a coherent program or ideology.

A former leading World Bank Official Robert Calderisi in Why Foreign Aid is not working for Africa, writes that "most frequent cited cause of Africa's problems is that the world economy is biased against Africa but that Africa has not been loosing grounds to competitors rich countries. Instead it has surrendered markets to other tropical suppliers in Asia and Latin America. Most African countries have indeed let agriculture their greatest wealth decline steadily through over taxation and other complicated policies. South Korea which was poorer than Ghana in 1960 caught up with the rest of the world rather than cry about its hardships".

It is discernible therefore that what Africa lacks are not resources which she possesses in abundance but visionary leaders with a great dream and ideas which when translated into action, will change Africa and the world.

Some of the great leaders who developed and implemented such great ideas did not live to see their ideas materialized or realized, haven been cut down by colonial forces who wanted to give Africa only a fašade of independence in order to continue to rule by proxy.

For Patrice Lumumba one of the greatest leaders Africa lost to colonial forces, Africa had to eschew the Political debate that led to the cold war and other divisive tendencies between developed nations and concentrate on conceiving a policy of development that would lead to the rehabilitation of Africa, a return to the roots, a revalorisation of moral values and an expression of the African personality.

For Franz Fanon, the bane of Africa came from those he called colonized intellectuals to whom the bourgeoisie of colonisation handed over power. To him, this class viewed the ingenious people as an indistinct class .

For Chinua Achebe, any African creative writer who tried to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant- like that absurd man in the proverb who leaves his burning house to pursue a rat fleeing from the frames.

The Osagefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah himself, the master of great dream and ideas, ordained that "with independence, came a search for the best possible way to implement independence and to develop the full potential of the country.

Leading the debate himself, the Osagefo wrote, "It is true of course, that the producers of primary materials are always at a disadvantage in bargaining with powerful manufacturers in industrial countries. This naturally follows from their economic weakness, a weakness which can be corrected through unity of action between the different raw material producing countries and not through exclusive trading arrangements between the strong and the weak. The case of Daniel and the Lions may occasionally come out right, but it is not a safe basis for economic planning".

Contributing to the debate about the direction Africa was taking after independence, Oginga Odinga sounded pessimistic but visionary. For him, the stage following on independence was most dangerous because shortly after independence many African countries either became complacent or the national revolutions that fought for and obtained independence suffered set backs. Oginga Odinga opined that 'the nationalist movements left too much in their countries unchanged" and failed to build effective independence through the transfer of power and control to the authentic forces and support of the nationalist revolution and forgot that internal elements of exploitation are clearly related to reactionary external forces

The question that must be asked after reading the above candid evaluation of the state of Africa, today, is what went wrong? What happened to the dreams and hopes that our founding fathers exuded at independence?

Prior to and at independence, our enemies were the colonialists, how come it that half a century after independence our own African leaders have become the bane of the continent? The answer lies in the quality of visionless leaders that Africa has generated over the years and the complacency of the African Civil Society, intellectuals and the powerful but disorganized African Diaspora whose ability to pull Africa from this abyss into which it is headed can no longer be reasonably disputed.

THE DEBATE OF GREAT IDEAS: EXAMPLE FROM THE MASTERS.

Highlighting the importance of great ideas and how great leaders developed them to formulate viable policies that defined Africa during its moment of greatness, Issa G.Shivji in his Book Pan Africanism or Pragmatism writes that "Nkrumah's Pan-Africanism was born in the womb of a continental perspective generated by the diaspora" .

According to him, two of the continents great political thinkers and leaders Osagefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere were both consummate Pan-Africanists although their approach to attaining the goal of a united Africa deferred.

Nyerere was a committed nationalist and an avowed advocate of Pan-Africanism.

Nyerere, writes Issa G.Shivji, "Was an ardent advocate of African liberation from colonialism" and in that, he saw the need for African unity. Whereas, "Nkrumah, arrived at the ideology of Pan-Africanism from a colonial perspective, Nyerere arrived at it from the perspective of territorial nationalism. None the less both men were equally passionate advocates of Pan-Africanism. Nyerere in fact argued that African Nationalism outside Pan-Africanism is meaningless, is anachronistic and is dangerous. Elsewhere, he described exclusive nationalism as the equivalence of tribalism".

To underscore this point, in his address at the TANU National Conference on the 16 October 1967, Nyerere said "While our concern with world events is real, and important, the events in Africa are of even greater and more direct importance to us. Total liberation and total African Unity are basic objectives of our party and our government. We recognize that our long term interests as well as those of all other African peoples are involved in these things. Certainly, we shall never really be free and secure while some parts of our continent are still enslaved". This great speech indeed brings him and Nkrumah closer to attaining the same objective of a united Africa, for Nkrumah similarly declared that the Independence of Ghana was meaningless until the entire continent of Africa was liberated from the yoke of colonialism.

And just as Nkrumah commitment to the cause of African Unity led to the creation of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, that of Nwalimu led to the liberation of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and the elimination of the vestiges of colonialism on the continent. The role and active involvement of the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces, one of the most professional and highly respected in the continent, in the liberation of these African countries from humiliating and repressive rule, is most commendable.

It is in the light of this vision and record of achievement, that I disagree with the opinion of Elsie Eyakuze in an article published in the East African on the 10 May 2010 in which the writer stated "Pan-Africanism is a generation independence dinosaur that the African Union dusts off from time to time to justify its continued existence".

The reality is that Pan-Africanism is alive and well. When Jakaya Kikwete became the very first Head of State to stand before the UN General Assembly to make a speech which gave the voice and courage to the rest of the world outside the Security Council, to commence meaningful debate about the most crucial issues of the moment that were challenging the soul of the world, he did that in the true spirit of Pan-Africanism. The Osagefo and Mwalimu must have been very proud from their heavenly paradise of this very true son of Africa.

The misconceptions about Pan-Africanism like this one by Elsie Eyakuze, are informed by the paucity of committed leadership on the Continent and of great ideas by these leaders that could mobilize the continent in proffering viable solutions to the crisis situation that it finds itself. That has nothing to do with the soul and spirit of Pan-Africanism that is embedded in Africans and the black race as a whole and which when considered in its correct perspective, gives Osagefo, Mwalimu and the founding fathers of that noble ideal, the eternal greatness which they attained and deserve.

INSPIRATION FROM THE SOURCE.

A careful analysis of the African situation has shown that Africa is sick but not comatose yet. In the words of Richard Dowden in his book, Africa; Altered States, Ordinary Miracles:" Africa has a reputation of disease, poverty and war. But when outsiders do go there, they are often surprised by Africa's welcome embrace rather than frightened. Visitors are welcome and cared for in Africa. If you go there, you will find most Africans friendly, gentle and infinitely polite. You will frequently be humbled by African generosity".

As Africa enters the second half of the century, there is a compelling need for it to eschew all pretensions to celebration and to use the opportunity of the moment to search for viable solutions to its plethora of problems. Our collective failure enjoins us to do a lot of soul searching at this point of our history rather than celebrate a failed past in anticipation of a bleaker future. Africa and the black race in general need to take their destiny into their own hands once again. Time has come for all black people of this world to invoke the spirits of Marcus Garvey, George Pardmore, CLR James, the Osagefo , Mwalimu and others whose mere mention of name give us the inspiration, courage and hope to start all over again, in seeking a path of glory they once laid out for us. The time to build and improve on what they started for our collective survival in a mercilessly competitive world is now. Waiting for dictators that preside over the destiny of most of the continent at present to pave that path to glory is simply foolhardy, if not suicidal

The African Diaspora is an important force for development and progress that can be harnessed, mobilized and supported to bring meaningful changes to the communities where they reside and Africa.

Additionally, there is a compelling need for the Africa Diaspora and indeed committed leaders and scholars of the black race to come together in a Movement like the one that established the Pan-Africanist Movement which has remained the driving force towards African Unity, to generate ideas and resources to help the African Continent and the black race to meet the challenges that threaten their very existence.

To succeed, in organising this movement, African Diaspora and the representatives of the black race need the support of the United States Government and other Governments that are interested in resolving African problems as well as African Governments and civil society.

I respectfully suggest that once the Africa Diaspora and world wide leaders of the black race put in place a credible movement of the type I have suggested, a movement conceived and empowered along these lines may benefit from the committed leadership of great minds like President Kikwete of Tanzania whose record of achievement and ability to generate big ideas have given Africa and the black race, renewed hope in the face of despair.

The challenges that await Africa as it charts it way toward an uncertain future challenges us to return to the era of big ideas for solutions to these problems that challenge our collective humanity.

Chief Charles A. Taku, A traditional ruler from the Cameroons is a Lead Counsel at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Arusha Tanzania, Lead Counsel Special Court for Sierra Leone, Counsel at the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Senior Adviser, Human Rights International Washington DC.

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