Africa at 50: Redefining African Solidarity
On May 25, Africa celebrates its Golden Jubilee!
The mortar which has been binding the several countries’ slates on the political map of the African continent has been the solidarity established by founding fathers against colonialism.
It is the solidarity which joined together the African states into the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) whose Liberation Committee was vital in bringing continental independence.
The future of the continent also rests on redefining this common affiliation of African nations to the continental destiny.
The feeling of solidarity and commitment to the broader continent inspired the trio of former presidents, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal to conceive and partially mobilize the idea of African Renaissance.
Part of this motion, was felt through the Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) – a necessary successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
At the centre of the Renaissance aspirations is the quest to change African solidarity from a simplistic laager against colonialism to collaboration for good governance and development.
The NEPAD and the OAU metamorphosis into the AU by the new leaders – all not founding fathers – aptly pointed to the generational necessity to re-fashion the method, reference terms and purpose of association among Africans as dictated by fresh circumstances.
The process seems to have partially occurred at a regional level in Southern Africa in the evolution of the Frontline States through Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) toward Southern African Development Community (SADC).
It is a bit surprising that the leadership which saw the partial evolution process in Southern Africa could not make it a comprehensive commitment to redefining African solidarity.
In Zimbabwe and truly in several countries, for the sake of political expedience there has been fervent championing of stagnation which means failure by independent countries to look inward – from the bitter struggles against external threats.
This failure of African governance to look toward the expansion, domestication and realization of prosperity and equity for the citizens is heartbreaking.
The political handicap in rebuilding African states on new solidarity from the ashes of colonial subjugation was evident long back.
It seemed African leaders wanted to move into the future without their own masses, without sounding the potential of the citizenry and without primarily referring governance issues to the central plight of these masses.
The obsession was to blindly mock colonialism yet sometimes unwittingly mimicking its vices like exclusion, corruption and human rights abuses in the conduct of government business.
There was evidence that this was not just an accident of new African politicians’ socialization during the colonial period because sometimes they happily paraded the hypocritical error as their reasoned public policy.
They thought black governance could be as shoddy as it liked as long as it did not mean and it safeguarded the masses from re-colonisation.
Thus even Pan-Africanist giant Nkwame Nkrumah said his ‘thoughtful’ retrogressive assertion that Africans would rather “misgovern” themselves than be governed by Europeans.
This statement cannot be misinterpreted in the context of history because the founding leader of Africa’s first independent nation, Nkrumah would “misgovern” Ghana, make strikes illegal through the Trade Union Act and set the precedent of a legislated one party state led by his Convention People’s Party (CPP) with him as life president through a rigged referendum in 1964.
The Nkrumah statement seemed to exonerate African incompetence and silently gained traction among many founding nationalists and shamefully fulfilled the patronizing sentiment of colonial governors that the black man was incapable of self governance.
In Southern Africa, Hastings Kamuzu Banda in Malawi, Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe would claim entitlement to life presidency and seek a legislated one party state with record bad governance.
It is the in-built inefficient mentality which gave rise to the slump of nationalist movements at the hands of opposition forces in Southern Africa, especially labour parties like the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe and the Movement for Multiparty Democracy in Zambia.
Opposition forces curtailed the collapse of Africa and fast-tracked the advent of nascent African renaissance.
However, the rise of democratic opposition to nationalist incompetence has not helped redefine African solidarity and at times it has been curtailed by its conservative leanings.
Vestiges of Nkrumahist hypocrisy are evident in the collaboration against the SADC Tribunal by Southern African governments and the basic approach toward the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The rise of democratic opposition has not helped refresh but caused more dilemma for African solidarity in the face of new imperialism.
The democratic opposition to unbridled nationalism would be incomplete without seeking pan-Africanism in as much as the pan-Africanism of nationalists would be one-legged without establishing a stand in democracy.
The democratic opposition has broken the ice of one-partism and meaningless African solidarity of the Nkrumahist sort, which exonerated black on black oppression and poverty spawning nationalist incompetence.
According the founding fathers their perennial respect, it is a refreshing realization of the new African that the liberation struggle was not owned but spearheaded by them enabling honest and public evaluation of their leadership.
The result has been the paving of the way to redefining African solidarity through some renaissance on which these modern forces continue to insist, causing such progressive things as the SADC guidelines for democratic elections, African Human Rights Commission and so forth.
The next step in redefining African solidarity is to move the African Union from a bambazonka – anything goes – relational mode into a values based institution which is what the European Union (EU) has achieved through vetting member countries’ compliance with acceptable governance standards.
African solidarity should be a more honest engagement aimed at causing peer review processes on the development needs and governance issues and this could be the damascene moment as we celebrate 50 years as one people.
Vivid Gwede is a democracy activist.