This is a post i wrote on March 6, 2015 (Ghana’s Independence Day) after attending the Pan African Congress. It was published on africon.wordpress.com …republishing it here so i can have all my writings in one place.
I was invited to participate in the 8th Pan African Congress being held in Accra from the 4-7th of March. One thing the congress succeeded in, was filling my head with so many ideas that I had no choice other than to share. The date for the congress was chosen to coincide with Ghana’s 58th independence anniversary on the 6th of March. The Pan African Congress, having begun in 1900, had its peaks with the 5th and 6thCongress held in 1945 and 1958 respectively putting into motion plans for the total liberation of the African continent. Hence, it should come as no surprise my excitement of being part of the 8th Pan African Congress. Especially, since it has not been organized for more than two decades.
I am writing this after day two and my impression so far? Disappointed! Why? The Pan African movement has provided the biggest network for change across the entire continent. The 5thCongress especially brought together luminaries like Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Hastings Banda (Malawi), etc. who joined the decolonization struggles back in their home countries. However at this particular congress, one could easily sense the lack of agenda and common purpose among the participants and delegates. This aside, what I could not understand is why an event like “THE PAN AFRICAN CONGRESS” was given such low publicity. It was not covered by any of the big international media houses. Day two is over and all attempts to catch even a mention of the congress on the BBC is proving futile (for even the focus on Africa show!). In the Ghanaian media, the media mostly pounced on the fact that H.E. President John Mahama will be giving the key note address. This all goes to somehow prove the assertion that Pan-Africanism might be losing its relevance. Maybe, Ghana’s independence on the third day will throw more light on the congress.
The key issues addressed by the various leaders at the opening ceremony were:
- Redefining Pan-Africanism in the light of the 21st century
- Defining the African personality and commanding respect
- Setting a new agenda for panafricanism
- Fixing problems of the Pan-African movement to enhance collaboration and organization of congress.
To do this, discussions were divided into plenary sessions and break-out groups/commissions. The various commissions will be expected to submit their reports on various themes after which discussions are planned on the road map and process towards the 8th PAC delegates Congress in 2016.
In all fairness, the Local Organizing Committee has done an incredible job of putting the congress together after more than two decades of dormancy. However, I am yet to fully appreciate why the 8th Congress is in two parts and why the other part will be held in 2016 (more info will help, nothing online). Also, I was very surprised to learn that the movement had no constitution. But how can you be an organization having executives, branches, etc without a constitution. No wonder it came to be that the executives that were elected in 1994 have shrunk in size without there being any mandate to replace them in the interim.
But then at the roots, what does Pan-Africanism really mean to people. Pan Africanism as a concept and movement is popular among the elites and the diaspora. This lack of relation with the average African makes it difficult for it to pull continent-wide momentum. The African in the village is barely aware of slavery and racism, how then does she contribute her mantle to promoting African unity and the assertion of the African personality in the international system. Further, a lot needs to be done to figure out the implications of globalization for pan-Africanism. Globalization is here to stay, and as such should be properly harnessed to promote African unity.
In spite of all these, I left the venue with some level of hope. Hope that an African unity is still possible and the more we collaborate to solve our shared problems, the faster we’ll head towards development and dignity. An insight that came to me was that, to have the Africa that we want, we must build capacity. How do we expect to be respected, be economically developed when we go begging for funds to finance projects we want to undertake. One of the major reasons for the dormancy of the Pan African Congress has been lack of funds. So maybe, we should quieten down the talks for reparation, for fair treatment, for racial abuse and instead build capacity. Once we have built and develop the African we want, no one can deny us our place in the grand scheme of things. Of course this will not go without the neo-colonialists and imperialists trying to frustrate our attempts. But then the rewards for future generations will be greater.
Engaging the diaspora is one of the ways we can build capacity. They want to come and settle in Africa, we should make it easy for them. Being African should not be based on geography but on the common heritage that we all share. So once you share in the common heritage of being African, you should not be denied citizenship on the continent. The Israelis have provided a safe haven for the jewish people, and immigration has been key to their development…we can and should do similar. We need all the people we can get to build the continent. Let’s make this happen, African Union?
Maybe, because it’s been long since I wrote a blog post, my thoughts are everywhere. But then I believe that the Africa we seek will take more than a generation to build. We have started it well somehow (the whole continent has been totally liberated, almost liberated…Western Sahara!), but now we seem to be stalling and straying away from the course. We should be ready to let go of old ideas that are no more working, even where it means giving a new form to Pan-Africanism. My generation has no excuse but to put Africa on the right course. We have sought the political kingdom and seen how little we can do if the economy is not set right, now let’s seek the economic kingdom through entrepreneurship, innovation and good uncorrupted leadership. It is time we create the African world we want, it is something we can and should do.