Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The ‘tomorrow identity’: A well-orchestrated lie

On 25th May, 2013, I entered into the world of the founding African leaders. I also came face to face with the leaders of the next 50 years. I relished in the emotions of the day with nothing but the hope in the melody of Teddy Afro’s o Africaye.

I was however not convinced that the young people in the UNECA inter-generational Hall on the morning of 24th May 2013, understood just how much hope and power they held for this continent. They started off by fighting for their space and their right to occupy the seats that had been reserved for them but suddenly taken up by ministers, ambassadors and Government envoys attending the event with the attending Heads of State. They struggled to fit their interventions to the 42 seconds allowed by the moderator, Zeinab Badawi. 

I sat there, hoping that the media, which was well represented, would bring the continent to the reality of the power distances between the young people represented and the Heads of States they were supposed to engage in dialogue. But maybe, I did not understand the meaning of the word dialogue so I looked it up. The English Oxford dictionary defines “dialogue” as a “discussion between two or more people or groups, especially one directed towards exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem”.  The meeting did not serve the purpose envisaged by its conceivers.  It however was not a waste of time. It was a reminder of the struggles faced by the fading generation of Africans. The painful struggle of the generation at independence to give this continent an identity. It also brought to bloom the reality of the conceited efforts of selfish beneficiaries of that struggle to subject future generations to internal sabotage. 

The youth echoed their frustrations: the impossible attempts to freely move within the continent, dependence on aid, the sale of our sovereignty to the highest bidder, the conflicts, and the negative narratives. They expressed their hope: of a United Africa, of a single African passport, of internal dependence and economic liberation, of the freedom to one day roam the corners of Africa without hindrance. They suffered their lows, soft censorship, and outright disagreement among themselves, intolerance and the LGBTI debate. More so, they represented the present (not the future) of this continent; of that they were crystal clear.

The Africa 2.0 team, bringing together young Africans to shape the dialogue and fate of their continent and a voice that was strongly felt at the inter-generational dialogue is a hope that we are heading in the right direction. Despite the shortfalls of the meeting, its organization was a step in the right direction. The admirable effort by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Michael Sata of Zambia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Macky Sall of Senegal, Prime Minister- Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, and Botswana’s Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe not forgetting former President and a founding father, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia should not go unnoticed.  Some of these Heads of State may have had different expectations, a different, perhaps even ignorant understanding of dialogue, but we need more leaders with their motivation to dialogue or attempt to dialogue with younger generations. The meeting managed to shun the ‘tomorrow identity’. Young Africans stepped into their elements and engaged the Heads of State, however little time they were given. They realized that their time to lead was not in the future. It is in the present.

The spiritual promise
Psalms 38: 8 (KJV)Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia (Kush) shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

The vision of Kwame Nkrumah
Ethiopia shall stretch her hands unto God, Africa shall unite. 

Kwame Nkrumah’s utterances founded the political kingdom, otherwise known as “Africa’s political capital”-the Seat of the African Union in the land of Empress Titu, Tirunesh Dibaba, Yonas and Dr. Wayne-Adrian Davis, I might add.

Speak up! Lessons from North Africa
It was President Ben Bella of Algeria who walked up to the podium at the OAU founding Summit, after three days of verbose and boring speeches from the Heads of State who went before him and declared that the most important issue for discussion had to be the total liberation of Africa. He called for total solidarity with countries that were still fighting for their liberty. A vision shared by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.

Kenya was one such State and on 1st June 1963, Jomo Kenyatta and others like him, women and men, led Kenya to the grant of internal self-rule. It was however a Head of State from the North African region that slapped awake a Summit that would have carried on in endless verbosity with zero concrete action. A president from a region that has ceased, in our speeches and narrative, to be African and become countries in the Arab region instead of primarily African countries! A region whose young people speak their mind even when they are not expected to. Young people who question the audacity of Heads of States to walk into a dialogue meeting late and try to rush the process.

The North were the radical leaders. The Casablanca group consisting of Algeria, Egypt, Guinea, Mali, Morocco and Ghana wanted an open Africa; a united Africa. Free of control on movement of goods, capital and labour. They were however defeated in their push for an “African personality, a united African foreign policy”.

The Monrovia group on the other hand chose to abandon the African personality and remain sheltered under the French backed currency zone (most were from francophone Africa). Ben Bella made self-sacrificing remarks. He stated that it was no time to think about money and talk about development while their colleagues in Angola, Mozambique and South Africa were dying. Julius Nyerere got the cue and applauded his colleague. He spoke the language of ‘Muungano’ (unity) of ‘utu’ (humanity) that would years later pick on the South African expression of ‘ubuntu’ to form a universal language of sacrifice.

The OAU started with the right visionaries. We however missed the mark on the leaders we placed to head our independent States. Most of them turned out to be the greatest abusers of the very freedom obtained at independence.  The men made the pact for this continent. The women watched, they listened, they prayed and they kept notes. In October 2012, backed by other women leaders and activists around the continent, they lobbied and had Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma elected as the chairperson of the AU Commission. Women were finally visible at the helm of this continental body with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Joyce Hilda Banda as Heads of State.  I however believe the omission of founding mothers, alongside founding fathers is inexcusable. While history may have ignored the efforts of African women to liberate the continent, we, of the next 50 years, cannot make the same mistake. We must petition the AU for the inclusion of notable African women to be recognised for the role they played in the liberation of their countries, one such example is Sarah Sarai of Kenya. 

The African Leadership Index, 2012 reflects the performance of African leaders in leadership, democracy, corruption and freedom of the media. Only two countries, Mauritius and Botswana scored an A. Cape Verde scored B+, Seychelles, Namibia, Ghana and South Africa scored B. 15 countries were placed in the ICU while others were said to lie in the morgue. Yet all these countries, the super achievers and those awaiting burial were all represented at the African Union Summit, marking 50 years since the establishment of the OAU in Addis Ababa in the month of May. This provides a challenge for Africa. The success and progression of a few States while applauded and appreciated, does not liberate the image of the Continent. Integration is key.

The African Identity
To-date, we are still trying to define that African identity. The same one that was sought by the founding fathers, and consciously I add, mothers in 1963. The youth in this continent are fighting for space to express themselves. They are in search of livelihood. They are hungry for a good education. Most of all, they need respect and the ability to interconnect and inter-breed. How is it that true inter-African relations, capable of producing the intra-African generation are hindered by acrimonious travel hindrances? The interaction of governments is vital for development but the interaction of people within the continent is critical for the  progression and realisation of the shared vision of complete unity.The youth will stop at nothing to ensure that this dream becomes a reality. Indeed, it has to be the single most important focus of the next 50 years. This is our present day Pan-Africanism. The free interaction of all Africans from Cairo to Cape Town, Libreville to Mogadishu, Praia to Antananarivo. Its realisation will bring with it peace, regional integration, fair trade practices, pride and a positive shift of the African narrative. It will raise a crop of leaders who are amiable to criticism and who will primarily focus on the well-being of their people as opposed to their own personal interests. This must be our agenda for action. It will give us cause for the next 50 years. 

1 comment:

  1. A great article....a true walk down the memory lane....Plus hope that Africa might one day know its rightful place in the global map. I laud the efforts...And yes..the Youth is the engine that will move Africa to the next level!