Saturday, November 25, 2006

Introducing Pan Africanism - Bankie Forster Bankie



Marcus Garvey and W.E.B Du Bois – Founding Fathers of the Pan African movement.

I would argue that Pan Africanism is generally not well understood in Southern Africa. What is better understood in the region is black consciousness. Whereas black consciousness is part of Africanism, Pan Africanism is distinct, in my view from black consciousness, certainly in the Southern African context.Black conciousness seems to have been a particular Southern African reaction to institutionalized racism under apartheid, and should be understood as race based African nationalism, a reaction to state sponsored racism.

In the Southern Africa struggle for emancipation against racism and settler colonialism black consciousness (or black nationalism) was the alternative philosophy to socialism. In South Africa and in Namibia, at least in the first phase of the struggle for self-government, socialism triumphed and black consciousness lost out. This we saw as between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC) in South Africa and The South West Africa Peoples Organization (SWAPO) and The South

West African Students Union (SWANU) in Namibia. In West Africa, in Ghana for example, the absence of settlers meant that the need to assert an African consciousness had no relevance. African identity was only an issue in so far as the foreign policy was concerned. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of independent Ghana had attended the 5th Pan African Congress in Manchester, England in 1945. He was a practicing Pan Africanist, so that the foreign policy of Ghana in the Nkrumah years was driven by Pan Africanism.In those years W.E.B.Du Bois lived in Ghana.

In South Africa, what appears to have happened, is that despite the early influence of Garvey and Pan Africanism in the period around 1920, and the undoubted role Pan Africanism played in the armed struggle for freedom in Namibia, in South Africa in particular black consciousness was identified in the public mind as synonymous with Pan Africanism. This situation was further complicated by the decision by the South African black consciousness movement, at the behest of Nkrumah, to call itself the Pan African Congress of Azania (PAC).

Over the past decade in South Africa we saw the PAC squander its huge Pan Africanist potential capital in its pursuit of a black consciousness agenda (Biko had said ‘I write as I like’), which had nothing to do with Pan Africanism,but which the public in South Africa perceived was a Pan African agenda. If the PAC had been a Pan African organisation it should have been pre-occupied with developments in Africa and its Diaspora. Politics such as ‘one settler one bullet’ are not reflective of Pan African intent.

Minority communities in Southern Africa and in Africa in general consider Pan Africanism inimical to their interests. It is therefore necessary to contextualise Pan Africanism. For instance the farm murders are associated in the public mind with Pan Africanism. In truth Pan Africanism is not anti-white, but pro African. Pan Africanism, as Walter Rodney stated, is the movement for the unity of the Africans at home and abroad, within Africa and its Diaspora. Specifically Pan African is the movement to unify the African nation at home (being constituted by Africans South of Sahara) and in the Diaspora, which includes both the Western Diaspora in the Americas and Carribean, and the Eastern Diaspora in Arabia and other parts, where people of African descent find themselves.

Another truth which needs to be stated and which is often lost, is that there is only one route to African unity and that is via Pan Africanism/African nationalism. That may appear obvious, but the fact is that few of the people who talk about African unity have taken time to read and study the development of the ideal. The question needs to be asked, why? One would go so far as to call Pan Africanism/African nationalism a political science, or rather a particular area of polical science, or alternatively, international relations. Like any other science it can be studied. One knows of few places in Africa where specific courses in Pan Africanism are taught. South Africa has a number of Africa study centers, such as the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) and the Center for African Renaissance Studies at the University of South Africa (UNISA). None of these centers are dedicated to Pan Africanism/African nationalism. In Southern Africa only the Pan Afrikan Center of Namibia (PACON) has in its objectives the dissemination of Pan Africanism – which aim has yet to be achieved.

As South Africa advances in its active role in African affairs it is obliged to adopt elements of Pan Africanism, such as its recently found concern for the African Diaspora. In a world increasingly divided into continental unions, the relevance of the Pan African experience will be an increasing source of inspiration, which cannot be ignored, based as it is on historical fact. We can either build on what we have, or ignore it at our peril.

At the main library at the University of Namibia, in the Journal of Southern African Studies, volume 30, number 1 of March 2004, is found the article ‘Communist and Black Freedom movements in South Africa and the United States:’by Edward Johanningsmeier. The paper begins by making the connection between the Garveyist movement in the 1920’s and South African activists. Interestingly it has no difficulty in incorporating both the socialist and capitalist (i.e. left and right) orientations in one text. Johanningsmeier is clear about the interaction between the African Diaspora and South Africa by way of Garveyism and Pan Africanism and by way of African-American marxists and black South African marxists. The point here is that Pan Africanism embraces both the left and right options.

Prof Kwesi Prah in his paper entitled ‘Capacity of the Southern African states in developing and implementing policies promotive of African unity through Pan Africanism’ delivered in Durban in October 2003, tells us about the work of the Pan Africanist Henry Sylvester Williams in Cape Town around 1903. P rah refers to figures such as Sol Plaatje, Selope Thema and Walter Sisulu’s early politicization by way of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) founded in Jamaica in 1911.’The African World‘ newspaper of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1925 published Garvey’s ‘African Fundamentalism’ in an African language.

If the issue of Pan Africanism is raised here in Namibia today in large measure this is due to the fact that Namibian Pan Africanists such as Sam Nujoma were early Garveyists. PACON has a project entitled ‘The influence of Marcus Garvey’s Movement in Namibia’ which will produce a book on the impact of the Marcus Garvey movement in Namibia. As at now the only documentation we have on the issue is the chapter contribution of Tony Emmett entitled ‘Popular Resistance in Namibia’, in the book ‘Resistance and ideology in the settler societies’edited by Tom Lodge, published in the Southern African Studies series in Johannesburg in 1986.

Emmett’s text is the authorative source on Garveyism in Namibia. It teaches us that the UNIA Branch in Luderitz was launched in 1921. In that year the branch consisted of 31 members. Names such as Frtz Headley and John De Clue come down to us from the research of Emmett. By January 1922 a UNIA branch existed in Windhoek. Names such as Mungunda, Maharero, Hoveka and Hosea Kutako were connected to the Windhoek Branch. Emmett explains how the ideas coming from the UNIA brought together the various ethnic groups in the area of South West Africa to oppose German imperialism. Prior to the influence of Garvey, the groups sort individually to confront foreign influence. The birth of Namibian nationalism finds its root in Garveyism.

The two leading pioneers in the Pan African Movement, Marcus Garvey and WEB Du Bois are herewith introduced on equal footing. Earlier reference was made to the interconnection by Johanningsmeier of the African communists and nationalists in North America and South Africa. Whereas there are different approaches as to how to build African unity, the reality is that this movement is by its composition, broad based incorporating all shades of opinion. This is the challenge.

As Prah says in his above-mentioned paper,‘the Ideal of African unity has been a consistent and ever present feature in African nationalist through since the end of the 19th century’.In the unipolar world today, moving to a multi-polar world tomorrow, the politics of unity will be the dominant discourse globally. This discourse for us will be grounded in the soil of African nationalism. However whereas the nationalism which decolonised Southern Africa was in pursuit of the recognition of the states created by the Berlin Conference, none of these states proved viable. The future objective therefore is the unity of the African nation, a larger objective than the nation state project.

The seed of Pan Africanism originated in Africa. It then crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean, North and South America, where it germinated in the experience of Africans under slavery. In the Diaspora the experience was refined into a modern philosophical ideal, which came back to Africa by way of a set of ideas circulated at venues such as the 5th Pan African Congress of 1945 and via the Pan African Congress series convened by WEB Du Bois. The 8th Pan African Congress will be convened by Chen in Zimbabwe.

The experience of the Eastern Diaspora is now being shaped.Its voice is emerging in places such as Darfur in Sudan.It did not resonate in the past, as did the Western Diaspora by way of Pan Africanism,because of the fact that the voice of Africans in the Middle East and Asia was lost due to their de-nationalisation. We can expect the eastern Diaspora to be more audible and articulate in future, in demanding its space in the Pan African forum.

To go to the essence of the experience of the Diaspora and the lessons to be learnt, these are the practical learning experiences of history -for example Haiti won its sovereignty by armed struggle two hundred years ago. What the experience of Haiti teaches us is that Africans can only expect trials and tribulations as they seek to promote their development. Haiti in its two hundred years of self government has had to contend with invasions , occupations and changes of government, the latest being the forcible removal of President Aristide last year, now living in South Africa. How did Haiti contend with these situations ? Why is Haiti one of the least developed countries of the world – was it because Haitians were lazy? These and a host of other questions provide us with lessons. Everywhere the Africans were taken out Africa, be it Arabia or the West, they found themselves enslaved as chattels. How did they survive in this hostile environment? These experiences in the belly of the beast teach us in continental Africa how best to defend our interest and who our real friends are. Who were Garvey and Du Bois? What did they achieve? How did they implement their agendas? Why did Nkrumah identify Garvey as the best example to emulate? Did either of these define for us the African nation?

Garvey and Du Bois were the Founding Fathers of the African unity movement. They were not the first Pan Africanists but they emerge, by their dedication and commitment to sets of principles, as significant leaders, who unified Africans across continents.

From ‘The Negro almanac- a reference work on the African American’, compiled and edited by Ploski and Williams, published by Gale Research Inc. in Detroit, USA in 1989, we learn that Garvey was born in Jamaica in1887. He dedicated his life to the advancement of the African people of the world through the creation of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the African Communities League. He believed that Africans could never achieve equality unless they became independent – founding their own nations, governments, businesses, industrial enterprises and military establishments. Garvey departed this world in 1940, in England. It is said that whereas many in his day rejected the ideas of Garvey, it is clear that subsequently these have strongly influenced the thinking of Africans globally. With time the vision of Garvey goes from strength to strength.

WEB Du Bois was born in the United States of America in 1868. He was an outstanding critic, editor, scholar, author and civil rights leader. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 1909. He convened the First to the Fifth Pan African Congresses in various parts of the Western World. He died a citizen of Ghana in 1963 and a member of the Communist Party.

Prah in his paper states that Pan Africanism represents the most distinguishing feature of African nationalism as a wider project than neo–colonial state formation, opposing the balkanization of the continent. Countless nameless Africans within our Continent gave of their lives to advance African nationalism. The difference your author has with Dudley Thompson is his Pan Africanism of the elites, of the ‘big’ names. Pan Africanism is made in large measure by the nameless Africans who gave of their lives so that we could be free.

B.F Bankie

January 2005

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Gender and African Youth Leadership

The year 2006 has been monumental for African young people, for the fist time in its history has the African union convened a platform for National Youth Councils and Equivalents Structures (NYCES’s) with the view to include them in the process of the drafting of a Pan African protocol, most significantly the adoption of the African Youth Charter by the Assembly of Heads of State
And Goverment gave to young people a sense of achievement and regard for their interest by the leadership of the continent. This milestone follows on the heals of both the New Partnership for Africans Development specifically its Strategic framework for Youth and the Pan African Youth charter and are drown from the following principles and expectations(AU,2006).
Policy should take into account of the changing needs of new generations, does not assume knowledge about the needs of youth.
Youth development needs to be holistic and integrated, recognizing the different needs of young men and women – New trends in international and national human development recognize the need that development should be suited to the specific needs of its intended target.
Youth development is the responsibility of governments. African Government’s policies and interventions should seek to involve young people and have a genuine consideration of their needs to enhance policy and service delivery at all levels.
Young people's participation in African society, institutions and policy making is necessary and important and constitutes a real and significant center for the continents future development.
It acknowledges that African youths are not a homogenous group and that youth policy should acknowledge their diversity, and reinforce the need for unity amongst young themselves.
We should recognize that the above are constructs, influenced by amongst other the Braga Youth Action Plan of the World Youth Forum (1998), Dakar Youth Empowerment Strategy (2001) and the World Program of Action for Youth (1996) and is informed by the outcomes of the African Youth Forum (2005), African Union Youth forum 2006 and the World Youth Report of 2005.

It is important to understand the current focus on young people and their genuine empowerment cannot be tokenistic or temporary .The fact that young people make up 30% (African Union,2006) of the continents general population and constitutes the fastest growing segment thereof is a signifying indicator, emphasizing that politicians have to pay more attention to the needs of youth not only because they constitute a significant voting bloc but also to emphasize that government planning needs to take into consideration shifting demographics. Consider the following for such a justification. consider that while Africa has the worlds fastest rates of urbanization, such urbanization unlike in Europe or South east Asia is not driven by the creation of jobs but by hordes of youths fleeing rural poverty, war and a general lack of opportunities(AU,2003). In the last two years Africa has shown in some countries economic development growth rates of upto to 6.4 %, however much of the growth in African economies has been without the creation of new jobs (Commission for Africa,2005).Unemployment in some of Africa’s emerging liberal economies such as Namibia, Botswana, Uganda and even in one of the giants of the developing world South Africa all still hover around 30%. Africans remain pervasively poor with 50% of the population living on less than $1 a day(UN hahitat,2003) The African is characterized by their relative under par levels of educational attainment and poor health (commission for Africa,2005). In the 1970’s, 1980’s and most of the 1990’s, African economies where characterized by low levels of investment in heath care, primarily because of shrinking/stagnant economies (with high levels of inflation) and pervasive conflict (Commission for Africa, 2005), consider then that this was during this time that Africa was hit by the spread f the HIV/AIDS virus and consider further that the continent was grappling with the crisis of malaria, polio, maternal and infant mortality. Again the brunt of burden fell on the shoulder o the continents increasingly youthful population.
The last decade or so has presented Africa with numerous new challenges including Universal access to tertiary education, access to information and communications technology and new phenomena such as intergenerational relations (World Youth Report, 2005). It is however expected that Africa’s share of the worlds most a marginalized youth will rise from the current 19% to 26% in the next generation (African Union, 2006). Thus the fast tracking of Africa’s future development based on an outlook sensitive to young peoples need is justified.

To that end young people are challenged to provide leadership and take this new policy framework and create for themselves tangible benefits, this challenge in particular is more profound for young women. It is important to be mindful that even though Africa’s young people constitute a significant segment of the marginalized on the continent, that the situation and future outlook for young woman is even bleaker. Consider for example that in 2002 Africa recorded the highest infant mortality rate (86/1000) In the world and further that African women have the highest rates of fecundity (AU, 2006), the emotional and psychological burden this creates for young women. Likewise maternal mortality in Africa stands at 1/16 (AU/UNFPA, 2003),

By 2004 no country in SADC had achieved its target of achieving 30% gender representations in National parliaments, in fact some had lost ground in achieving that target (Namibian, 2005). By 2006 Africa has had only one female elected to the presidency of an Afrcan state, while by this time it had some 5 young men under 35 having attained the presidency. The leadership of most youth and other structures reflect the same culture. Clearly it is evident that young women as a social force are neglected and marginalized.

Aside from providing a genuine political framework for young women the further challenge of actual participation exist. Whether organic or by design the evident lack of women in the leadership of African Youth Institutions has to be questioned and addressed. Using the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action (1995) , The African Youth Charter (2006), The African Charter on the Rights of Woman, (2003) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s)specifically goals 2-6 as a springboard for this praxis.

It stands then to reason that the key and often neglected processes that allows for the genuine empowerment of young women, are their involvement in both the conceptual and implementation processes of Africa’s development and their deliberate inclusion in all such mechanism, the empowerment of Africa’s youth is needs a multi-pronged, multifaceted approach and it needs at al times to consider the precious situation for woman

It follows that in the history of such initiates such as the charter on Youth, that woman are only involved in the end stages. It follows also that women particularly young women are seldom involved at decision making and strategy development stages but are often called upon to rally behind as foot soldiers of such mechanism. This platform strives to empower young women by exposing them to the gender challenges, creating a platform where they develop strategies and mechanism for action so that participants are then able to lead and implement the outcomes of this forum. The idea is that Participants should be exposed to the charter as early as possible so that they are able to organize themselves into an action platform. This will lead to a concurrent reaping of benefits for both the continents young men and women.

When we plan and implement policy, we should strive to do so in a deliberate and conscious gender sensitive setting. As we plan the ratification and implementation of the Youth charter we should remain mindful of the important role of young women.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Joseph Zobels’s 1955 stark portrayal in La Rue des cases-negre of rural Martinique, although fictional gives an accurate account of the life and times of the life of many blacks in Martinique. So powerful was this vivid portrayal that the book was banned for many years in mainland France. It described the absurd contrast in the lives of white minority Beke’s and the impoverished existence of the majority black.
It is said that that even today some 150 years after the end of slavery in Martinique unemployment amongst blacks can reach figure of up to 60% in certain areas.
The pathetic conditions of hardships described in Zobel’s classic French novel are of course prophetic and indicative of the conditions of many continental Africans, it is also telling of the conditions of Africans whether on the Motherland, Caribbean or the America’s, it further illustrates that regardless of colonial master, colony or time, Africans and their descendents were subject to the same conditions of exploitation and subjugation.

Consider further that even in the United States and South America HIV/AIDS, poverty and illiteracy are proportionally more present in Africans descendants than in any of the other ethnic formations in those parts of the world. Many of the condition faced by those on the motherland are replicated in the Islands and the America’s; certainly this should be reason for reflection! It could perhaps be argued that because of the similar conditions faced by Africans, Africans need to have a similar and united approach to eradicate and alleviate those conditions; perhaps one could go further and suggest that the cement for this Unity is Pan Africanism.

Early pioneers of the Pan African Movement such as W.E.B.Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and Kwame Nkrumah have since the early half of the last decade advocated and advanced the cause of African Unity. Many of the development paradigms we see today on the continent are manifestations of Pan Africanism, NEPAD, the African Renaissance movement, the AU and it precursor organization the OAU, even the celbration of Africa day, all find themselves within the ambit of Pan Africanism. It in fact stands to reason that, had it not been for the wide scale African support to the cause of the Namibian independence the struggle would have been longer and perhaps manifold bitterer. In fact some of the more decisive legal blows dealt to the Occupationist regime have been as result of legal instruments used by Liberia and Ethiopia. Further our collective memory should serve us well and remind us that even though support for the struggle was largely international, those countries that carried the brunt of the racist wrath where frontline states. Despite that, they continued too train our students host our refugees and military machinery.
The truth of the matter is that the way to the unity of the Africans is via the lessons learned through Pan-Africanism. This is why it is important to disseminate Pan Africanism through deliberate learning, so that the youth imbibe of these ideas. It is indeed curious that there are so few Pan Afrikan Centres in Africa. In Namibia we find the Pan African Centre of Namibia (PACON), which has, as one of its objectives, to ensure Pan Africanism becomes widely known in the country.

Pan Africanism, amongst others, inspired the struggle of the South West Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) for national independence. Tony Emmett in his “Popular Resistance in Namibia” informs us that a branch of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) opened in Luderitz in 1921. In January 1922 a branch opened in Windhoek. People such as Mungunda, Hoveka, and Hosea Kutako were connected to the Windhoek Branch. The ideas coming from the UNIA brought together the people of the area for the first time to fight German/Afrikaner colonialism. The birth of Namibian nationalism finds its roots in Garveyism.

The seeds of Pan Africanism originated in Africa. They then crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Americas where they germinated in the experience of Africans under slavery. In the Diaspora, the experience was refined into a modern philosophical idea, which came back to Africa by way of a set of ideas circulated at venues such as the 5th Pan African Congress of 1945 and via the Pan African Congress series convened by W.E.B. Du Bois. Subsequent Pan African congresses have been attendted by such personalities as Sam Nujoma founding President of Namibia Dr Sam Nujoma It is only fitting therefore that our International Relations policy in practice has reflected a Pan African dimension.

It has become evident in the recent past that two types of Pan Africanism have emerged. firstly there is the branch that addresses Pan Africanism as the Political Unity of states on the continent this definition of course includes Arab states, the second and perhaps more fitting branch views Pan Africanism as the Unity of the Black(some accounts use Ethiopian or Sudanese) Africans and their descendants in the Diaspora. Many view this type of Pan Africanism as the conduit through which indigenous Africans can seek to redress cross exploitation of black Africans and the continent. Many forget that the first mass capture and enslavement of Africans took place some 800 years ago and did not happen at the hands of European Christians but at the hands of Arab Muslims. Black Africans have to find closure to that aspect of African History before a credible political Union with North Africa can be considered; let us also not forget that the crises and chronic human rights abuses of Black Africans by Arabs are the root of the conflict in the Borderlands. The war in Sudan, the conflicts in Mauritania and the hot spots in many parts of the Borderlands stem from the insistence by Arab Muslim to spread their domination southwards, for some the existence of the Arab league and the 1989 Abuja declaration by Muslims show a greater disposition by some towards religious and ethnic Unity.

Certainly if we are to address the conditions described by Zobel in La Rue des cases-negre which blacks face the world over, then certainly Pan Africanism has for our sake, to be the union of blacks and their descendants for the purpose of the prosperity and restoration of black souls and material conditions.

The argument here is therefore that formations of Internationalism and continentalism are good and important, however Pan Africanism should be our natural predisposition, because of the unique yet common history faced by black African and their descendants the world over.

The last few years have seen a resurgence in Pan African dialogue and activism, Key event to that regard are the formation of the Global African Congress at the world racism conference, the momentum in the preparation towards the 8th Pan African Congress in Zimbabwe and increased dialogue at state level amongst Africa and the Caribbean. Areas that are going to be key for cooperation amongst these states would be trade and investment, education, culture and research and then perhaps just as in La Rue des cases-negre victims of history will triumph over their ill fated past.