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.