Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, once remarked, after Ghana’s divorce from British colonial dependence, that his native country’s freedom was meaningless as long as the rest of the continent was still coerced and ransomed into submission by colonial forces. And so began a long, brutal, draining but achievable process of liberating Africa people from Otto Von Bismarck’s Colonization. In 1963, head of independent states in Africa gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to negotiate a meaningful way forward in assisting all bona fide liberation movements in realizing their ideals of liberty in the respective countries of their birth. At that historic meeting a lot of resolutions were adopted such as the formation of Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union, and the proclamation of the 25th of May as Africa/Liberation Day. A day that has not, to this day, been officially embraced by all states and the result has been that only certain countries observe it as public holiday.
The winds of change have brought with them notable changes but at the same time much remain critical points such as political stability have led to the continued stagnation of Africans. If we truly want the ‘union’ that we so proudly preach, then why is it that we aren’t reading from the same page as far as Africa Day is concerned? There are many reasons that have contributed to the apathy that is displayed for the day and some are that the ideas of a united Africa have been, to a large extent, dealt with on a romanticism of sort as opposed to being a thoroughly thought and exhaustive and consultation centric process. Because the implication that will sprout from the process of ‘uniting’ will have to appreciated and accepted by all Africans regardless of regionalism. The likes of Muammar Gaddaffi, who currently chairs AU, have always been at logger heads with the likes of John Kuffor, the former Ghanaian head of State, and former President Thabo Mbeki over the ambitious but realizable ideal.
The regionalism of Africa has also contributed heavily on the seemly stagnation that is perversely apparent from Cape to Cairo. The regions compete for the attention of investors (read First World), and this is to the benefit of the ‘investors’ because in choosing who to work with, they are able to escape the taxing duty of helping to develop the continent wholly. The same regionalism will always be a Achilles heal of ours in our efforts of gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Franca-phone Africa is happier to trade with its former colonial master in as much as Anglo-phone Africa also does the same, yet we say we have dislodged from that abusive relationship. Every time we cloud our logic regarding what’s good for the continent, we impede and cause regression to progressive programmes such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, who purpose was to have the different states grade and access each others systems of governance and obedience to law and justice. South Africa didn’t accept the findings that came with an unfavourable progress report from APRM three years ago. Ironically amongst the highlighted points was the growing phenomenon of xenophobic sentiments around the country, and needless to say we now know was occurred in May of 2008.
The double standards that are employed on the corridors of power are appalling to say the least. From the Zimbabwe situation which was aloud to deteriorate without any credible action been taken to the Kenya’s post election murderous mayhem, all these happened and Southern African Development Community was hesitant in its approach, but SADC was so swift in dealing with Madagascar recently. Even the hypocritical Swati monarch, King Mswati the II, was condemning Andry Rajoelina’s ‘undemocratic’ seizure of power and SADC even kick Madagascar out of the regional body and the question that was SADC’s deeds was when did and how did they grow balls all of a sudden?
The cultural void and inability to see each other as people on the same boat will only add to the ignorance we have of each other. For as long as media institution only project and publicize a one sided perspective of famine, war and strife on the continent, then we shall remain afraid and suspect of interacting with ‘them’ because they are not like ‘us’. And this is not to say that conflicts are fabricated by these media institutions but surely there is more to Africans than the wars in Chad, Sudan, Niger delta and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The government also need to step up and shoulder the responsibility especially when coming to the issue of Africa’s representations in their respective education curriculum. It is the governments’ efforts that will eventual ensure that Afro-centricity becomes part of national consciousness.
A plethora of complexities have and continue to plague the debate of Africa Day’s worth and have led it to being a day remembered only in cultural circles. We, as individual must also take initiative in educating ourselves about the experience of other Africans, because it is through cultural and academic exchanges that we are going to see it as a common practice for children in South Africa wishing to study in a university in Senegal, Tanzania and Tunisia. If we want the 25th of May to be valued, then we must as a matter of urgency add meaning to the day. Once we understand and comprehend the sacredness of the day, it is only then that we will awake to the fact that we, too, are playing our generational part in attempting to reduce negativity that we have both inherited from largely Europe and some of our post independence leaders and promote self reliance. For as long as the quintessential works of the Eskia Mphahleles, Wole Soyinkas, Ngugi Wa Thiongos and Ayi Arhams continue to play second fiddle to the Shakespears of the world, then Africa Day remains necessary. And as long as the Dogon people of Gabon’s stories of astronomical and astrological prowess and the deeds of Queen Nzinga of Angola are not known by African children then Africa Day will not be done away with. For as long as we count – with our hands alone – how many Africans films we have seen at a local cinema, then as certain as sun rise and night fall, Africa Day must be cemented into the fabric of our collective consciousness. Every glorifying moment we celebrate, we must always acknowledge that it is a result of efforts of those who came before us, regardless of the distance that we lie between us and them.