Yonela Boya is a young Black man from Katlehong. He writes poetry and is planning to publish his first poetry book later this year. He has studied Horticulture and has done an internship with eBukhosini Solutions. He has an invested interest in Pan-Afrikan community mobilization, Black Consciousness and decolonial transformation.
“We must unite now or perish… We must recognise that our economic independence resides in our African union and requires the same concentration upon the political achievement.” These are words uttered by ancestor Kwame Nkruma in his speech at the founding of the Organisation of Afrikan Unity (OAU) in 1963. I begin writing this essay with this quote to impress upon the reader the urgent need for a untied Afrika and to show how we are currently on a trajectory to perishing. We are perishing physically, culturally, socially, politically and economically. We are dying. Afrika is being squeezed dry of its life force. The saying holds true in Afrika, that “united we stand, divided we fall”. In our current state we have fallen and keep falling. But Afrika must stand united and liberated and until that day we continue to struggle. My target reader for this essay is the youth of Afrika. I attempt to show us (young Afrikan) some examples of the dire consequences of our current divided state as Afrika and why these are a concern to me. Some consequences being what we are witnessing with the uprisings taking place currently in Sudan and Zimbabwe which are being coordinated and led by the youth. I will also provide recommendations on what I think we can or should do as Afrikan people, as especially young people, to contribute a united and liberated Afrika. The main purpose of this essay, however, is to express solidarity and support to our sisters and brothers who have found strength and courage to challenge the neo-colonial regimes in Sudan and in Zimbabwe.
The Berlin conference of 1884 -1885 must be viewed as a consolidation point of the colonisation of Afrika by Europe, one of the most significant and damaging devices used for divide and rule in Afrika and that still shapes Afrikan peoples identity and consciousness (awareness of self). The artificially created boarders imposed on Afrika and Afrikans by their colonisers still plays a crucial role in the way we see the world and ourselves in it as Afrikan people. Our first point of reference to our identities is our nationalities, followed by our “tribal” identities. We identity ourselves first as South Afrikan, Zimbabwean, Nigerian, Sudanese, Congolese, Burkinabe, Zambian, Ghanaian etc. Then we go further to identify ourselves as Sotho, Xhosa, Ndebele, Shona, Igbo, Yoruba, Chewa etc. We do not first and foremost identify as Afrikan people with the same destiny. We do not identify as one people. This is one of the results of the divide and rule strategy. So, when something happens in the Eastern Cape province of South Afrika, the person in the North West province feels it’s none of their business. Many South Afrikans are reacting in the same way to what is happening in Zimbabwe. They do not feel it affects them. Can you imagine the attitude of “South Afrikans” towards what is happening in Sudan? Majority of the people do not even know and those that know don’t feel too bothered to raise awareness. To even share videos of the violent repression and suppression the Al Bashir regime is reacting with to the demands of the Sudanese people. They don’t feel like it affects them.
Both Sudan and Zimbabwe have incredible histories of glory. Both have produced ancient civilisations which have contributed to the world as we know it. Sudan, contrary to popular belief, has more pyramids then Egypt. The stone walls of Zimbabwe are a testimony of the technological and scientific abilities that our ancient ancestors possessed. What is happening in Zimbabwe and Sudan today is far from glorious. Both situations have some similarities and some historic differences, one being the protracted civil war in Sudan that started in the 80’s that eventually led to one of Pan Afrikan Nationalism’s biggest setbacks. The seceding of South Sudan. We should be removing these boarders not adding to them. Both countries have a history of revolutions/revolts and coup d’états. The most recent, before these current ones started, was in Zimbabwe in 2017 with the ousting of Mugabe. Some have called this the coup that was not a coup, which is open to interpretation upon analysing the facts and events leading up to the 21st November 2017, when Mugabe resigned. However, little has changed, if not gotten worse in Zimbabwe. Sudan has a history of overthrowing military regimes. Twice. In 1964 and 1985 and a coup d’état in 1989 that put Al Bashir in power.
One similar factor in both protests is that they started as economic protests. In Zimbabwe the announcement of the increase of fuel sparked the protest that started on the 14th January 2019 which, were preceded by doctors and teachers strikes last year. In Sudan fuel prices and other economic stress factors that have been prevalent for some time now led the explosion on the 19th of December 2018 that quickly turned to anti Al Bashir protests. Both these countries have had sour relations with the west and have been victims of economic terrorism and sanctions. Their economies have, for at least the past 2 decades, not been such that they improve the standard of living for their citizens. Instead it’s been the opposite with other economic indicators showing minor fluctuations in terms of economic growth. While the neo-colonial agents live in opulence and amass wealth. The people of both Sudan and Zimbabwe not only need the support of their neighbouring countries, but they need to reach out to each other. In both countries the regimes are displaying utter disregard to the lives of the people, with many people being arrested and others sustaining permeant injuries and the death tolls raising. The deploying of the army and police onto an unarmed people should be taken as an indication of the degree to which these neo-colonial regimes are anti-black and their desperation to stay in power. The only beneficiaries of the repression of the protests is the black westernised elite in Zimbabwe and black Arabized elite in Sudan along with their western and eastern allies.
Let us organise in showing support and solidarity to our sisters and brothers in Sudan and Zimbabwe. Let us support the Sudanese Professionals Association which is one of the movements organising protests on the ground in Sudan. Let us support the Sudanese Solidarity Group in South Africa which has organised protests in front of the Sudanese embassy in Tshwane on the 8th and 19th of January, and on the 18th they organised a protest where a memorandum with seventeen reasons why they are calling for the regime to go, was handed to the UN offices in Tshwane. Some of the charges against the regime include:
• The ruling regime seized thepower through a military coup that undermined the legitimacy and the democratic system in June 30th 1989.
• The deliberate rigging of elections, more than once, in order to illegally uphold the reins of power.
• The policies adopted by regime has worsened the country’s foreign relations especially with neighboring countries.
• Murder and torture of political prisoners and detainees, suppression of peaceful demonstrations,arbitrary arrests, raping and flogging women and the continuousinfringementofpublic freedoms such as freedom ofpress, expression,assemblyanddemonstration.
• The regime’s documented corruptionand the looting of the country’s resources, the oil revenues and the embroilment inmoney laundry and smuggling.
• The policies of the regime resulted in the deterioration of the economic and health conditions, poverty, unemployment and the outbreak of the begging phenomenon.
Let us support the trade unions and the This Flag movement in Zimbabwe. Let us raise awareness in our neighbourhoods and networks of not only what is happening in these countries but all over Afrika. Let us educate ourselves about the situations in Afrikan countries and Afrikan history.
We must unequivocally support calls for both Mnangangwa and Al Bashir to step down and give the power to the people. I say to the people of Sudan and Zimbabwe that we are one. What is happening in these two countries is another result of our state of being divided. As ancestor Kwame Nkumah has said, “We must recognise that our economic independence resides in our African union”. In the same breath we condemn any involvement for any western or eastern powers in both Zimbabwe and Sudan. The continuous involvement of the west and the east in Afrikan affairs is also a consequence of our state of division. This involvement by white supremacists should not at any point be underestimated. It was the CIA that orchestrated the coup in Ghana that ousted ancestor Kwame Nkrumah and killed ancestor Patrice Lumumba in Congo along with the Belgians and set back Pan Afrikan progress for decades.
In an article, about the situation in Sudan, on the on lineplatform The Nation, political scientist Sara Mohammed raises the question of what is next for Sudan After Al Bashir goes. A critical question, for all of Afrika. She herself does not try to find answers to this question. She does, however, point out the fact that the regime has used scare tactics in suggesting that a situation like “Libya, Yemen, or even Syria awaits the country”. However, it is my hope that what will be next for Afrika is that protests will one day speaking to demands beyond the circumstances faced in each country, that we will see our everyday problems as the same problem we are all facing, within different contexts, depending on the country. We are dying of preventable diseases in Afrika, our health departments are in a state of crises, our education is educating us into ignorance (especially about Afrika and ourselves), drugs and alcohol have become the past time of the youth. We are devastated by civil unrest, conflicts and western sponsored terrorism and coups. Our cultures and languages are dying. We are serfs on our own land of birth and live in conditions not fit for human beings. We kill each other daily because poverty and hunger have found a home in Afrika. Self-hate and Afrophobia isnormalised in everyday stereotypes, and these neo-colonial governments are complicit. It is my prayer that we will one day take to the streets all over Afrika to demand a borderless Afrika and the free movement of Afrikans, to demand for one central government to govern the economic and foreign policy of Afrika and the community control of our minerals and equitable distribution of the wealth harnessed from those minerals such that the material condition or standard of living of Afrikan citizens improves. For true and meaningful Afikan unity to take place it must first be practised by us the people on the ground, the masses. From grassroots upwards. The current African Union (AU) is a social club for the neo-colonial puppet regimes that have failed Afrika. Deliberately.
The situations in Zimbabwe and Sudan carry a message for Afrika. The same message that ancestor Kwame Nkruma gave us on the formation of the OAU. That we must unite or parish. Both situations must be seen as the dire consequences of the divided state we are in, in Afrika. In fact, the fact of most, if not all Afrikan countries being run by neo-colonial regimes, must be seen a consequence of our being divided. That the shaping of our identities by the borders impose on us by our colonisers is why we cannot solve our problems together as Afrikans. Instead we are now seeking economic freedom from our “liberators” within the imposed contexts of these countries. I contend that one of the things we need to do is lose all attachments and patriotic sentiments of our countries, “nationalities”. To disengage in all engagement that reinforce these identities. These identities, these nationalities are not ours. This is what should be next for Sudan and Zimbabwe after these regimes fall. This is what should be next for Afrika, a move toward genuine continental unity. From the ground up.
Without the Berlin conference there would not be a Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Afrika, Zambia, Angola, Botswana, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda etc. At least not in the current Afrikan map we find today. The only thing that we should be proud of, is the lessons and the legacies that the anti-colonial and liberation movements within the respective countries teach us. This should be a source of strength for us. To know our history of resistance is to have pride in who we are. I further argue that our tribal identities should not be our first point of reference. The fact that we are Afrikan should supersede all other identities. We have one common origins. Most importantly, we have a common struggle and enemy in the form of imperialism. We have a common destiny and victory. However, we must not lose our tribal identities completely, we must remember and honour the histories of migrations in Afrika and how we became the nation of Zulu, Tswana, Xhosa, Igbo, Yoruba, Chewa, Ngoni, etc. Just as we must remember the liberation movements and honour them but not the boarders and certainly not the nationalities. We should be proud Zulu or Tswana or Yoruba speaking and practicing Afrikans (note that we are Afrikans first and speak the Zulu or Tswana or Yoruba language and practicing the Zulu or Tswana or Yoruba culture) with our second language being Kiswahili. I, like most of our ancestors before me and elders still living would recommend Kiswahili to be an Afrikan National language (second only to the home/local languages of different regions) and used as a language of commerce within Afrika. As Pan Afrikan Nationalists, I submit that Kiswahili is our common language and resistance is part of our common culture. We must unite or perish.