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Opinion - Africa Day: Forum on people of African descent

2022-05-27  Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna

Opinion - Africa Day: Forum on people of African descent

On 2 August 2021, the United Nations General Assembly decided, in resolution A/RES/73/262, “to establish a permanent forum on people of African descent, which will serve as a consultation mechanism for people of African descent and other interested stakeholders as a platform for improving the quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent…” 

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had been working to create a permanent Forum on People of African Descent since November 2014 when it was mandated to do so through the UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/69/16, entitled Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent.

The forum came into being following the adoption of UN Resolution 75/237 on 31 December 2020, calling for a global concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of, and follow-up to, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of September 2001. One of the key objectives of this forum is “to contribute to the full political, economic and social inclusion of people of African descent in the societies in which they live as equal citizens without discrimination of any kind and contribute to ensuring equal enjoyment of all human rights”. 

The forum will also work to identify and analyse best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives to address issues relevant to African-descended people as highlighted in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. 

It is worth noting that 14 countries voted against, 106 voted for, 44 abstained, and 29 had no voting rights. The UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, and the US, Australia, Canada, Israel, and the small nations of Chechnya, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Guyana, and Slovenia voted against this resolution. 

The rest of Europe abstained. 

The DRC, for reasons only known to them, voted against this resolution – Nigeria and Angola abstained. 

If the position of the US and the major European powers on this progressive resolution is anything to go by, then it is crystal clear that these countries still struggle to recognise African-descended people as equals. 

The black race has gone through many dehumanising experiences, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, and all manner discrimination and degradation. 

This, in turn, has led to inferiority complex and negative self-image because, for the most part, we have been defined by others – and not in the most positive of terms, to say the least. 

This definition has mainly been in the shadows of others where we are defined as “other” or “outsiders” who are “not good enough”, according to Eurocentric standards. 

As Edward Said would say, we are outnumbered and out-organised by the prevailing Western consensus that regards the black race as a culturally inferior people. 

The global knowledge system is heavily loaded in favour of the white race at the expense of other races. 

That is why pan Afrikanism calls for the democratisation of the asymmetric global knowledge system. It is a discourse about self-definition and self-affirmation; that deals with the reconstruction of distorted images of African-descended people.

On 25 July 1900, at the beginning of the last century, the celebrated African-American scholar, WEB DuBois remarked: “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the colour-line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea”.

Barely 20 years into the 21st century – one century later – the colour problem is still not resolved. 

A few examples would help to validate this position. 

The brutal killing of the African-American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police officers in the US about two years ago – 25 May 2022, Africa Day, marked the second anniversary of his killing – is a case in point. 

The way how Africans and other people of colour were discriminated against at some European borders as they were trying to flee from Ukraine is also a very recent example. 

Last week, Stellenbosch University in South Africa suspended a white student who was caught urinating on a black student’s laptop, in what was believed to be a racially-motivated act.

As we mark the 59th anniversary of Africa Day (which falls on 25 May), the creation of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent should be appreciated as a great historic leap – it is a human rights issue. And lest I be misunderstood, let me sign-off by quoting Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe: “I wish to make it clear that we are anti-nobody. We are pro-Africa. We breathe, we dream, we live Africa because Africa and humanity are inseparable”.

2022-05-27  Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna

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