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Opinion - Forebears of pan-Africanism turning in their graves

2021-12-03  Prof Jairos Kangira

Opinion - Forebears of pan-Africanism turning in their graves

The mob tied the identified innocent foreigner’s hands and legs with ropes. They put a used tyre around his neck, poured petrol on the tyre and ignited it. There were loud cheers from the crowd as the hungry flames consumed the flesh of the screaming foreigner. In no time, a huge human form had been reduced to ashes. 

A dastardly act, a xenophobic act against humanity and Pan-Africanism. While the above scenario might seem exaggerated, this is the reality of what has befallen some ill-fated foreigners in some of our African countries today. It is not only horrendous but also sickening to see Africans hating fellow Africans to such an extent. 

And the forebears of the once imagined United States of Africa – Kwameh Nkurumah (Ghana), Tafawa Balewa (Nigeria), Julius Nyerere (Tanganyika/Tanzania), Amilcar Cabral (Guinea-Bissau) and Leopold Senghor (Senegal) – must surely be turning in their graves. 

These doyens of the unity of Africans, no matter what part of Africa one came from, the oneness informed by Negritude and Black Consciousness, would surely not have tolerated discrimination and xenophobic attacks of Africans by Africans. 

That is why one can visualise them turning in their graves, bemoaning the disunity, chaos and hatred that has engulfed Africans. Regrettably, Africa is consuming its children mainly because of the imperialist borders that Europe created and divided Africa into regional entities. The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, which made European powers scramble for Africa did more harm than good to the continent and its people. In addition to the siphoning of Africa’s natural resources for the benefit of Europe, the partitioning of Africa left the African socio-economic and political systems torn apart. 

In other words, as renowned Nigerian fiction writer Chinua Achebe would put it, the Europeans brought the disintegration of the African ways of life and unity; consequently, the things that used to hold the centre for Africans together fell apart. The African socialist state ass envisioned by the fathers of pan-Africanism has become a mirage, every time eluding its realisation and putting Africa in a fathomless quandary.

The solidarity African countries gave to one another during their liberation struggles against colonialism and imperialism seems to be fast disappearing as the young generations do not place much importance on it. Free African countries hosted and assisted liberations movements until they attained their independence. This was the time that the word ‘foreigner’ did not have the semantic connotation it has now when every African was treated like a comrade. 

Not the mukwerekwere derogatory tag the word has now. What many people do not know is that countries that hosted liberation movements did so knowing full well that they would be attacked by the illegitimate white minority governments that did not want to relinquish power to the black majority. For instance, the Smith regime in the then-Rhodesia massacred people in Zambia and Mozambique, while the apartheid regime in South Africa attacked neighbouring countries for the support they rendered liberation movements. But these attacks did not stop African countries from supporting the cause of their brothers and sisters until they achieved their independence. 

Is it not then ironical that African people who stood together as brothers and sisters and comrades in the fight against colonialism and imperialism should tear one another apart now and treat other Africans as foreigners in their countries? Where is the African solidarity of yesteryear?  Are bodies like the African Union, SADC and ECOWAS doing enough to protect the so-called foreigners in other African countries? These are some of the many questions that should be addressed to the plight of Africans living among their brothers and sisters far away from their original home countries.  

As I see it, there is nothing wrong with Africans living and working in other African countries. We are brothers and sisters who share a common history of white oppression, wealth dispossession and displacement.  

Recently, in his support of Africans living and working in South Africa, Economic Freedom Fighters President, Julius Malema, said: “Someone said to me if you want us to vote for you in 2024, you must abandon this thing of foreigners … I am prepared to go home … I will never take a platform and denounce Africans. I will never do it; if it means votes must go, let them go now …”

In my view, let us treat other Africans in our midst as our brothers and sisters who are trying to earn a living far away from home. The spirit of pan-Africanism should control decisions that are made regarding the status of Africans working in both the public and private sectors in our countries. 

The late Julius Nyerere’s citation says it all: “African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous, anachronistic, if it is not, at the same time, pan-Africanism.” 

2021-12-03  Prof Jairos Kangira

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