Africa Day went unnoticed… in Africa
Led by the first post-liberation president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah and supported by Ethopian leader Haile Gabreselasie and leaders of the 30 of the 32 independent African states and other Africans in the diaspora, the OAU had many ideals, chief among them being the total liberation of Africa. On that day Nkrumah reiterated the words of the speech he made on his inauguration as president in 1957 – that Ghana’s freedom would be meaningless if all of Africa was not free. He thus implored leaders who were free from (European) colonialism to pledge moral and financial support in making sure that all Africa’s (then 53) states were free from colonisation and oppression.
The OAU also envisaged what was known as a United States of Africa where the colonial borders would be dismantled and pan-Africanism would be espoused. This latter dream has all but failed. But let the OAU never be called a failure because indeed in 1994, 31 years after it was formed, its chief ideal was achieved when South Africa became the last country to be free from oppression and a democratic and legitimate government was formed. For all those 31 years, many countries that had fully espoused the ideals of the OAU indeed gave selflessly to the call for total freedom of Africa.
Liberation movements mainly in southern Africa like Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), Mozambique, Angola and South Africa became beneficiaries of the generous support of free countries like Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia and Ethiopia until they also attained freedom. It should be noted that although Ethiopia experienced a flirtation with foreign invasion, it remains the one country in Africa’s history that was truly never colonised. And so when, at the end of 20th century, the modern day leaders of the continent decided to bury the OAU as we once knew it, it was not a concession of failure or defeat.
The OAU had achieved its primary goal. Therefore when out of its carcass the African Union (AU) was formed, a new mandate was formed – the renewal or renaissance of Africa. The new leaders of the continent were affirming that with the total freedom of Africa attained, it was time Africa renewed herself to become a force to be reckoned with socially, politically, but especially economically.
The AU, also based in Addis, is the new force in Africa looking to promote democracy, good governance, economic prosperity and inter-dependence, all of which have been elusive for the past 50 years. In spite of the winds of change that began with Ghana’s independence 56 years ago and the abundant mineral wealth with which the continent is blessed, Africa is still the poster child of poverty, sickness, war and instability. And this is what the AU seeks to reverse.
I have written before that Africa’s solution lies in breeding a few good men and women to take over from the leaders that have dragged this continent in the wrong direction for the past 50 years. But today’s piece is more in honour of Nkrumah, WED du Bois, Selassie, Robert Sobukwe, Leopold Senghor, Nelson Mandela, Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe, among others, who gathered in Addis to commit themselves to the total freedom of a people. It has to be noted that Mugabe is one of those African leaders that has hung on to power for too long and under whose leadership democracy and prosperity have escaped his native country, Zimbabwe.
There can never be a starker reminder to the AU that Africa’s renewal has never been more urgent than the situation in Zimbabwe and other countries like Mali and Angola. Failure to arrest wars, dictatorships, poor governance, corruption, coups and oppression of women and other minorities, will sadly make the AU irrelevant and the next 50 years will be remembered for the death of the ideals the OAU was formed.
Fifty years on, Africa is still divided along Anglophone and Francophone lines – the same divisions that were brought by the British and French rules. Fifty years on Africa is still not self-sufficient, largely still dependent on the former colonial masters (and now China) for industrialisation and development.
In short, 50 years on, Africa is still not free – except politically, and even then nominally so.
First published on: www.kingmaker.co.za