BY MULUGETA GUDETA
The late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, former Ghanaian president and outstanding African patriot, writer and theoretician of Pan-Africanism is the first politician who clinically analyzed the real nature of colonialism and neo-colonialism and pointed the way out. According to one source, Nkrumah defined his belief system as “the ideology of a New Africa, independent and absolutely free from imperialism, organized on a continental scale, founded upon the conception of one and united Africa, drawing its strength from modern science and technology and from the traditional African belief that the free development of all is the condition for the free development of each.”
The founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity had serious differences although they agreed on the final objectives of the organization. They were divided into what is historically known as the Monrovia Group and the Casablanca group.
The Monrovia Group, sometimes known as the Monrovia bloc, officially the Conference of Independent African States, was a short-lived, informal association of African states with a shared vision of the future of Africa and of Pan-Africanism in the early 1960s. Countries that were members of this “believed that Africa’s independent states should co-operate and exist in harmony, but without political federation and deep integration as supported by its main rival, the so-called Casablanca Group.” In 1963, the two groups united to establish a formal, continent-wide organization, the Organization of African Unity.
Those in what was then known as the Casablanca Group, and composed of seven states led by “radical, left-wing leaders of Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Mali, and Morocco. The conflict and eventual compromise between the Casablanca Group and the Monrovia Group led to the establishment of the Organization of African Unity.”
However, when it came to the vision of liberating the continent from colonialism and Apartheid, they stood as one man through thick and thin. Africa must unify: this was the binding conviction or the rallying cry that led to the official establishment of the organization. There were of course some leaders whose vision was more advanced than others and one of them was the president of the new Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah. The establishment of the OAU was a historic event of monumental importance. It was the first time that Africa managed to have a single united voice that was divided during the colonial era when the European colonialists spoke on behalf of the African people and decided their fate. The advent of the OAU was thus the outcome of the definitive victory of Africans over European colonialism. It ushered in a new era of independence and self-determination for Africans.
Although the road to the establishment of the OAU was strewn with apparently insurmountable difficulties and challenges, the organization managed to realize its objectives in a record time. All African countries became independent while the fight against Apartheid system in South Africa grew by leaps and bounds. “Apartheid, the Afrikaans name given by the white-ruled South Africa’s Nationalist Party in 1948 to the country’s harsh, institutionalized system of racial segregation, came to an end in the early 1990s in a series of steps that led to the formation of a democratic government in 1994.”
When we look at history in retrospect, we can realize that without the insight, maturity, dedication and zeal of the founding fathers of the OAU Africa could have remained in darkness for longer time and the process of unity could have been even more complicated and delayed. However the end of Apartheid was not the end of the road but one station among others, along the path of Africa’s complete independence not only from white oppression but also from poverty and backwardness.
The transformation of the OAU into the AU was thus an equally momentous event in the sense that it marked the completion of one phase of the struggle and the beginning of the next and decisive one. Without economic independence, Africa’s political independence would remain hollow, incomplete or even reversible.
The African Union came into being, on July 20, 2002 more than 40 years after the OAU was established. The 40 years between the establishment of the OAU and the AU were tumultuous years indeed. According to the AU website, “The advent of the African Union (AU) can be described as an event of great magnitude in the institutional evolution of the continent.
On 9/9/1999, the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity issued a Declaration (the Sirte Declaration) calling for the establishment of an African Union, with a view, inter alia, to accelerating the process of integration in the continent to enable it play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they are by certain negative aspects of globalization.”
The first major achievement of the AU can be stated as outlining a new vision for the future of Africa, a vision of Africa’s complete independence based on its total economic freedom. This is what Vision 2063 is, or as it is also known as Agenda 2063, articulates as a roadmap for Africa in the coming long decades. According to the AU website, Agenda 2063 “is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. It is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.”
Some 20 years have passed since the official launching of Agenda 2063. This may not be a time for having a complete picture of the achievements and setbacks of the AU at this stage. However we can definitely draw a temporary balance sheet of the organizations pluses and minuses. On the positive side of the balance sheet, we can say that the AU has managed to keep the continent united in the face external and divisive attempts to weaken its unity through various neocolonial machinations, great power hegemonic ambitions and more recently the West’s aggressive bid to compete for control of Africa’s markets and resources in the face of rising Chinese economic power.
This is in fact a critical time when neocolonialism has reared its ugly head once again and becomes more aggressive than in the past when Europe was the main power behind colonialism in Africa. In the decades following WWII, Europe was relatively weakened while the United States became the major global political, economic and military power. Unfortunately, the new millennium ushered in a new era of American hegemonic drives in Africa in the last few decades of the 21st century.
America under former president Donald Trump lost all its dignity and democratic values and became a superpower without moral authority. No American president had ever insulted Africa the way Trump has done. Neocolonialism has become not only more aggressive but also morally bankrupt. A kind of “new scramble” for Africa is apparently in full swing. America is in relative decline but it is not accepting this historic fact with dignity as it is becoming more hostile towards many African countries.
The West and the United States are trying to change governments in Africa by force and through proxy coup d’états (an illegal conspiracy formed by government or country’s military) and replace them with regime favorable to their new vision of controlling Africa and its resources by hook or by crook. Washington is openly intervening in many African countries and even trying to dictate the terms of their sovereignty and disputing their political choice. The Horn of Africa is a good case in point at this particular time, where Washington is trying to shape events in accordance with its national interests that are not necessarily the interests of Africa.
More than 60 years ago Nkrumah had warned against the slow but agonizing death of colonialism and neocolonialism in Africa. He foresaw neocolonialism as “the last stage of imperialism.” and urged Africans to remain vigilant as this transformation meant great trouble for them. We are now witnessing the realization of his prophecy. The resources of the continent are becoming once again objects of great power bargain as it was the case during the colonial era. The second scramble for Africa is apparently in full swing now.
We can call this process “the economic scramble for Africa.” because this scramble is not about territories and dominions but about economic and manpower resources. Africa is nevertheless bleeding in two ways: its raw materials are stolen by big multinational companies while its young and educated manpower is being stolen through immigration. Only the form has changed. In the time of colonialism Africans were shipped to the new world in chains. Now they are being invited to become willing slaves of the new global superpower. Their hearts and minds are being stolen by Western soft power or used as cannon fodders in proxy wars across the continent.
Agenda 2063 is a lofty ideal for Africans but the road ahead is bound to be bumpy. Neocolonialism is trying to delay the economic independence of Africa by any means available; through proxy wars, military takeovers, punishing sanctions as the Western powers are losing the little humanity they possessed in the past. However, in order to implement Agenda 2063 Africa has to first get rid of the neocolonial tentacles that are preventing it to move forward towards the promised land of economic prosperity, political stability as a free and proud continent that can live up to the promises of the founding fathers of the OAU and AU. This is a time when Africa needs visionaries like Nkrumah, Selassie, Mandela and others who can lead the continent to the next and last stage of a complete independence.
In 1963, in his acceptance speech as he was elected as the first president of the OAU, the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie pronounced the following prophetic words that still strike a chord in the minds of Africans. He said, “This is indeed a momentous and historic day for Africa and for all Africans. We stand today on the stage of world affairs before the audience of world opinion.”
“We have come together to assert our role in the direction of world affairs and to discharge our duty to the great continent whose 250 million people we lead. Africa is today at midcourse, in transition from the Africa of Yesterday to the Africa of Tomorrow. Even as we stand here, we move from the past into the future. The task, on which we have embarked, the making of Africa, will not wait. We must act, to shape and mold the future and leave our imprint on events as they slip past into history.”
These are indeed immortal words relevant to the Africa of today as well as that of tomorrow.
The February 5/2022