Pan-Africanism: Still a dream




The African continent has been plunged into the lagoon of leadership crises more than ever before. The current leadership, for many reasons, lacks the capacity, vision and strategic plans to put the continent back to its feet. The last vestiges of true Pan-Africanism have gone. It is now alright for the continent to go on with neo-colonialism as an economic mill-stone round its neck.

Pan-Africanism, with all its shortcomings and transgression, sums up the conscious attempt at mobilising Africans, home and abroad, to come together and map out a defined path for the continent, with a view to combating the inhuman effects of slavery, racism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and oppression of Africans under whatever guise.

The intention of the proponents of the ideology – from W.E.B Du Bois to Bishop Alexander Walter; from Thomas Sankara to Kwame Nkrumah; from Jomo Kenyatta to Robert Mugabe – was to strike up a roaring fire that will give birth to a supra-national African state capable of transcending the current artificial national boundaries the former colonisers erected, which would make black African nations, affected the most by the negative effects of colonialism/neo-colonialism, economically self-reliant and masters of their own fates.  

The struggle in Africa today is not mainly that of transforming the former colonial territories into viable state, independent, free from world’s super powers’ clutches, but that of grooming a fearlessly defiant, unrelenting Africanist that is ready to champion the cause; and if need be, pay the highest price.

Many of those who have dared neo-colonialists’ prescription that systematically stunts political and economic development in Africa have been put to the mercy of social pressures in the neo-colonial territories that Africans are left with the whirlwind of confusion as to what are the original intentions of the so-called liberators of the continent.

For instance, Thomas Sankara – Africa’s Che Guevara – a Burkinabe revolutionary Marxist and pan-Africanist to boot, who ruled the country from 1983 to 1987, was killed in a rogue coup de tat led by his former colleague, Blaise Compaore. Sankara’s crime was that he launched social, ecological, and economic changes and renamed the country from the French colonial Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (which means ‘land of incorruptible persons’). In short, he refused to budge. He paid the highest price.

In Ghana, Nkruma’s 1965 ‘Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism’ provoked one of the tensest political reactions in the country. In less than a year, with the help of, supposedly, a foreign power which saw the revelation made by the essay as its undoing, Nkruma was overthrown.

According to Nkruma: “The essence of neo-colonialism is that the state which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality, its economic system and thus its political policy is (sic) directed from outside.” Nkruma was too arrogant and independent to let that be.      

This endemic leadership vacuum in the continent has led to more exploitation and widened the gap between the rich and the poor all in the name of foreign investment. Of course, there are the African Union (AU), the African Development Bank, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and African Court of Justice; but all of them are, so to speak, toothless bulldogs. The continent, despite its rich natural and human resources, lives on handouts; and its economy is remote controlled.

For instance, South Sudan’s civil war – probably one of the worst in modern African history – has led to the death of about 400,000 people and displaced million others.

Dinka, South Sudan’s largest tribe, and Nuer, the second largest, that should have been brother’s keepers by virtue of “pan-Africanism” have locked horns in one of the fiercest mortal combats Africa has ever witnessed. Race for power between President Salvo Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar has led to excessive bloodbath.

The security challenges have spilled over to the neighbouring countries of Uganda and DR Congo. Arms proliferation and uncontrolled mass movement have led to the establishment of refugee camps; menace of sexual violence and conflict between the hosts and the refugees has raged on for several years.

In Central African Republic, a civil war between predominantly Muslim Seleka and predominantly Christians anti-Baleka militia groups nearly wiped out the Seleka. Thousands of souls were lost and thousands of others displaced. The country now is left at the mercy of spiralling food insecurity. Simply put, the country’s energy will be dissipated in the course of fighting hunger in many years to come.

In South Africa – a country that still bears the scars of horrific practices of apartheid – it is a black-against-black racism. Over 72 percent of the nation’s private farmland is owned by the whites, who only make 9 percent of the total population. South Africans have forgiven the whites; but they want black settlers to leave the country. For whatever reason, this should be reconsidered. Unending xenophobic attacks are African “settlers” packing.

Back to the old game. On Friday 6 September, 2019, Africa, the rest of the world perhaps, was put on a mixed reaction mode. The first president of Zimbabwe passed away at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore. Africans took to the social media to do what they are best at. In no time, a barrage of obituaries started pouring in. Very few of them were mindful of the vacuum being created. In fact, his memory was so faint that even Africans have forgotten which mould fits Mugabe: villain or hero?

Ultimately, in the same passion as the Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Strange Case Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ (a narrative about the complexities and duplicity of human nature), dual nature has been engrafted to Robert Mugabe’s personality; there are two Mugabes: the West’s and Africa’s.

The West’s Mugabe is aptly summed up in Morgan Tsvangirai’s words in an interview with the Guardian in 2011: “He started very well but ended up disgraced because he eroded his own legacy by collapsing a once-vibrant economy, by violence, by appearing to tendencies of dictatorship and one-man rule.”

To the west, Mugabe was a complex character who built his country and finely helped to bring it down. He was ironically a giant Africa’s revolutionary turned despot. The former prosperous education and healthcare systems deranged, life expectancy fell down and millions of Zimbabweans migrated to neighbouring states as an escape from hunger.

Africa’s Mugabe was an intellectual that embodied Africa’s struggle against the tyranny of colonialism and neo-colonialism in all its fury. He was an intrepid African politician that served a ten-year jail for daring to question and challenge white minority rule at the expense of the sons of the soil.

Mugabe was a legend-cum-intellectual, elder statesman, freedom fighter who led his country to independence and introduced a land reform that gave Zimbabweans the opportunity to reclaim their ancestral lands.

Mugabe was of the belief, too, “Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans”; meaning Africa is for Africans. His is a belief that the continent will never develop on hand-outs.  It can only become developed through a struggle against the external forces – vested interests – that has stunted the continent’s meaningful socio-economic growth. His was Achebeian vehement rejection of living by a river and washing one’s hand with spittle.

Yet many Zimbabweans, Africans, too, like Libyans, have failed to understand what undermined Zimbabwe’s economy, brought hyperinflation, devalued its currency and reduced Zimbabweans to beggars of some sort.

At this cross-road, one is forced to ask a question that lies at the heart of Africa’s challenges. What is Africa’s next de-colonisation/de-neo-colonisation battle?

Abdulhamid writes via [email protected]




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