Pan-Africanism for Gbagbo and other Tyrants
Claims and accusations are being made by some on the online blogs that “Pan Africanists should first digest the hard truth” and that “if we cannot sort out our own wrongs …”, and stop being on the same side “with murderers because some Western powers get involve, the Pan-African perspective will mean little to many”. Another claimed to understand the frustrations of the younger generation states that “it is difficult for us to continue to accept the finger pointing from some of these writers when by now our pain should have been wiped out by equally showing that we can carry our own burden without the neocolonialists.” He goes on to “wish that the real visionaries of Pan Africanism have lived to see through the total emancipation of the continent from its own cruel leaders”. It seems to me that the finger pointing and blame game has taken residence with the anti Pan Africanists. I claim that Pan Africanism has never been on the side of murderers nor has it stopped to shoulder its own burden and pains which it believes is the same with what the poor, oppressed and the dignified masses keep enduring everyday with dignity and poise. Pan-Africanism and Pan-Africanists are the lot of the masses on the battle front fighting for freedom, dignity and prosperity.
It is only those who superficially read the history of the African continent that will accuse Pan Africanism and its true advocates of blaming everything wrong in Africa on the white man and the West. True Pan Africanism is devoid of romanticism or any trivial emotive inclination. As an on-going project, Pan Africanism refuses to accept a narrative which is still being spewed about Africa in the name of humanitarian intervention or what have you. True Pan Africanism will continue to expose the insidious and odious lies still being perpetrated by others and their helpers in Africa. It refuses to accept a one-sided narrative of humanism and humanity (read Western) that excludes by dehumanizing the “so-called primitive Other” and denying its human worth, yet at the same time claims its values to be universal. Pan Africanism aims to disturb and unsettle the complacency of such a narrative. After all thanks to Jacques Derrida, the canvas can and will always be read anew amidst the monumentalizing endeavours by some.
Pan Africanism is based on responsibility and encourages Africans to sort answers for themselves for the challenges they face yet at the same time accept genuine assistance from the wider human family based on solidarity and reciprocal respect. Pan-Africanism (differently interpreted by different people) and those who sympathize with its basic tenets have since its earliest days fought for freedom from all kinds of oppressions regardless of where it is emanating from; be it local or foreign. Pan-African values are anchored on democracy, freedom and the human rights of each human being. These values are not alien to Africa. The Senegalese philosopher Soulayemane Bachir Diagne observed that these values (human rights etc.) we are being lectured on were embedded in the provisions of the Manden Oath under Mari Jatta of Ancient Mali. They are African in as much as they are foreign, thus Pan-Africanism’s championing such values is not surprising. They are recognizable in the everyday struggles of the masses.
The originators of Pan-Africanism such as E W Blyden thought in cosmopolitan terms and viewed the renaissance of Africa based on openness to ideas that will complement her efforts towards a better and sustainable reality. This spirit of struggle for freedom, democracy and the common good advocated by Pan-Africanism has never died or waned. The spirit is still alive. This spirit has resided and is still nurtured in the hearts of the majority of Africans. Many Pan Africanists have continuously taken to task usurpers of the true Pan-African ideal like Ghaddafi and Gbagbo. True Pan-Africanist never viewed Ghaddafi, Mugabe or Gbagbo or elected autocrats like Wade of Senegal seriously. Only detractors are the ones forcing such an absurd notion to people that these tyrants and thieves are the real heroes of Africa.Pan-Africanism is in each and every one of us who abhor tyranny and dictatorship.
Like any movement or ideology you will have some who will use it as a means to an end. The ideals of real and true Pan-Africanism are a bulwark to tyranny and all the attendant variables associated with it. Pan-Africanists have long understood what the author of the Wretched Of The Earth, Frantz Fanon, then cogently observed of the evolving leadership of post independent Africa (still real after more than fifty years of some sort of political independence) which was a wobble towards abysmal failure in addressing the aspirations of the people. Fanon observed:
“Before independence, the leader generally embodies the aspirations of the people for independence, political liberty, and national dignity. But as soon as independence is declared, far from embodying in concrete form the needs of the people in what touches bread, land, and the restoration of the country to the sacred hands of the people, the leader will reveal his inner purpose: to become the general president of that company of profiteers impatient for their returns which constitutes the national bourgeoisie (…). His honesty, which is his soul's true bent, crumbles away little by little. His contact with the masses is so unreal that he comes to believe that his authority is hated and that the services that he has rendered his country are being called in question. The leader judges the ingratitude of the masses harshly, and every day that passes ranges himself a little more resolutely on the side of the exploiters. He therefore knowingly becomes the aider and abettor of the young bourgeoisie which is plunging into the mire of corruption and pleasure” (Fanon 1961, 167)
Just like no sane person will claim that Usama Bin Laden and his likes represent true Islam, I think it is foolhardy to force a distorted narrative of Pan-Africanism on people. It is even rather sad that this posturing by those throwing mud on Pan-Africanism is made based on ridiculous claims or spurious assumptions that tries to make historical reality insignificant to our present circumstances. I say to them the present is formed and shaped by history. In fact history is the present. So it is nonsensical and futile to trash history. I urge this so-called Anti-Pan African brigade to go and read history properly and put it in perspective before making rash and unmitigated judgments on a diverse and nuanced movement and its proper ideals.
Some even seem to be swayed by the Hegelian purview of an a historical Africa which the perfidious fake humanitarian Nicholas Sarkozy re-echoed during his Dakar Trip in 2007. Since the recent developments in North Africa and Ivory Coast precipitated some of these “new enlightened, impatient, angry, self-proclaimed young generations ”, I wonder whether they’d paused for a moment and ask themselves if really the Sarkozys, Camerons and their friends were real humanitarians as they continue to claim and thus justify their interventions in certain countries and not others with equal need. I wonder why these humanitarians invoking the Right to Protect (R2P) ideals of the UN haven’t sent troops and armour to Darfur where genocide has been going on for a while. By the way the R2P concept has three components which must be adhered to by its advocates. These are to Prevent, React and Rebuild or Reconstruct. Given the history of humanitarian intervention one could be excused of pessimism especially with the last component of the R2P. Hope Sarkozy and his friends in the Coalition of the Willing are ready to rebuild the places they are so willing to react and prevent genocide in the name of humanitarian intervention.
Have these so-called Pan-African bashers celebrating the humanitarianism of hyperactive Sarkozy et al -the great emancipators and liberators of the down trodden African- ever questioned why he was found dinning with dictators such as Ben Ali (matter of fact Sarkozy’s former foreign minister had to resign due to links with Ben Ali, another French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner founder of Doctors san Frontier was in the pay of late Omar Bongo; a thief and dictator); what is Sarkozy waiting for to intervene in Gabon where one family has been ruling for nearly five decades where recent protest has been brutally put down; what about Cameroon; what are the humanitarians waiting for to help the masses of Yemen, Syria, Iran, Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, China, Palestine etc. It seems though only a select few places are worthy of intervention which in truth are where the business interests of these fake humanitarians are seriously threatened. As long as there is seeming stability in these mentioned country and interventionist interested are protected nary a word.
Well before the so-called humanitarians realised that usurpers like Mugabe, Museveni, Zenawi, Gbagbo, Ghaddafi etc. were criminals genuine Pan-Africanists have been doing what they could to expose and dismantle these demagogues hold on power. Was it not the Brits who were probing Mugabe whilst he was wreaking havoc on the Matebeles which all freedom advocates at the time were concerned with? You tell me. Mugabe only became a devil when he touched on the sacred issue of land owned by a minority with a different hue. Suddenly we are assailed with how brutal, undemocratic and power hungry Mugabe is. Genuine Pan-Africanists like the late Tajudeen have been at the forefront in exposing tyrants like Mugabe. Pan-Africanists also knew that power wielded by these despicable tyrants were aided and abetted by interests beyond, thus needing to be exposed.
Pan-Africanists in the mould of E W Blyden do not blame everything wrong in Africa on imagined others, they are rather open-minded and ready to learn from others base on mutual respect and common humanity in other to improve their lot. Thus Blyden worried by the wrong headed direction the newly created state of Liberia was embarking on in the 1840s wrote:
“The African at home needs to be surrounded by influences from abroad, not that he may change his nature but that he may improve his capacity.” (Cited by Professor Pathe Diagne et al in Introduction to African Culture: General Aspects 1979: UNESCO)
Perhaps if Blyden’s concerns were heeded then, the tragedy that unfolded in Liberia in its recent history might have been avoided. The Liberian elite even in this post conflict period is consumed with some ridiculous superiority complex over the indigenes. They are aping a long gone distorted American identity to justify their perceived superiority complex and special position in that society. I observed this phenomenon in Monrovia in 2008 after spending six weeks there. The elites don’t seem to have learnt anything from history.
The post independent African state and the bureaucracy that helped run it has always been statist as observed by Claude Ake in various publications, its politics was zero-sum based and was anything other than the continuation of the colonial apparatus which was solely based on coercion and brute suppression of the democratic aspirations of the people. This statist, zero-sum approach to political governance is what obtains in virtually all African states up to now. This was Gbagbo’s Ivory Coast which Pan-Africanism abhors and struggles against.
One still must scratch his or her head and ask who is blaming who? I reiterate that Pan- Africanism proper does not blame others, its states things as they are. It refuses to accept lies and half-truths about Africa. Pan-Africanism is about democracy, freedom and human rights based on the equal worth of all human beings. Pan-Africanism is not about showing off knowledge of Africa’s historical greatness. Pan-Africanism knows that the present is history in the making thus values the past in order to learn from it so as to manage the present properly as well as plan for a sustainable future. Pan -Africanism understands that the values embedded in democracy and human rights have always been part of our historical trajectory which was denied and temporarily erased. Pan-Africanism is weaved in the everyday reality of the African masses yearning and struggling to establish a viable and honourable future for themselves and generations to come. Pan-Africanism will never accept tyrants and tyranny; it never has and never will. Pan-African ideals do not chime with power maniacs like Laurent Gbagbo, Mugabe, Ghaddafi and the lot of their kind. I urge the self-proclaimed “young and impatient angry generation” not to trash history but to put it in its proper context and move forward and do their bit. It is important not to rubbish the convictions and struggles of others when venting ones frustrations on Pseudo-Pan Africanists who have failed to meet the aspirations of the African masses. I quote in full this instructive paragraph from Fanon’s Wretched Of The Earth:
“Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it. In underdeveloped countries the preceding generations have both resisted the work or erosion carried by colonialism and also helped on the maturing of the struggles of today. We must rid ourselves of the habit, now that we are in the thick of the fight, of minimizing the action of our fathers or of feigning incomprehension when considering their silence and passivity. They fought as well as they could, with the arms that they possessed then; and if the echoes of their struggle have not resounded in the international arena, we must realize that the reason for this silence lies less in their lack of heroism than in the fundamentally different international situation of our time. It needed more than one native to say "We've had enough"; more than one peasant rising crushed, more than one demonstration put down before we could today hold our own, certain in our victory. As for we who have decided to break the back of colonialism, our historic mission is to sanction all revolts, all desperate actions, all those abortive attempts drowned in rivers of blood” (Fanon 1961, 206-207).
MOMODOU OLLY MBOGE, Oslo, Norway.