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Africa arise and unite under Pan-African Renaissance

By Paul T. Shipale
I was honoured to join millions of Africans at home and those in the Diaspora to celebrate the watershed golden jubilee of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Allow me therefore to express my profound appreciation and sincere gratitude to our Founding President, Dr. Sam Nujoma, for making it possible for me to attend the historic and momentous event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Indeed, it was fitting that we celebrate the golden jubilee of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), under the theme: "Pan- Africanism and African Renaissance", in the beautiful city of Addis Ababa, which means "a new flower". This historic city symbolizes Africa's progress toward its renewal and rebirth. The infrastructure developments being carried out in every corner of Addis Ababa attest to this spirit of renaissance of the entire African continent.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki reminded us that during the millennia before the colonization of our continent, we had established state formations in the form of a few kingdoms, many of them with illdefined jurisdictions in terms of sovereignty and territory over distinct ethnic groups. As such, we did not have the hard borders of 'nation states' imposed on us by the scramble of Africa which began with the Berlin Conference of 1884. As Africans, we used to migrate freely and widely across the continent and effectively treating it as a common patrimony and matrimony which simply means we share a common destiny, as all other races and groups who migrated out of Africa not bound by any physical or political boundaries.

Proceeding from the premise that we are all familiar with the African historical reality before the colonization and Africa's early resistance, there is no need to elaborate further on them. Similarly, there is no need to interrogate the relevance of the concepts of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. For the purpose of this discussion today and in the context of the African continent and its conference circuits being awashed for the past two decades with a collective discourse revolving around the notions of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance as philosophical underpinnings to its endevours, suffice to pose the fundamental questions which we must consider critically as we celebrate the golden jubilee of the establishment of the OAU.

As we look forward over the next fifty years to the year 2063, we need to ask ourselves what are the primary issues we need to focus on during this time? In this regard, President Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania captured the all-Africa sentiment for African unity when he addressed the World Assembly of Youth in Dar-es-Salaam in 1961.

On this occasion President Mwalimu Nyerere said: "I am a firm advocate of African unity...I believe that the phase from which we are now emerging successfully is the phase of the First Scramble for Africa, and Africa's reaction to it. We are now entering a new phasethe phase of the Second Scramble for Africa. And just as, in the First Scramble for Africa, one tribe was divided against another to make the division of Africa easier, in the Second Scramble for Africa one nation is going to be divided against another nation to make it easier to control Africa by making her weak and divided against herself...African Nationalism is meaningless, is anachronistic, and is dangerous, if it is not at the same time Pan-Africanism."

Two years after Mwalimu Nyerere delivered the speech we have cited, on May 23, 1963, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I delivered his historic Opening Address to begin the proceedings of the Conference of 32 independent African states which established the organization of the African Unity-the OAU.

Emperor Haile Selassie I said: "A century hence, when future generations study the pages of history, seeking to follow and fathom the growth and development of the African continent, what will they find of this conference? Will it be remembered as an occasion on which the leaders of a liberated Africa, acting boldly and with determination, bent events to their will and shaped the future destinies of the African people?" "Will this meeting be memorialized for its solid achievements, for the intelligence and maturity which marked the decisions taken here? Or will it be recalled for its failure, for the inability of Africa's leaders to transcend local prejudice and individual differences, for the disappointment and disillusionment which followed in its train? "

What Emperor Haile Selassie I said 50 years ago at the founding Conference of the OAU in the seminal speech which laid out a very clear roadmap and sounded a warning and a call to action, was fully consistent with what Mwalimu Nyerere had said and defined in greater detail what should be done to give content to the shared aspiration for the unity of Africa and remains to this day a defining statement in terms of what Africa must do to realize her hopes.

The need for unity has been a recurring theme in Africa's irredentist struggles against the forces of fragmentation and general underdevelopment and today Africa is beset with difficulties rooted in its inability to unite territorially.

In the 1963 Address by Emperor Haile Selassie we have cited, he said: "...When a foundation is laid, if the mason is able and his materials good, a strong house can be built...we argue about means. We discuss alternative paths to the same objectives. We engage in debates about techniques and tactics. But when semantics are stripped away, there is little argument among us. We are determined to create a Union of Africans."

Our Founding Father Dr Nujoma, who was there when the OAU was established, reminded us that the OAU was established with the objectives of freeing our continent from the remaining vestiges of colonialism and minority white apartheid regime; to promote unity and solidarity among African States and peoples as well as to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, among other objectives. Founding President Dr Nujoma also reminded us that through the Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was united in its commitment to achieve one of its objectives, namely; the total liberation of the mother and father land.

This led to the next stage, which saw the establishment of the African Economic Community (AEC) at the 27th Summit of the OAU by 51 African states in Abuja, Nigeria from 2-6 June in 1991. The signed Abuja Treaty laid down detailed stages for economic integration at both regional and continental levels to eventually lead not only to free trade but also a common currency, said Dr Nujoma who further elaborated that through the African Economic Community (AEC) we agreed, as Africans, that we needed to do more to strengthen existing Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as SADC, ECOWAS, the East African Community (EAC), and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and ensure that we achieve intra and inter-regional co-operation in all areas of human endeavor.

We also committed ourselves to a gradual elimination of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and the right of residence among member states. Thus, the treaty is expected to lead ultimately to the formation of an Africa-wide monetary union and economic community by the year 2025. Now, the African Union (AU), formally launched in Durban, South Africa, on July 9, 2002 has to pursue and hasten the programme laid down in the Abuja Treaty.

According to Ademola Araoye who was arguing about a new type of leadership and new conceptual tools to grapple with the current realities in the emerged political landscape, he contends that the abject absence of an autonomous discursive platform for alternative voices, results from a serious lacunae in the discourse on African affairs dominated by foreign and extraneous 'experts' who with little more than anecdotal perspectives that bear no relevance to the profound questions involved, dominate the scanty theoretical firmament. For the AU to be relevant for the future of Africa, it must be transformed into an instrument for the advancement of an emergent transcendental African identity through the articulation of the renaissance of an African vision.

To achieve this objective, a new generation of African-intellectuals and youth should be groomed as the main arrow heads of this new expansive vision of the transcendental African identity representing a tectonic shift marking the substantive rebirth of our humanity. Indeed, lest we forget, it was the youth that spearheaded the struggle for the total liberation of Africa. The Mugabes, the Lumumbas and Nujomas were in their thirties in the late fifties and early sixties when they were engaged in the struggle. It should therefore be the youth who must spearhead the second phase of the struggle for African integration and economic independence in our lifetime.

One thing is for sure, there will continue to be an ideological and intellectual crisis in the African world until Africans understand Pan-Africanism, its value and benefits, and apply it to their many problems.

In our context, SWAPO was established by the working class and peasants in factories and mines as well as the rural areas around Walvisbay, Tsumeb, Windhoek and the northern parts of Namibia, formerly Ovamboland, with the ultimate purpose to unite and fight for self-determination, freedom and independence as well as to bury the demons of tribalism which had created our disunity that resulted in the victory of the European project to colonise us through the old tactics and strategy of divide and rule.

Indeed, when others were advocating for ethnically oriented groupings, SWAPO was established to rally the working class, the peasants, the progressive students and intellectual unions, the women, youth and the elderly into a single mass organization that was able to articulate their aspirations and hopes and fight for self-determination, freedom and national independence. It was against this background that Moses Garoeb, Willy Watja Kaukwetu and Nathaniel Mbaeva joined the Founding President Nujoma to campaign against the forced removal to Katututa. In the same vein, CANU merged with SWAPO in October 1964 followed in the same month by the South in 1976 and the Mbanderus in 1988, among others.

The foundation has been laid and even if we argue about means and alternative ways, when semantics are stripped away about the technique, we are one people. The other day, the Premier eloquently elaborated on building a nation using the example of a house. One thing he didn't mention though was a solid roof to be able to withstand the stormy weather. I hope the current leadership will be able to steer the ship to safe port without some members of the household feeling neglected and victimized. After all, the same people we meet on our way up are the same people we will meet on our way down. History will judge us harshly if we allow disunity to destroy the unity that was built.

In the 1963 Address by Emperor Haile Selassie we have cited, like him, I ask: When future generations study the pages of history, will this moment of transition be remembered as an occasion on which our leaders, acting boldly and with determination, shaped the future destiny of our people? Will this moment be memorialized for the intelligence and maturity which marked the decisions taken? Or will it be recalled for its failure, for the inability of our leaders to transcend local prejudice and individual differences, for the disappointment and disillusionment which followed in its train?

Founding President Dr Nujoma always says; "A People united, striving to achieve a common good for all members of the society, will always emerge victorious" and as the outstanding African patriot Dr. kwame Nkrumah put it eloquently: "So many blessings flow from our unity; so many disasters must follow on our continued disunity".

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper and are not in any way connected to my position but merely reflect my personal opinion as a citizen.


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura