Mr Chairman and distinguished delegates to this important 8th Pan African Congress, let me begin by asking the following questions: Where would Africa be today, if there had never been the 5th Pan African Congress in Manchester in 1945? What would have happened to Africa if the Organisation of African Unity was never formed on 25 May 1963?
What would be the situation in Africa today, especially in African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and apartheid colonial South Africa if there was never the OAU Liberation Committee to assist the liberation movements in these territories such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, African National Congress, MPLA, FRELIMO, SWAPO,ZANU and ZAPU?
How would the African liberation struggle against colonialism have been, if in 1957 Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah established diplomatic relations with apartheid colonial South Africa instead of declaring as he did then that “Ghana’s independence is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of Africa?”
Mr Chairman, the political situation in Africa today is such that even those, among Africans who opposed Pan Africanism and denigrated Pan Africanists as “racists” and “anti-white” are forced by present circumstances to act Pan Africanly or pretend to do so.
I salute the convenors of this 8th Pan African Congress. It is taking place at a time when some people have pronounced the Pan African vision as overtaken by “globalisation.”
The Pan African vision, however, has come a long way. It is therefore, important for us to remember the pioneers of Pan Africanism who emerged at the darkest hour in the history of our beloved Continent, when Africans were regarded as sub-humans by European imperialist countries.
Let me mention a few of these brave sons of Africa to illustrate my point; Sylvester Henry Williams a Trinidadian in the Diaspora convened the first Pan African Congress in 1900. Historians say he is the person who named this political coming together of all Africans, called “Pan Africanism” today. He was followed by Pan Africanist giants such as Marcus Aurelius Garvey, W.E.B. de Bois, C.L. R James, George Padmore, Edward Milmot Bleyden who coined the slogan, “Africa for Africans, Africans for humanity and humanity for God.” Then we have Yosef Makonnen who financed the 5th Pan African Congress in 1945. We have Benito Sylvania of Haiti, John Hendrik Clarke and Malcom X.
At home, on the African soil, let me mention Pan Africanist pioneers such as Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Akintola, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Abdel Nasser, Ahmed ben Bella, Modibo Keita, Jomo Kenya, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Robert Mugabe, and Emperor Haile Selassie. This African Emperor was prevailed upon by Kwame Nkrumah to bring the Casablanca Group and the Monrovia Group together to form the OAU. A lot of money had been used by imperialist countries to sabotage the formation of the Organisation of African Unity. Had this Emperor been not a lover of Africa, there might have been no OAU and the fruits that followed.
Here in the southern tip of Africa, let me mention Muziwakhe Antony Lembede, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Zephania Mothopeng, Ambrose Zwane of Swaziland and Ntsu Mokhehle of Lesotho, and Pixley ka Isaka Seme from this country. Pixley ka Seme is remembered among other things for his famous speech at Columbia University in America; “The Regeneration of Africa” also known as “I am an African.” He delivered this speech on 5th April 1906 and won a prestigious award.
Dr. Pixley ka Isaka Seme was never apologetic about the pre-European slave trade in Africans and pre-colonial advancement of Africa and the restoration of Africa’s lost glory and power. Challenging his audience he said, “Come with me to the capital of ancient Egypt, the Thebes the city of one hundred gates. The grandeur of its venerable ruins and gigantic proportions of its architect reduces to insignificance the boasted monuments of other nations…. In such ruins Africa is like the golden sun, that having set beneath the western horizon, still plays upon the world which she sustained and enlightened.”
The inhuman Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in human beings called Africans and the Berlin Act of 26 February 1885 through which the riches of Africa were stolen and looted to develop Europe and under-develop Africa were genocide crimes for which there has yet to be reparation. As a consequence of these maladies, Africa has suffered the worst holocaust in human history.
Pan Africanism is anti-nobody. It is pro-Africa. It is about the rebuilding the destroyed walls of Africa. The riches of Africa are still being looted by former colonial powers and their allies. This is the challenge that Africa must face and fight to restore Africa to her lost power. This politico -socio-economic war cannot be won by a divided Africa.
It was not a joke when Nkrumah said, “If we (Africa’s people) are to remain free, if we are to enjoy the full benefit of Africa’s resources we must be united to plan for our total defence and full exploitation of our material and human means in the full interest of all our people. To go it alone will limit our expectations and threaten our liberty.”
It was not an exaggeration, when Julius Nyerere after some hesitation warned, “There is no time to waste. We must unite now or perish. Political independence is only a prelude to new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our economic and social affairs; to construct our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating control and interference.”
It was not a political miscalculation when Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) stated, “We regard it, as the sacred duty of every African State to strive ceaselessly and energetically for the creation of a United States of Africa from Cape to Cairo and from Madagascar to Morocco….The days of small independent states are gone. For the lasting peace of Africa and solution of the economic, social and political problems of the continent, there must be a democratic principle. This means that foreign domination under whatever disguise must be destroyed.”
Zephania Mothopeng, a Pan Africanist who was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for the Soweto Uprising of 16 June 1976 by the apartheid colonialist regime in July 1979, has left this message for Africa’s people:
“Unite unite all you Africans unite…
And rally to the banner of the African nation….
Project, promote African personality….
Create a giant monolithic state of Africa….
Socialistic in content and democratic in form….
A new social order original in conception….
Africanistic in orientation.”
Mr Chairman, I do not know how the 6th PAC and 7th PAC operated. I however, observe that the 5th PAC took place in 1945. This means that there were long gaps before the next Congress could take place. On the average there were nine years between the convening of these Congresses from 1900. But these were different times and world from ours. Today we live in a world of technology where events move very fast. It is clear therefore, that the 8th PAC and future PAC’s must adjust to the present times and circumstances. Imperialism is not dead. It has never gone to sleep on its agenda of looting Africa’s riches and keeping Africa impoverished and under-developed. What do PAC’s do after convening a Congress such as this one?
It seems to me that PAC’s, need administrative machinery that functions on a daily basis and a prescribed agenda with time frames. The first one might be to consider formation of a Pan African Movement geared at raising the Pan African consciousness of the African people both at home and in the Diaspora. This Pan African Movement, once it is viable would apply for observer status to the African Union to bring the views of the people on the ground to the African Union and the African Heads of State closer to the people on whose behalf they rule, presumably in the interest of the citizens of Africa.
The PAC’s must not be mere spectators of events. They must be part of shaping the future of Africa, politically, economically, socially and play a role in advancing the Continent technologically. Africa must process her raw materials and export them as finished goods. Where the situation is desperate, Africa must exchange her raw materials for high technology and not for cash. African States must prioritise and maximise the study of modern science and technology in all her institutions of learning.
Foreign investors must invest more in the infrastructure of Africa that develops this Continent. Many are interested only in the minerals and oil wells of Africa for their quick riches. This economic exploitative kind of investment is impoverishing Africans and under-developing Africa more. This is the 21st century. Western investors, in particular should not be allowed to continue to loot the riches of Africa as in the days of slavery and colonialism.
The Research Unit or Pan African Think Tank should be another consideration. This unit must research problems affecting Africa and provide solutions to the African Union so that this continental body can make informed and wise decisions. The research must include how a well established United States of Africa can be constituted to control the riches of Africa for Africans in order to uplift the standard of living of Africa’s people.
Pan Africanism must never be just a meeting of African Heads of State. Pan Africanism created African States. Pan Africanism is older than these states. A United States of Africa has taken so long because many African leaders in this African Union are not Pan Africanists. They have no qualifications to drive the Pan African agenda. It is like asking capitalists to drive a communist agenda or asking communists to drive a capitalist agenda.
We must claim our inheritance to be a total people. Africa’s riches belong to Africa’s people. The control of our resources and land was the substance and objective of Africa’s liberation struggle. Africans cannot face the onslaughts of imperialism without Pan Africanism because the imperialists are determined to loot the riches of Africa for themselves, even using violence or financing proxy wars in Africa to achieve their heinous objectives.
That beloved brother and son of Africa born in the Diaspora, Frantz Fanon put the challenge to us very clearly when he said, “Each generation in its relative nebulosity must discover its mission, and then fulfil it or betray it.” This 8th Pan African Congress is challenging us as this generation to discover our mission for our African Continent, and then fulfil it, and not betray it.
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
This speech was delivered on 15 January 2014 at the 8th Pan African Congress in Johannesburg, ‘South Africa’ (Azania).