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Why Pan-Africanism has dismally failed Africa

Opinion & Analysis
BY far the greatest wrong which the departing colonialists inflicted on us, and which we now continue to inflict on ourselves in our present state of disunity, was to leave us divided into economically unviable States which bear no possibility of real development — Kwame Nkrumah

BY far the greatest wrong which the departing colonialists inflicted on us, and which we now continue to inflict on ourselves in our present state of disunity, was to leave us divided into economically unviable States which bear no possibility of real development — Kwame Nkrumah By Roy Muroyi

THE doctrine of Pan-Africanism used to be a very charming doctrine when the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Oliver Reginald Tambo, Robert Sobukwe, Eduardo Mondlane, Leopold Takawira, Patrice Lumumba and many more African giants preached it. It contained values that edified and promoted the African spirit and it was a common belief that Africans had a common interest. The unity of the peoples of Africa was strongly embroiled in it, such that people from different countries would feel like one people. Pan Africanism spoke to the daily struggles of the African person and how possibly the struggles could be turned into positives by way of using the Africanness of all African individuals to construct an absolute rich African culture.

Pan Africanism was embodied and closely linked to socialism. The promotion of socialism and eradication of the colonial empire in the whole of Africa was made possible by Pan-African leaders who promoted the liberation struggles of countries that were still colonised. Zimbabwe, for example, was to be helped by countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambiue under the Pan-Africanist leadership of Seretse Khama I, Kenneth Kaunda, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the revered militant leader of Frelimo, Samora Machel. These leaders emphasised the unity of Southern Africa and ensured that the settler regime was isolated. Countries such as south Africa that were to receive their independence in the early 1990s also got support from Zimbabwe and the rest of the liberated countries. This was Pan-Africanism at its best, with its formations being the people of Africa and their emancipation. It was driven by statesmen that did not put their interests first, but were driven by nationalism.

Nationalism went far beyond the geographic borders imposed by the settler regime.

The coming of independence ensured a whole new dispensation in Africa. The majority of the African countries dismally failed to realise the independence they were fighting for. Independence by definition of democracy and socialism became a myth, with most of our liberation movements claiming to have monopoly over the very people they liberated. Slowly and strangely dictators started to flimsily show their true colours, some became even more dictatorial than the settler regimes they had just unseated. Some of the notable dictators that had “claimed” to represent the people under the brader doctrine of Pan-Africanism include Mobutu Sese Seko, Muammur Gaddaffi, Robert Mugabe, Hifikepunye Pohamba, Yoweri Museveni, the “man eater”, Idi Amini. All hopes of having a United States of Africa crumbled as these dictators showed no signs of being prepared to be a “yes man “ to anyone else.

The African continent was again taken back to class system, the elite class emerged, only that this time around the elite class were those in power, those that claimed to represent the people. They owned mansions in foreign lands, invested in businesses abroad and built empires for themselves outside of the African continent. Resources that were meant to be shared with the people became State resources, which they constantly tapped into to build their empires. The doctrine of socialism became far-fetched. A new set of bourgeois class had been set setting the people aside, different interests beginning to manifest. The hopes of a United Africa embroiled in socialism were crushed. Africa greatly failed to utilise the raw materials at its disposal. The end result was that most African countries became some of the poorest countries on this earth besides sitting on plenteous resources. Just like what Nkrumah wrote that the political economic situation in the world is one in which a tiny minority of the people grow “richer and richer, while the rest grow poorer and poorer. Africa became just like the rest of the world after gaining independence.

A few African giants like Gaddafi who strongly advocated for a united and borderless Africa and developed their home country’s economy immensely, tended to have serious dictatorial traits. This made them very unpopular with their own people. This led to them being toppled and everything that came with their name was completely rubbed off the history books.

Africa and Africans are not only to blame on as the reason why Pan-Africanism failed to work. The developed world has continuously thrown spanners in the way to the progress of Africa. Brilliant minds like Thomas Sankara, who is regarded as the greatest African to have ever lived, continuously faced opposition from the Europeans. Sankara promoted the utilisation of local products as opposed to imported products.

He fought against European dependence just like Nkrumah who warned against dependence on capitalist global institutions such as the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The death of Sankara is largely blamed on the French as his policies did not go on well with the French who regarded Africa as one of their markets for finished goods. As a result, Sankara was assassinated and replaced with a French puppet.