Network of Ethiopian Scholars Commentary No. 38
By Mammo Muchie
“It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die.” Steve Biko
“The enemies of a people are those who keep them in ignorance.” Thomas Sankara
“Let us all agree to die a little, or even completely so that African unity may not be a vain word” Ahmed Ben Bella
“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 Madagascar to Morocco.” Robert Sobukwe
“There is no time to waste. We must either unite now or perish.” Julius Nyerere”
“The People of Africa should be yearning for unity” Anonymous
“Africa is the Spiritual Frontier of human kind.” W.E.B. DuBois
I. How Many of Us Truly Know the PAC?
I am truly puzzled when I met my strong pan African sisters and brothers and asked them: do you know it is now 70 years when the fifth Pan African Congress was held in Manchester, UK in 1945… I too had to be aware of it from the editor of the THINKER suggesting to me to contribute a thought piece on the 70s PAC. As all my friends all said- really? I too was in the same predicament. This is not good at all.
We all do not remember or if we do know we remain silent about it failing to recognise at least to do a commemoration event… I got very sensitive and start asking all of us we should all have recollected and commemorated it and use the 70 years toreflect uponthe African journey to go beyond the difficultpast inorder to join all Africans globally together to make the united and renascent Africa’s bright future. I noticed there was only one meeting that was held in Manchester but I tookdiscovered it when I looked for if there was anything done at all. (www.crowdfunder.co.uk/70th-anniversary-of-the-5th-pan-african-congress)
We have to keep on reflecting: Do we Africans know where we have been; do we also know where we are now and indeed where we are going? If we want to know, we should look back and revive our history to draw lessons to facilitate our journey. Such historical moments provide the opportunity to reflect on how we can re-educate ourselves to move forwards and upwards by avoiding embarking on the wrong journey towards making a free and well-being anchored future.
II. The Different Phases of three Pan-African Congresses (PAC)
The first phase of PAC started until 1944 and 1945 entirely in the Diaspora world. The fifth Pan-African Congress was held between October 15-21 in 1945 in Manchester by creating a paradigm shift to the pan-African movement (first was expressed as Ethiopianism) that started in 1776, followed by the preparation first as the pan-African association in 1897, later launching the first Pan-African Conference in 1900 in London,. Subsequently a series of congresses were launched where the first Pan-African Congress was held in 1919 in Paris the 2ndand 3rd Congress in, 1921, and 1923 in London and in 1927 the 4th held in New York and the Pan-African federation in Manchester in 1944 lead by Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta.
What makes the fifth Pan-African Congress distinctive and significant is that the pan-African call to use any means necessary to de-colonise Africa fully emerged as a manifesto not just in the continent itself for the first time but also globally.The minimum we should have done is to remember the 50, 60, 70, 80, 100 years of this critical historical milestone. It was organised mainly by the Trinidadian George Padmore andKwame Nkrumah with the presence of Africans bothfrom home and abroad to pursue a global pan-African project.
George Padmore joined the Ghanaian Government after Ghana’s independence in 1957 and said that if he had another life, he would have spent it entirely in Africa and for Africa.
The second phase of Pan-African Congress was held after the political independence of the 1960s. After the historic 5th Pan-African Congress, it took nearly 30 years to re-launch the 6th Pan-African Congress. Why it took so long is a mystery to me. The 6th Pan African Congress took place inTanzania in1974 and the 7th in Uganda in 1994. Andduring 2013 and 2014 the 8th Pan-African Congress was held in Johannesburg first and later in Accra twice this time on the same year when in the past it took nearly a 30 years gap to do it and now the 70 years is literally missed. The organisers in Johannesburg did not include Governments where I was also a participant. They wanted to anchor Pan-Africanism to diffuse learning and awareness among the people, intellectuals and civil society. The one held in Accra had Governmentrepresentation
Given these varied take on the Pan-African Congress, you can see how critically important it is to have not missed to remember the 70 years of the 5th Pan-African Congress to reach the Global South very much as we all tried to highlight the Diamond Jubilee of the Bandung 1955 Conference (.http://www.zehabesha.com/the-bandung-diamond-jubilee-time-to-rebuild-world-order-based-on-a-new-culture-and-civilisation/).
We need a new third phase of PAC by organising and making it very distinctive, original, essential, relevant, consistent and periodic by doing it without fail. The PAC from here on should be linked as part of a comprehensive and unified movement to create African systems, governance and institutions for building African unity and renaissance not to be talked about but to be fully realised by learning constructive lessons from all the efforts of the past..
As the 5th PAC influenced the creation of a post-colonial Africana world, the 70th year commemoration could have highlighted the African unity and renaissance new era based on Africa’s principal role to create a new humanity, new history and new civilisation by adding to the post-colonial objectives also Africa’s deep values and the African unity and renaissance future that can contribute to a better world for all. That the 5th PAC becomes revitalised and remembered always means also still to this day PAC remains as the most powerful and most relevant inspiration to promote sustainably the global pan-African project that is also a great contribution to create a better world for all… All the relevant stakeholders need to be reached, but who amongst them all should anchor this global pan-African project. It must be primarily the people of Africa that must make the African history and future to run
African agenda for unity, renaissance and transformation… The opportunity to re-think and re-engineer this process now must not be missed. Africa unite should never remain a slogan; it can be converted into reality. The third phase of a revitalised Pan-African series of Congresses with structured and agreed time lines and well-thought out plans and outcomes is needed until Africa is fully united and the current fragmented existence is overcome for good.
III. PAC for Realising Africa’s Full Agency
What is the potential to re-position the Pan-African Congresses to be one of the key drivers to make Africarealise and achieve a fully post-colonialagency by exercising comprehensive economic and political independence and freedom?The current African states have been good in declaring the need for African unity since 1963 by using the meetings and protocols of the heads of states and the ministers; but there has not been any systematic implementation of at least even in a few areas, such as for example the creation of African labour mobility boldly rejecting the cynical colonial borders that the existing 54 states spend so much to keep alive when these costly divisive schemes should have been removed a long time ago.. Unity should have been an on-going process. The Europeans had the Second World War. The French and the British as allies were at war with the Germans. They decided after post World War II to establish first NATO with the USA. Next they founded the European Union. They managed to create labour mobility, and now inter-European trade is said to havereached nearly 70 %. Africa has more reason to unite than Europe, but it is very far behind in realising its unity project. Substantive commitment requires that action not declarations be taken to implement unity. The people in Africa should have been involved in making African unity. The Pan-African Congress can be a tool to educate for the Pan-African empowerment of the people.
In Europe, the people are invited to vote for membership in EU or not. They even keep doing it now. Britain is going to do another one soon. The Pan-African Congresses should become the means to make African people the change-makers. Both the African unity and renaissance should be made by the people and the people of Africa. African history can only be made by African people. The Pan-African congresses should be the ways to construct the future and not dwell in the past. It is time to move on to bring new Pan-African achievements to make the African future shine with moral and well-being radiance. We need new innovative initiatives to promote Africa’s overall Pan-African development. Some of the initiatives we have taken can fall perfectly within a revitalised grand Pan-African Congress revival.
We have started in 2010 the African Unity for renaissance conferences in South Africa. We held it in Soweto this year and if these series of annual conferences rotate across Africa they can strengthen the awareness for launching pan-African congresses to launch them with the significance of the 1945 , 5th Pan-African Congress by linking this education with the African liberation day in the month of May every year. We have produced a series of declarations, the latest being the Soweto Declaration(http://www.forumdesalternatives.org/en/soweto-declaration)
One recent activity we did is the Pan-African Talent initiative (PATI). Its main purpose is to turn Africa as the talent innovation hub of the world. Africa should be the talent destination not as it is reported widely now as the talent departure zone of the world. Talent retention, talent gain and not drain, talent reverse migration must be promoted and all the stakeholders and particularly the private and corporate world must contribute substantially to raise the funds to promote employable talented graduates by participating actively in the training process to avoid the current unacceptable skills mismatch. A PATI Returning Talent Fund (RTF) is established. The first inaugural conference for PATI-RTF was held in Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria (www.pati-global.com) with the participation of private sector, students, professors, government to create sustainable collaboration to promote talent gain in and for Africa.
We havealso opened also an education platform for African unity and renaissance for anintegrateddevelopment. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1046983685329854/). The contribution of Africa to the world is rich and platforms to educate Africans and the world using the current e-learning outlets to reach all must be promoted. A new approach to generate positive understanding of Africa by challenging the current dominance of portraying Africa as a passive participant in the creation of knowledge is much needed.Africa has contributed though it is not recognised and appreciated and will no doubt also contribute hugely to the whole world. The knowledge, struggle and spiritual narratives that are negative must be surpassed and the excavation of Africa’s rich contributions from the past to the present as the foundation for the future must be done without fail… There is a need to spread education using a variety of e-learning platforms.
IV. Concluding Remarks
It is about time to re-imagine Africa with the capacity to innovate unity and renaissance. No pan-African unity means, no African agency, if there is no unity and agency, there will be no African renaissance for Africans to own their own economy today and even in 2063! African unity is critical to realise the full synergy of political and economic independence. The unity must have been yesterday; but let the failure to unite yesterday be a commitment to stop delaying African unity and renaissance anymore and do it today. Let the 70th year Pan-African Congress is re-positioned like the 5th one to create a new paradigm shift to start a distinctive third phase of PAC by making the African unity and renaissance a reality now not tomorrow!
Finally the 70 years of the Pan-African Congress should be used as a learning resource to reach millions both in Africa and across the world and should not have been ignored or forgotten. Let us not forget it anymore. Let us not only remember but also do a great PAC moment to diffuse pan-African education to reach all in the world by using all available avenues and outlets. There is still time. Let us all try to do it and make it the means to re-imagine innovative and renascent united Africa to take place now…
Www. pati-global.com& www.sarchi-steid.org.za