Africa Struggles To Be Free

African history is full of ups and downs. Its journey has been blessed with many joys and challenges. Its freedom still hinges on external forces. It is all happening despite the positive legacy of its liberating fathers. What seems to be at stake now is the right of the continent to be free from its self-imposed value systems.

The aftermath of World War II and its consequential devastation of the global economy, coupled with the emergence of socialism in the global political arena, is said to have largely contributed to the creation of a favourable situation for African scholars to voice their desire to be free from colonialism. The wind of freedom blew over the continent, and soon enough many African countries liberated themselves from the forces of subjugation and oppression, one by one, since the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Africa, the second largest continent in the world, was also one of the richest lands, endowed with natural resources. Colonial powers have been extracting these resources and shipping them home to their respective factories.

Finished goods and commodities were then sent back to the African markets to fetch foreign currency at bargain prices. African countries were to remain producers of primary goods. The fertile lands were set to produce coffee, cotton and horticultural products, while African nations were importing cereals and palm oil to feed their people.

It was obvious; when the African countries pleaded for their freedom and voiced their wishes and desires at every venue, there was not much resistance to be overcome. The colonisers preferred to set these countries free and shifted the tactics to peaceful coexistence and friendly relationships.

The African countries, therefore, were satisfied with being able to hoist and wave their own flags and sing their national anthems. A few of the statesmen ofAfricathought that this kind of formal freedom was not enough. They decided that they had to hold their arms together and form a “United States of Africa”, in order to warrant their freedom and ensure their sovereignty.

Most of the African leaders of the time were scholars and fresh graduates from European universities and Eastern bloc academic institutions, lacking experience in leadership. Although the idea of unity was accepted in principle, how to go about it was debatable. Speech after speech was delivered at a variety of conferences, but agreements were hard to come by.

Finally, on May 25, 1963, in Addis Abeba, the Ethiopian Emperor Haileselassie, using his diplomatic ability and wealth of experience, convinced all the African leaders present to sign the charter, in order to form an African organisation for unity.

The document was the cornerstone for founding the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), in which our forefathers pledged to help the remaining countries get their freedom, get rid of Apartheid, commit to not interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, honour and respect the boarder marks left by the colonial powers, form social, cultural and economic integration and enhance the inter-African communications infrastructure, in order to enable people to people relationships.

These were but a few of the objectives and aspirations our forefathers died for. It is now 50 years since the first 32 countries signed the charter. Today, that number has reached 54, including SouthernSudan. No country to date remains under colonial rule.

The big questions that are still to be answered, now, are: have we lived up to the solemn oaths of those leaders? IsAfricawhat they had aspired and died for, after half a century?

These questions need to be thoroughly examined in the light of genuine freedom from dependency, in terms of our social, cultural, economic and political freedom from foreign influence and relations.

Despite the insidious comments and critical remarks made by the Western media, the African Union (AU), or the former OAU, has achieved a lot and registered many success stories over the years. All of the colonised nations have been freed from colonialism. Apartheid has been thwarted unequivocally. Conflicts between neighbouring countries have been more or less resolved, some with the support of African peacekeeping forces, drawn from member countries.

Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have been established in an attempt to enhance and promote trade between member countries. Cultural exchanges between some countries have been promoted.

But, there are dark sides of Africa, which present day leaders ought to look into if they are to live up to the legacies of the founding fathers. Democratically elected leaders are a rarity, rather than the rule. Africans are fleeing their respective countries and migrating to other countries in search of better job opportunities, even as domestic servants. Millions stay in refugee camps.

African leaders condemn rent seeking and corruption, while they deposit their spoils into banks far away. Their officers are charged for crimes of rape, abusing their power. African countries have no news broadcast system. They have not yet launched a common satellite for communications.

Media personnel in African countries spend their time discussing Western films, best hits and fashions, using their accentuated English or French, and wrongly annunciated pronunciations. The national costume, with which we can express our identity, is scoffed at. This all is going on, whereasAfricashould struggle to be free and, indeed, to be itself.

Africawill only be free if its people can begin to look inwardly and revitalise the African culture, history, methods of bequeathed governance and genuine democracy.Africashould free its people from refugee camps and aid centres.

Its trade relations with the rest of the world should be based on mutual interest. Africa should have its own “Voice of Africa” or “Broadcasting Corporation ofAfrica”.Africa’s lion must be given the opportunity to watch the continent’s own football premier league and hold athletics competitions once every three years.

African countries should be interconnected by railway infrastructure or highways. The zonal economic communities should be strengthened and inter-regional trade relations should be expedited. In this way,Africacan be as free as any other continent.

By Girma Feyisa

Published on April 21, 2013 [ Vol 13 ,No 677]



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