By Motsoko Pheko
The 50th anniversary of the African Union, the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), was marked by the African people on 25 May 2013. Both Organisations were formed with the main objective of ultimately bringing about the United States of Africa.
Why was there to be a United States of Africa? Let me remind by quoting three African leaders on this important subject of deep concern to Pan-Africanists. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, wrote,
‘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 the full exploitation of our material and human means in the full interest of all our people. To go it alone will limit our horizons, curtail our expectations and threaten our liberty.’
In the southern tip of Africa, Prof. Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, that most feared leader by the apartheid colonialist regime in South Africa who was imprisoned on Robben Island without even a mock trial and under a special law, called ‘Sobukwe Clause’, made to silence him for his Pan-Africanist outlook in politics, until he died, said in April 1959:
‘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. The days of small independent countries are gone. Today we have, on one hand, great powerful countries of the world. America and Russia cover huge tracts of land territorially and number millions of people. On the other hand [European] small weak independent countries are beginning to form military and economic federations hence NATO and the European Economic Common Market.’
This Pan-Africanist visionary concluded, ‘For the lasting peace of Africa and the solution of 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.’
How justified are the above statements by Nkrumah and Sobukwe today? In July 2OO8, Pope Benedict XVI spoke the truth that has been hidden in Western countries from the world for centuries. The Pope said, ‘Our Western way of life has stripped Africa’s people of their riches and continues to strip them.’
Corroborating this fact, a member of the Scottish Parliament, Mark Ballad, declared, ‘Our relation with Africa is an exploitative one. The West no longer needs standing armies to strip Africa of its resources, because it can do it more effectively with multi-national companies.’
After his initial doubts about the absolute importance of a United States of Africa, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, first President of Tanzania proclaimed, ‘There is no time to waste. We must either unite now or perish. Political independence is only a prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our economic and social affairs, to construct our economic and social affairs, unhampered by crushing humiliating control and interference.’
Informed institutions and learned people outside Africa affirm that the economic power of Africa depends on a United States of Africa. According to the 2006 World Bank Data, if Africa was then a single country, it would have had a total gross income of $978 billion.
In his book, ‘Africa Rising’, Prof. Vijay Mahajan, former dean of the Indian School of Business at the University of Texas in America, has written that the figure of $978 billion for Africa would have placed Africa ahead of India as a total market. He points out that a United States of Africa would show up as the tenth top economy in the world. Only the economies of America, Japan, Germany, Britain, China, France, Italy, Spain and Canada would top Africa. A United States of Africa economy would top that of India which was $906.5 billion in 2006, that of Brazil which was $892.28 billion, Republic of Korea which was $856.6 billion, Russian Federation which was $822.4 billion and Mexico which was $820.3 billion.
This is not surprising to those who are knowledgeable about the enormous riches of Africa which, as Pope Benedict XVI and other justice-loving people have observed, do not benefit Africans at present. Indeed, it was not a joke when Nkrumah told the founders of the OAU that long time ago that, ‘We are today the richest of the continents and yet the poorest of continents. But in unity, our continent could begin to smile in a new era of prosperity and power.’
The West has fed Africa with the myth and poison of ‘Aid.’ African leaders have developed a sickening dependency syndrome on this ‘Aid.’ This ‘Aid’ comes from people who are getting their own riches from Africa. This so-called ‘Aid’ to Africa is in fact a form of the disease called AIDS. It is indeed, the economic Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome inflicted on Africa under the cover of curing its African people of it. This incurable disease is sinking Africa deeper and deeper into foreign debts that compromise African governments and force them to focus on ‘Aid’ from their former colonial masters who underdeveloped Africa through slavery and colonialism in the first instance.
Africans must not present themselves, to the West in particular, as if they are bankrupt debtors with nothing to put on the international table. The West could not have produced its nuclear weapons without Africa’s uranium. Their cars would run dry without oil from Africa. All their industries would grind to a halt without Africa. It is Africa’s exploited raw materials by them, especially minerals, that give these supposed ‘Aid givers’ their riches and their Western ‘first world economy.’
Hear this directly from the horse’s mouth. It is just one example from one of the African countries. Not long ago, an American Senator Jesse Helms reminded his people: ‘South Africa is the source of over 80 percent of American mineral supply and 86 percent of Platinum resources….South Africa has 96 percent of the world’s chrome reserves. As you know, there is no substitute for chrome in our military and industrial manufacturing. Without South African chrome, no engines for modern jet aircraft, cruise missiles or armaments could be built. The United States would be grounded. Our military would be unarmed. Without South African chrome, surgical equipment and utensils could not be produced. Our hospitals and doctors would be helpless.’
Africa has subsidised the economies of Western Europe and America for centuries through its riches and labour at gunpoint. Even in their war against Adolf Hitler, Africa’s riches were simply seized and used in the interest of Europe. The Colonial Secretary of the Belgian government in exile, Godding boasting about this, said ‘During the war, the Congo was able to finance all the expenditure of the Belgian government in exile in London, including the diplomatic service as well as the cost of armed forces in Europe and America…the Belgian gold reserve could be left intact.’
It is this kind of criminal exploitation and looting of African resources by imperialists that Pan-Africanist leaders such as Nkrumah, Lumumba and Sobukwe wanted destroyed. It is dehumanising Africans. No single African country can stop this vile system of economic exploitation of Africa alone. All African countries must stand up together and destroy it. It affects them all. Africa is a house with 54 rooms in it.
When one room catches fire, other rooms are endangered. The problem of Mali, the problem of Somalia, the problem of DRC, the problem of Central African Republic – the problem of any African country is the problem of Africa. It is the problem of brothers and sisters. It is the problem of the African family. You can’t ignore it without being the next to be injured in imperialist agendas such as ‘regime change,’ withdrawal of Western ‘Aid’ or imposition of economic sanctions.
The truth is that when Africans were enslaved or colonised or discriminated against because of their black colour, the perpetrators of these barbaric acts never cared whether you were Congolese, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Azanian, Malawian, Zimbabwean, Motswana, South African or Swazi; they just inflicted their atrocities, whether in Jamaica or America. To not act Pan-Africanly is African suicide.
Why is the African Union failing on the main objective for which it was founded? The United States of Africa cannot be brought about by leaders who are not Pan-Africanists. The propeller of the United States of Africa is Pan-Africanism. The United States of Africa was a Pan-African vision. This vision began many years ago, but was formalised in 1900 in the Diaspora through Pan-Africanists such as Henry Williams Sylvester.
It is Pan-Africanism that from its 5th Pan African Congress in 1945, intensified Africa’s independence movement that destroyed classical colonialism in Africa. It is this Pan-Africanism that must now destroy neo-colonialism, the last stage of imperialism. The essence of neo-colonialism is that the state which is subordinated to a foreign imperialist power has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. But in reality its economy and foreign policy are controlled by foreign powers. The value of such a state lies in being used to create new economic, social and cultural conditions for its former colonial master. Genuine national independence is more than just flying a country’s flag, having a parliament and a president.
How many such states are members of the African Union? How did some member states of the African Union vote in the Security Council in 2011 for a Resolution that led to the death of Muammar Gaddafi? Libya is today the most bombed African country by NATO and America in their bid to access and control Libyan oil wealth for their own countries.
Of course, leaders who are rulers of South Africa long denounced Africanism and Pan-Africanism as ‘anti-white’ and ‘racist.’ This was in 1955 when white neo-liberals of the pseudo-communist brand imposed on the ANC what they called the ‘Freedom Charter.’ This programme cheated the dispossessed Africans on the return of their land. Today, South Africa is a ‘two nations’ syndrome, one extremely rich and white minority and the other extremely poor and 80 percent African majority.
With regard to the African Union, there are many people who now perceive South Africa as ‘a sub-imperialist’ agent serving the interests of former colonial countries than those of Africa. Statements by its president such as a ‘decisive intervention’ and a ‘standby force,’ on the continent do not allay fears that this is not the American ‘Africom’ under cover to protect the continued Western looting of African raw materials, especially minerals.
This does great harm to the African Union and will hinder its mission to bring about a United States of Africa. The African Union should not have members that hunt with the hunters, but run with the rabbit and making sure that the rabbit is not caught. There has been too much suffering by Africans for their leaders to be untrustworthy in serving African interests truthfully. In South Africa, there are still colonial and apartheid public holidays. But May 25 – Africa Liberation Day, for which the whole Continent sweated blood, there is no room. It is not a statutory public day here. Time does not allow me to continue.
Let me close by reminding all Sons and Daughters of Africa, on this 50th anniversary of the African Union, the words of that shining star of Pan-Africanism, Kwame Nkrumah. A day before the 25th May 1963, he addressed African Heads of State and Government on the formation of the OAU, the predecessor of African Union.
He declared, ‘No sporadic act or pious resolutions can resolve our present problems….As a continent we have emerged into independence in a difficult age with imperialism grown stronger, more ruthless and experienced, and more dangerous in its international associations. Our economic advancement demands the end of colonial and neo-colonial domination of Africa.’
* Dr. Motsoko Pheko is author of ‘The Hidden Side Of South African Politics’, ‘Towards Africa’s Authentic Liberation’ and ‘Land Is Money And Power’. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament as well as former Representative of the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. This article was first published by Pambazuka News