A second phase of the 8th Pan African Congress is set for June/July 2017, following what is considered the first phase that took place in Accra, Ghana, in March 2015. In August, Ikaweba Bunting, Deputy Secretary General (Ag) of Global Pan African Movement, published a Briefing Document on these developments. But in response, Bankie Forster Bankie raises numerous questions about that document – and the unaddressed matter of the 8th PAC held in Johannesburg in 2014.
If nothing less, the Briefing Document proves the vitality of Pan-Africanism in these times as an issue, along with African nationalism, which is the life force of the aspirations and objectives of the African Nation. African nationalism was weakened as the negotiated decolonization was underway, so that once ‘independence’ was achieved by the neo-colonial states which emerged, they were constrained to abandon the full objectives of self-governance and became the goal keepers of the neo-colonial order, opening themselves up to be outflanked by a new generation, who inherited the responsibility of achieving full sovereignty.
This compromised situation cast a pale shadow on African nationalism at the end of the twentieth century, as the sole and authentic articulation of African aspirations into the 21st century, leaving Pan-Africanism as the vehicle for the realization of the aspirations of the youth coming forward. The emergence of the Briefing Document has to be seen in this context.
African nationalism and Pan-Africanism have been beacons for over a century. After the 1900 Pan-African meeting in London convened by Henry Sylvester Williams the existence of the global African community was formally constituted and thereafter there has been a continuous struggle to unify the various strands of Africanism into a compelling force uniting a critical mass for unity. The most successful of these experiences of global outreach and mobilization was the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of Marcus Garvey. Other initiatives have come and gone, some being milestones on our way. The Briefing Document from Kampala lays claim to such authenticity, claiming to represent the Global Pan-African Movement (PAM). Time will tell as to its relevance in the trajectory of the African Nation going forward. Along with the African Union Commission (AUC) they claim to speak for all Pan-Africans as the sole and authentic voice of those gone before, those still fighting in the Afro-Arab Borderlands and those yet to come, because this fight has been on since AD 639-640.
History teaches us that in Pan-Africanism there are many voices. Those that claim to be the sole and authentic voice are viewed and assessed later as to their contribution. Another reality is that as a Nation, most of the constituency is ignorant of the component parts of that Nation. This is a deliberate outcome of colonialism. For instance the realities of North East Africa are only now receiving a broader attention. Due to colonialism Africans on the continent were kept apart and discouraged from interesting themselves as to what was going on elsewhere. Many were marched out or shipped across, where they were deliberately separated from kith and kin. A savage form of such philosophy was apartheid, which was supposedly dismantled some twenty five years ago - within living memory. Today the consequences of separation are deeply entrenched in the physic, all over, in the Diaspora and at home.
Is there an African Nation and if so who constitutes it? Other peoples have no difficulty constituting and defining their Nation, be they Chinese, Indian or other. The question, if it is still being asked, as to who is an African, has been addressed by many scholars in the last hundred years and politicians, but still at the level of leadership foggy ideas prevail. Further research and self-introspection is required. A self-characterization should not be difficult.
In responding to the Briefing Document one would want to know who is the Secretary General of the Global Pan-African Movement and the composition of the Governing Council and their credentials for appointment, as well as Prof Ikaweba Bunting, the Deputy Secretary General (Ag) of this Movement. One wants to assess on what basis this group of individuals lay claim to speak on behalf of Africa and its Diaspora, in the Western hemisphere and in the Eastern hemisphere ( Arabia, India, etc ).
Within the movement there was always an understanding that the leaders were within the people of African descent, the masses. The political leaders of the neo-colonial state which emerged after the first wave of self- government being won in the late 1950s and 1960s, were not those who defined the objectives of Pan-Africanism. That had been done through the struggles against slavery much earlier. We should be aware that the struggles within the Arab enslavement have not been documented sufficiently from a Pan-African perspective of reparations, to add to that pool of knowledge and information that informs Pan-Africanism today. That information is being added.
One of the particularities of our experience so far was that after slavery we had to start from a low point to build this movement by demanding from others to be treated as human beings. We did not start from an informed position of knowing about the component parts of our Nation. So new information keeps emerging which was not factored in when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1964. This is not fatal, but it requires flexibility and an open mind, to absorb new knowledge. Dogmatism and status quo entrenchment will not help. Rigidity in the face of facts is an anathema. In saying so, what is to be done about the African Nationals seeking refuge in the West? What is to be done about the African Nationals under repression and de-nationalization in Central and South America? And why was the African Union Commission (AUC) unable/unwilling to integrate the Diaspora as it’s 6th Region? These raise questions as to the representivity of the AUC as the collective expression of our Nation. Talk of signing MOUs on behalf of the Nation raises serious questions.
To turn to the Briefing Document, I. Bunting is urgently requested to make his curriculum vitae (CV) available as a means of accessing his credentials to speak on behalf of Pan-Africanists. The writer makes no such claims, but rather seeks to respond to the Briefing Document which he received from its author. I. Bunting is requested to itemize in particular his work in Pan-Africanism.
At this moment in time and given the experience with bureaucratic Pan-Africanism, it is not clear that another bureaucracy needs to be created. Which is not to say that anarchy should be the order of the day. Rather as Mao said ‘Let a thousand blossoms bloom’. Let tolerance prevail. This would be a healthier approach. The first page of the document is dedicated to stating why the Movement has the authority to sign MOUs on behalf of others. Pan-Africanist political culture is not explained and so far the Movement has been remarkably short on intellectual output. The Accra meeting failed to take our understandings further. Others have spoken and produced theoretical and practical documents filling what you call the ‘vacuum’. Why not consider their papers?
One of these was Walter Rodney, another Kwesi Prah, Convener of the 8th PAC in Johannesburg ( Jhb) held in January 2014 attended by this writer. I. Bunting should consider if Prah’s approach was in conformity with the way and manner Congresses had convened in the past, whether he agrees with Prah’s ideas or not. As stated earlier, rigidity will not take us far. Often youth who are unschooled praise the European Union model as a template for African unity. That forgets that they were the colonial master and we were the slaves. They are moving from industrialization to another dimension of development. Africa sub-Sahara and its Diaspora is in another historical and psychological context.
It is suggested that further institutional development as suggested in Bunting’s page one would not be useful. There is much information already in the community which needs to be addressed, digested and interrogated first. MOUs permitting the bureaucracy to swallow up Pan-Africanist thought, creating a Pan-African department within the bureaucracy, would quickly be rendered redundant leaving abandoned the experience of the new constituents/ Pan-Africanists who are emerging as we go along. When the leadership of the bureaucracy chops and changes, this also does not instill confidence. Are Diasporans members of the African Nation or not? Why was the 6th Region not integrated, yet the Heads of State Summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2002 ruled that it should be integrated?
Pan-African loyalty supersedes and is more cohesive than state leadership. If that is not so today, it should be tomorrow. The states are supposed to disappear and make way for integration and free movement. That explains why Pan-Africans are jealous of their role of building unity and should be wary of MOUs. Many want the states to last for ever, especially the politicians. Rodney warned from Left perspective that they would cling to the bureaucracy and we see them creating new bureaucracies, in the name of progress.
For purposes of chronology it needs to be pointed out that your writer was the only invitee to show up in Kampala for the First Preparatory Committee meeting of the 7th PAC and was met by Col Kahinde Otafiire of the Ugandan government. It was your writer who suggested to A.M. Babu that Tajudeen Abdul Rahem of Nigeria be appointed General Secretary for the 7th PAC. Babu supported the nomination and the rest is history.
From the onset of the initiative to convene the 7th PAC a permanent office inter-Congresses was a central objective. Tajudeen headed that office and persons such as Napolelon Abdullai were in the structure. Tajudeen did his best under difficult circumstances. At one point the office was peopled by Rwandans some of whom were later to return to Rwanda to take up posts under the new government. Tajudeen left the office, now called the office of the Global Pan-African Movement, dispirited to join the United Nations, passing away in a motor accident in Nairobi whilst in the service of the UN. The Kampala office became dormant and remained so for years. To pass it off as representative of the global Pan-Africanist movement is not helpful as many know otherwise.
The Pan-African community comes together at its Pan-African Congresses from time to time. This practice is over a century old. The post 7th PAC Congress office failed to advance the movement and there was an issue of accountability, to who? Politicians are by general nature expedient. They cannot be trusted with a great ideal such as Pan-Africanism. Rather the guarantee of the sustainability of the integrity of Pan-Africanism is the will of the African people. The current modus of the Pan-Africanists, which is the periodic Congresses, has worked well to date. Such fora provide alternative space from the bureaucratic Commission, which is intent on silencing what it regards as dissent. Such authoritarianism will not work. Swallowing alternative voices is intolerance, it will never work. It is disappointing that those at the AUC do not understand the nature of the Pan-African movement and are clearly in essence opposed to it and what it stands for.
The operative word here is democracy. In the current climate emphasis should be put on the integration of the Diaspora, developing school and college curricula and full integration of Pan-Africanism into the patrimony of all Africans and their descendants wherever they may be. Zimbabwe is in this process now. Colonialism robbed us of our heritage. Very few since have undergone self-study to bring themselves up to the level of other nations who inhabit our world, as regards their patrimony. Too much emphasis was placed on class. Rather, as with Cabral, class and race should be treated equally. An observation on this is that there is a lot of loose talk but little serious study, leaving the impression that there are phobias at work. With all the talk that goes on in the AUC, one would have expected that such a directive on the patrimony would have been drafted, implemented , and monitored in the 1950-60s, which speaks volumes as to seriousness of intent.
At the top of page two of the Briefing Document the words ‘perplexing and contradictory’ are used. Of course such a judgment is subjective at best and hostile otherwise. The First Preparatory Meeting towards the 8th PAC which convened in Johannesburg in January 2014, took place in Johannesburg on 7 – 8 January 2010. Your writer attended this meeting chaired by Prof Prah. This was the first formal gathering of a representative sample of Africans and descendants towards the convening of an 8th PAC, long before the OAU/C raised any such interest.
The way and manner the Second Preparatory Committee meeting convened in Johannesburg 31 August – 2 September 2012 was in conformity with the aspirations of those that attended the meeting. The Congress and its pre-meetings were well structured and resided on the foundations of African nationalists traditions. The Congress interrogated the state of the African Nation in its composite parts, with representatives of those of African descent from Asia, North and South America, Europe, Africa in general and North East Africa, who had been largely absent from such meetings since the time of Duse Mohamed Ali.
At page two, I. Bunting refers to ‘principles of Pan-Africanism’. What are these? Where do these come from? He also refers to ‘ideological contradictions’ and ‘breaches’ in the movement. It seems he wishes to impose his views of correctness on others. Don’t forget that millions of our people experienced death and slavery so that we have Pan-Africanism today. Is it not presumptuous for Bunting to prescribe to others his views on matters he has not lived? The absence of humility is worrying.
Paragraph 4 on page two - the adoption of the 8th PAC by the AUC was unprocedural. Yes, anybody can do anything, but one is reminded of the critique of Walter Rodney at the 6th PAC held in Dar es Salaam in June 1974, when he sounded a warning as to where Pan-Africanism was headed. Given that we are now experiencing what Rodney alerted us to, who in his/her right mind would hand what little integrity that remains to the AUC, by way of MOU, making the Global Pan-African Movement the authentic representative of Pan-Africanists? Such an act would be suicidal, reckless and irresponsible. What right has the AUC to meddle in the affairs of Pan-Africanists and to call them un-principled? It should better be busy putting its own house in order, admitting the Diaspora as an equal partner with full voting rights, on the same basis as member states. It should make itself self-financing from resources within Africa and many other things, to establish itself as a credible representative of ours in the global community of Nations, instead of being a place our youth want to flee from.
The meddling of the representatives of the Chairperson of the AUC in the convening of the Accra meeting was un-procedural and in breach of the spirit that has so far guided Pan-Africanism. It was consequently unwelcome. The integration of the 8th PAC into the celebrations of the AUC Golden Jubilee was an interference into the internal affairs of Pan-Africanism. It was this spirit that led to the attempt to co-opt Pan-Africanism into the AUC by way of MOU and ultimately eliminate Pan-Africanism as an ideal. But given the history to date, such an initiative is born of ignorance and stands atop the millions of bodies of our people fallen in struggle so that we could all be free. Such moves are only destined to failure and shame.
The custodians of Pan-Africanism remain the People of Africa, not their governments. In this regard the Trust Deed of the Pan-African Institute for the Study of African Society (PAISAS) is informative. PAISAS is constituted as a Trust, whose beneficiaries are the People of Namibia in particular and the African people as well as those of the African Diaspora, in general. It is committed to taking the dynamic of Pan-Africanism ‘out of the cage of regulation’. We thought that the People were a better guarantee than the governments, multilateral organizations or others, for if the people in general are for you, you will ultimately succeed.
Page two, at the bottom – the Accra meeting was significant in what it failed to do. For instance it did not produce one significant paper, to justify its convening. Many things have happened since the Kampala 7th PAC of 1994. Accra failed to find any development to justify its meeting. There was no intellectual gravitas.
The 8th PAC (Jhb) produced ‘Africanism or Continentalism’, being number 110 in the CASAS Book Series available from Glenda at [email protected]. Also obtain the PAC Status Reports Series 1 to 12 from Glenda. Recommended to you is the CASAS book ‘The African Nation – the State of the Nation’ by Kwesi Prah and by the same author, ‘Tracings’ CASAS Book Series number 107. These represent a substantial body of work and views on Pan-Africanism in these times and they are recommended reading to those interested in the development of theory, practice, policy options as well as new horizons in African nationalism/Pan-Africanism. The world has not stood still since the hoisting of the flag in Accra in 1957. Further Accra should be less abusive, derogatory and personal in the face of new thinking.
There had been talk some time back of the Movement shifting its base from Kampala to Accra, has that idea been abandoned? Your author as the person, along with Babu, who recommended Tajudeen Abdul Raheem for appointment as General Secretary to the 7th PAC, who became head of the PAM office, asks how you emerge to speak for that Office? Tajudene abandoned the Kampala office. This is well known. It is recalled that Prof D. Nabudere complained about Tajudene absconding. Your writer never saw it that way. If after dedicated service Tajudeen wanted to move on, that was his right. His move to the UN was, unfortunately, short lived as he was knocked down by a car in Nairobi, his duty station.
Your writer and Tajudeen retained mutual respect. However our views differed. It was noted that Tajudeen developed special relations with Salim Salim, then Secretary General of the OAU and with Boutros Ghali, then heading the UN. Babu was a friend and was a friend of Tajudeen whilst Babu was in exile in London, where he passed on. Tajudeen’s marriage partner did not escape notice. He had no commentary on the Darfur issue. Sudan was a non-issue. In the affairs of the Afro-Arab Borderlands he unfailingly took the Arab side. Such behavior some might call ‘unbalanced’. The way the Kampala office was run under Tajudene’s administration leads to its actions today and is therefore not a surprise. By the time of the 7th PAC your writer had already abandoned continentalism. Tajudene from the Sahel region of Nigeria remained a continentalist during his brief life, with a bias towards Arabia. All this is not new, but may be it is to you. Your author never discussed these issues with Tajudeen. These were observations made from afar.
When the AUC chose to include the 8th PAC in their program to celebrate the OAU/C Golden Jubilee, as the 8th PAC (Jhb) convened in Johannesburg in January 2014, some asked why the Commission had entered a terrain to which it was a stranger. One might go as far as saying the stance of the bureaucrats in the Commission was at variance with the psychology of the Pan-Africanists who attended the Johannesburg Congress. Why did the Commission choose to convene another 8th PAC, instead of an AU policy workshop? The answer to this conundrum and the deliberate non-communication with those in Johannesburg was the wish to blot out of the picture/ expunge from the historical record that a meeting such as that which took place in Johannesburg, had ever taken place. Not only was it bad manners for a supposed Pan-African state body to ignore the Johannesburg Congress as if it was a non-event, but such action was a snub and a disregard of Pan-Africanists long engaged in struggle. It was the style of ‘orders from above’, from bureaucrats, to ‘activists’, seeking to give voice to the voiceless in places such as Darfur and Mauritania. You could have called your meeting in Accra the 9th PAC. Or even 2nd All African Peoples Conference.
Having worked with Col K. Otafiire of Uganda, indeed having previously suggested through the Ugandan High Commission in London that Uganda convene the 7th PAC, as attested in the CASAS Book Series publication number 14 entitled ‘Globalizing Africans being letters, minutes, notes and other papers’, on the way to convene the 7th PAC, one can say in any collective action there will be differences. The call for a civilizational dialogue is not new. The way and manner differences are managed determines the quality of leadership.
It takes two to tango. At this stage the need for leadership has never been greater. Hostile take over bids are doomed to be treated as just that – hostile. Dictatorship does not welcome innovation and new thinking. The adoption and implementation of the outcomes of the AU Durban Summit of 2002 on the integration of the Diaspora on equal terms is yet another example of a failure of leadership and a betrayal of a basic tenet of Pan-Africanism, being the symbiotic nature of the relationship of Diaspora and Africa South of the Sahara. An institution should not call itself Pan-African if it excludes the African Diaspora. If it does reject the Diaspora, the question then needs to be asked why? There could be centrifugal forces operating within to exclude the Diaspora, for a house divided amongst itself cannot stand. Africa without its Diaspora is a nation without a soul. And a house divided unto itself is a house in demolition.
The Pan-African office in Kampala, the ‘Office of the Global Pan-African Movement’ as you call it, was never intended to be the sole and authentic representative of Pan-Africanism in the world. It was to be an inter- Congress focal point. Neither was it conceived as an adjunct of the OAU/C within the global Pan African community. To give it such pretensions is overboard.
During the long period of gestation of the 8th PAC (Jhb), which convened its First Prep Committee meeting in Johannesburg 7-8 January 2010, those convening that 8th PAC were the originators of the idea. There had been a short lived attempt earlier by Ibbo Mandaza to convene the 8th PAC, which convened a preparatory meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, attended by Glenroy Watson, Sabelo Sibanda, Ibbo Mandaza, Joyce Kazembwe, Chen Chimutengwende and your author. Why was Prof Kwesi Prah not approached by your office in Kampala between 2010 – 2015 to find a shared way forward? The answer is that the Kampala office was defunct by then. It was only when the outcomes of the Johannesburg meeting became known that Addis Ababa sprung into action, to head off the impact of the decisions taken in Johannesburg, as if to expunge those actions from the historical record.
* Bankie Forster Bankie is Director, Pan-African Institute for the Study of African Society (PAISAS), Windhoek, Namibia. He can be contacted at: [email protected].
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