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A background briefing document

The International Preparatory Committee considered the historical precedent set by various PACs and in particular the 2nd PAC that was held in phases. Subsequently the meeting unanimously agreed to follow the historical precedent of the 2ndPAC of 1921 that took place in phases in different cities including London, Brussels and Paris and organize the 8thPan African Congress in a two-phase process. Phase I was the meeting convened in Ghana, March 2015. Phase II, earlier set for not later than May 2016, will now be convened in June/August 2017.

Following the 7thPAC [Pan African Congress] in April 1994 in Kampala, a Secretariat was set up to coordinate the affairs of the Global Pan African Movement. As part of continuing efforts to galvanize the continent and build an African consensus, a number of institutions, organizations and individuals are collaborating to inject energy into the Pan-African Movement (PAM).

In early 2012, a collective of Pan Africanists in Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, North America and members of the Governing Council of the Global Pan African Movement began to circulate a call for an 8th PAC congress. Discussions and exchanges transpired via social media, radio programs, local Pan African and community mobilization forums, workshops and town hall meetings. The discussions, comments and reactions generated by the call for a Pan African Congress reflected a mosaic of ideas, sentiments, analyses, criticisms, denouncements, claims and affirmations.  

Among the various comments and responses, three characteristics of particular significance emerged.  The first being the many different perspectives, ideas, dogmas and positions related to defining Pan Africanism, who qualifies as a Pan Africanist, how to organize the congress, and who should or should not participate. In regards to participation, there were divisions as to whether or not the African Union and other state actors should participate. Would their very presence be the antithesis of Pan Africanist objectives or are African governments and the AU essential partners in achieving Pan Africanist objectives? 

A second characteristic is that despite the many differences, there was consistent consensus that in order to redress the economic, cultural and political disempowerment and racial based oppression of African peoples, global mobilization and organization under the structure of Pan Africanism is essential. The consistency of this perspective is of strategic significance. It reveals a common basis for building a Pan African Movement. Simultaneously the array of ideological differences and dogmatic exclusiveness reveal the amount of work remaining and the characteristics of the challenges to overcome in order to build the Pan African Movement.   

The third notable feature made apparent during this process is the absence of institutional sustenance of Pan Africanist political culture. Despite a broad recognition of the critical need for Pan Africanist’s method of organization, there is an absence of cohesive and persistent effort, clarity of purpose and sustainable institutional support.

To realize the objectives of a Union Government and create a movement to rectify the social, economic and political exploitation of African peoples a Pan Africanist political culture must be inculcated, nurtured and institutionalized throughout the Six Regions of the African world.  It is the task for the Global Pan African Movement to insure that Pan African institutions and organizations at all levels are functional and effective, and imbued with a Pan Africanist political culture. 

The absence of functional Pan Africanist institutions and Pan African political culture leaves a vacuum. A potpourri of ideas formulated under the rubric of Pan Africanism is filling that vacuum, resulting in an amalgam hodgepodge of values, notions, ideas and dogma that are perplexing or contradictory to Pan Africanist purpose and ideology.  In the midst of this as efforts for the convening of the 8thPan African Congress began to gain momentum a meeting convened in February 2014 in South Africa.

Although convened as a Pan African Congress the South African meeting convened reportedly with an ideological perspective of Pan Africanism that explicitly excluded North Africa and Arab speaking North Africans. It was consequently critiqued for lack of consultation and inclusion. A non-inclusive method of organizing that circumscribes broad based participation is deemed contrary to the purpose of convening a Congress as well as the principles of Pan Africanism.  The 8thPAC North American Organizing Committee together with the Caribbean Pan African Network, the PAM secretariat and Governing Council in concert with many Pan Africanist activists and organizations decided not to associate with this meeting.

The situation mentioned above illustrates one example of the many ideological contradictions and breaches that exist within the movement. Coupled with the array of logistical, organizational and financial challenges the situation epitomizes challenges confronting our efforts to convene a credible and representative Congress and building the Global Pan African Movement.

Having engaged in a Pan-African wide discussion, the Secretariat of the Global Pan African Movement announced in February 2014 that the 8thPan African Congress would take place in Accra following consultations with mass organisations, the Government of the Republic of Ghana and the Africa Union (AU). Indeed the AU has adopted the Congress as part of activities marking its 50th anniversary. It was expected that at least 10 African Heads of state would attend the opening ceremony.
In the lead up to the meeting in Ghana various Pan African organizations, members of the Governing Council of PAM and regional organizing committees in Africa, the Caribbean and North and South America protested that November 2104, the date proposed by the Ghana Local Organizing Committee, was too soon. The primary concern expressed was that it did not allow sufficient time to mobilize for broad based representation and participation from the different regions of the continent and the diaspora.

Concerns were expressed as well regarding the Ebola outbreak and the subsequent travel restrictions that prevented Pan Africanists from several West African nations from attending.   Subsequently the Government of Ghana and the LOC moved the date from November to March 4-7, 2015 despite the recommendation by the majority of stakeholders that, at the earliest, May 25, 2015 (African Liberation Day) could be an acceptable date. However, even with the May 25 proposal, several participants in the preparatory dialogue were skeptical in regards to sufficient time and resources being available to mobilize a truly representative broad based Pan Africanist participation. 

The Government of Ghana and LOC persisted on the March date. Consequently, there was a tentative and conditional agreement to participate provided Ebola had been contained and the broad based consultation with Pan Africanist organizations throughout all of the regions of the world had taken place ensuring their input and participation in the Congress. 

There was also concern that four days for a congress were insufficient, particularly so because the dates proposed coincided with the Government of Ghana’s Independence Day celebrations. Two of the four days were dominated by ‘Independence Day’ ceremony and celebration. Approximately 11 hours only over the course of four days were available for deliberations.  Critical questions arose as to the purpose of the meeting in Ghana. Was it for revitalizing the Pan African Movement or was it for Ghana’s Independence celebration and internal Ghanaian politics? Communications fragmented, as it appeared these concerns were not being responded to.

The prevailing sentiment across the scope of a four-continent-wide discussion and commentary reached a consensus that the meeting in Ghana, if convened as planned, could only be a regional preparatory meeting and not a Congress, and due to its non-participatory unrepresentative process a decision not to participate emerged.

However, after a flurry of emails, discussions, and telephone conversations an emergency meeting of the Governing Council and the International Preparatory Committee including AUC representation was held in Accra on February 28th 2015. The meeting recognized the grave and serious concerns expressed by the various local organizing committees and Pan African organizations worldwide. The meeting assessed the situation and addressed the following issues:

(1) the Government of Ghana in agreeing to host 8th PAC  had incurred certain obligations, made commitments and invited high level international guests;

(2) the desire to ensure that 8th PAC is truly global in character and is more representative in terms of delegates, content and purpose;

(3) the general need to ensure a unifying and broadly inclusive 8th PAC process and outcome truly owned by all constituent elements of the Pan African Movement.

During the meeting, it was noted that there were several organizational and operational challenges, partly emanating from the 20-year lull after 7thPAC.  The criticisms also noted that in regards to the preparation of 8thPAC there was inadequate coordination and communication, as well as financial and administrative constraints and inadequate representation of PAM structures in the planned 8thPAC (Ghana).

Compromise and shared purpose prevailed to make the best of a difficult situation and facilitated the convening of the meeting in Ghana despite all of the shortcomings. Consequently, the International Preparatory Committee considered the historical precedent set by various PACs and in particular the 2nd PAC that was held in phases. Subsequently the meeting unanimously agreed to follow the historical precedent of the 2ndPAC of 1921 that took place in phases in different cities including London, Brussels and Paris and organize the 8thPan African Congress in a two-phase process. Phase I was the meeting convened in Ghana March 4th -7th 2015. The agreement states that 8thPAC Phase II will be convened no later than May 31st2016 (now June/August 2017).

This compromise reflected the overall desire to have a congress and to build upon the momentum of organizing and overcoming the challenges we face in building the Pan African Movement.

In Ghana the meeting itself was raucous often times descending into shouting matches and vociferous protests referencing, what seemed to be, randomly selected rules from Robert’s Rules of Order. The glaring need for improved communications, organizational functionality and leadership within the movement and Governing Council is perhaps the most pronounced weakness revealed in the lead up to and the convening of Phase 1 of the 8thPan African Congress/Ghana. There were issues regarding the criteria and method of accrediting delegates that were never clear or coordinated sufficiently.

In attendance at the Ghana meeting were participants that did not have historical knowledge or working understanding of Pan Africanism. Quite a number of participants were more familiar with the NGO agendas and NGO discourse than they were Pan Africanism. This is reflected in some of the resolutions and the nature of discussions. There were elements in each committee whose singular focus was on holding elections, changing the leadership of the GC and the location of the secretariat rather than the issue the committee  was constituted to deliberate.  The obviously prearranged caucusing and tactic threatened to undermine the process as well as purpose of the Congress and spirit of the compromise agreement.

Many of the contradictions that emerged during the Ghana meeting were reflections of issues of concern expressed before the meeting.  However as we criticize the mistakes and contradictions it is also correct to acknowledge that there were actions taken that resulted in positive outcomes. This reflected strength of commitment, political maturity, compromise and common purpose thus preventing a rupture and allowing for broader participation and inclusion.

8thPAC Phase One (Ghana) concluded with several resolutions being passed.  The resolutions together with other documents of the North American Organizing Committee are on its website

However, most significantly the conclusion and outcome of the meeting in Ghana was the agreement to organize the 8thPan African Congress as a phased process. Phase I was the meeting convened in Ghana March 4th -7th 2015. The agreement states that 8thPAC Phase II was to be convened no later than May 31st 2016.  The interim period to be used to organize regional meetings and consultations to ensure broad base participation in Phase II. We have obviously not been able to keep to this timetable. Our proposal now is to have 8thPAC phase II in June or August 2017.

There is an MoU signed between the PAM Secretariat and the AUC. The Governing Council of the Pan African Movement (PAM) in its meeting of July 10-11, 2015 agreed that the PAM regional consultations (pre-congress preparatory meetings) and 8thPan African Congress Phase II be officially recognized by the African Union Commission (AUC) and PAM as the first step in operationalization of the  Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU) between the AUC and PAM.  There was an East Africa Regional Preparatory  meeting organized by PAM and PAM-Kenya August 2015 that included participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan, Uganda.

In addition, within the context of the MoU, the Governing Council of PAM has proposed that 8thPAC Phase II is the AUC sanctioned and endorsed inaugural activity of the International Decade for People of African Descent.  This will allow for all member states of the AU to make contributions to supporting the 8th PAC without over-burdening any one government and simultaneously be seen to be responsible to the UN resolution and call for all UN member states to support and engage in programmes related to the UN International Decade for Peoples of African Descent.  

This proposal corresponds with Article 2 of the AU/PAM MoU that calls for cooperation on:

(a) Activities and programmes of promoting Pan Africanism among peoples within Africa and in the diaspora;

(b) Undertaking policy dialogues

(f) Strengthening relations between Africans and Africans in the Diaspora in line with the 2012 AU Declaration of the Global African Diaspora Summit; and

(g) Promoting African Culture and safeguard the progressive cultural heritage

It also corresponds with the areas of concern and the stated objectives and purpose of the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/237 proclaiming 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. Resolution 68/237 cites the need to strengthen national, regional and international cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural civil and political rights by people of African descent and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society.

The Governing Council of PAM believes this proposal allows all AU member states to respond to the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/237 Decade for People of African Descent by way of participating in the activities leading up to and inclusive of the 8thPAC.  Within the framework of the AUC/PAM MOU,  AU member states’ support of, and participation in, 8thPAC and PAM programmes  meets the requirements to take concrete and practical steps to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerances faced by  African peoples taking into account the particular situation of women, girls and young males.

The theme for the International Decade is: “People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development. The theme and main objectives generally compliment, and in some instances, specifically overlap with those of the Pan African Movement, the resolutions from the Ghana 8th PAC Phase 1 meeting as well as resolutions from the regional preparatory meetings that have taken place in the North America and the Caribbean.

The initiative for 8th PAC Phase II  is a result of several considerations that have emerged over there past few years of attempts to organize an 8th PAC.  The Governing Council of the PAM, the International Planning Committee for 8th PAC and the AUC together with many Pan Africanists activists throughout the world concurred that neither the meeting in South Africa nor the one in Ghana was adequate to meet the challenges that Africa and Africans face at this conjuncture.  Within the context of the historical essence of the Pan African Movement   8th PAC Phase II is an Congress of the Pan African Movement inclusive of  Africans from any part of the African continent  and the African Diaspora.  There will be criteria for  delegate accreditation and voting, organizational representation and general participation.

The responsibility is with the Governing Council and the IPC to immediately rectifying the operational and structural impediments that have undermined the efficiency of the Secretariat. The secretariat is the operational extension of the GC tasked with coordinating regional consultations, laying the groundwork for elections of new office-bearers and managing the overall planning and preparation for the final phase of 8th PAC.  

One of the biggest challenges is funding, and coordination. In light of this, an initiative was taken to have African Governments and a Caribbean Nation Government co-host combined with Pan African Entrepreneur’s financial, institutional and logistical support.  The Secretariat has approached the Cuban Government to Co-host. The two African Governments the Secretariat has initiated contact as possible and desirable Co-hosts are Namibia and Tanzania. There are logistical, economic, financial, political and historical considerations in determining whether Namibia or Tanzania, will be the actual venue.

Within the scope of diplomatic activities of the Secretariat I presented an overview of the proposal to the Namibian High Commissioner in Tanzania to open channels of communications. The purpose was to initiate discussions between the Secretariat of the Pan African Movement and the Government of Namibia with the view to garner the support and participation of the Government of Namibia as Co-host for 8th PAC Phase II.

In Tanzania the PAM Secretariat is working closely with the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF).  The Chairman of the MNF, Hon. Salim Ahmed Salim, gave his full support to our plans and he strongly recommended that we approach Namibian Government and communicate his endorsement of the Congress and our strategy for inclusion and co-hosting. He expressed confidence that the ideas and necessity of our work would be well received in Namibia.

We envisage the combined Cuba, Namibia, Tanzania co-hosting of 8th PAC Phase II will send a strong and dynamic message to the Pan Africanists and Progressive Internationalist activists and organizations around the world and contribute significantly to reviving the movement and furthering the agenda of Pan African Unity and prosperity.  Tactically we want to use 8thPAC II as a platform as well as an instrument for organization.   This formulation for organizing will simultaneously recognize the contribution and sacrifice of Cuba to the liberation of Southern Africa and to African development. It will celebrate the 50 years anniversary of the Arusha Declaration and recognize it as an African based ideology of people centered self-determination that facilitated the ability of Tanzania to act as the diplomatic, political and material base of support for the liberation movements and armed liberation struggle in Southern Africa. Lastly, our formulation provides a platform to place proper historical recognition of the liberation struggles, decolonization and independence movements of Africa as personified in the history of Namibia as the greatest movement for human freedom, dignity and cultural assertion of the 20th century.  

* Prof. Ikaweba Bunting is Deputy Secretary General (Ag), Global Pan African Movement, Kampala, Uganda.



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