Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Perennial Challenges to African Independence and the Nagging Essentials of African Liberation

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Perennial Challenges to African Independence and the Nagging Essentials of African Liberation

Article excerpt

A little more than 50 years ago, a man that the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) African listenership would later vote as 'the African of the Millennium', declared to a rousing crowd of delegates from independent territories, dependent territories, and observers that, "This decade is the decade of African Independence. FORWARD THEN TO INDEPENDENCE, TO INDEPENDENCE NOW, TOMORROW, THE UNITED STATES OF AFRICA" (Meyer p. 51). The year of the declaration was 1958 and the location was Accra, Ghana. The person making the declaration was none other than Kwame Nkrumah as he was wrapping up his opening address to the First All-African People's Conference. Nkrumah continued in that conference to urge the delegates to return to their respective territories, unite broadly, and prosecute speedy liberations. Such liberations, urged Nkrumah, should be followed by the consolidating force of African union. During that decade, from 1958 through 1968 more than two thirds of the African states declared their independence.

Independence may seem like a cut and dry concept unto itself yet it is a relative concept describing the relationship of one entity with another. In academic environments independence is a term that is most often used to describe the relationship between a particular nation state and European imperialism. Such a Eurocentric focus misses the essential character of African independence, which is the Pan-African interdependence of the African parts. Kwame Nkrumah stressed this point at the First All-African People's Conference:

Our enemies are many and they stand ready to pounce upon and exploit our every weakness. They tell us that this particular person or that particular country has greater or more favourable potentialities than the other. They do not tell us that we should unite, that we are all as good as we are able to make ourselves once we are free. Remember always that you have four stages to make:

(1) the attainment of freedom and independence;

(2) the consolidation of that freedom and independence;

(3) the creation of unity and community between the free African states

(4) the economic and social reconstruction of Africa."

(GP/A1670/5,500/6/61-62 page 5)

Those comments were made at a time when African independence was being shaped and reshaped through the political contests of debate and war. For Nkrumah and other Pan-African nationalists African independence was a component part of Africa's destiny it depended on political and economic unification of Africa. African independence clearly insinuated the choice of Pan-African interdependence or continued dependence on foreign imperialism.

The debate between the Pan-African nationalist view on African independence and the Eurocentric view offer a valuable method for interpreting the modern political and economic reality in Africa today. There is of course a temptation to recount the brilliant and gallant struggles of political parties and armed liberation movements as they engaged the evil forces of the empire but such an effort is akin to describing a marriage by presenting a photo album of the wedding. The album only displays the extent of euphoric hope and celebration and at best records the vows. If the marriage has soured because of some abandonment of vows the album appears as a sad reminder of a dream deferred. This metaphor is painfully apt in illuminating African independence. It is hoped, therefore, that this discussion will have a remedial effect similar to the marriage counselor that reminds the once optimistic couple of the progeny they had hoped to engender through their union. Like that metaphoric counselor it may be necessary to resurrect the vows that were to secure the union, in this case the productive liberty of African independence.

In 1994 Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa. For the political novice, this signal event marked the end of the European imperial era in Africa. …

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