Magazine article New African

Blood Is Thicker Than Water: It Is Rare for an African President to Visit the Caribbean, Yet Blood and Struggle Are the Ties That Bind the Caribbean to Africa. Lisa-Anne Julien Reminisces on the Strategic Alliances between Africa and the Caribbean, and the Contribution Made by Caribbeans to African Liberation

Magazine article New African

Blood Is Thicker Than Water: It Is Rare for an African President to Visit the Caribbean, Yet Blood and Struggle Are the Ties That Bind the Caribbean to Africa. Lisa-Anne Julien Reminisces on the Strategic Alliances between Africa and the Caribbean, and the Contribution Made by Caribbeans to African Liberation

Article excerpt

The intention as well as the culmination of the recent visit by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to the Caribbean island of Haiti (on the occasion of Haiti's 200th independence anniversary on 1 January 2004), remains steeped in controversy.

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The current global climate with its infinite degrees of power games has succeeded in allowing various interpretations of Mbeki's visit, ranging from an important ideological encounter of Africa and its Diaspora, to ulterior motives of political manipulations.

The former may be reserved for idealists, Africanists and those who believe in the enduring spirit of the African Renaissance. History in the making recalls it as a meeting of minds that also finds resonance in those aware of the valuable contributions the Caribbean has made to the African liberation struggle.

At the turn of the 20th century, with the slave trade formally abolished, the "Back to Africa" movement and sentiment was expressed and actualised through the lives and work of many Caribbean intellectuals. This period saw the crystallisation of the concept of Pan-Africanism with close collaboration between Caribbean and African scholars.

It was in 1900 that Sylvester Williams of Trinidad, a lawyer living in England, organised the very first Pan-Africanist Congress in London. This conference was the first of its kind, pooling together African activists from Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, St Lucia and Trinidad, along with North America and African countries such as the Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone and Liberia, among others.

The African continent as well as the Diaspora, saw its survival threatened by a common enemy--European colonialism and the inherent exploitation that accompanied it. The denial and contravention of basic human rights and the lack of political rights, coupled with racial discrimination experienced in everyday life relayed the feeling that no African could truly be free unless the entire African world was free.

The issue of South Africa was also on the agenda at this meeting as the country was in the throes of the 1900 Anglo/Boer war. Intellectuals at the conference were informed enough to know that whichever white side emerged victorious in the war, the black people of South Africa were ultimately going to lose.

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Financial constraints at the time did not allow for action any more radical than petitioning the British government about the African situation. The concept of Pan-Africanism also did not take firm hold on the African continent and hence, the tiny spark ignited by this first meeting was snuffed out.

The concept remained dormant until 1919 when the American activist, W.E.B. DuBois, organised the second Pan-African Congress in Paris. This Congress helped to crystallise the concept of Pan-Africanism.

The results of these Congresses was increased communication among Africans from 1900 onward and African newspapers such as the Gold Coast Leader offered analyses and news about the Caribbean situation.

Similarly, in 1912, the African Times and Orient Review (published in London), were distributed throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, and one could be informed about African affairs anywhere in the world.

Even though only availed with scant technology, the need for intellectual analysis of the global African question and the publication and circulation of this information, subsequently translated into a feeling of African brotherhood that transcended the subjected limitations of the cliche.

The 1945 Pan-Africanist Congress in Manchester, England, has often been hailed as one of the greatest gathering of African minds. This congress was a joint collaboration between Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and George Padmore of Trinidad, the latter applauded by W.E.B. DuBois as "the organising spirit of that congress".

George Padmore was another esteemed Trinidadian thinker and initially a socialist; his close friendship with the great Nkrumah would affect the history of Ghana forever. …

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