Akyaaba Addai-Sebo reacts to our June cover story on the thorny issue of land redistribution in Southern Africa. "We must listen to and support the rallying call for 'African lands in African hands' in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere," he writes. "Alienating Africans from their lands is to condemn them to death through calculated disempowerment."
In the early 1980s, in my reflections with C.L.R. James, one of the first generation pan-African giants from the Caribbean, on solutions to Africa's problems in relation to the imperatives of total liberation and unification, I could not help getting heated over conditions of blacks in Northern Africa, particularly over Arab racism and continued enslavement of blacks.
C.L.R. James would caution me to focus on the matter at hand--the destruction and prevention of the development of the apartheid order in Southern Africa. James argued that it was the defeat of the apartheid regime and the accelerated consolidation of pan-African "thought and action" that would generate a period of self-examination in Northern Africa. He believed that the defeat of apartheid would signal to the leaders in Northern Africa to do something about the conditions of "blacks" there.
I would argue that my impatience and fear was justified by how European "thought and action" had led to the near extermination and total disempowerment of indigenous populations of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. It was this glaring fact that should serve as a constant warning to Africa as the core issue was, and still is, land and the control over it. I posited that whoever controls land controls power.
James would patiently implore me not to despair but take strength in the monumental achievements of the pan-African movement and especially when its "thought and action" formally moved to Africa through the agency of Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People's Party in Ghana.
That, the significance of the organised return of Nkrumah to Ghana in 1947 and the organisational programme he diligently carried out, leading to Ghana's independence in 1957, after only 10 years, which transformed Africa, must not be lost on us.
And no group of people have moved so fast to throw off the yoke of imperialism and colonialism as Africans have done and within such a short space of time. Within 10 years of Ghana's independence, there were more than 20 other independent states and more were to follow. No other continent has experienced such acts of liberation and it is the awareness and acceptance of the significance of this development in the reawakening of Africa that will make us never to despair.
James then asserted that: "We have within us what it takes to liberate our land and assume control of it in our own collective interest." He would say and say it again that Nkrumah and the CPP pointed the way and demonstrated what an uncompromising pan-African "thought and action" could achieve.
Through James, I came to realise that unless, as Africans, we loved our own memories we would lend ourselves to being destroyed as a race. He would lean closely to me and repeat severally:
"Think, think, think, my son. Do not lose hold of what you as an African has achieved by the unstinting sacrifices and struggles of those on whose shoulders you stand today. Unless you take possession of your own history and love the memories flowing from it, you will lose confidence in yourself.
"We did not let despondency take over our very set purposes in life--the removal and destruction of the yoke and vestiges of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism. We held the conviction that pan-Africanism concerned the total land mass of Africa plus all the islands, the seas, and the air space. …