Department of Government
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712-1087
Keynote address at The All-African Student's Conference, Peter Clark Hall, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, May 27, 1994.
It is traditional to declare that I am indeed very happy to be here. I thank the All-African Student's Conference for inviting me to deliver this Keynote Address at this very important gathering. I am aware of the difficulties you have faced in putting this conference together as well as the effort by certain so-called founding fathers and "owners" of the Pan-Africanist ideas to privatize the entire program to suite other sinister desires. Your ability to surmount these challenges and to put this conference together is great measure of your individual and collective capabilities and a major ray of hope for the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have not come here to praise Africa and Africans. I have not come here to say what our oppressors and exploiters want me to say. In my life, I have known too many Africans who have dedicated themselves to bootlicking, praise singing, and pedestrian alliances. At the end, it has always been difficult to locate such individuals politically, culturally, and intellectually. My positions will be clearly stated and I hope we shall have enough to debate some of these positions.
The theme of this important conference is UNITY. African unity. It is a shame that this has been the same theme for all the Pan- African conferences since 1900 and has continued to be the theme of countless meetings and conferences organized by the OAU and other bodies. Yet, Africa and Africans are very far from the goal in spite of thousands of pages in declarations and the adoption of countless charters. Not only is Africa very far from unity on any front, it is today the most marginal, the most oppressed, the most exploited, the most poverty-stricken, the most debt-ridden, the most unstable, and the most denigrated continent in the world. Africa has more than half of the world's refugees, and it is the least industrialized of all the developing regions. Thus we are not just disunited, we also have noting to show for our abundant resources. Oppression, criminal human rights abuses, the lack of opportunities, discrimination on the basis of ethnic, racial, regional and religious considerations, ruthless exploitation of the already impoverished, wars, instability, corruption, maniacal leadership, illiteracy, dilapidated institutions, roads full of pot holes, hunger, disease, and disillusionment characterize the African socio-political landscape. This is why many of us here today, who should be contributing to the growth and development of our respective countries and to Africa are hiding in America and other parts of Europe. The loss of Africa is the gain of North America and Europe. The mark of blackness continues to evoke and encourage all sorts of nefarious, crazy and uncouth remarks, perceptions, and conclusions about Africans and Africa. We are not just the so-called dark continent, in the eyes of the "civilized" and very "enlightened" Europeans, Japanese and Americans (including Canadians), Africans invented aids through some sinister cohabitation with some green monkeys in the wild jungles. We are to some modern Cannibals, people incapable of thought and rational behavior. Leading Japanese and Canadian politicians have actually pronounced us to be inferiors human beings. If you listen to ABC's "World News Tonight" you can get a pretty good idea of where the world begins and ends, and it is only when some gruesome incident occurs in Africa that we see "special reports" on Africa. These infantile, pedestrian, half-backed and often ahistorical and misinformed "special" reports carefully ensure that African problems are blamed on "clans," "warlords," "tribes" or some other "black devil" which is unique to Africa. At the end of the day, one is left convinced that this AFRICA is full of idiots, people who hate peace and democracy, aids infected people, animals, jungles, pathological and unheard-of human afflictions, kleptocrats who parade themselves as leaders, starving children and nations dependent on the goodwill of the UN and the West and hordes of people just seeking opportunities to escape to Europe and America by any means necessary. In fact Africa is nothing but a region where nothing good happens, where no new ideas can develop, and which is inhabited by rapacious politicians, blood-sucking generals and a people criminally addicted to blood and mayhem. I believe that there is a deliberate conspiracy in the American media in particular to continue this terrible picture of Africa to satisfy the deformed entertainment demands of a generally ignorant public but also to continue the historical denigration and marginalization of African Americans as descendants of barbarians and as people who should thank their stars that kind Europeans brought them out of the jungles as slaves for mindless and genocidal exploitation as slaves. How else do we explain that CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC and the like did not send their TV cameras to Somalia until George Bush sent in 50,000 Americans to "save Somalia from itself" and the entire even was presented as a special documentary? Currently, the bodies of slain Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda is providing entertainment for a people who are so addicted to violence and death that every five to ten minutes of news reports are devoted to such reports. The challenge before Africans, therefore, is not to deny the existence of such contradictions, conflicts, and crises in the region, but to provide historical, holistic, and dialectical explanations for that the ideals which the early Pan-Africanist leaders espoused can be mobilized as weapons for creating a new Africa.
I do not want to go into an extensive discussion of the definition and history of Pan-Africanism. This will only delay us. In any case, any African who has no idea as to the origins and impact/implications of Pan-Africanism needs to do some reading. We have too many pressing issues to address and we need to move forward. For our purposes today, suffice to note that since the First Pan-African Congress organized by a Trinidadian Lawyer, Sylvester Williams in 1900, six other Pan-African Congresses have been held. The Seventh Congress was held in Kampala, Uganda in April 1994. The themes in all these congresses were the same: African unity, African liberation from western imperialism, African development, peace and progress. It is important at this stage to fully acknowledge the contributions of the African diasporic communities to the cause of African unity and liberation. In terms of the struggle for independence from the forces of western imperialism, and the subsequent quest for nationhood and unity, the diasporic community has been in the forefront. The 1958 First Conference of Independent African states, held in Accra, Ghana marked the formal beginning of the Pan-African movement within the continent. Most of the ideas and declarations of the Accra meeting were to be incorporated into the OAU Charter in 1963. While the activities of the OAU and the politics of progressive African leaders in the 1960s saw the political independence of the majority of African states, they failed to alter the nature of the African economy and the region's location and role in a ruthlessly exploitative and grossly unequal international division of labor. This was largely because the struggle for political independence were struggles of limited objectives dedicated largely to winning political independence, and because the OAU was set up as a compromise organization without the capacity to effectively challenge imperialism. African unity conceptualized and articulated as practical cooperation at the political, social, economic and cultural levels remains more of a dream than reality. The whole spirit and ideology of Pan-Africanism has moved miles away from what people like George Padmore, Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and C.L.R. James had articulated in the past. The struggle for the liberation of Africa became atomized and lost touch with the essential Pan-Africanist notions as articulated by Casely Hayford, Patrice Lumumba, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sekou Toure, and Modibo Keita.
On June 5, 1963, leaders of East African governments met in Dar-es-Salaam and declared, in support of their formation of an East African Federation that the effort was informed by an unmediated commitment to Pan-Africanism. As they put it: "We share a common past, and are convinced of our common destinies. We have a common history, culture and customs which make our unity both logical and natural. Our futures are inevitably bound together by the identical aspirations and hopes of our peoples, and the need for similar efforts in facing the tasks that lie ahead of each of our free nations. In the past century the hand of imperialism grasped the whole continent, and in this part of Africa our people found themselves included together in what the colonialists styled "the British sphere of influence." Now that we are once again free, or are on the point of regaining our freedom, we believe the time has come to consolidate our unity and provide it with a constitutional basis." (emphasis added). In spite of this courageous declaration the East African Federation achieved very little and disintegrated without fulfilling its mission. The sub-region has witnessed wars, border closures, poverty, exploitation, and the reproduction of the decadence and inequalities of the colonial past. The record of other regions has not been better and we shall return to this issue later.
When George Padmore wrote his book Pan-Africanism or Communism? in 1956 he was reacting to his frustrations with communism. Though many of his charges against communism were baseless, his positions on Pan-Africanism were very clear. To Padmore, Pan-Africanism was an "ideological alternative" with which Africa could liberate itself from the shackles of imperialism. It would create the authentic and independent political, social, and cultural environment for creating, nurturing and reproducing what was uniquely African and thus insulate Africa from the decadence of Europe and America. Pan-Africanism was the ideological framework for uniting All Africans in the world and for waging a struggle against "racial arrogance," "alien domination," and apartheid. Finally, Padmore argued, Pan-Africanism subscribed to a Gandhian doctrine of non-violence "as a means of attaining self-determination and racial equality." Padmore also had a message for African leaders when he noted that "African nationalist leaders must resolve their own internal communal conflicts and tribal differences, so that, having established a democratically elected government, the imperial power will find less danger in passing power to the popularly elected leaders than in withholding it." For Padmore, Pan-Africanism was a clear alternative to communism, tribalism, white racialism, black chauvinism, and reverse racism of any form. In his words, "Pan-Africanism looks above the narrow confines of class, race, tribe and religion. In other words, it wants equal opportunity for all. Talent to be rewarded on the basis of merit. Its vision stretched beyond the limited frontiers of the nation-state. Its perspective embraces the federation of regional self-governing countries and their ultimate amalgamation into a United States of Africa" (emphasis in the original).
We are all living witnesses to what has happened to these ideals. Some of the confusion in the early Pan-Africanist agenda weakened the whole enterprise as a revolutionary weapon. Oppressed peoples had no business preaching non-violence as a first response to a violent, illegitimate, racist, and exploitative colonial power. In social formations characterized by increasing class and social differentiations, where the ownership and control of the means of production and exchange were clearly reflective of the character of existing political relations, it is difficult to come up with an ideology that transcends class and social locations in the production and power relations and to assume the existence of a spiritual or material unity just because it concerns Africans. In other words, the colonial experience; the termination of natural processes of state and class formation; the deformation, distortion, and disarticulation of the pre-capitalist social formations; the partial transformation of the production and accumulation patterns; the imposition of capitalist social relations; the imposition of alien tastes and values; and the incorporation of Africa into a metropolitan dominated and controlled global capitalist order required an ideological response to challenge capitalism and imperialism; not to accommodate or tolerate it in any guise. This is where the African revolution was betrayed: the failure to fundamentally challenge imperialism, smash it, and reconstruct the socio-political and economic landscape to reflect popular realities and aspirations. But Padmore and others were working in difficult times under very oppressive conditions in a world largely opposed to new ideas, particularly if such ideas were anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. In the struggle for independence, the only real source of credible support was from the socialist and communist countries of the world. Even the United States supported colonial domination and opposed the struggle for independence because it did not want to offend Europe. (see Michael Clough, Free at Last? 1992). The ideology of non-violence was very acceptable to the colonial imperialists as it did not fundamentally challenge their control of power. In Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Algeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the only response which imperialism and minority rule learnt to respect was a practical violent challenge to colonial capitalist brutalization, exploitation, and dehumanization.
African unity was given a weak and mediocre expression in the creation of a toothless clawless lion in a decorated cage in the name of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. No effort was made to build or strengthen relations with diasporic communities and hence though there are millions of Africans in America and Europe, Africa is the least respected region in these areas. And in place of unity peace, nationalism, and panafricanism, the new African leaders who had taken over the privileges and powers of the colonial imperialists came to rely on nepotism, corruption, repression, intimidation, depoliticization, diversions, ideological containment, pedestrian manipulation of primordial loyalties, shameless collusion with profit and hegemony-seeking transnational corporations, incredible subservience to western and imperialist dictates, and a total lack of vision for the future of Africa and Africans.
In 1960s, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana argued for African unity. At a rally in Accra in 1960, Nkrumah argued that "all independent states in Africa should work together to create a Union of African States." On March 6, 1960, he gave further support to his vision when he declared in a radio broadcast that so deep was Ghana's "faith in African unity that we have declared our preparedness to surrender the sovereignty of Ghana, in whole or in part, in the interest of a Union of African States and Territories as soon as ever such a union becomes practicable." In his book I Speak of Freedom published in 1961, he reminded all Africans that imperialism had so thoroughly distorted and disarticulated African social formations, that only continental unity could save the region from further deterioration. In Africa Must Unite published in 1963, he articulated a clear agenda for the establishment of an African common market to complement the Union of African States. As far as Nkrumah was concerned, "The unity of Africa and the strength it would gather from continental integration of its economic and industrial development, supported by a united policy of non-alignment, could have a most powerful effect for world peace." This position was supported by Nnamdi Azikiwe (see "The Future of Pan-Africanism," 1962); Modibo Keita (see "The Foreign Policy of Mali," 1961); and Sekou Toure (see "Africa's Future and the World," 1962).
It was in the espousal of these views by the likes of Nkrumah, Keita, and Toure, that the structural and social obstacles to Pan-Africanist consciousness and to African unity became evident. A country like Nigeria was in the forefront of challenging and opposing Nkrumah's ideas and vision for Africa. He was called names and his vision was reduced to a simplistic matter of personal ambition. Nkrumah himself, like the majority of African leaders were at that time caught in the confusion of their quest for African unity with the rather bogus notion of a classless Africa. This was to be given greater expression in the ideas of Julius Nyerere who did not admit the existence of social classes with irreconcilable differences until a decade after his Ujamaa experiment ran into serious problems in Tanzania.
At this point onwards, African states jettisoned the spirit if Pan-Africanism, and followed their seemingly individual ways. In reality, the ways they took were those of subservience to imperialism. Given the pressures of the cold war, poverty, food and technology dependence, underdevelopment, foreign manipulation and intimidation, African states struggled amongst themselves to provide better concessions and conditions to imperialism even if it was generally against the well being of their peoples. Thus, not only was imperialism an obstacle to African unity, the African elite also became an obstacle to African unity. These so-called elites, creations of imperialism, openly and shamelessly betrayed the ideals of Pan-Africanism and African unity. They used inherited state power to terrorize progressive and patriotic Africans. They drove popular forces underground. They suffocated civil society. The closed all democratic options even when they ran so called "democratic" governments. They neglected the rural areas and rural producers. They strengthened the divide between the people and themselves. They came up with bogus ideological positions and so-called philosophies designed to legitimize their control of state power. They forged unequal and exploitative relations with foreign transnational corporations. They preserved the ruthless and exploitative character of the state. Colonial institutions, taste, values and positions were "indigenized" and "Africanized." They demonstrated open hatred and hostility to trade and students' unions and established all sorts of criminal security services to terrorize scholars, journalists, students, professionals and activists who refused to sing their praises. They set up private estates or parastatals which they called "political parties." They wasted scarce resources on defence and the security of the life-president and his family. They allowed the bureaucracy and schools and hospitals and roads to run down while they had access to similar facilities abroad and their children were safely tucked away in expensive foreign institutions. They privatized the state, its resources, and means of coercion and visited untold violence on non-bourgeois forces. They watched their peoples grow poorer, more disillusioned, more angry and more alienated as their bank accounts swelled in foreign banks. Their irresponsible and normless politics precipitated civil wars, violence, ethnic and religious violence, and failed to move Africa one step away from where it found itself at political independence from colonial rule. The African elite,. showing a total disregard for the ideals of Pan-Africanism, forged new/or strengthened old unequal and exploitative alliances with transnational corporations, and saw nothing wrong in a shameless dependence on the west for technology, political and military support, financial aid, food aid, and you name it. Many made pilgrimages to the west to beg for foreign aid at times on their knees or on the verge of tears (see Atlantic Monthly February 1994 for a Sierra Leonian case). They declared shameless support for the atrocities of western governments in Africa and in other parts of the third world. While they paid lip service to their opposition to apartheid in southern Africa they flirted and dined with the very same western countries that kept apartheid alive. Taken together, save for a few exceptions, the African elite and African leaders did little or nothing to restructure the distorted, disarticulated, dependent, and underdeveloped structures of the African social formation. They did little to empower the peoples of Africa. They did little to challenge foreign domination and imperialist penetration, domination, and exploitation of Africa. They did almost noting to challenge the cultural bastardization in the continent. They did nothing to strengthen or reconstitute the neo-colonial state. They confused the expansion of the armed forces, the importation of outdated military and security gadgets, and the establishment of violent security structures with the strengthening of the state. They foolishly confused the harassment of opposition elements, the asphyxiation of civil society, and criminal looting of the treasury with power. They did very little to move Africa away from the neo-colonial cultural, social, and political traditions and world-views imposed to serve the interests of the West. In short, this opportunistic, corrupt, decadent, irresponsible, largely unproductive, shamelessly subservient, and ideologically barren class ruined Africa and mortgaged the future of the vast majority to imperialist interests. A simple look at their record in countries like Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Zaire, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Togo, and Benin to mention a few will suffice.
The case of Nigeria is probably more dramatic. One in every five Africans is Nigerian. According to Sophie Pedder (The Economist August 21st, 1993), Nigerians have always believed that their country is the giant of Africa. That "If Africa is ever going to produce a South Korea,...it will happen in Nigeria. Yet, each time the country has the chance to turn itself into a prosperous model for still-poor Africa, it blows it." Ironically, just 13 years ago, Nigerians "looked down their noses at poor Thais and Indonesians." Today, Nigeria resembles a 17th century village compared to either Thailand or Indonesia. The last inglorious eight years of General Babangida saw "A budget deficit amounting to 10% of GDP; an external debt the servicing of which consumes a quarter of export earnings; inflation estimated in June (1993) to have reached an annual rate of 70-100%; and real income per head a tenth of what it was (in 1985)." The country's landscape is dotted with uncompleted projects, "crumbling infrastructure, unhelpful bureaucracy, capricious government policies.." criminal and unbridled corruption, large scale mismanagement, waste, political opportunism, and the manipulation of political power by military adventurists. Today, the Nigerian government, in spite of a huge population and its oil wealth, is almost bankrupt. Yet, this same country where poverty, disease, inefficient services, crime, violence, unemployment, inflation, waste and the terrorization of popular groups have become commonplace, has sprouted more millionaire and billionaires than any other African or third world nation in the last decade. Millionaires and billionaires without any visible means of livelihood beyond car dealerships which serve as fronts for other nefarious and criminal activities. The story is the same for other African states. The political and economic indiscipline and irresponsibility of Africa's dominant classes has subverted all possibilities for stability, peace, and development making Africa a typical example of blown opportunities, distorted dreams, an illustration of chaos theory, and an example of gangster politics. Compared to the achievements and serenity of the old empires of Mali, Songhai, Kanem Bornu, Ghana, Benin, even the Hausa City states, today's Africa is a dirty, disorganized, dangerous jungle. Leaders like Mansa Musa, Sundiata, Idris Alooma, Ewuare the Great, Shaka, Mzilikazi, Mai Ali Gaji, Gelele, and Opoku Ware to name a few, will be shocked at what the post-colonial elites have done to Africa.
The shameless dependence on the West, the unproductive disposition of the African elite, the wanton abuse of human rights, the appropriation of state power and its resources, and hostility to popular and progressive forces have not helped Africa one bit. Africa has remained a continent for denigration, racist jokes, pity, and exploitation. David Wiley has noted that "the negative sterotyping of Africa in the West is the worst among world regions and remains a durable part of Western intellectual landscape....It is not surprising, therefore, to hear racist joking in some policy arenas about the continent and its political leaders" (See Issue Vol. XIX, No. 2, 1991). It has remained the wild dark jungle largely preserved to satisfy the lecherous and erotic dreams and fantasies of American and European tourists. It has remained the huge laboratory preserved to satisfy the academic curiosity of European and American scholars; what with the instability, wars, and strange tales of administrative and political blunders. The personalities of leaders like Nguema, Idi Amin, Kamuzu Banda, Ibrahim Babangida, Arap Moi, Jean Bedel-Bokassa, and Mobutu Sese Seko provide intriguing patterns and models for research into the African personality and idiosyncracies. By and large they go to form the caricature of the African in the minds of Western scholars and tourists who see the region as one inhabited by persons of lesser mental capabilities and people completely incapable of governing themselves. This reinforces long discredited arguments in support of forms of scientific racism and justifies forms of racism, discrimination, and denigration. It also justifies the decision by most transnational bodies to employ so-called experts on Africa rather than employ Africans. No matter how much bleeding-heart liberals wish to deny these realities, they exist in even more sophisticated forms today. And they have not been helped by the inability of the African elite to distinguish themselves, map out a clear and creative agenda for reconstruction and development, mobilize their peoples, develop infrastructures, and generate confidence in their region, resources, economies and abilities.
In spite of now very loud complaints about aid and compassion fatigue, Africa has never really featured significantly in the geo-strategic and political/economic calculations of western powers. For one thing, they were able to extract strong political subservience with very limited investment and pressures. It was the only region that gained nothing, absolutely nothing, from the cold war in spite of the subservience of the majority of African states to the supposedly "generous" Western alliance. The dirty consequences of how Africa was used and discarded is now clear in countries like Somalia, the Sudan and Liberia. Military generals and corrupt elites, wearing medals and other decorations bestowed on them by colonial exploiters for visiting violence on their fellow Africans, were only too available for cooperation in the neo-colonial project. Thus the total investment of the United States in Africa is less than its investment in Brazil alone. In spite of trade with South Africa and Nigeria, no African nation ranks among the top twenty five locations for US investments. Exports to Africa averages about 2% of total US exports; and imports, including oil, is substantially less than ten per cent mostly with Gabon, South Africa, Angola, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Total US foreign aid, contrary to popular notions, went mostly to five Africans- Arap Moi of Kenya, Samuel Doe of Liberia, Said Barre of Somalia, Gaffer Nimeiri of the Sudan, and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. It is not an accident that these countries along with a handful of others presided over by maniacal leaders are some of the most corruption-laden, poverty-stricken, politically unstable, highly debt-distressed, and mortgaged economies in Africa today.
What has happened in Africa, given the alignment and realignment of political forces at the domestic and international levels, as well as the continuing imperialist exploitation of Africa in the face of a largely unproductive and irresponsible dominant class, has been the further marginalization, exploitation, impoverishment, domination, and denigration of Africa and Africans. Before I move to the solutions, allow me to briefly highlight some of the frightening indicators of this African predicament:
The list of Africa's woes can go on endlessly and many scholars have made a career of frequently cataloguing these woes. They would lose their jobs or run out of ideas if Africa were to resolve these contradictions and crises. How on earth can we build a credible, popular, and viable agenda in a context of such disheartening socio-economic and political conditions? The African situation have not been helped with the imposition of misguided monetarist policies by the IMF and the World Bank prescribing policies of desubsidization, deregulation, privatization, commercialization, devaluation and the like. These policies which neglect the region's historical experiences; the character of state and class, existing coalitions, contradictions and conflicts; the ability of non-bourgeois forces to resist; the degree of state delegitimization; the credibility of the governing/ruling classes; the room for manoeuvre in the global system; the resource and other material and structural differences among African states and so on, have created more problems for Africa in the last decade or so. In country after country, stabilization and adjustment policies have culminated in or precipitated civil wars, ethnic and religious violence, coups and counter coups demonstrations, massacre of protesting workers, peasants and women, inflation, bankruptcies, and an unprecedented deterioration in living standards and the general quality of life. There have been very destructive riots in Nigeria and Zambia to take just two examples. Part of the crisis in Somalia, which the western media has been loudly silent about, has to do with the role of the IMF and World Bank in the country between 1985 and 1989 which effectively isolated and bankrupted the economy making an already desperate government even more brutal and insecure. As well, the failure of these monetarist prescriptions, usually conceived in purely economic terms have delegitimized the state, its institutions and agents, and at the same time ruined indigenous producers thus facilitating the recolonization of Africa. Debt-equity swap as a response to the debt crisis for instance, has made it possible for foreign interests to buy over the more lucrative sectors in African economies. The attack on the African state by the Bank and Fund as well as by Western governments confuses the state with the state type. The impression is created that the west was always developed and democratic. The development of the West came through hard work and savings and with limited roles for the state. Any student of political theory would know that this is not true. In fact, the state in the contemporary Western capitalist society is as interventionist as the African state. George Bush lost his job as president of the United States because the democrats were able to focus their campaign on the failure of the American state under the republicans to promote production, create jobs, ensure social security, welfare issues, health and the inability of the government to open up foreign markets. The state has always been part of the process of change and accumulation. The problem in Africa is precisely that there is no state to speak of. What exists are ramshackle gangs, presided over by political thugs and military adventurists, generals who have never been to war, and rickety old men who lack vision, who simply pretend to be governing, talk less of ruling, a society. In no African social formation has this body, by whatever name it goes, been able to operate as a state. African leaders and their economies remain cheap and easy pawns in the hands of transnational corporations and western nations with only a passing interest in the future of the region. The ease and speed with which the West found new interests and diverted aid, investment, and "compassion" to Russia and Eastern Europe, and the sort of responses by the IMF, World Bank, donors and other lenders to East European countries should encourage the emerging generation of leaders in Africa to "get real."
It is interesting to note that African leaders, having destroyed the foundations of their societies, having alienated the populace, and having mortgaged the future of their respective economies have been singing the same song: "increase foreign aid, forgive our debts, and please, don't marginalize us." If this were waxed by a rap artist like MC Hammer or Ice T, it would have been in the top ten by now giving the regularity which African leaders and their international bureaucrats have chorused this refrain. In spite of this chorus, very little has changed in their relations to civil society or in their commitment to change. They make very limited efforts, if any, to create a new national order away from the inherited neo-colonial relations of power, production, and exchange. Having missed the way to African unity in the 1960s, and having denigrated the likes of Toure, Nkrumah and Keita, African leaders in 1991 at the OAU Summit in Lagos spent hundreds of millions of dollars to agree to an African Economic Treaty. Of course, not much has been heard about this in the Western media compared to NAFTA or the Maastricht Treaty, even the crisis in the former Yugoslavia where we are shown photos of journalists crawling on their bellies behind soldiers who are busy enthroning the mediocre and backward ideas of ethnic cleansing- what a nice way to describe primitive tribal warfare in EUROPE! The 1991 African Economic Treaty is not important because, after all, it is an African affair.
The OAU took three decades to return to the original dreams of Nkrumah on a Union government of Africa and an African Common market: That fellow was so far ahead of his contemporaries! African leaders have become experts at coming up with well-written, well-worded, even sympathy evoking documents all designed to give the impression that they are serious-minded and have embraced a new commitment to challenging the poverty and squalor in which their peoples are immersed. Some of the major declarations and charters such as Cultural Charter for Africa (1976), African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights (1981), The Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos (LPA-FAL) (1981), Africa's Priority Programme for Economic Recovery (APPER) (1986), African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes for Economic Recovery and Transformation (AAF-SAP) (1989), and The African Charter for Popular Participation in Development (1990), though path-breaking, have never been taken seriously by the same leaders who append their usually long and complex signatures to the documents. After all, is it not the same leaders who set up an African Development Bank and went ahead to admit the enemies of African development as members, and today, they virtually call the shots in the organization? The point is that if current trends continue, and the current crop of virtually useless and subservient leaders remain in power, the African condition would continue to deteriorate and the march towards barbarism and total disorder would become unstoppable.
Africa has never been short of solutions to its numerous crises and contradictions. It is well known that Africa is one of the richest regions of the world. Recently, before the Gulf war which saw the massacre of over 100,000 Iraqis, more oil has been exported to the United States than from Kuwait and Iraq. The Southern Africa region contains all known space age minerals. Africa, which is the most central of all continents contains a fifth of the world's landmass contrary to the misguided and imperialistic work of Western cartographers who make Africa look smaller than Europe and North America on the world map (See African Association of Political Science, Newsletter June 1993). With 54 nations and a population of 600 million, why have African leaders been unable to capitalize on their advantages to change the African reality as presently constituted? Today, Africa seems to be suffering from an overdose of solutions from America, Canada, Europe, and the Scandinavian countries. Every president, foreign minister, secretary of state or whatever, has a particular solution to the African predicament or to some aspect of the predicament. These solutions are usually advanced by politicians and bureaucrats with only a cursory understanding of African realities and whose analyses and conclusions are often based on briefings by a small bureaucrat whose closest association with Africa was a couple of courses on Africa taught by some Africanist associated with Africa after some months following some research with a grant from some conservative foundation. In fact, the insult to Africa and Africans can be seen not only in some of the pedestrian and wishy washy books that have come out recently on democracy and change in Africa but on the fact that these "experts" and politicians actually think they have so much to teach Africa and Africans about everything under the sun. Unfortunately, in a situation where political leaders declare war on researchers and academics, where the police and secrete services chase the most creative minds out of the land, where originality and creativity are loathed by ignorant and old politicians, Africa simply became a dumping ground for all sorts of ideas. So we see African leaders rushing from one end of the political and economic spectrum to the other with such rapidity that it is difficult to keep track of development models and ideological postures. From import substitution, growth-pole development, bottom-up development, basic needs, joint ventures and indigenization, nationalization and partnerships, and most recently structural adjustment, African leaders have gone through their entire gamut of socio-economic and political prescriptions and we can all see what they have to show for their efforts today. The World Bank in its 1989 report on Africa declared that "Overall Africans are almost as poor today as they were 30 years ago." The implication here is that colonial brutalization, domination, manipulation, exploitation, and marginalization did better for Africans than three decades of swallowing hook, line, and sinker all the garbage that have come from all nooks and corners of the world since 1960 in the name of economic models for growth and development. There is no need to go through these long discredited models. Let us spend some time on the current prescriptions for Africa: multi-party democracy.
As usual, African states are being forced to adopt a new model from the west as the solution to underdevelopment, dependence, poverty, and marginalization in the international division of labor. Multi-party politics was originally not part of the IMF and World Bank package for crisis-ridden African states. In fact, it was expected that only repressive and very brutal governments could force the monetarist prescriptions on already impoverished and marginalized sections of society. African leaders and governments were still in the process of fashioning out even more sadistic ways to force adjustment programs on their peoples when political conditionality was added by donors as further conditions for assistance. This enabled Europe, America, and Japan to call not only the economic shots in Africa but also to dictate the political tune. Corrupt and repressive governments implanted and nurtured during the cold war like the Moi Government in Kenya and the Banda government in Malawi were forced to hold multiparty elections. True, these elections have brought about some changes. They have opened up more political spaces. They have created opportunities for deeper political work and for more organization at the grassroot level. Beyond these nothing has changed.
The west is dictating and forcing a democratic agenda on Africa and is once again putting Africa on the path to a false start: confusing democracy with elections. What Africa needs, as part of the new agenda is not multi-party elections but the total; democratization of the political, social, and economic landscape of Africa. From schools, through households to governments, there most be a new spirit of and enthusiasm for democracy, empowerment, accountability, social justice, equality, respect for human rights, popular participation, and the guarantee of freedoms and liberties. This must be done in the context of a revitalized Pan-African ideology aimed concretely establishing a Union Government of Africa. We cannot remain oblivious to developments in North America, the Pacific Rim, and Europe. Africa has more to gain through the rapid and drastic dismantling of presently existing oppressive, wretched, foreign dominated, debt-ridden, unstable, and dilapidated estates called "governments" and countries with artificial boundaries with only a ragged national flag and incoherent national anthems as symbols of sovereignty. African borders are already crumbling and the vast majority of governments have no legitimacy to speak of. Let us take a few examples: what is the real legitimacy of the Rawlings government in Ghana which went ahead with a parliamentary election boycotted by all the credible opposition? How legitimate is the Chiluba government in Zambia which has failed woefully to improve living conditions to such an extent that a high degree of "authoritarian nostalgia" has become commonplace? How legitimate is the Abacha government in Nigeria which has exhumed thieves, convicted criminals, discredited politicians, and political prostitutes and opportunists with little credibility in civil society to form a cabinet? In Sierra Leone the so-called government of 27-year old Valentine Strasserr rules part of the town in daylight while armed rebels and bandits take charge for the rest of the day. Is Mobutu's kleptocracy any more legitimate when he rules the country from his yacht? How much legitimacy can other African states claim when maps have become deceptive, armed bandits challenge constituted authority, power is maintained through lies, propaganda, violence, and thievery; people find more comfort and security in ethnic and religious organizations; philanthropic associations have replaced the government in providing for the basic needs of the vast majority; pirates, smugglers, drug traffickers, currency speculators, and professional coupists hold sway in broad daylight, and international financiers sit at cabinet meetings and order finance ministers to shut up and listen to their lectures on privatization and the like? Africans, if they are serious must now be prepared to commit a high level of "Sovereignty suicide." African patriots must be prepared to realize Nkrumah's dream in a world which has little respect for Africa and Africans. In this new struggle and agenda, non-bourgeois forces have nothing to lose though the elites and current custodians of state power have everything to lose. African patriots must be prepared to confront domestic and international enemies of African unity by any means necessary to create a stronger, democratic, powerful, productive, and just AFRICA. This unfortunately, cannot be achieved without first dismantling the existing structures and institutions of the state and replacing it with a popular national state. In all the on-going democratization programs in Africa, there is not one in which the dismantling of the oppressive neo-colonial state is on the agenda. In country after country, the struggle by the so-called pro-democracy forces, made up mostly of disgruntled politicians, political opportunists, professional agitators, marginalized political actors and net-workers and thieves of yesterday, the struggle has been to capture the existing anti-democratic state and use it to promote liberal democracy. As the experience of Zambia has shown this is a dream that would lead to democratic decay and authoritarian nostalgia. The current African state is inefficient, ineffective, illegitimate, unstable, violent, exploitative and completely useless as far as the aspirations of the majority of Africans are concerned. It does not reflect the interests of the people and this is why it has to be completely dismantled, in fact, destroyed and replaced by the popular national state which can guarantee peaceful co-existence, economic progress, basic freedoms, and which can challenge the unmediated domination and exploitation of Africa by foreign interests. The popular state has to be initiated at the level of social discourse and promote the collective establishment of a political environment which would enable Africans to attain the highest points of the productive and creative abilities. It is only under such an arrangement that democracy and democratization, as well as economic progress can be attained in Africa. These conditions, will, of course, be the basis for African unity by encouraging understanding, accommodation, intra-African trade, and unity.
The second item in the agenda for unity in the 1990s must be the generation of an autonomous identity and indigenous control of the content and context of African development. Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, Walter Rodney, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Kwame Nkrumah, and Leopold Sedar Senghor have addressed this question of "Black Skin and White Masks" in several ways. I am not preaching reverse racism or some form of cultural autarky here. On the contrary, Africa has for too long remained the beautiful bride of the world to be wooed by every dick and harry, every character with a graduate degree, every adventurist, every tourist with some American Express Travellers Cheque, every politician with a faint idea of the global map, and every foreign political leader with some marginal control over domestic politics in his/her own constituency. The current crop of African leaders are a total disgrace to Africa and Africans. Take the disaster in Somalia. The OAU did nothing. Nigeria, the so-called giant of Africa did nothing. The neighboring countries did nothing. Between Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Kenya, they could have raised over 200,000 soldiers without endangering their respective national security. But what did Africa do, we sat and cried and toothached and bellyached until the self-appointed policeman of the world rushed 50,000 soldiers to Somalia. While people were starving in Somalia, African leaders were buying new jets, new custom made cars and storing billions of dollars away in Swiss banks to the benefit of an otherwise small and resource-deficient nation like Switzerland. In the Sudan today, nothing is happening. General Babangida complicated the Liberian situation for a long time, ECOMOG troops probably killed more Liberians than Taylor's forces just like the Americans would have killed more Somalis if not for General Aidid's heroism (at least in this context). Babangida spent N500 million to host the 1991 OAU Summit in Lagos. Such irresponsible waste should be adequately punished in the future. The time has come for Africa to emerge from being an on-looker; to take charge of its own destiny; to begin to look inward, and for the misguided and arrogant African elite to begin to learn from the experiences of the people. We must stop the brain drain. What are leading scholars like Mazrui, Achebe, and Ngugi doing living in America. I could count thousands of top minds who have fled the continent voluntarily or otherwise because of the corruption, repression, and mindlessness of our so-called leaders. There are millions of young Africans scattered all over Europe today roaming the streets, in jail, prostituting, or engaged in menial and degrading jobs all in an effort to survive. Over 13,700 Nigerians are making claims for political asylum in Germany alone. That was in 1991. At the end of 1993, the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the US estimated that there were 23,000 illegal Nigerians in the United States. Yet, there is civil war in Nigeria. This brain and brawn drain must be reversed. The technology Africa needs to survive is not in the West. It is right in Africa and in other developing nations.
The third important item in the quest for continental unity is the demystification of the military. The African military is a direct obstacle to unity and progress. It has arrogated to itself the right to abrogate democratic experiments at will. As experiences in Nigeria and Zaire, to take just two examples demonstrate, the military has not helped Africa move forward. Even the much praised Rawlings regime in Ghana has not significantly improved on the record of the military. The cedi is virtually worthless today and the country's foreign debt has more than quadrupled. The cost of its much vaunted "success" which Kwesi Botchwey and Rawlings have themselves questioned, is in the massive inflow of foreign support because the World Bank wanted at least one success story in Africa. The current military structures need to be dissolved and replaced by a popular army subject to civil society and not parasitic as is currently the case. The solution to coups beyond legal provisions which make it illegal even if it succeeds, and punishable no matter how long such military regimes stay in power; must include a conscious mobilization and education of workers, women, students, young people and peasants to resist the military whenever it seizes power. Refusal to pay taxes, staying away from work and school, refusal to open markets, to operate taxi cabs and buses and so on, can make a nation ungovernable to any military adventurist and force them from power. Once we tolerate them, and welcome them with dancing and singing, then, we must live with them. Countries of the west which pretend to be democratic but embrace criminal military juntas must be forced through direct criticisms to alter their pretentious positions. If the African military is not contained and put in its place, it will continue to waste resources, militarize society, and discourage all efforts at strengthening civil society.
Finally, the economic and cultural revival and restructuring must go with a strong economic agenda. Africa needs not just restructuring and adjustment but a fundamental transformation in the patterns of production and exchange. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has already mapped out the process for this transformation in documents mentioned earlier. But Africans must learn to trade among themselves. A market of 600 million people is not a small market. With better economic and social programs, more stability, and democracy, the buying power of Africans will increase. Right now about 85% of Africa's total exports are marketed in the industrialized countries of the North compared to 75 per cent for Latin America and 68 per cent for South and East Asia. Only a very small fraction of officially recorded exports, of about 3 and 6 per cent, goes to other African countries. This is indeed a very poor showing for all the rhetoric about continental unity, all the declarations and charters, and all the cooperation schemes which dot the continent. In 1988 intra-community trade in ECOWAS was a mere 4.9%. In the CEAO which was disbanded ion February 1994 it was 10.5%; for UDEAC, it was 3.6%; and in CEPGL, it was only 0.7%.
The signing of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) at the 27th Summit of the OAU in Abuja, Nigeria on June 3rd, 1991 has been described as marking a major milestone in the continent's quest unity and development. The Treaty which contains 106 articles outlined a timetable "for the phased removal of barriers to intra-African trade, the strengthening of the existing regional economic groupings, and other steps towards African economic cooperation" which are expected to lead ultimately to the formation of an "Africa-wide monetary union and economic community by the year 2025" (Africa Recovery September 1991). Article 3 of the AEC Treaty affirmed the adherence of the contracting parties to,
In Article 4, the Treaty spells out the four objectives of the AEC to be: a) the promotion of economic, social and cultural development and the integration of African economies in order to increase self-reliance and promote indigenous and self-sustained development; b) the establishment on a continental scale, a framework for the development, mobilization and utilization of the human and material resources of Africa; c) the promotion of co-operation in all fields of human endeavor in order to raise the standard of living of African peoples, and maintain and enhance economic stability, foster close and peaceful relations among member states and contribute to the progress, development and the economic integration of the continent; and d) the co-ordination and harmonization of policies among existing and future economic communities.
It then lists six stages of implementation which are expected to "unfold over a period of 34 years." Stage 1- Strengthening regional economic communities and establishing new ones. This will take 5 years. Stage 2- Stabilizing tariffs, customs duties and other barriers to intra-community trade; strengthening sectoral integration; coordinating and harmonizing activities of the regional organizations. This will take 8 years. Stage 3- Setting up free trade areas within each regional community. This will take 10 years. Stage 4- Establishing an Africa-wide customs union, with common external tariff, by harmonizing regional tariff and non-tariff systems. This will take 2 years. Stage 5- Establishing an African Common Market through the adoption of common policies in agriculture, industry, transport; the harmonization of monetary, financial and fiscal policies; and the application of the principle of the free movement of people and right of residence. This will take 4 years. Stage 6- Finalizing the African Economic Community through the consolidation of the common market structure; the establishment of an African Monetary Union, African Central Bank and single African currency; and creation of a pan-African parliament elected by continental universal suffrage. Implementation of the final stage for the setting up of the structure of African multi-national enterprises.
This will take 5 years. Such pan-African declarations are not new to the region. The problem has always been one of political will. This is why the current crisis, difficult and costly as it has been, is very good for Africa. It has opened up the palaces, mansions, and fortresses to attack. It has reduced the room for manoeuvre available to African leaders. It has shown the limits of populist and diversionary modes of governance. The crisis is encouraging new questions, new alignments and realignments, new modes of struggle, and the development of holistic programs for restructuring the politics and economy of Africa. The conservative and spent character of African leaders is evidenced in the AEC Treaty. For a region which houses the largest number of cooperation and integration schemes in the world and which has had experience with integration at all levels, it is ridiculous that it has mapped out 34 years to achieve an economic community. While we recognize the need to be gradual, the reality of the African condition, dictates an urgent and serious response to its deepening crisis and impoverishment. The world is not going to wait for Africa to take its time in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex global system. Africa is not Europe and the OAU has no business aping the European Community in addressing its peculiar conditions of backwardness, dependence, domination, vulnerability, poverty and underdevelopment. Given that none of the current leaders will be in office by AD 2025, the current decision to finalize arrangements for a regional community in 34 years appears to be an attempt to buy time and give the impression that something was being done as a response to the crisis.
There is not enough time here to make a detailed critique of the Treaty. Suffice to note that the new generation of Africans must now seize the initiative. We can no longer rely on the past generation, a generation which had squandered our future, mortgaged Africa to foreign creditors, and reduced our worth in the eyes of the world. When violence is necessary to resolve our contradictions we must not be afraid to employ it just because America, the most violent country in the world, now thinks that violence is bad. No people are born violent. Socio-economic and political realities, the balance of power and politics, and the character of political coalitions and contestations dictate the strategy for political action. Why must America and the West tell us what is right, what we must or must not do in our lives? Even when we conduct elections, we need so-called observers to tell us that we have voted correctly and to give legitimacy to our elections.
In conclusion, I will like to reiterate the fact that the future will look a hundred times worse than the dismal present unless we take seriously the empowerment of the people, their organizations and communities; the total democratization of socio-economic and political relations and institutions; and the creation of a genuine African identity. For those of us who have taken permanent refuge in Canada and other parts of the world, we are being unrealistic. As Peter Tosh, the late reggae musician once said, "if you take a Jamaican banana to Toronto, it remains a Jamaican banana." We must strengthen our linkages with Africa and with popular groups in Africa. We must refuse to give in to conservative and veiled efforts to denigrate or trivialize Africa. We must have the courage to reappropriate our voices and the right to speak for ourselves. Sound environmental policies are urgently required as Africa is becoming a dumping ground for the toxic garbage from the west. The educational system needs to be decolonized and made more relevant to the needs and aspirations of the people. Universities like Legon, Ibadan, Ife, Makerere have become glorified high schools, shadows of what they once represented. Corruption, mismanagement, the illegal seizure of power via military coups, waste and mismanagement must be punished according to laid down laws. These punishments should be severe enough to serve as a deterrent to other potential criminals. Military expenditures must be cut drastically. Emphasis must be shifted from military to social defense. Sound fiscal policies must be put in place and African governments must learn to collect taxes. It is an irony that debt-ridden and poverty-stricken countries of Africa do not collect taxes while the donor countries do not take tax evasion lightly. Imagine how much Africa has lost in the past three decades to this problem. The policies outlined in the African Charter for Popular Participation in Development must be seen as guidelines for structural transformation, democratization, empowerment, accountability and a determined march towards the 21st Century. It is only under these conditions that Africa can confront its own economic crisis and create a viable basis for cooperation and unity in the context of a highly exploitative, unequal and protectionist global order. It is clear therefore that Africa needs first, credible, viable and fundamental transformation of the national orders, then, it will be possible to transform the continent through a continent-wide political agenda arising naturally from the national reconstruction projects. Any other approach will amount to the usual political rigmaroles, defensive radicalism, propaganda, political posturing and movement in a barber's chair- a lot of motion but no progress.
Thank you very much for your patience.
Julius O. Ihonvbere
Department of Government The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712-1087
Guelph, May 27, 1994