During the last 3 years, I’ve written several articles to warn about the danger of the panafricanist ideology and its various branches like black identity.
Those ideas are so entrenched and many have committed so much to them that it’s hard for them to step back and take a second look, let alone examine any critic or warning.
I could reference my previous posts here, but I’d like to take a bit of time to briefly restate my understanding of these ideas and critics.
Panafricanism most outstanding idea is the advocacy and a philosophy for unity between African people.
The main justification of the idea is that Africans are weak because they are divided, and achieving unity will bring them strength to face adversity and build a new Africa.
The main tool to reach that goal is preaching unity through books, seminars, discourses, social media posts, and advocacy for the formation of African organizations and groups which would work together for Africa unity and progress.
The panafricanist idea reached its most prominent stage during the years 1950 and 1960 when a few partisans of the idea reached powerful political positions in many African countries.
In term of legacy, we have mainly books, associations, songs, and the defunct continental organization like OAU (Organization of Africa Unity). We well might broaden the legacy to include regional cooperation organizations like the ECOWAS, the EAC, etc.
One might just ask what is wrong with such a beautiful idea: Africa unity.
Nothing on paper. But in reality, no one really knows what does it means Africa unity and more importantly how to make it concrete “in unity”.
Strangely as it might seem, Africa unity from the very beginning sparked internal and lasting fights and animosity between the various tenants. Nkrumah ambitions were too wild for more pragmatic minds like Nyerere. For the formation of the OAU, the Monrovia group and the Casablanca group fought vehemently. In the end the Monrovia group prevailed and the Africa unity idea was buried while keeping unity in the OAU acronym as a token concession to the Casablanca group.
From 1963, until now, that defeat of the Monrovia group led them to go underground, marginalized and reduced to inconsequential actors with very little influence in the real world.
As inconsequential as they are, the more vocal they became. Their framework of analysis of any Africa problem has not evolved over the last half century. The solution to all problems in African is to go back to Monrovia group ideas.
The worst part of all is the fact that the tenants of Africa unity idea had been kept away from any position of power or influence for so long that their grasp of reality is weak and their idea very much impractical, in many case just delusional.
The most difficult thing to deal with is their radicalism. It’s almost impossible to engage them into a mature, fact grounded talk about their unity ideas.
A few critical questions that disturb them and get them into tantrum are:
1. You want Africa unity to defeat its enemies. How unity of weak nations makes them strong? Remember all Arabs countries were united against Israel but lost every time to Israel. How would Africa unity be any different?
The Taliban alone faced the English, the Russians, NATO, and defeated them every other time, without any kind of pan-thing
Dessalines defeated 3 European armies to free Haiti and Saint Domingue with just an army of enslaved Africans, without any pan-thing. Nowadays France occupy a country like Cote-d’ivoire just with 500 soldiers. Is Côte-d’ivoire waiting for a pan-african army?
North Korea did not need any pan-Asian army to protect its people form international imperialism.
Most military alliances in the world are syndication based and mission driven, and there are many cooperation agreements in the world without any pretense to unity.
When was the last we Africans united and defeated any external aggressions you grieve about? What makes you think this time would be any different?
2. You say you wand a borderless Africa like, and total freedom of movement in Africa is panafricanism to you. Well, freedom of movement does not mean borderless lands. Borders have always been there and all world borders are artificial. European countries have not “unity agreement” with African countries but their citizens move more freely in Africa than Africans. Why? Is Panafricanism working more for the white than the Africans?
Is your unity solution the right one to that problem?
Immigration is driven by economics. Unfortunately, African countries don’t trade between each other.
3. People don’t unite just because someone wishes for that. Unity should be based on common core.
What would be the basis of African unity?
Now there are some hard questions here, the panafricanists fail to answer:
• Who is African?
• Who is not African?
• If being ‘black’ is the African identity, who is black and who is not?
• How inclusive or exclusive is that identity?
Without a clear identity definition, confusion would reign large and there would be not enough strength in the links between the units.
Beyond identity, there should a convincing agenda with clear personal benefit to everyone in order to get them into any union or unity.
What is that panafrican agenda with personal benefit for each member?
Here, the panafricanism tenants would jump into their heir high horse, and spit intellectual sophistry or just mention some elite related inconveniences.
4. Why unity? The word is very misleading and scary.
Unity is a very oppressing word and very much repulsive for anyone who value diversity, innovation, creativity and serendipity.
Nature itself prefers diversity even in locality instead of uniformization.
What most panafricanists ignore is that there are hundreds of bilateral and multilateral cooperation organizations and agreements between nations around the world that are highly effective and functional without any other purpose that the achievement of a specific agenda.
Trade and diplomacy, and military alliances are the most common with cultural exchanges.
The hard truth is that the panafrican unity agenda is too lofty and vague and embrace too much to reach any laudable goal, beyond paying fat bureaucrats, and giving a podium to lazy intellectual to mouth.
Most African rulers are not even able to manage their small countries, where would we find such great leaders for continent-wide infrastructures and management?
That’s precisely why most of the unity ideas and endeavors had failed to date regardless of their lofty appeal.
Furthermore, the diversity of our continent is something to preserve and develop not to scrap with scary huge continental uniformization project poorly based on some foreign models.
5. Africa unity without African culture is the biggest flaw in the panafrican practice. The partisans keep their slave and colonial names, the colonial languages, religions, etc but wish for Africa unity based on … What?
They would jump to say the black race?
But ask them who is black and who is not, and they would fight until the end of the world.
More dangerously, we have to wonder if panafricanism a racial ideology?
Unfortunately, the partisan of panafricanism keep their discourse only on general and vague things to answer those questions.
5. Panafricanism without African culture is another big flaw.
Unity of Africa, Africa nationalism without Africa culture is just another Trojan for further enslavement and colonialism by a new corrupt elite.
Strangely, foreign religions and cultures are even more respectful toward African culture and languages than the panafricanists.
For example the Christians translate their propaganda into African languages and learn to speak them engage with our people.
In just 3 months American Peace Corp volunteers would learn and speak any African language and be deployed in the remotest corners and engage our people.
What about the panafricanists? They wear ties and suits and pontificate years long in colonial language while pretending to free Africa.
Free Africa from what?
– Foreign languages
– Foreign religions
– Foreign cultural imperialism
6. The sad part is that panafricanism is mostly reactionary to foreign attacks on the Africans.
– End white people slavery of Africans (but not focused on Africans ending slavery in Africa by Africans). Therefore, it seems like slavery ended for Africans since the white peoples one ended.
– Liberation from colonialism from whites (not liberation from all oppression in Africa including the oppression of Africans by Africans).
– End neocolonialism by foreigners (while ignoring the African elite as the main facilitator of that neocolonialism).
That external focus or obsession with white wrongdoings is very much the biggest weakness of that panafricanism.
It seems like panafricanism has not organic content except obsessing with foreigners’ wrongs.
Like a friend put it “Pan Africanism in its current form just unites us in our grievances and global subjugation to the Europeans.”
Panafricanism is dead, but once you visit the gutter where it has been flushed, you see its rustic and nauseating ideas still been used to alienate a young generation of Africans who need to go beyond the past and pollinate the future with fresh new ideas for Africa Renaissance.
Panafricanism has nothing fresh to offer in front our current realities. Its rustic and untested ideas had proved impotent to unite anyone, including the tenants. It had had enough time to prove itself but failed. We need fresh ideas and move on, instead of being stuck in the past.
I wish this post would trigger the partisans of panafricanism and move them out of their intellectual laziness to product robust responses, instead of using the opportunity to indulge in their pastoral panafricanism using any declaration by anyone or whoever under the sun who come to be “African” to answer whatever questions under the elastic umbrella of so called panafricanism. Like zealot Christians! Pastors! Or Modern sophists!
Lastly, how a thing with an ‘ism’ is not an ideology nor a philosophy but just blurbs!? How do you unite with scattered blubs?