Challenge to reproduce pan-African consciousness

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By Dr Rino Zhuwarara

MAY 25 2016 marks the 53rd anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which was established in 1963 and then renamed the African Union (AU) in 2002.
It is important that we take stock of what has been achieved by the AU and what still needs to be done to realise the ideals of the founding fathers of the organisation.
It is not in dispute that one of the key objectives of the founding fathers of the OAU, which is the total liberation of the whole African continent, has been achieved.
When South Africa got rid of the apartheid government in 1994 and elected the first black majority government after more than 400 years of white rule, it signalled the end of formal colonisation of Africa by white tribes from Europe.
What is often understated in the liberation discourse of South Africa is, apart from the central role played by South Africans themselves, Africa as a whole played a big part in supporting the South African struggle for liberation, just as it did in supporting freedom fighters in Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Of particular concern, however, is the fact that most of us have not been able to appreciate in full the epic scope of the political liberation that has taken place in Africa since the late 1950s.
Epic in the sense that Europe, which looted our natural resources for centuries and used them to underpin its own industrialisation process and its own prosperity, lost out to Africa at the political level and had no choice, but to retreat home, somewhat humiliated.
The fact that Africans who had been cowed by Europeans for long, had been used as beasts of burden for long, had been indoctrinated by the church and education from Europe and made to feel sub-human and unequal to whites for long, the fact that they managed to organise themselves and to throw out dictatorial white colonial governments meant to serve European interests at the expense of African ones, all these are a testimony to the indomitable willpower by Africans to rid themselves of predators from the West.
But if the truth be told, for such a monumental undertaking to succeed, it needed something more than sheer raw energy and willpower, something more than passion and dedication; it also required that those involved were informed and inspired by a progressive national consciousness underpinned by an all embracing pan-African consciousness.
In brief it required a shared pan-African vision.
This kind of awareness, rooted in the bitter-sweet knowledge of the colonial state, but reaching out and linking up with the need for black solidarity across the continent largely explains why Europe, with all its awesome military and economic power, could not stand in the way of African independence and freedom.
This is the key lesson which our education systems are failing to impart to the next generation.
Unlike Europeans who up to this day continue to dramatise how they got rid of Nazi Germany during the Second World War as if their struggle against Adolf Hitler and his ilk took place only recently, in Africa, the tendency is to regard the fight against European domination and exploitation as if it happened ancient years ago.
There is this complacent and rather naïve attitude that our independence as countries will always be there, as if God himself has guaranteed that it will always be there.
We only need to look at what happened to Libyans in 2011 to realise how dangerous this illusion is.
We are doing very little to reproduce the national-cum pan-African consciousness that brought about our independence and very little to make it grow organically as part of our education systems.
Part of the challenge here is that deep down we seem not to believe in ourselves and in our achievements, perhaps because we suffer from some incurable inferiority complex.
Otherwise how can we explain the fact that we have to wait for our erstwhile colonisers to praise our achievements first before we acknowledge and regard those achievements as ours? The brutal truth is that the epic dimension of our struggles for independence and freedom have remained located at the peripheral edges of our school curricula while the achievements of our former colonisers continue to dominate the content of our education syllabi.
It is distressing to note that in this day and age our heroes and heroines are selected for us by the West.
Some of them are even donated to us by the same West as if they know what we need better than ourselves.
Therefore one of the big challenges which Africa faces today is how to communicate meaningfully to the next generation about the road that we have travelled in our quest for life, liberty and human dignity, how our struggles along the way can embolden them to do much more than what Africa has already done to determine its destiny.
Those struggles are critical in determining the future of Africa since they are part and parcel of the foundation of modern Africa.
Any successes achieved by our children outside our history are not likely to last for long because they will not be based on a solid foundation.
When people say the real challenge for Africa now is how to improve its economy so that it begins to benefit its people, they are correct.
But the fact remains as to the kind of approach we adopt to improve that economy and the underlying philosophy that informs our economic activities.
Surely the approach and philosophy have to come first and foremost from our understanding of ourselves, from who we are as Africans and not necessarily and always from mimicking what other races have done.
Borrowing of ideas from other peoples and nations is normal, but it has to be done on the basis of our understanding of our own history and on the basis of our encounters with the larger world since time immemorial.
This is what the Chinese have done, borrowing this economic concept and that concept, even from the West, but always making sure these concepts relate organically to Chinese needs and dreams, to Chinese culture and world outlook.
Similarly, we need to borrow ideas from other nations, but not on the basis of excluding completely our own ideas and beliefs as a people as we tend to do sometimes.
The danger is to end up being caricatures of other people.
In light of the observations stated above, it is not surprising that Africa finds itself in a paradoxical situation in that at the political cum territorial level, Africa has been emancipated from Western colonial domination, but at the psychological-cum psychic level, decolonisation has yet to start in earnest.
From primary schools right up to University level, we need to find means and ways of mainstreaming our own experiences and knowledge, be it on cultural issues, science and technology or in medicine.
The point is, we need to relate to the larger world, to other disciplines, be they scholarly or otherwise, but always from our own point of view and experience as Africans.
This is the challenge our continent is facing right now.

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