The End of Pan-Africanism: Post-Africanism and the Re-imagination of the African Myth
The era of pan-Africanism is over. Pan-Africanism has flopped. And it has flopped very miserably. It needs to be replaced, as it is no longer appropriate. Whatever is still alive in the beast of pan-Africanism should be exterminated. Africans must give up this dream and replace it with a vision that is more compatible with African realities. The ideology of pan-Africanism, as a template, has failed to help spur the imagination of Africans. It has also failed to realize even the most basic ideals of our people. In earnest, Africa must begin its transition from a pan-African view of society to that inspired by better ideals found in what I would call “post-Africanism”.
Pan-Africanism is that ideology attributed to Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972), which basically states that Africa is one unit and must unite politically and economically to create a world powerhouse. This ideology has found itself recently in the ideals and tenets of the so-called African Union headquartered in Ethiopia. Interestingly, some of the leaders that promote this abstract idea have the worst human rights record. The capital of the African Union itself is host to one of the world’s worst repressive regimes imprisoning journalists and other activists.
Post-Africanism on the other hand is a reimagination of pan-Africanism. Through post-Africanism we question the major premises upon which pan-Africanism is founded. Post-Africanism deconstructs both “Africa” and “Pan-Africanism” to assert that these two concepts have the same colonial source. To realize the dreams of Africans, the individual, the African must form the basic unit of any hopes or ideals of the continent. Specifically, the following are some elements comprising post-Africanism.
First, post-Africanism assumes that the best gift that Africans have, is the gift of the African being – the reality of the African human. This is not to say that the African is different from other humans, but a mere recognition that the African is a human being. And as a human being, the African must be given the chance and opportunity to be just that – human. This assumption is important as it helps the African to be under no pressure to conceptualize herself as more or less than other human beings. This, in many ways delivers the African from the delusion of attempted superiority or inferiority. In this new conceptualization, the notion of Ubuntu expands from the emphasis of only the good virtues to a more realistic assessment embracing the whole compass of the African human – both the good and the bad. In our reassessment, we must not be guilty of the same mistakes committed by colonialists who held to their own version of racial superiority. The African should not overcompensate her emphasis on goodness in order to eradicate historical racial injustices.
Second, to be an African being should also entail a guarantee of basic “humanness.” Unless every power structure anywhere, in Africa and beyond, is able to guarantee basic human value, any collective vision of Africans will only remain but a pipedream, a daydream, or perhaps a fantasy. Recognizing the humanity of Africans means that the people should drive any political change within any African political organization. It is the individuals, the people, who should own the African processes of statehood and its antithesis. It also means that political leaders should desist from treating Africans like animals. You cannot preach independence from Britain in 1964, only to imprison innocents in 2013 for possessing Vermox. You cannot claim to be free from Britain in 1964 when in 2013 the don’t kubeba apparatus continues to intimidate Zambian journalists. In the same week Nelson Mandela died, the Zambian regime found it appropriate to intimidate journalists at the Daily Nation Newspaper for doing their job.
Third, in post-Africanism we claim that the current African tendency to promote a united Africa is disturbing. How did we even come to learn that for us to be a force to be reckoned with, we must transform this continent into a united country? The Pan-Africanist dream of a united Africa is itself a concept that was never born within the unique position of the African reality. When Nkrumah set out attempts to unite Africans as one people, he was merely mimicking the colonial dream. The first pan-Africanists were, in fact, never Africans themselves. And from the time that the colonialists dreamed of a united Africa, African political leaders have been trying to chase this dream that unfortunately should never have been theirs in the first place. The first person to want to unite Africa from Cape to Cairo was British businessman Cecil Rhodes (1853 – 1902). To Rhodes, the saying divide and rule quickly gave way to unite and rule. He knew that to colonize an expansive and massive land such as Africa, unity was far more appropriate to achieve this purpose than division. Hence, he initiated the Rhodesian dream of uniting this virgin continent into one big orchard for the amusement of European voyeuristic conquest. Cecil Rhodes’ royal colleague King Leopold II (1835 – 1909) of Belgium also subscribed to this same dream of a united Africa. Leopold wasted no time in uniting disparate tribes in Central Africa to create his personal massive plantation he bizarrely named the Congo Free State. To this day, in trying to live within the ghost of Leopold this massive Congolese orchard tries to cover-up some of its atrocities by hiding behind curried nomenclature. It is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is even if it is not democratic, not a republic and just which Congo it is nobody knows. African political leaders have carried on both the Leopoldian and the Rhodesian templates of a big and united Africa without asking themselves whether this dream is indeed worth the effort. What is even more worrying is that many ordinary Africans have bought into this hype. And I see views from imminent Africans recycling the Leopoldian ghost that Africa’s rise is deeply buried in its unity.
Fourth, in post-Africanism we seek to deconstruct the modern African nation-state. This deconstruction does not mean that these states should be dismantled, but rather that the African must redefine the birth defects that prevailed at the founding of these states. The African, must desist from looking at the nation-state as the cause of the African being, but rather that it is the African being that creates the nation-state. The African must also deal with the possibility that we need new myths to create cohesion within these nations. We must acknowledge the flawed logic upon which nation-states were formed in Africa. Once this is done, it will become far much easier for Africans to then replace these flawed myths with newer myths. I have listened to many of my people who praise the Zambian nation, and yet have never paused to ask themselves just how we became Zambia and for whom? To answer this question, we might need to be invited on a journey beyond pan-Africanism to post-Africanism.
(c) Elias Munshya & Munshya wa Munshya, 2013