Friday, December 23, 2011

The Youth and the Pan-African Flame

The youth and the Pan-African flame

Friday, 23 December 2011 00:00
Zimbabwe Herald
Darlington Mahuku and Bowden Mbanje

Charles Dickens wrote a story about a young boy called Oliver Twist who lived a miserable life. The book exposed the inhuman treatment of some children in London, bringing attention and igniting response to what is referred to as the "Great London Waif Crisis."

The crime that Oliver Twist committed was that of asking for some more porridge. Oliver Twist was wallowing in poverty amidst many who were eating sumptuously and even had the audacity of having some to spare.

Dickens was showing the hypocrisies of his time. Like Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, Africa's crime is that of asking to be treated as an equal partner in development, to meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and to be masters and beneficiaries of their own resources that is why in one of our installations we posed the question, "who is going to keep the Pan African Flame burning?"

It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the youth have played and will continue to play a very pivotal role on how Africa is going to develop.

During the colonial period, African youths defied all odds and refused to be passive observers.

They had realised that no one but themselves would make them masters of their own destinies. At that time many African youths like, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana Sekou Toure - Guinea, Julius Nyerere - Tanzania, Steve Biko - South Africa, Patrice Lumumba - DRC and Robert Mugabe, Edgar Tekere, Joice Mujuru, from Zimbabwe, etc. sacrificed everything to rid Africa from the shackles of colonialism.

They did not decide to run away from Africa.

They exerted their energy and passion, enthusiasm or gusto into keeping the Pan-African flame burning. Africa was thus liberated through the efforts of the young.

Dr Salim Ahmed Salim referred to this as "the finest moment and the crystallisation of the African hope . . . a promise that there would always be something new out of Africa . . . a new dawn, not a return to the past."

This is why we opine that Africa's hope is in empowering the young generation and the African citizen so that they can also have a stake in the African pie; they can no longer afford to be like "Oliver Twist carrying a begging bowl."

It is high time that they realise that all that is Africa's is their own. They cannot continue to wash their hands with spittle whilst there are a lot of rivers that God has given Africa.

During the 1980s and 90s, Africa experienced intractable economic hardships under the IMF/WB induced structural adjustment programmes, the so-called austerity measures that have now ravaged Europe like a mad dog with rabies. It is indeed a taste of their own bitter medicine.

Claude Ake plausibly opined that opposition to SAPS in Africa is misunderstood by the international community. The IMF/WB blames African leaders for being responsible for the deterioration of their countries' economies and they minimise the role that they have also played in worsening the African economies.

It cannot be denied that the IMF/WB policies had adverse effects on the workers and the general populace in all the countries where they have been implemented. Various studies have depicted the weakness of the donor community's response to the socio-economic needs of the reform process.

The IMF/WB "cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all economic syndrome has had disastrous effects justifying intense opposition to reforms as people do not see its benefits.

It is therefore not surprising that Kaunda during his tenure openly lamented that the IMF/WB and their policies were like a bad doctor who prescribes the same medicine to different ailments. The IMF/WB loans undermine the legitimacy of African regimes.

This is why we contend that the flavour of the IMF/WB adjustment programmes like a python sap the masses to death. The IMF/WB prescriptions have become a double edged sword that ravages the general populace and at the same time ignites political conflict. The negative effects of SAPs have always been horrendous. IMF/WB policies encourage massive privatisations which are ironically associated with steep rises in prices and unemployment.

IMF/WB policies also include devaluation of local currencies and cuts in government expenditure. This had disastrous effects on the people in Africa as well as currently in Europe. Facts on the ground clearly show that neo-liberal opposition movements are an outgrowth of such conflicts. They have become instruments in the hands of the West to institute regime change agendas in Africa.

Okello observes that IMF/WB policies were used to rout African leaders (who opposed the interests of Western capital) from power through electoral politics and economic warfare. It cannot be denied that SAPs were arguably meant to stampede committed African leaders from power replacing them with those who hail the neo-liberal policies.

Many African countries have not yet recovered from the disastrous effects of these SAPs and one of the solutions to Africa's recovery is by first empowering the young African youths intellectually.

Failure to educationally empower our African masses is the greatest tragedy that modern Africa is facing.

Twentieth century imperialism exited through the front door and has re-entered through the back door in the guise of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Africans must understand the reasons why the continent must determine its own path, a path that is embedded in indigenising their own economies.

The youth in Africa must be aware of where they are coming from and where they are going.

They must be made ready to receive the African baton that is ‘unadulterated' and they must be committed to a future of progress which they will in turn pass to future generations.

African youths must be aware that it is possible for them to develop from this present situation of exploitation and underdevelopment to a new stage that heralds a new historical process, which can lead the continent and its people to a higher form of cultural, socio-political and economic existence.

We have no hesitation to contend that ownership of the means of production is a determinant of Africa's struggle: a historical inevitability. This plausibly explains why Cabral submitted that Africa can never disentangle or extricate itself from the burden of its needs, of hand and brain, which are the basis of the development of productive forces.

This is why we posit that Universities and colleges must produce quality graduates with sound ‘development education', who are able to tell their right from their left and know that education is an investment, an investment not only for their own future but also that of Africa.

They must be able to reciprocate the trust that our present Pan African leaders place in them. Representative bodies of student unions in African universities should carry the pan-African banner and defend the African heritage rather than preserving and guarding Western interests.

If the African youths become committed to the continent and its people's development in the same manner that the youths of yesteryear sacrificed their lives to liberate themselves from colonialism then no power in the world will be able to destroy the Pan African flame.

This new flame should be reignited in Southern Africa and the continent at large and it must create a new man, a new African citizen who is fully conscious of his national and continental obligations and rights. It is a trail that other African regions and the continent must follow. African citizens must wake up to the reality that it is not enough to live with what we get in wages each month.

True liberation entails a phenomenon in which a socio-economic whole rejects the past oppressive historical economic process and allow the masses to take centre-stage in determining their future.

This is why Pan Africanists like Nkrumah, Cabral, Biko and others were of the opinion that "national liberation exists when, and only when, the national productive forces have been completely freed from all or any kind of foreign domination."

Dear reader, this is why we opine that if the indigenisation and empowerment drive that is taking Southern Africa by storm is as suicidal as the Westerners and their acolytes say, then let us commit it as a people, a nation and as a continent. Indigenisation and empowerment of the African citizen is a "great leap forward" in Africa's historical process in both the political and economic field. Africans will soon become masters and beneficiaries of their own resources and this will radically alter the face of the continent and the world at large.

Let us always remember the African adage that, "a man who has an achievement that he can only carry has not done anything, an achievement is only worth if it is an achievement that benefits many."

We must have confidence in ourselves, confidence in our abilities. Leaders can come and go but the Pan African flame must never die.

The African youths must understand the sobering truth that imperialists and neo-imperialists since the time of Lumumba and most recently Muammar Gaddafi are still guided by the same motive, that is to keep Africa divided and in chains.

As the festive season approaches all progressive Africans should not forget Africa's predicament and they should earnestly digest on what strategies the continent should come up with to better the lives of the marginalised African masses in the coming year. We wish all progressive Africans a merry Christmas.

The writers are lecturers in International Relations, and Peace and Governance with Bindura University of Science Education.

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