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African Unity, Pan-Africanism and the Dilemmas of Regional Integration

Kwesi Kwaa Prah

Centre for Advanced Studies in African Society
Cape Town
Paper Presented to the Southern Africa Regional Institute for Policy Studies (SARIPS) Annual Colloquium: Harare
24-28 September 2000. In, Ibbo Mandaza and Dani Nabudere (ed), Pan-Africanism and
Integration in Africa. SAPES Books, 2002.

We live in difficult and troubling times. War, pestilence, drought and famine, economic
stagnation, political confusion and AIDS have taken control over our lives. The high hopes of
greater things which we all carried into the wake of the independence era have plummeted to
the ground. There is a new generation of Africans who have never had any hope to see better
things because they have lived through only difficult and disheartening times. The pathos of
the situation is so grievous that some people have allowed themselves to be bought into the
idea of African recolonisation. For many of us, this is not only unthinkable but
sacrilegious. Mafeje has taken Mazrui to task for allowing himself to go down the road of
recolonisation. While Mazrui has claimed to have been misunderstood, the increasingly
frequent recurrence of the theme from diverse sources provokes many minds and forces us to
insistently register our censure. In an article written by Matthew Parris in The Times (London),
Friday August 22, 1997, entitled Out of Africas horror; the author, in neo-colonial vein and
patronizing tones, shamelessly suggests that Africas difficulties and failures at economic
management and government suggest to him that Africa needs more of Western tutelage.
If what African administrations lacked was information or know-how, then it might be the
case that experience (and Western assistance) could provide it. But if what is missing are the
habits of diligence, probity, tolerance and trust in public administration, then there is no more
reason to suppose that if we wait long enough these habits will grow, than to suppose that a
generation abused by its parents will treat its own children better. On the contrary. Brutal,
corrupt, slovenly government is self-reinforcing, self-propagating. A certain minimum
standard of ingrained good order - a floor, if you like - must be achieved before adequate
administration becomes self-sustaining and the whole structure will stand. I suggest that
Europe left Africa before these habits had become ingrained. We deceived ourselves into
believing that it was enough to create structures of administration, appoint administrators,
and leave written instructions. But the administrative values that colonial powers had begun
to inculcate were insufficiently deep-rooted and have withered. There is no reason to believe
that they must revive of their own accord, or will be learnt from experience of know-how
aid. There is no reason to believe that a continent, which has deteriorated in the past 40 years,
must improve in the next 50.
Already, a slow insidious process of recolonization is underway under the aegis of the Bretton
Woods institutions. In one country after the next, these institutions are creating parallel
administrations under the noses and with the tacit agreements of the governments
concerned. These creeping neocolonial processes need to be exposed and contested, if our
hopes of unfettered African development and emancipation are to be achieved. But to do

this, African scholars and intelligentsia would need to maintain a high degree of intellectual
vigilance and also a critical stance to concessionist positions among African elites. These
intellectually denationalised positions need to be steadfastly interrogated, the way Zeleza and
Mafeje have challenged the demeaning crouching postures of Mbembe towards metropolitan
western scholarship, and Parisian salon post-modernism. The current buzzword
globalisation, which is supposed to be a politically innocuous process applied to both
intellectual and non-intellectual activity is in fact a latter day term for what we in earlier years
described more appropriately as imperialism. The emerging generation of African scholars will
have to go back to the perennial intellectual sources of African freedom, unity and
emancipation. It is this tradition which has brought us the limited progress we have booked
over the last century. On this continent, most of the political and social movers and shakers,
like Seme, Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Sithole, Koinange and Jabavu, to mention a few, intellectually
and politically imbibed from these sources.
The roots of the idea of African Unity are buried in the mid-nineteenth century. Together and
enmeshed with the related ideas of nationalism and pan-Africanism, they emerged as the
articulate response of people of African descent in Africa and its Diaspora to the continuing
experience of western domination and exploitation. The observation has been made that
you never see Africa whole until youre out of it.(1) In more ways than one, this remark is
spot on,. It was from the vantage point of the diaspora that the stirring of proto-African
nationalism first emerged as a modern response to western thraldom.
Three historical sources can be identified as contributory to the emergence of these
ideological positions. The first and principal one was the diasporal inspiration forged out of
the alienation from the continent, the detribalisation and homogenisation of Africans taken
across the Atlantic, and their longing and reference for what is captured in spirit by Aim
Csaires extended poem (1939) called Notes on a Return to the Native Country. This
inspiration included the wish to see a freer condition for people of African descent. In a
speech made by Malcolm X in New York City on the 24th of January, 1965, less than a month
before his assassination he echoed this inspiration linking it with the fact that black freedom
in the US is inextricably linked with freedom on the African continent.(2) Before Malcolm X,
no leader of black opinion stated the case as forcefully as Marcus Aurelius Garvey who, for
example, in a speech delivered at Liberty Hall, New York City, during the Second International
Convention of Negroes, August 1921 argued that, ... the new Negro desires a freedom that
has no boundary, no limit. We desire a freedom that will lift us to the common standard of all
men, whether they be white men of Europe or yellow men of Asia, therefore, in our desire to
lift ourselves to that standard we shall stop at nothing until there is a free and redeemed
The second sociological factor instrumental to the inception of African nationalism was the
emergence, on the continent, of a critical mass of western educated elites, who rejecting the
economic political and social implications of colonialism used the language of the westerner,
both literally and metaphorically, to oppose and reject western dominance, whilst acceding to
the fact that the methodological rationality of western institutions and techniques were
necessary acquisitions for the advancement of African society. A considerable degree of
ambivalence existed in the views represented within this group. Noticeably, the continentally
based thinkers like Mensah Sarbah, Bandele Omoniyi, Casely Hayford and Kobina Sekyi tended
to be more forcefully nativist than Alexander Crummell or Martin Delany. Thus while, for
example, for Crummell, African languages, have definite marks of inferiority connected with

them all, which place them at the widest distance from civilized languages(3); for Casely
Hayford they were languages deserving to be taught at university level. It is however
important to make the point that, the nativist and culturally concessionist dichotomy did not
in all respects run parallel to diasporal and continentally derived minds. On both sides of the
Atlantic, the two types were identifiable. We know that Edward Blyden the returnee AfroCaribbean, who Casely Hayford regarded as his philosophical progenitor, writing to the British
missionary Mary Kingsley in 1900 noted with acerbity that,
Those who are instructed in the English language, ... are taught by those from whom they
have received their training that all native institutions are, in their character, darkness and
depravity, and in their effects only evil and evil continually. ... The Christianised Negro looks
away from his Native heath. He is under the curse of an insatiable ambition for imitation of
foreign ideas and foreign custom.(4)
Africanus Hortons position was to the right, but only slightly to the right of this. While
accepting the view that Africans should be the architects of their own freedom and
development, and that Africans are capable of development, the rider to his argument was
that they would need Christianity and British example.(5) Horton underestimated the value
of tradition. While accepting the use of traditional rulers in the new colonial administrative
structures, in his estimation, as Davidson has aptly assessed, Hortons view was that whatever
Africa may in the past have achieved will not pass muster for purposes of development. His
words were that, the base being rotten, the whole fabric will, within a very short time,
tumble to the ground. Confusion, massacre, and bloodshed would be the inevitable result.
(6) Hortons dilemma, of what and how much of African culture to keep, what to reject, what
to import and adapt, and how much to adapt was a constant and vexing feature in the
thinking of many of the early African nationalist and pan-African thinkers. Reflecting on the
educational priorities of Africa, and exhibiting the dilemma of how much local and how much
foreign should be merged, Orishatuke Faduma had this to say;
What suits the Chinaman may not suit the Englishman, what suits the Englishman may not suit
the African and so on, though there may be the same things which may suit all. ......... The
African should have the advantage of all that is best in the educational methods of the
twentieth century. He should not slavishly imitate but should carefully adopt and adapt what
has been found good for the Englishman so that in addition to being a native he may have the
doggedness and love of justice of the typical Englishman. To these qualities he needs the
ruggedness of character and the breadth and depth of thought of the Scotchman, the
practicalness and many sidedness of the America, the concentration, organisation and
scientific precision of the German, the aesthetics, politeness and good manners of the French.
......... The scaffolding work of education must be laid by the foreigner and to be completed by
the Negro himself. The foreigner is needed, the Englishman and others with a developed
civilization the sum total of which will produce the New African Negro, who must be neither
English, Scottish, German, French or American, but an African Negro with a cosmopolitan
spirit and a broadened mental horizon.(7)
It is interesting to note that Fadumas examples of virtues worth emulating are all drawn from
the West. The psychological overkill of the West, the fixation on the Westerner as a reference
category in the mind of the African, may be possibly responsible for this sort of
preoccupation. I have often wondered and thought about this issue. It is remarkable that of
all the major societies which encountered the west, and were subjugated by the Westerner,

that is, the African, the Arab, the Hindu, the Chinese, it was in Africa that the psycho-social
effects of dominance was most ravaging and fundamental. It seems to me that one of the key
factors responsible for this is the fact that African religious systems which lay at the core of
the socio-cultural confidence of the people were heathenized, by label and consideration, in
the effort of supplanting their primacy in the religious life of Africans with christianity. The
leadership of African society which emerged out of the Western encounter turned its back on
its religion and languages. In the estimation of the colonial authorities and missionaries, only
the bible was worthwhile translating into African languages. Almost everything else was
conducted and taught in the language of the colonialist. We do well to remember the view of
Nicholas Ziadeh that Language is a civilization and a culture; and unity of language is unity of
thought and it is this which forms the nation in its intellectual and sentimental life.(8) When
we argue for developmental reaffirmation of our languages and cultures, we do well to
remember Micere Mugos caveat that, as we pursue progressive, liberating patterns and
paradigms of indigenous cultural life ...... we also do not want to be celebrants of fossilized
The third concomitant factor that can be identified as contributory to the emergence of
African assertiveness and reaction against western dominance was the restiveness and
resistance of traditional rulers and notables of African society who while accepting the telling
evidence of western supremacy in ideas and techniques, particularly with regards to the
means of warfare and destruction, saw the need for African freedom and self-assertion as a
price for which they were prepared to lend their action and voices, as the traditional
representatives and leaders of the African people. On the continent, by and large, during the
early decades of colonialism there tended to be a convergence of voices and attitudes
between the westernised African elites and the traditional rulers. For example, this was as
true for the Bamangwato under Khama as it was for the Basotho under Moshoeshoe.
Towards the end of the colonial period contradictions increasingly, with time, emerged
between these two groups.
The inter-twinning of the ideas of African unity, freedom, Pan-Africanism and African
nationalism is so close and organic that it is not possible to conceptually and historically
disentangle them into discrete concepts or areas. African Unity is an object of Pan-Africanism;
African nationalism - or Africanism - is an ideological tool for the achievement of mass-based
democratic solutions to the pan-African challenge, in as far as diverse areas of social life like
culture, economy, religious life, education and politics are concerned. Thus, these notions
conceptually merge into one another and can be best understood as dimensions of the same
phenomenology. The understanding of one directly influences our understanding of the
other. What is however remarkable is that in the modern history of Africa, over the last 150
years, the historical implementation and realisation of these ideas have varied in import, both
in space and time. Succeeding generations of Africans both on the continent and in the
diaspora have set different practical goals around the same concepts, and the materialisation
in practice of these ideas have yielded different measurements of results.
The Idea of African Unity
As I have argued above, the conception of the idea of African unity links up with the broad
areas of Pan Africanism and African nationalism. Another strand in this bundle of ideas is the
right, and in some quarters wish, for repatriation by some sections of the Diaspora. For one
thing, the dogged preoccupation of the diaspora with the cause of African emancipation , as

borne out in the history of the last century and a half, testifies to the fundamental linkage
between continental Africa and its diaspora. Secondly, it must be remembered that Africans in
the diaspora were forcibly taken out of the continent. While only a minority may ever want to
exercise the right, the right of return is, or should be, theirs. The Chinese authorities in Beijing
operate a similar policy towards overseas Chinese. The Germans and British have similar
arrangements for their historical kith and kin. No full implementation of the ideal of African
Unity can afford to be silent on the right to citizenship and repatriation for the Diaspora.
When Robert Campbell and Martin Delany in the mid-nineteenth century got back to the
United States after a journey to the Niger area, in West Africa, to explore the possibilities of
repatriation and resettlement, in his report, Campbell referred to Africa as my motherland.
A Pilgrimage to My Motherland: An Account of a Journey Among the Egbas and Yorubas of
Central Africa, in 1859-60. Delany was described by a contemporary as the intensest
embodiment of black nationality to be met with outside the valley of the Niger.(10) Bell has
drawn attention to the fact that, as early as 1770, some African-Americans had been
considering and training to go to Africa on missionary related projects. One of the effects of
the American War of Independence was to produce a scattering of blacks in British
Dependencies both in the western hemisphere and into Africa.(11) Indeed, until the late 19th
century, the British used West Indians in some of their colonial wars in Africa. Some never
went back. During the 1780s, other African-Americans, particularly a group based in Boston
had endeavoured to gain repatriation.(12) Particularly prominent in this period was the efforts
of Paul Cuffee, a merchant, fisherman and whaler of Negro and Indian ancestory who
apparently tried to convince some African-Americans to join him in an emigration and
commercial scheme into Africa.(13) The 1816 project for the establishment of Liberia did not
enjoy great support amongst African-Americans. Many saw this as part and parcel of a
diabolical scheme of the American Colonization Society to rid the country of free Negroes.(14)
One of the most eloquent articulations of this view point and the rationale behind it was
provided by Augustine a contributor to The Colored American of May 3, 1838. His view was
that the opposition of the Black community to resettlement in Africa was largely a reaction
against the American Colonization Societys efforts to push out free Blacks.(15)
The debate between those who favoured repatriation/emigration and those who opposed
this continues in different circumstances, language and different terms, to the present day.
The settlement of Liberia and Sierra Leone represented early attempts to implement the
repatriation idea. During the 1920s, Marcus Garveys The Universal Negro Improvement
Association (UNIA) in further pursuit of the repatriation idea created the unfortunate Black
Star Line project. A Harlem jingle which emerged in the Garvey period captured the spirit in
which repatriation was rejected.
Garvey, Garvey is a big man
To take his folks to monkey-land
If he does, Im sure I can
Stay right here with Uncle Sam(16)
It is interesting to recall that in the years when George Padmore was an orthodox Soviet-line
marxist and was working within the framework of the Comintern, he was most scathing in his

estimation of the work of Garvey. In 1931 he wrote that :

Despite the bankruptcy of the Garvey movement the ideology of Garveyism, which is the most
reactionary expression in Negro bourgeois nationalism, still continues to exert some influence
among certain sections of the Negro masses. The black landlords and capitalists who support
Garveyism are merely trying to mobilise the Negro workers and peasants to support them in
establishing a Negro Republic in Africa, where they would be able to set themselves up as the
rulers in order to continue the exploitation of the toilers of their race, free from white
imperialist competition. In its class content Garveyism is alien to the interests of the Negro
toilers. Like Zionism and Gandhism, it is merely out to utilise racial and national consciousness
for the purpose of promoting the class interests of the back bourgeoisie and landlords. In
order to further their own aims, the leaders of Garveyism have attempted to utilise the same
demagogic methods of appeal used by the leaders of Zionism. For example, they promise to
free the black workers from all forms of oppression in reward for supporting the utopian
programme of Back to Africa, behind which slogan Garvey attempts to conceal the truly
imperialist aims of the Negro bourgeoisie.(17)
The ideological tradition of repatriation has lived to the present day in the philosophy of the
Rastafarian movement. Its millenarian and messianic aspects have often obscured the
fundamental thrust of repatriation represented by this movement. The right of the diaspora
to African citizenship would need to be addressed, if African Unity is to make headway.
One of the features of the history of the repatriation idea is the fact that closely linked to this
idea has been the notion that diasporal returnees would be coming into Africa to civilize and
create new nations on the continent. This sentiment in its inherited and evolved form
continues to rile and provoke continental Africans who regard it as a rearguard introverted
version of western superiority, in the sense that on the basis of the belief that exposure to the
west has civilized and improved Africans in the diaspora, they return to lead, guide and
develop Africa towards western models of society. Examples of this sentiment are not
difficult to find. In the conclusion to Robert Campbells above mentioned report of the visit to
West Africa, he writes that, The native authorities, every where from Lagos to Ilorin, are
willing to receive civilized people among them as settlers. It is hardly fair to say merely that
they are willing; they hail the event with joy.(18) Edward Blyden in his The People of Africa
(1871) expressed the view that :
We pen these lines with the most solemn feelings - grieved that so many strong, intelligent ,
and energetic black men should be wasting time and labor in a fruitless contest, which,
expended in the primitive land of their fathers - a land that so much needs them - would
produce in a comparatively short time results of incalculable importance. But what can we
do? Occupying this distant standpoint - an area of Negro freedom and a scene for
untrammelled growth and development, but a wide and ever-expanding field for benevolent
effort; an outlying to surrounding wilderness to be reclaimed; barbarism of ages to be
brought over to Christian life - we can only repeat with undiminished earnestness the wish we
have frequently expressed elsewhere, that the eyes of the blacks may be opened to discern
their true mission and destiny; that, making their escape from the house of bondage, they
may betake themselves to their ancestral home, and assist in constructing a Christian

In a letter written by Henry Sylvester Williams, the originator of the Pan-African movement, in
1906, he offered these views :
I am aware, Mr Editor, that Africa to many of my West Indian countrymen reflects nothing else
but a horrible place, the land of savages, wild animals and hobgobblins, with dungeons and
caves wherein the hoo-doos of ages swell, etc. My experience is to the contrary. In Africa
where any vestige of civilisation has not intruded I have enjoyed the best hospitality and
kindness from the people, and what may be said here for Basutoland under Chief Lerotholdi in
1904, may with greater stress be said of Liberia where there are 1,500,000 primitive natives
waiting to be brought under the hand of a more improved state of existence, and 80,000
civilised souls who are ready to extend the hand of help and succour to the worthy
pioneer. Now the question I desire to put is, allowing that it is highly desirable that these
million and a half primitive natives are to be educated along proper lines, who can do the
needful better than members of their own race who have enjoyed the advantage of Western
civilization and understood (how) to cope with its demands? May I submit such will be able to
manipulate the soil so as to extract sufficient therefrom, thus enabling them to win
independence and respect from the world. I therefore plead for more attention and proper
immigrants for Liberia.(20)
In his The English Language in Liberia (1861), Crummell saw, as part of the task of AmericoLiberians in Africa, that of teaching the heathen to speak English.
It would be misleading to suggest that the idea of christianity, civilization and westernism
as the answers to African backwardness was a view exclusive to the Diaspora. On the
contrary, it was a position shared also by most of the African elite on the continent. It was a
position shared by thinkers like Attoh Ahuma and Faduma. It is an argument which to date is
implicitly assumed by the contemporary African elite. Among the principal African nationalist
thinkers of the 20th century, Sekyi appears to be the outstanding figure who to a considerable
degree contradicted this position. His radical position on this issue deserves citation.
This perversion was wrought by Europe, and cannot be continued and intensified by
persistence in following the lines laid by Europe in intellectual and industrial
development. The evil is European civilization, which consistently with is disruptive character,
extends by denationalising peoples. Nationality is the backbone of the social organism; it must
collapse in the manner natural to organisms - it must die and decay.(21)
The answer appears to be that the solution to the problems of continental African society is
one of advancing on the basis of the languages, the cultures and the histories of the
people. African development cannot result from solutions conceived and worked out from
outside. There is need to grapple more thoroughly with these issues in order to chart a more
successful route forward.
The issue of African language usage is crucial for the successful implementation of the African
Unity project. All African languages are trans-border institutions operating at the grassroots
of society, bearing the histories and cultures of the people, and representing the sources of
creativity for all Africans, especially in their overwhelming majorities. Obviously, the
development and usage of African languages will directly enhance the unity and people to
people relations among Africans.

Perhaps most significant amongst these intertwined running themes has been the movement
for colonial freedom. While Henry Sylvester Williams was the creator of the Pan-African
Movement in 1900, it was W.E.B. Du Bois whose consistent activity kept it alive and
developing to the point where in 1945 it could become the launch-pad for the African
Independence Movement.(22) Between 1955 and 1994, from the Sudan to South Africa,
colonial freedom was secured by most of the African countries created under colonial
tutelage. What the experience of the half-century of colonial freedom has however
demonstrated is that colonial freedom has bequeathed only partial political independence.
Neocolonialism largely replaced the colonial order, but progress has been made.
African unity which was a much vaunted project during the early post-colonial period has been
able only to achieve institutional form in the Organization for African Unity (OAU). Founded in
May 1963 by 30 states on the African continent, in chronology, it followed the first conference
of independent states which met in Accra in 1958. This institution is more a geographical and
continental arrangement, than a historical and cultural recognition of the wish of people of
African historical and cultural descent to unify their lot and historical efforts.
As a geographical order, the OAU has been an arrangement which lumps together two of the
principal nationalities based on the continent, the Arab and African peoples. Although, these
two groups have lived as often socially interpenetrating neighbours, with slavery of Africans
as a bitter feature, for over a millennium, the political yearnings and national aspirations of
the two groups differ. Whereas the Arab nationalities have an institutional framework for the
unity of the Arab nation, i.e. the Arab League, the African nationalities lack a similar structure
which recognizes their collective nationhood. This is a challenge which will need to be
addressed in the context of the quest for African Unity.
have elsewhere argued that the running themes in the confluence of ideas which underwrite
the idea of African development and unity are an assemblage of inspirations all directed
towards the emancipation of Africans and people of African descent.(23) The logic of this
focus has implications not only for Africans but for the rest of humanity. With Africa at the
bottom of the social, cultural, economic and political order of the world; with Africans
featuring most prominently among the wretched of the earth, it only stands to reason that,
obviously, our advancement and technological takeoff, along democratic lines, will represent
progress for humanity as a whole. In other words, the advancement of the most wretched will
actualize the upliftment of all.
Another point which needs to be stressed, and repeated as often as possible, is the fact that
arguably, in the light of the post-colonial record of developmental failures of African states,
the need for a unitary approach to African development based on a common nationhood
would offer the best solution towards African advancement. Africas international trade
bargaining capacity, terms of trade, global political clout, and the articulation of African
interests would be placed more firmly on course, if African Unity is realized.
Increasingly it appears the idea of Pan-Africanism is eliciting lively response and debate among
younger African scholarship. This is an exciting development which will bring into registry and
relief the record of ideas between the early post-colonial period and the challenges of the
present neo-colonial order in decomposition. As matters stand now, we are experiencing an
Africa, structurized in the periphery of globalized capital in a unipolar, post-Cold War world
with an emergent Asia in the lead of technological development and strategic growth. These

factors are certainly going to be of importance in the development of Africa and the world.
Africa has a lot to learn from East Asia.
Nkrumahs contention, voiced in 1958 that, in the last century, ..... the Europeans discovered
Africa: in the next century the Africans will discover Africa is, by degrees, bearing out.(24) If
the Uganda and Kenya I knew in the late sixties had relatively few Africans from West Africa
today there are literally hundreds of West Africans in East Africa and equally large numbers of
East Africans in Southern Africa. Southern Africans, as exiles and non-exiles, have roamed the
continent. In general, as Africans, in spite of our spasmodic manifestations of xenophobia and
chauvinism, invariably directed more virulently against fellow Africans than non-Africans, it is
still possible to say that, Africans know each other better than they have ever done, and this
will, in the long run, help to develop a better understanding and conception of an African
nationality. Recent explosions of xenophobia in South Africa have attracted a great deal of
attention, and too many observers have been too quick to see it as a peculiarly South African
disease. The truth is that it is, both globally and in Africa, more ubiquitous than meets the
superficial eye. In Africa, in my lifetime, I have seen Ghanaians throw out Nigerians and other
West Africans, under provisions of a so-called Aliens Compliance Act during the Busia era, only
for Ghanaians and other West Africans in turn, at a later stage, to be kicked out of Nigeria.
Xenophobia against Somalis in Kenya has been well within notice of my experience. In
Botswana, since the 1970s anti-makwerekwere language has been common. Eritreans, during
the period of their war of independence were as refugees despised in the Sudan. Basuto from
what I know, from the years I was there, sometimes treated other Africans, particularly South
Africans with contempt. For the Batswana, even Tswana-speaking South Africans living in
their midst were Ba tswa kwa (those from there). Rwandans are not loved in the Congo.
There was a time, in the 1980s, when Zimbabweans became in wider Africa circles infamous
for their ill-regard for other Africans. In Africa, too easily, crime is attributed to foreign
Africans. Xenophobic manifestations on this continent tend to be directed most strongly
against immediately neighbouring Africans. It is also important to note that xenophobia
against other Africans is sometimes ethnically focussed, and not always an inter-state
Early last century, exhorting Africans to think nationally, Attoh Ahuma challenged that we do
well to despair of the collective realization of the ancient prophecy, Ethiopia shall soon
stretch out her hands. Africa shall rise, but only when we begin to think continentally and
Looking back at the history of African nationalism and Pan-Africanism since 1945 two
traditions are discernible. There is firstly the idea that it is to be realized through an
aggregation, a unity of the neo-colonial states as units, of a United States of Africa. This
argument is ultimately linked to continentalism; the view that the object of African unity is a
geographical union of the African continent. This position flies in the face of the fact that, in
spite of the misleading political postures of Colonel Gadafi on African Unity, a good part of
North Africa prefers the idea of Arab Unity, A Unity of the Arab Nation (Wonton-el Arab). As
Zaideh in the opening to his seminal paper on Arabism argues; The Arabs are a nation which
has been fashioned from three elements, namely race, habitat and history.(26) Further on in
the same text he points out that, .... the present Arab world, from the mountains of Persia
to the Atlas, is Arab. Arab in the sense that the original Arab race has been able, by
intermingling, intermarriage and propinquity, to assimilate all other peoples in the area and to
Arabize them. These populations are therefore Arab either by origin or by derivation - they are

either Arab or Arabized.(27) Democratic principles and the notion of the right of peoples to
self-determination alone require that the aspiration for Arab Unity as a democratic vision
should be acknowledged and acceded. But in similar fashion, African Unity should be freed
from the corridors of geography, silence and trepidation, and understood more culturally and
The issue of reparations is older than often meets the eye. We know that, it goes back at least,
to the first Pan-African Congress organized by Henry Sylvester Williams in 1900.(28) In a
period, when more than ever, people of African descent are calling for reparations from the
western world for the centuries-long rapacity of slavery, we do well to direct some attention
to the need to make similar presentation to the Arab world, for Arab slavery and depredations
in Africa which is even older than western slavery, and in pockets continues to the present
Also related to the issue of reparations, is the question of who should be the beneficiaries of
such reparations. There is as much silence about this as there is noise about the need for
reparations. Most observers prefer to tiptoe around the subject, but it needs to be
confronted. In my view, reparations should in the first instance go to the prime victims of
slavery, the Diaspora. There is no doubt that, while continental Africans societally for
centuries suffered from destabilisation and destruction brought by wars fuelled by European
and Arab slave trade interests, the effects on the direct victims and their immediate
descendants is in most senses worse than the lot of Africans at home.
Another area of silence in discussions about Pan-Africanism and diasporal connections, is the
feeling and sentiment within the diaspora that, continental Africans sold them out to western
slavers. In recent years, this sentiment has found a no lesser voice than Henry Louis Gates
who heads the Africa Studies Centre at Harvard University. This is a theme which because of
its profound sensitivities and implications deserves full airing at a dedicated workshop or
Without preempting opinion and verdict on the matter, one would want to draw attention to
the fact that stating the case as you sold us grossly over-simplifies historical realities, but
also feeds into the nascent propaganda of those in the west and elsewhere who would like to
put the blame for the slave trade on the victims and, in effect almost as a divide and rule
tactic, pit one set of the victims against the other. The Atlantic slave trade was instituted by
developing western capitalist society for purposes of profit. It was fuelled by a steady supply
of war materiel sold to rival interests in Africa, pitted against each other in a never-ending
cycle of wars, in which the warring parties were as much victims of the system as those who
were sold as prisoners arising out of these wars. All classes of men and women could and did
become prisoners, victims of the system. The real question is, who were the ultimate
beneficiaries of the system?
A different but related point is that, when we talk of the problems of contemporary Africa and
the lack of success in consolidating and moving forward, we do well to remember that, Africa
for centuries and in some parts for over a millennium has been ravaged by slave-raiding wars.
There are indeed parts of the continent, particularly the Sudan, where Arab slave-raiding and
trade continues to the present day. It is hardly imaginable that such circumstances could
permit the stable and steady development of any social formation. Indeed, proper studies
need to be undertaken to examine the social, political, cultural and economic effects of the

slave trade, by both Arabs and westerners, on the development of African society.
The second tradition, possibly younger, suggests that Africans deserve an organisation similar
to the Arab League or the European Union. The OAU like OAS (Organization of American
States) and ASEAN(Association of South East Asian Nations) are geographical/ regional
organisations, not national institutions. An African national institution will need to
acknowledge the Diaspora, as nationally more integral than areas where people neither
describe themselves as Africans nor wish to be so described. Continentalism, by direct
implication, ultimately negates the diaspora link.
Dilemmas of Regional Formations
The idea of regional integration has historically not had much success in Africa. The East
African community united from the late colonial to early post-colonial period, which brought
together under common service agreements of far-reaching implications Uganda, Kenya and
Tanzania, was dismantled by African elites sworn to the flags and anthems of
neocolonialism. Institutions like the West African Currency Board, East African Airways, West
African Airway Corporation, the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland and The
University of East Africa were chopped up and devoured on the altar of neocolonial
nationalism. Currently, ECOWAS, the PTA group, and the SADC, have demonstrated little will
to go beyond rudimentary protocols and move with conviction towards the implementation
of strong and growing unifying structures. Bound and fettered by the very conditions of
neocolonialism, they have been unable to live down the divisive imperially sanctioned
conditions of their birth.
The problem of regional unitary attempts in Africa is that they are all conceived with the
neocolonial units of Africa as their points of departure. The units of African states we have
today owe their rationality and origins to the Berlin Partition of Africa in 1885. Although these
units have been successively revised, particularly after the 1st war and in the late 1950's and
1960's, they have remained more or less determined by the basic design of the Partition over
a century ago. The difficulties imposed on the Pan-Africanist by this legacy was expounded
with unmatched clarity by Nyerere. In a lecture (The Dilemma of a Pan-Africanist) delivered by
Nyerere at the University of Zambia on the occasion of the inauguration of President Kaunda
as first Chancellor of the University of Zambia in 1966, President Nyerere made the following
observations :
The question we now have to answer is whether Africa shall maintain this internal separation
as we defeat colonialism, or whether our earlier proud boast - I am an African - shall become
a reality. It is not a reality now. For the truth is that there are now 36 different nationalities in
free Africa, one for each of the 36 independent states - to say nothing of the areas still under
colonial or alien domination. Each state is separate from the others: each is a sovereign
entity. And this means that each state has a government which is responsible to the people of
its own area - and to them only; it must work for their particular well-being or invite chaos
within its territory. Can the vision of Pan-Africanism survive these realities? Can African unity
be built on this foundation of existing and growing nationalism? I do not believe the answer is
easy. Indeed I believe that a real dilemma faces the Pan-Africanist. On the one hand is the fact
that Pan-Africanism demands an African consciousness and an African loyalty; on the other
hand is the fact that each Pan-Africanist must also concern himself with the freedom and
development of one of the nations of Africa. These things can conflict. Let us be honest and
admit that they have already conflicted.(29)

Regional integration based on African states as they stand today define little that is organic to
African history and culture. The so-called nations of Africa were arbitrarily drawn up in the late
19th century. These shapes had never existed before. Indeed, the Europeans paid no attention
to the historically existing formations and in some cases drew boundaries in straight lines
through long existing social formations. Any examination of the map of Africa reveals three
prominent ways in which the colonial powers demarcated boundaries. These boundaries
either run along rivers, the watershed between two rivers, or were simply straight lines drawn
solely on the basis of the outcomes of inter-imperialist rivalries.
After the First World War, Germany lost her colonial possessions and these were divided
amongst the triumphant powers. Between the first and second World Wars no serious
revisions of African borders were undertaken. Indeed, it was only during the period of the
struggle for independence in the post-second World War era that some adjustments and
revisions were made. These were mainly revisions within existing borders.
The major revisions which took place from the late fifties into the sixties were in French
Africa. In 1958 General De Gaulle after bitter experiences of the French in Indo-China and
Algeria, and in the face of mounting popular pressure in Africa for independence, invited the
French colonies of Africa to vote for either independence or remaining within the French
community. Only Guinea under Sekou Toure opted for immediate independence. The French
left Guinea in a hurry and with bitterness, ripping out even telephone and light
fixtures. However within a few months, indeed by 1960, 11 more French colonies had become
independent. In the exercise of giving independence to French West Africa, an area which had
hitherto been governed as one monolithic unit was suddenly chopped up into bits and
pieces. Thus Africa in the name of creating independent nation-states actually was
bequeathed with neo-colonial states vain-gloriously described as nations.
The post-colonial states in Africa are neither nation-states nor nations. They are simply states,
neo-colonial states whose political, cultural and economic structures have from birth been
linked in imitation and subservience to the interests of the former colonial and other
metropolitan powers.
When the idea of regional integration based on these states is mooted, it amounts to no more
than an assumption that there is historical viability for the neo-colonial state as a departure
point for African development, renaissance, or advancement. Such groupings implicitly deny
the realities of Africa outside the framework of the western encounter and intrusion. This
condition builds into the geo-political realities of Africas latent sources of conflict. By
disavowing the cultural and historical heritage of Africans, we become per historical definition
creatures of western design, trapped into the conditions of neo-colonialism, and trying to
build Africa with the brick work of the imperialist legacy. This is why invariably our attempts at
the construction of larger regional groupings have failed.
Indeed, what has been noticeable is that, as African states have become independent, barriers
between them in economic, political, social and cultural terms have increased. Southern Africa
provides a good example of this. Until, the early 1970s, the rand, albeit then a instrument of
South African hegemony, was common currency throughout the region. Capital and labour
moved fairly easily throughout the region, in spite of the existence of the sociologically
pernicious migrant labour system. Capital and goods moved easily within the customs union.
Starting with Botswana, each of the countries in the region has in subsequent years created

their own currencies, erected barriers which limit capital and labour movement. Difficult visa
requirements have been adopted in deference to flag and anthem. In spite of the fact that
there is continuous talk of regional cooperation and integration within SADC, on the ground,
Southern Africans are more divided today than they have ever been.
But can we deny or wish away the realities of the map of African states today? Their
fundamental weaknesses and unviability have been proven beyond dispute, by the fact that,
of the forty five odd sub-Saharan states on the continent, not one single one has been
successful in maintaining a robust, industrializing and growing economy during the postcolonial period. Almost all have been racked with problems of ethnicism and localism, to
different degrees of intensity, at different points in their post-colonial histories. The problems
of ethnicism and localism are mainly caused by the fact that contending elites have invariably
resorted to mobilizing localist and ethnic sentiments within mass society in order to support
their claims to resources, in states which have been increasingly faced with diminishing state
The realities of primordial feelings and attachments towards historical and cultural belongings
run deep in African societies. Allegiance to these solidarities in many cases, among the rural
folk and the semi-urban populations is fervent. Sometimes such attachments are even
stronger, and borne with more zealotry, than sentiments pertaining to the supposedly
overarching post-colonial state solidarities. Shrinking resources and contestation about these,
plus, the often truncated character of ethnic and cultural groups, (because of the arbitrary
nature of state borders) help to heighten tensions within African states. African leadership, in
pursuit of the ideal of totally unitary states often regard any expressions of localism or ethnocultural belongings of people as anathema which need to be stamped underfoot. In the
political language of African elites these are all manifestations of tribalism. Azikiwe
cautioned against the tendency to easily dismiss the realities of ethnic affiliation in an
instructive lecture entitled Tribalism: A Pragmatic Instrument for National Unity.(30) Archie
Mafejes work on this topic signalled the pitfalls of ethnicism.(31)
While the mobilization of narrow ethnic feelings, by elites, for their limited economic and
political interest often takes chauvinistic tribalistic forms, it would appear that the way to
contain and counteract tribalistic tendencies is to open up African countries to greater
democratic expression, including allowing cultural and ethnic sentiments structural space to
be expressed democratically, and not stamped underfoot. Sweeping such sentiments under
the carpet invariably succeeds in only postponing their re-emergence in more strident and
atavistic forms at later stages.
Since most, or almost all, of African ethno-cultural groups straddle or cross several borders,
regional cooperation should be directed towards creating democratic institutional forms
which allow the expression of interest across borders without negating the realities of
existing states. In other words we would need to allow the development of Pan-African
institutions and understandings which allow the people of Africa to relate more freely and
democratically across existing borders without necessarily denying the realities of the present
map of Africa. As Pan-African institutions strengthen, so also will the dominance of the
existing states gradually recede. In any case, at the practical level, African integration,
cooperation and unity in implementation must mean the integration, cooperation and unity of
people. That is the bottom line.

Earlier on, I made reference to the fact that currently, the neocolonial state is in
decomposition. None of the states in post-colonial Africa is economically, socially, culturally
and politically standing steady, holding its own and making the sort of progress one could
describe seriously as developmental. Things are falling apart, and the centres are not holding.
As I have suggested in an earlier paper, war has become a generalised condition on the
continent.(32) While a concert of extra-African powers and local authorities are attempting
variously to contain these conflicts through peace-keeping operations, the reality of the
situation is that the warring parties and contending interests are by the weeks and months
increasing. The emerging scenario suggests that, we may very well end up in a situation where
insurgents confront partnerships of local governments and external powers supplying war
materiel in an increasingly festering condition of generalised war, devastation and carnage,
which will imperil even the limited existential stability we find on the continent today. While
Africans want peace, it is unlikely that peace can be achieved through merely police and
military activity which attempts to forcibly put a lid on the boiling conditions of war and
societal breakdown that we are seeing.
The roots of war in Africa are economic, political and cultural. They are conditions which have
histories rooted in the colonial past, the checker-board of economically unviable states,
arbitrarily created by the departing colonial powers, with no respect for Africas cultural,
economic and political realities. If peace is to be achieved in Africa, we would need to go back
collectively, as Africans, to the drawing-board and come up with a new order which unites us
all, and therefore creates a viable framework for containing fissiparous tendencies. The
dominant principle which will enable such an arrangement is the democratic principle, but
applied in such a way that allows historical and cultural realities to develop along democratic
lines. It would seem that, while the existence of the present states cannot be wished away, it
may be judicious to develop this new democratic and united African order through the
creation of inter-state institutions, on a people to people basis. This is a view I share with Dani
Nabudere. Only a united Africa, can provide the basis for an economically sustainable and
viable, ethno-culturally co-existential, democratic and peaceful Africa.
Given the history of African nationalism, Pan Africanism and the aspiration to unity as related
ideas over the last 150 years, and the partial but consistently incremental implementation and
achievement of its objectives, it is clear that ultimately the ideals of African unity will be
achieved. It is however important to remember that the process toward the achievement of
these goals is unlikely to be a smooth sailing and altogether peaceful process.
The dismantling of the new colonial order is happening before our eyes and this is triggering
in its wake a plethora of wars and conflicts across the continent. The vortex of these conflicts
is centred in Central Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the lake regions of
Eastern Africa. Two-thirds of Africa has been directly or indirectly drawn into this cauldron of
war. The involvement of Africa therefore in this situation of generalised war has become
interlocking and inter-penetrating. Therefore the solution and search for peace would also
need to involve all concerned parties. This scenario imposes a need for the search for peace
and democracy to involve a collective effort with collective decisions which go to the roots of
conflict and war in Africa. It is likely that international interest will find allegiance with
different parties on the ground in Africa. This may exacerbate the tensions and conflicts on
the continent. There is therefore the need for concerned Africans to think through the
implications of war, peace and democracy in Africa and provide guidance to democratic

interest and civil society to advance the process of peace and unity in Africa.

1. Anthony Sampson. Common Sense About Africa. Victor Gollancz. London. 1960. P. 73.
2. See, Leon E. Clark. Through African Eyes: Cultures in Change. Praeger. New York. 1971.
3. See, Alexander Crummell. The English Language in Liberia. 1861. Quoted here from J. Ayo
Langley. Ideologies of Liberation in Black Africa. Rex Collings. London. 1979. P.357.
4. Drawn from Hollis. R. Lynch (ed), Selected Letters of Edward W. Blyden. Millwood
N.Y. Kraus-Thomson Organisation. 1978. Pp 460- 461. Quoted here from, Basil Davidson. The
Black Mans Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State. James
Currey. London. 1992. P.43.
5. Basil Davidson. Ibid. P.37.
6. Ibid. P.38.
7. Orishatuk Faduma. African Negro Education. Sierra Leone Weekly News. 31 August,
1918. Quoted here from . Ideologies of Liberation in Black Africa. Rex Collings. London. 1979.
8. Nicholas Ziadeh. Arabism. In Al-uruba fi mizan al-qawmiyya (Arabism in the Balance of
Nationalism), Beirut, 1950. Pp. 68-81. Quoted here from, Elie Kedourie. Nationalism in Asia and
Africa. Weidenfeld and Nicholson. London. 1971. P. 303.
9. Micere Githae Mugo. African Culture in Education for Sustainable Development. In, W. M.
Makgoba (ed). African Renaissance. Mafube/Tafelberg. Cape Town. 1999. P.215.
10. See, Douglass Monthly, August, 1862, P.695. Quoted here from Howard H. Bells,
Introduction. M.R. Delany and Robert Campbell. Search for a Place: Black Separatism and
Africa, 1860. University of Michigan Press. 1971. P.3.
11. H. H. Bell. Ibid. Pp. 3-4.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid. P4.
15. Ibid.
16. Quoted here from, E. David Cronin. Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and The
Universal Negro Improvement Association. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison. 1955. 1974
edition. P.73.

17. George Padmore. The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers. R.I.L.U. Magazine for the
International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers. London. 1931. P.126.
18. Ibid. P.242.
19. Edward Blyden. The People of Africa. New York. 1871. Quoted here from Elie Kedourie. Op
cit. P272.
20. J.R.
Hooker. Henry
Collings. London. 1975. P.99.


Williams. Imperial

Pan-Africanist. Rex

21. Kobina Sekyi. The Future of Subject Peoples. The Africa Times and Orient Review. October November 1917. Quoted here from J. Ayo Langley. Ideologies of Liberation in Black Africa 1856
- 1970. Rex Collings. London. 1979. P244.
22. Some observers have drawn attention to the fact that although Henry Sylvester Williams
was historically the father of Pan-Africanism and not his Successor W.E.B. Du Bois, this fact
has often been omitted by many students of Pan-Africanism. See for example, J.R. Hooker. Op
cit. P.31. See also Locksley Edmondson in Mawazo. Kampala. 1969.
23. See, K. K. Prah. African Renaissance or Warlordism? In, W. M. Makgoba (ed). African
Renaissance. Mafube/Tafelberg. Cape Town. 1999. Pp.37-62
24. Anthony Sampson. Op cit. P.63.
25. S. R. B. Attoh Ahuma. The Gold Coast Nation and National Consciousness. Liverpool. 1911.
Quoted here from. J. Ayo Langley. Op cit. P.167. Attoh Ahuma adds in flowery language that;
"The most difficult problem of our times is to thinks so that Africa may regain her lost
Paradise. How to think the thoughts that galvanize and electrify into life souls that are asleep
unconscious of their destiny; How to think the thoughts that produce, multiply, divide and
circulate for the general good - the thoughts that make crooked places straight, that pulverize
gates of brass and cut in sunder all bars of iron - the power that gives friends and foes alike
the treasuries of darkness and hidden riches of secret places - the Art that brings National
Evangels, binding up broken and despairing hearts, proclaiming liberty and freedom to the
captives, and the opening of the Prison to them that are bound or have bound themselves. J.
Ayo Langley. P.168.
26. See, N. Zaideh in E. Kedourie. Op cit. P.294.
27. Ibid. P.297
28. See, J.R. Hooker. Henry Sylvester Williams; Imperial Pan-Africanist. Rex Collins. London.
1975. P.29.
29. Julius Nyerere. The Dilemma of the Pan-Africanist. In, Freedom and Socialism: Uhuru na
Ujamaa. London. 1968. Quoted here from J. Ayo. Langley. Ibid. P. 342. Elsewhere Nyerere
addressing the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) national conference on 16 October
1967, he said While our concern with world events is real and important, the events in Africa
are of even greater and more direct relevance to us. Total African liberation and total African

unity are basic objectives of our Party and our Government. Quoted here from Colin Legum
and Geoffrey Mmari. Ed. Mwalimu The Influence of Nyerere. James Currey. London. Mkuki Na
Nyota. Dar es Salaam. Africa World Press. Trenton. 1995. P.164.
30. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Tribalism: A Pragmatic Instrument for National Unity. Lecture, University
of Nigeria, Nsukka. 15th May 1964. In, President Azikiwe: Selected Speeches 1960-64 pp.22-28.
Quoted here from Ayo Langley. Ibid. P.458.
31. Archie Mafeje. The Ideology of Tribalism. Journal of Modern African Studies. 1970. Vol.9.
32. See, K. K. Prah. In, W. M. Magoba. Op cit.