African Liberation Day: May 25, 2014
The History of African Liberation Day (ALD)
ALD was founded in 1958 when Kwame Nkrumah convened the First Conference of Independent States held in Accra, Ghana and attended by eight independent African states. The 15th of April was declared “African Freedom Day,” to mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.
Between 1958 and 1963 decolonization intensified in Africa and the world. Seventeen countries in Africa won their independence and 1960 was proclaimed the Year of Africa. On the 25th of May 1963, thirty-one African Heads of state convened a summit meeting to found the Organization of African Unity (OAU). They renamed African Freedom Day “African Liberation Day” and changed its date to May 25th.
African American Liberation Day 2014
There is a stark contrast between the euphoria and possibilities that African independence signal in the 1960s and the tragedy which we see today in Africa: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Uganda. Notwithstanding the history of colonialism and post-colonialism in Africa, as well as the complexities of modernity and global capitalism, Africa today is in retreat from what Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Malcolm and Marcus Garvey envisioned.
ALD provides us with the opportunity to assess the progress of African on the continent and Africans in America. Unquestionably, Africans on the continent and in the diaspora have lost much of the spirit and character and practice of the 1960s where the dawning of a new Africa and a new world seems possible and probable. The Africa of the 1960s, which had so much promise, along with the African American Freedom Movement of the 60s that supported the African freedom struggles, and offered a parallel vision of a new America and a renewed Africa, has been pushed to the background in favor of a political economy that favors the African elites and European /American interest.
Therefore, ALD gives us an opportunity to take stock of where we are, in terms of progress, as defined by the great voices and leaders of the 1960s freedom movements on the African continent and in the diaspora. Thus, we offer the evaluative standards of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Malcolm, and Frantz Fanon, to measure the progress against the criteria which these standard-bearers set.
Marcus Garvey on The United States of Africa
There is no state left out of the union-
East, West, North, South, including Central
Are in the nation, strong forever
Over blacks in glorious dominion
Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Country of the brave black man’s liberty
State of greater nationhood thou hast won
A new life for the race is just begun
Assessment: This celebratory poem and statement by Garvey is both aspirational and a vital standard to Africa to build efficacy and capacity. Kwame Nkrumah who advocated for a United States of Africa took this challenged up. The Organization of African Union ((formerly Organization of African Unity) was formed “To promote the unity and solidarity of the African states and act as a collective voice for the African continent.” Yet, the Organization of African Union (OAU) has yields little if any power and is lacks the will and capacity to be a major force on the continent and in the world.
However, such a body can play a vital role in forging Garvey’s vision. While the United States of Africa is a more difficult and long-term project, a 60s type political movement could very well give impetus to new leadership and political will toward achieving aims of OAU:
To promote the unity and solidarity of the states Africa and act as a collective voice for the African continent. This was important to secure Africa’s long-term economic and political future.
To co-ordinate and intensify the co-operation of African states in order to achieve a better life for the people of Africa
To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of African states.
Inasmuch as the “OAU was also dedicated to the eradication of all forms of colonialism and white minority rule, accomplishing these aims would meet Garvey’s standard and come very close to realizing his vision.
Kwame Nkrumah’s Call for the Development of Africa as a Single Political Unit
No single part of Africa can be safe, or free to develop fully and independently, while any part remains un-liberated, or while Africa’s vast economic resource continue to be exploited by imperialist and neo-colonialist interests. Unless Africa is politically united under an All-Africa Union Government, there can be no solution to our political and economic problems.
Assessment: Nkrumah echoed Marcus Garvey call for political a union of African states. In light of global capitalism and its attendant political, economic and military structures (World Trade Organization, G8, NATO, IMF, World Bank), Nkrumah advocacy of a political union of African states has proven insightful and correct. All of the aforementioned international organizations are dedicated to the continued dominance of Africa and the world.
Put differently, these organization are merely an extension of the colonial powers which colonized Africa. Only a political union dedicated to the development of Africa on Africa’s terms can push back against the continued underdevelopment of Africa. Nkrumah understood that the condition of one African nation-state was the condition of all African nation-states.
If Africa is to move forward and progress, it will have to come to terms with the standard set forth by Nkrumah or continue to face the specter of underdevelopment and the consequence of climate change and endemic diseases.
Sekou Toure on Toward Full Re-Africanization
Africa cannot agree to become an organic extension of any system of states or ideologies whatsoever…Every time we adopt a solution authentically African in its nature and conception, we shall solve our problems easily because all who take part in it will be neither disorientated nor surprise by what they have to achieve.
Assessment: Toure insightfully notes that the development of Africa must be rooted in and based on its own culture and history. Toure comprehended that the borrowing of any foreign ideologies or systems must be filtered through the lens of African culture. And, more importantly, that task of nation building required full Re-Africanization- thinking, vision, values, methods, know-how, structures and systems, that colonialism was both a condition and an system of views and values, and that the first step toward real independence was a step back to African culture. Toure lesson is instructive for both Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.
Malcolm X on a United and Self-determined Africa
A united Africa is a strong and independent Africa, an Africa that can stand on its own feet, walk for itself, and avoid the snares and pitfalls devised by the “benevolent” imperialists to keep the mother continent divided, weak, and dependent upon the “philanthropic” West for “economic” aid, political “guidance,” and military “protection.”
Assessment: Malcolm X, like Garvey and Nkrumah, established unity as the quintessential standard for political and economic independence. Prophetically, Malcolm anticipated the seductive trap of economic aid by Europe and the United States, which would impoverish Africa. Ignoring Malcolm’s counsel African nations have mortgaged their future and abdicated their political and economic independence.
Further, Malcolm linked political independence with economic independence, and military capacity, capable of defending the interest of Africa. Moreover, he saw political unity among African states as the counter to neocolonialism. However, dreadfully, Africa today has become as appendage of Europe and the United States, incapable of protecting its own citizens, including children, and floundering from one humanitarian crisis to another. Thus, the path forward for Africa begins with the principles of unity and self-determination as foretold by Malcolm X.
Frantz Fanon on Africa Creating a New Humanity