Ghana celebrated its 60th independence anniversary on Monday with much pomp and funfair. Ghana’s president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo called it a celebration of the “final achievement of the struggle of successive generations of Ghanaian patriots to establish a free, sovereign Ghana.” Ghana, on the 6th of March 1957, received its independence from the British colonial rule in West Africa, making it the first sub-Saharan country to receive independence from imperialism. This singular event also ripened the pan-African movement in Africa.
The pan-African dream
Ghana’s independence was significant for many reasons, the most important being its strategic implication for the pan-African movement in Africa. One of the key proponents for pan-Africanism, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was Ghana’s first post-independence leader, having been a prime minister under British colony Gold coast (Ghana’s former name.). After he became president, he gave Ghana its name, and made some ambitious economic programs that set the foundation for today’s Ghana. Despite the fact that he was deposed by a coup and died later in Romania, Kwame Nkrumah is still popular with the masses, and has statues in Ghana andAddis-Ababa, the headquarters of the African Union.
As a pan-African, Nkrumah was at the forefront of the emancipation of African countries from their colonial masters. He organized the 5th Pan-African congress held in Manchester, England in October of 1945 after World War 2, with many of Africa’s topmost leaders then in attendance. This list included Obafemi Awolowo, Jaja Wachukwu, Jomo Kenyatta, Hastings Banda, among others. There was also strong participation from African students and youths in diaspora.
Even though pan-Africanism was a concept which had begun far before these men were born, this particular congress made inroads in the fight to end colonial rule in Africa, which started with Ghana, the fight to end racial discrimination and imperialism, provide equal opportunities and more unity between African countries; everything that pan-Africanism stands for. The pan-African congress became a forerunner for the Organization for African Unity, formed in 1963 in Ethiopia.
The pan-African reality
However, advocating for more unity between African countries has proved to be more a lot more daunting. Africa has about 3000 ethnic groups and 2000 languages. However it seems people can’t come together to fight a common enemy. The succession of civil wars and coup d’états (even Kwame Nkrumah was not left out) has left one with the feeling that achieving African unity is impossible.
The recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa are examples of pan-Africanism being a thing of the past. Gone are the days when different African countries stood up for each other, when the name “Nelson Mandela” was on the lips of every African youth, as a banner for that ideal. Now, African foreigners in South Africa are subjected to frequent xenophobic attacks for “stealing jobs” of the local population, while ignoring the fact that 90% of C.E.O.s in South Africa are white. Blaming the African seems like a better alternative to fighting racial discrimination. So far, the South African government has spoken little about these incidents.
The social media wars between youths of different African countries are symptoms of some remnants of black inferiority left by colonialists. Insults are basically based on how the skin of a fellow African is darker than the next. The African Union is a gathering of witless old dictators still living in the past, and have no urgency to address this issue.
The pan-African dream that birthed Ghana is dying and there is no one to save it.