When the OAU (Organization for African Unity) was established in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) on 25 May 1963, the main aim of the founding fathers was the unity and solidarity of all the peoples of Africa.
Yet, it was not unity just for unity’s sake!
It was about standing together as one people, fighting for our freedom from oppression, and the hope of a higher standard of living.
However, the continent celebrates 60 years since the day the organization now known as the AU (African Union) was formed – called Africa Day – to remind us of what makes us a continent. Want to brag?
What have we achieved as far as the goals of freedom and prosperity for all Africans are concerned?
Besides dressing up in so-called ‘African attire’, or showing off our various traditional dishes and dances – what else do we have in store for this Africa Day?
Of course, there is no shortage of the usual empty rhetoric about ‘unity, liberation from colonial dominance, and pride in who we are’ – but, this matters when the initial ideals of the OAU have not yet been achieved. Continent.
Surely how many Africans can honestly claim to be free or prosperous as we speak now – having gained their independence from colonial oppression?
Can the people of Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Chad, Guinea, Mali – the list is endless – really be called ‘free’?
Let us remember one important fact – which our post-colonial leaders deliberately seek to distort.
When people like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Haile Selassie, Milton Obote, and others presented a vision of a united Africa with a people free from subjugation – they meant exactly this.
Freedom from slavery!
Freedom is freedom, and oppression is oppression.
It is not defined by the skin colour, race, creed or ethnicity of the oppressor – but rather by the conditions in which the people of Africa live.
Frankly, as far as the prisoner is concerned, the color of the jailer doesn’t matter!
As long as he is behind bars, and deprived of his liberty, he will always be a prisoner and will not be free – whether the jailer is white, black, blue, purple or pink!
Thus, we should not hide behind the illusion that ‘freedom’ for the peoples of Africa is defined only with a narrow vision of ‘freedom from European colonialism’.
In fact, that type of independence was achieved on the continent at least three decades earlier, when South Africa became the last country to achieve its independence on 27.th April 1994.
However, can we allege that the people of Zimbabwe are free when they are not even free to peacefully protest against those in power, or the opposition to campaign freely, or anti-government activists? Was persecuted repeatedly through prosecution?
Where’s the freedom when we can’t feed our families, or send our kids to school, or access basic medical care – because of the wanton plunder of our natural resources by the ruling elite, which has caused the economy to collapse Gone, and poverty among untold millions?
Are these not the same scenes we have seen in utter horror in other parts of the continent – ruthless dictators turned into worse monsters than colonial masters?
Isn’t this why we saw a wave of so-called ‘Arab Springs’ in the northern regions of Africa in 2011 – when Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans, Algerians and Moroccans took to the streets to vent the brutality of their oppressive rulers?
More recently, haven’t we seen military coups in Chad, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and even Zimbabwe – where either military commanders or military-backed civilian leaders have taken power, and ruled strictly ?
These military takeovers were made relatively easy by virtue of the brutally repressive dictatorships of ousted heads of state – who had become extremely unpopular with their citizenry.
Countries like Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and CAR (Central African Republic) have rarely had peace after gaining independence – with power-greed, and fighting over natural control the main reason Being resources between rival clans.
In fact, even the founding fathers of the OAU were not exactly exemplary leaders – as most of them quickly turned into tyrants – with anyone accusing them of being neo-imperialists opposed to colonialism. were demanding a refund.
To make matters worse, some African leaders have become active supporters of a new form of colonialism – this time at the hands of the Chinese.
We have seen that in countries such as Zimbabwe, natural resources have been openly plundered by Chinese mining companies – who have been allowed to violate national laws and forcibly displace local communities without their consent – who have been forced from their ancestral lands. displaced or suitably compensated.
These villagers languish in abject poverty – yet, billions of dollars worth of minerals are extracted from their fields each year – with no significant benefit to those on the land.
In fact, Africa is home to some of the poorest people on the planet – with an estimated 460 million people living below the poverty line.
Yet, in 2019, the continent earned more than US$406 billion from its national resources through the extraction of 1 billion tonnes of minerals – not to mention billions of dollars unaccounted for, due to widespread plunder.
According to TI (Transparency International), Zimbabwe alone loses more than US$2 billion each year due to corruption – mostly through the smuggling of our mineral resources and illicit financial flows.
Yet, this is a country where half the population lives in extreme poverty, earning less than US1.90 a day – with most citizens reduced to street vending, or turning to prostitution and robbery for a living .
We have over 278 million children who are malnourished – 55 million of whom are under the age of five, who are stunted due to malnutrition.
On top of this, 80 million children do not have access to healthy shelter, while 16 million live on the streets.
In Zimbabwe, the majority of urban residents do not have potable water in their homes, while rural people still rely on unsafe sources – whole communities vulnerable to cholera (which is already claiming lives in the country). Putting you at great risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
Is it something to be proud of as an African?
Other continents, such as Europe, also went through their fair share of ruthless oppressors – mostly in the form of barbaric colonizers, tyrannical emperors, and bloodthirsty fascists.
Nevertheless, after World War II, the peoples of Europe made a firm commitment to end all forms of oppression and economic marginalization – by establishing the EC (European Community) on 25th March 1957, later succeeded by the European Union (EU) on 1scheduled tribe November 1993.
Unlike the AU, which primarily pays only show-off to issues of democracy, human rights and economic development – the EU has a zero-tolerance approach to any violations – thereby ensuring that all member states adhere religiously. Comply with the provisions of European law. (administered by the European Commission).
Any country that violates these strict legal statutes is banned – in one form or another – as a clear way of showing the importance of adhering to such governance standards on the continent.
This is one reason why human rights issues are held in high esteem among Europeans.
As much as there can never be a full democracy – however, the prospect of the rise of another tyrant, or a military coup, is next to none in the EU.
This is precisely what is lacking in our continent of Africa – where we do not have strong institutions that compel governments to follow set, agreed and enforceable legal statutes – governing democracy, human rights and economic management.
We currently have a free-for-all in Africa – whereby, the respective national leaders do pretty much whatever they want – without any consequences.
Only when the situation spins out of control through a military coup or bloody civil unrest – do we see the AU, or other regional bodies, run around without shame like headless chickens – usually extinguishing the fire futile attempts to get what has already gotten out of hand.
The continent lacks the political will and sincerity to promote genuine democracy, human rights and economic development – with selfishly greedy leaders more interested in maintaining their grip on power and operating grand loot.
At the end of the day, we have to ask again, “What do we (as Africans) have to show on this Africa Day”?
Is it any wonder that most 25 have been spentth Show off our traditional clothes, food and dance – because we practically have nothing else to boast about.
We have achieved almost zero over the last 60 years – particularly in meeting the objectives of the OAU.
If we were serious about the ideals of freedom and prosperity – we would be enthusiastically showing how our countries are now more advanced in the field of democracy and human rights.
We should have demonstrated how much more economically developed we were than the former colonial masters – because we are endowed with some of the world’s most sought-after minerals.
We should have shown the world how colonialism had really brought us down – and how we were better off now.
Needless to say, if anything, we are regressing – most ordinary citizens are now worse off politically and economically than they were during the colonial era.
Indeed, Africa is once again in dire need of a fresh breath of change across the continent!