|Notes on Africa Day 2014 by the Editor
AFRICA DAY: Is Africa's rebirth on track?
On Sunday 25 May 2014, the African continent will observe 'Africa day' as it has done so for more than half a century. It is this day that Africa and her people set aside as a recurring moment of reflecting on the progress that both the continent and its people have made in achieving their set objectives of social and political transformation. The conference of African leaders and organizations that decided on the observation of this day stated that the purpose of this observance was to mark an "onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation".
Thus, with respect to the above cited purpose of Africa day, we are charged with the responsibility to constantly use this day to reflect on how far we have gone in achieving the liberation of Africa and her people from colonial domination and exploitation. This also implies the need to place Africa on a progressive route towards reconstruction and development, peace and stability, unity and cohesion amongst all its people and countries. Can we say therefore, today, that Africa is free from foreign domination and exploitation or that we are on a progressive route towards her renaissance?
Just as we mark Africa day it will be exactly 41 days since the abduction of more than 200 girls at a school in Nigeria by an extremist political outfit, Boko Haram. The pronounced intention behind this abduction is to trade them as slaves in the human trafficking market. Behind the cloak of Islam, this extremist outfit posits that they will convert these girls to obedient Muslims who will serve as wives to willing polygamous men around the globe. This is an unfortunate equivocation of acts of terror with religion, perpetuating the false narrative that Islam in itself is a religion of terror as opposed to peace and justice.
At the same time, the leaders of this extremist political movement have suggested that they will release these innocent girls on condition that the Nigerian government releases political prisoners belonging to this group who were arrested for similar acts of terror. In the context of this reasoning, innocent girls have been held against their will as human bargaining chips in a political stand-off they have no part in playing. Thus the reality emerges that in Africa we still live side by side with political groupings whose sense of humanity is so low to the extent that women in particular are viewed as nothing but instruments of war through which military advantage of one sort or another could be asserted. The Congo, the Sudan and other war-torn regions are replete with continuing examples of this infliction of terror and pain on women through rape, displacement and mutilations of various sorts in the course of war between political and economic factions.
This dehumanization of African women and their stunted position in our society undermines the progressive development of the human spirit and it waters down the forward movement of the liberation of Africa from the perverse conditions of general human degradation. Thus the abduction of these girls firmly asserts itself against the drive of Africa towards a situation of freedom from human exploitation both for wealth accumulation and other forms of gratification.
As tragic as the situation of the abducted girls in itself is, it has also revealed a greater tragedy about Africa's leadership. It is not difficult to imagine that the generation of Africa's leadership that spoke of the "the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation" understood that this freedom will be achieved through a combination of political, economic, solidarity, human, social and military capital. So as the #BringBackOurGirls solidarity campaign strengthened and widened in Africa and across the globe, buzzing through various platforms of social media and traditional media, the political response of African states and African political institutions like the African Union has been sub-standard.
An Africa-driven 'African renaissance'; with the central dictum of 'African solutions to African problems', assumes that there is a commitment to the creation of capable political institutions to achieve this goal. The African Union is supposedly this institution of Pan-African action towards the achievement of the objective of Africa's rebirth. In the context of establishing peace, security and political stability the African Union is supposed to harness and coordinate Africa's disparate political, economic and military muscle and direct it towards each area of need.
With respect to the Nigerian situation, a combined military and intelligence effort of African States to search and driving out of Boko Haram would have been commendable. This would simultaneously bring to life the very essence of 'African solutions to African problems' and insulate Africa from the imperialist agenda of the west which uses every humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to loot Africa's responses that are very much needed for Africa's prosperity. We have seen the United States closing in on Nigeria, stating that they will intervene in that situation even without the consent of the Nigerian government. We have seen the shocking decision to hold a summit on this crisis in Paris, France, under the supervision of the French government and not in Nigeria or Addis Ababa under the auspices of the AU.
The situation of the Nigerian girls has proven that we are significantly weak with regards the building of Africa's capacity to provide 'African solutions to Africa's problems' and that small extremist outfits like Boko Haram can destabilize and dehumanize Africa without fear of a committed pan-African response. The Pan-African solidarity campaign demonstrated by the people of the continent in response to the situation of these Nigerian girls has proven to be far superior to the capacity of African political leadership to forge a Pan-African intervention strategy.
As we mark 'Africa Day' in the next two days, we will do so without the certainty that African women and girls are free from exploitation. We do so without any belief that anyone who inflicts terror on the people of the continent shall be met with a befitting response by Africa's leadership. We will only observe Africa day with another reminder that Africa's renaissance is impossible without a capable leadership to see it through. Thus, the "onward progress of the liberation movement... and... the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation" seem to be let down by the lack of decisive leadership committed to the realization of the African dream: The African Renaissance.
(Bandile Masuku is a member of the National Task Team of the ANC Youth League and its National Spokesperson but writes here on his capacity as the Editor of HLOMELANG. This is an Editor's Note)