The recent Pan African integration debate mooted by the Nation media group during its 50th anniversary rekindled the Nkrumah led discourse of politically united Africa that preoccupied African thought in the immediate postcolonial period.
Despite support from eloquent voices from eminent Africans like, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Gabel Abd Nasser Of Egypt, Nandi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Patrice Emery Lumumba of Congo among others, the movement lost momentum or rather succumbed to the political realities of the time.
The political realties of the sixties, seventies and part of 1980s were intertwined with the cold war that polarized Africa, and indeed the rest of world along ideological lines.
The divide so created negated the spirit of Pan-Africanism as conceived by the founders of the movement. It is worthy of note here to say that Pan-Africanism was the brain child of Africans from the Americas.
It was conceived as a political, cultural movement aiming at liberation of Africa and African both on the continent and in the diapora. The foremost exponent of the movement was` Henry Slyvester Williams, a lawyer, politician and writer from Trinidad who organized the first Pan-African congress held in London in 1919 and became even more famous for his` address to the Nations in which he said, “ the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line”.
Williams’s Pan-African work influenced others like Dr. W .E. Dubois of USA, George Padmore of Trinidad, Dubley Thompson from Jamaica , all champions of the rights of Africans in the Americas and on the continent, who continued champion the cause of the African through advocacy for equal rights and commitment to the unity of Africans as prerequisite to total liberation.
The sixth Pan-African conference held in Manchester led by Dr. Dubois brought in African nationalists like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who effectively used the movement in pursuance of Africa independence.
The Pan-African movement played a vital role in the struggle for independence of African Nations. However, after independence was achieved in most of Africa and with the creation of the organization of African Unity, OAU, the concept of political unification was soon eclipsed by competing national interests, and as said above, foreign inspired ideological differences created an environment where political unity was untenable.
Both President Kagame and Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga panelists at the Pan-African Media conference expressed need to fast track Africa union as the time for rhetoric is gone.
President Kagame emphasized the need for Africa to own its destiny, speak with one voice, learn from the past and with a clear vision build unity in a much wider context, and to be cautious of negative outside influences which still work in subtle ways.
PM Odinga on his part eloquently arrayed fears of linguistic differences and other forms of diversity in Africa as obstacles to African Unity. The premier drew analogies of the European Union where even former communist states have been accommodated.
How do we move from the drawing board to realize the United States of Africa that Professor Wangari Mathai so eloquently advocated in the conference? She envisages Africa with one state house instead of 53.
I wish to borrow some ideas from Professor Ali Mazuiri who has extensively written about and taught Pan-Africansim. Mazrui contends that Pan- Africanism in global Africa needs exceptional leadership A charismatic leader with personal magnetism who is also a mobilization leader.
The `professor provides examples of the few African leaders whose traits could act as inspiration to future leaders.
Julius K. Nyerere, according to Mazrui, was both charismatic and mobilization; he succeeded `in arousing the masses to many of his causes. Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt is also considered to have been charismatic and mobilizational. We need am Martin Luther King Jr. Mazurui, correctly, argues that ‘we cannot Pan-Africanism can not be envisaged without intellectualization of the African condition.
Whereas he provides definition of an intellectual as “ a person who has capacity to be fascinated by ideas and has acquired the skill to handle many of them effectively”, like the Nation media conference he does not suggest in what forum these ideas will be concretized and `operationalised.
In Addis Ababa Colonel Muammar Al Gaddaffi has clearly called for action, with little success. May be Africa could set up a task force composed of eminent persons` from the political and` academic fields and mandate them to design a blue print for the 21st century United States of Africa.
As a philosophy Pan-African has achieved a lot especially in terms of African thought and African personality.
Departments of Pan-African studies exist in universities world wide, political parties like Pan African Congress of Azania in South Africa and All-African revolutionary Party in Ghana. The ultimate unity may have been elusive for some time, but we yes we can.