On May 25, the African Union will celebrate the 55th anniversary of the founding of the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Eight years later, from 1971 to 1973, I was privileged to represent Uganda at several OAU conferences when I was posted to Addis Ababa as Third Secretary at the Embassy of Uganda to Ethiopia.
The commitment of Uganda and most African countries to the cause of African unity was total during those good old days when Africans were waging a relentless and protracted struggle against colonialism, racism, racial discrimination and apartheid. Uganda’s commitment was shown by deed, not empty and useless rhetoric as is routinely the case today. Uganda paid her contributions to the regular budget of the OAU and the OAU’s Liberation Committee which was based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on time, in full and without any self-serving excuses or conditions.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere expressed correctly and succinctly the hopes and aspirations of Africans in a letter he wrote which was published on March 27, 1960, by The New York Times.
Nyerere wrote in March 1960 that: “The Africa we must create, the Africa we must bequeath to posterity, the Africa of our dreams cannot be an Africa that is simply free from foreign domination. It must be an Africa that the outside world will look at and say: ‘Here is a continent that has truly free human beings.’ The outside world must be able to say: ‘If you really want to see how a free people conduct their affairs – if you want to see a people who live up to their ideals of human society – go to Africa!’ That is the continent of hope for the human race.
“I feel that Africa’s own tradition, her moral strength, her lack of ties with one bloc or another and that sentiment of oneness that the centuries of suffering have built among all her peoples, can together fit her for the role I have suggested – the role of champion of personal freedom in the world today.”
Mwalimu’s eloquent and prophetic words of wisdom are not mere wishful thinking of an idealist, but realistic wishes of a great man who tried his level best, along with many like-minded African leaders of his generation, to lead Africa to a promised land.
Mwalimu Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Milton Obote, Kenneth Kaunda, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba, Diallo Telli, Robert Gardiner and many others shared the above dream of Africa which is destined to be the hope of the human race. I believe that given the requisite political will as well as good and dedicated leadership that dream is achievable.
Africa has sadly become a laughing stock of the world instead of the hope of the human race. Ordinary Africans are today in chains almost everywhere on the continent. Why has Africa gone down the drain? Who has dumped Africa prematurely into the dustbin of history? How can Africans crawl out of the garbage pit in which Africa’s corrupt, greedy, self-centred and worthless leaders have consigned wananchi?
First, wananchi, especially Africa’s youth, must wake up, join hands and take full control of their destiny and not expect Africa’s ruling elites, intellectuals and politicians to rescue them from oppression, exploitation and humiliation by callous ruling classes who feel entitled to political power and the natural resources of Africa. Africa’s wananchi have a moral obligation to free themselves from the yoke of oppression, subjugation, exploitation and neo-colonialism.
Second, Africa’s working classes must unite and wage a relentless struggle for freedom from oppressors, pseudo-liberators and pseudo-revolutionaries who have betrayed the just, legitimate and patriotic cause and struggle for African dignity and unity and the dream which Mwalimu Nyerere wrote about in 1960 which he attempted to realise during his tenure as a great leader of the people of Tanzania, Africa and the third world.
Third, Africa’s genuine friends and development partners in the world must support the just struggle of the masses for liberty and stop lending a helping hand to corrupt African dictators who do not care about the interests and welfare of Africa’s wananchi. Some shameless African dictators have openly bragged that they grabbed power to pursue and advance personal and tribal agendas. May God bless Africa!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.