Sunday, August 27, 2006

'The United States of Africa -- It May Yet Come.'

By NORIMITSU ONISHIn 1957, the Gold Coast became the first country to gain independence in sub-Saharan Africa, led by Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah's vision of African solidarity inspired independence movements across the continent, but his rule ended in a morass of corruption and an army coup in 1966.

Ryan Lash for The New York Times
Ambrose Ackah in Nkroful, the birthplace of Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to independence.

Nkrumah's hometown lies in western Ghana, a small town called Nkroful, where Ambrose Ackah was born some 64 years ago. Mr. Ackah, the son of farmers and one of seven children, was the first one in his family to attend school. He became an elementary school teacher and retired three years ago.

Also born in Nkroful, Paul Yankey, 19, has known only one president, Jerry J. Rawlings, who has brought the country stability and a small measure of prosperity since seizing power in a coup in 1979. Mr. Yankey comes from a family of subsistence farmers, and he has two sisters and a brother. Mr. Yankey struggled financially to graduate from secondary school, and he is not hopeful about the future. He would like to go to a polytechnic college, but his family lacks the money.

He also knows that Africa is filled with university graduates who don't have jobs.
Ambrose Ackah
t was very, very, very good. Many people -- everybody was happy that this time Ghana is independent.
1902: Gold Coast's Ashanti state is colonized by the British.
1949: Kwame Nkrumah forms the Convention People's Party to push for independence.
1951: First parliamentary elections are held. Convention People's Party wins two-thirds majority. A year later, Nkrumah is named prime minister.
1957: Gold Coast becomes independent Ghana, the first West African territory to gain independence.
1966: Military coup ousts Nkrumah, two years after he established a one-party state.
1979: Junior military officers, led by Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, stage Ghana's first violent coup.
1992: Rawlings is elected president in national voting. People were enjoying themselves. People from different places, they all came to celebrate.
Everybody, we all liked Nkrumah. So whatever he told them, they did it.
We were all happy that Ghana was going to be an independent country. It was thought there would be development after independence. You see, before independence, the secondary schools were very few in the country. But after independence, the secondary schools were distributed evenly in the country. Even in Nkroful here, there is a secondary school now. The educational system became very good.

I got a job teaching. There were other farmers who joined the workers' brigades. We had workers' brigades, tailors, artisans and all these things. For everybody to get work.
My grandfather promised to send me to a secondary school. But very unfortunately, before I left middle school, he died. There was nobody to help me. I was admitted to secondary school -- I passed the examination. If I had gone, I would be a very big man now.
I was disappointed.

Africans have to stop the fighting and live peacefully.
If people are peaceful, they can develop. But they are power drunk.
That is why there is a lot of fighting all over the continent.

Today's leaders? Tough -- they are trying, it's not so great. Africa is not united. If it's united, it would be the United States of Africa. You don't know. It may yet come.
Paul Yankey

There is no unity in Africa. There is always -- I'll say discrimination in the country. "Because you are not from my father's line or my mother's line, so I do not regard you as a brother or sister." Nkrumah was pleading with Africans to unite for aiding ourselves. It's not possible.

Ryan Lash for The New York Times

Paul Yankey knows his future depends on education.
He was not able to fulfill it because he was overthrown. I don't think it can happen. Even though the presidents in Africa are trying their best, we don't have the one who has tested himself to unite all Africans.

If we unite, we become one body. Lack of employment in Ghana? We can go to another place. United, we can fix prices for our resources. If it's not possible, it means our difficulty in life will continue. And our life will be poor, for ever and ever.

All of us want to leave this country, the young people. We all want to depart this country for America. Britain, America, any foreign country. Japan, German, Italy. But I would come back to help Ghana. If we get something, we must come back home to help our friends.

Everything concerning education, we must provide it ourselves. After I finished secondary, I wanted to go to polytechnic. But because of lack of money, I have to wait. If there is availability of money, I would have continued.
I want to be someone. I know that all will depend on my going to school. It is only with school that I can be somebody in the future. I believe that, because I have been able to see that that is my talent. My main choice is to be an agriculturist.
My parents own a piece of land. O.K., it is for them. But they can't use the land because money for them to engage in farming is too small. Therefore they cannot expand. They can only cultivate for themselves.
My parents could not afford my secondary school fees. So I cut bamboos in the bush. Someone will come to you and inform you that he needs 10 bamboo sticks.
But the money is very, very small. You spent the whole day for 2000 cedis [about 80 cents]. You deduct your chop money that you eat. What's left is very few.

Muammar Gaddafi's call for a United States of Africa at the extraordinary summit of the Organisation of African Unity is the old Pan-Africanist idea all over again – an idea which did not work even during Kwame Nkrumah's time.
At the zenith of the debate in the 1950s, the idea of a United States of Africa was championed by the Casablanca group of states, who proposed a political union in which economic, cultural and military activities would be co-ordinated centrally.
The Monrovia group, meanwhile, envisioned a United Nations of Africa. They did not support centralisation but suggested the engagement of African states in common pursuits.
Colonel Gaddafi should remember that it was the Monrovia group that prevailed. The result was the formation of the OAU. The mandate of the OAU included promoting the solidarity of African states, defending their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and harmonising policies, especially in the political and economic arenas.
The OAU has consistently emphasised non-interference in the internal affairs of states, the peaceful settlement of disputes, the condemnation of political assassinations and subversion, total emancipation of Africa and non-alignment.
The desire for a United States of Africa assumes that the continent is a homogeneous entity with the same characteristics, the same history, and the same future.
That is not true and may never be true. Politics and life in Africa are marked by diversity and negative competition rather than co-operation. African states would rather fight among themselves than forge a united front to fight other continents economically.
The idea of unity in Africa is complex, encompassing several interrelated notions. These include the belief in the uniqueness and spiritual unity of black people, the acknowledgement of the right of black people to self-determination in Africa and finally the assertion of the right of black people to be treated with dignity and equality in all parts of the world.
Even after decades of independence, one cannot state with any conviction that African states have acted in unison to achieve these goals. Africa is disunited and increasingly so. Take for example the notion of the spiritual unity of black people.
Contemporary African relations are marked by endemic conflict – a clear manifestation of mistrust, negative competition, ethnicity and the inability to shake off the colonial legacy.
In the Great Lakes region, a possible First Continental War has preoccupied the majority of African states for over a year. Even though a ceasefire seems to be holding after the Lusaka accord, the conflict is still far from being resolved. In Southern Africa, Angola is in internal turmoil and in North Africa, Algeria continues to be a battleground for fiercely opposed ideologies.
In the tiny Comoros, coups and counter-coups are the order of the day. Civil war has raged in the Sudan for over 15 years, while Somalia has had no central government since 1991. In the same region, Eritrea and Ethiopia have been engaged in an inexplicable war.
The notion of self-determination, for its part, has received wide recognition. But in the Western Sahara, Morocco seems to have sworn that the dream of self-determination will never apply to the Sahrawi people. Similarly, in the Sudan, the people of the south are locked in a deadly war of self-determination.
The desire that Africans be treated with dignity has never been realised. In fact, there is evidence that Africans are treated with less dignity now than at independence. This maltreatment is evident from the harsh immigration laws in the West designed to keep Africans out.
Even before they leave their country, African travellers are confronted with a graphic demonstration of their pariah status: northbound African airlines are routinely sprayed with insecticides before they leave.


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