Dear reader, this text is published in the spirit of open-access as part of our new project entitled The Funambulist Correspondents. Every week for a bit over a year, we will publish a text written by one of our 28 commissioned correspondents in as many places of the world. The project is made possible through generous support from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
We Must Unite Now, Or Perish.
Berlin, November 1884
A huddle of imperialists gathered by Otto von Bismarck to carve up a Continent that is not theirs to claim. A group of European and American men sitting around a table, negotiating territory, drawing violent lines through autonomous kingdoms, nations, communities, homes; new borders that operate not in service of the African people, but of the potential of expanded capital, built to serve imperialist economies that were struggling, in decline.
By the end of this unsightly, violent, colonising Scramble, the land and all it holds will bear names like Victoria, Leopold, Rhodes, and the names of the surveyors (for they are not discoverers) who serve them. And when they have carved the land up they will carve up the Culture, the Nations, the Economies, the Beliefs, the Bodies of the People they came to find in that land. They will intercept and restructure trade for their own benefit, extracting that which belongs to the people, leaving nothing to those who are the reason for their expanded wealth. They will extract resources, body parts, and tax from the people whose land they have stolen. The roads they build, the education they enforce, the labour forces they assemble will all lead outward, away from the Continent, her people, her needs.
On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference.
Addis Ababa, May 25th, 1963
Thirty-two African states have now achieved independence from colonial rule, collections of nationhood as was defined in Berlin. The colonial borders that were so violently enforced now enable the demarcation of free zones, ones that – in Subsaharan Africa – began with the Osagyefo’s new Republic of Ghana. The free Republic of Uganda is not even nine months old, and yet here she stands, among her sister nations, declaring a mission to protect African destinies, to protect her sovereignty, the rights of her people, a better life for the peoples of Africa.
The day before the Osagyefo moved the continent with his words outlining a framework for African unity, the genesis, the anchor and the outcome of the African struggle for liberation. National independence is just the beginning, he tells us. For Africa Must Unite in order to complete our liberation.
We have been too busy nursing our separate states to understand fully the basic need of our union, rooted in common purpose, common planning, and common endeavor.
Africa, March 2021
We remain a continent divided. The body that was formed to unite us has betrayed us, her form coopted by faces that look like ours, yet serve a flourishing Neocolonial agenda. Nkrumah, Lumumba, Sankara and others have been taken from us, ousted, torn to pieces, burned and buried in unmarked graves by African puppets manipulated by capitalist beasts pulling American and European strings.
Nations emerging out of cycles of oppression, depression, outright war turn not to the OAU, or to the succeeding AU, but outward to the ‘donors’ and ‘development partners’ pushing [Structural Adjustment Programs] SAPs, [European Partnership Agreements] EPAs and other exploitative abbreviations.
The AU has become a club of dictators, African kleptocrats uniting to protect minority interests while the people of a land that is feeding an entire planet starve, nursing malnourished bellies on the floors of under-resourced hospitals.
In this haze, we fail to recognize the power we hold, as a people. We fail to see our own likeness in the mirror that is this continent, while we navigate our inadequate infrastructures perforated with stolen tenders and redirected funds. We fail to heed the warning posed by the sister nation surrendering state property to China as we build our own illegitimate debts. Ugandans declare we are removing a dictator, seemingly unaware of Cameroon’s efforts to do the same. We duplicate each other’s successes and failures, experiences, but do not achieve resonance, amplification as we confine ourselves to Berlin’s invisible and illegitimate barricades.
We forget that in order to sustainably complete the process of liberation,
Unite we must. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, big or small, we can here and now forge a political union based on defense, foreign affairs and diplomacy, and common citizenship, an African currency, an African monetary zone, and an African central bank. We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent.
Berlin Must Fall
We stand on the shoulders of our forefathers and foremothers; the framework for African Unity already exists. Over the years this potent agenda has been diluted, leaving only hints of its essence for those who care to look. Talk of unity is replaced with regional integration; when you say Africa Must Unite Now, you are told to aspire to 2063. Every building block placed to supposedly serve, develop and protect the People becomes a padlock on a gate without a fence. Africa remains compromised.
An African Union that is silent while the rights of the African People are compromised is not a body that exists to serve the People; and when the leaders have failed, the People must stand. In Ghana, the Nkrumahist movement the Economic Fighters League has called for the People of Africa to take the matter of unification into our own hands. Movements around the continent are invited to join hands in coordinated action designed to bring the voices of the African People together, a force for unity.
This is a reclamation.
There is the understanding that in order to break the barricades erected over a table in Berlin, one must first challenge the colonial mentality of division and mistrust of self fostered by the paternalistic colonialists who erected those borders. A political education contextualized in our lived reality will shape and be shaped by public engagement. African Unity must be broken down and made relevant in markets, in trotros and matatus [minibus taxis], in schools, restaurants, in our daily lives.
We must see ourselves reflected, and in many ways already united, in our siblings on the other side of the continent, and understand that this is not an agenda on top of our existing agendas, but a mere alignment of our common experiences, our common issues, our common causes. We must understand that in the unity of voice we achieve resonance for amplification, for power; that a single voice in a small Ghanaian town cannot be ignored when a voice in Zimbabwe stands with her.
There can be no sustainable African development without political unity. Through this education each movement is asked to mobilise their networks, a series of dialogues, engagements, creative and other actions culminating in a continent-wide demand on the 25th of May 2021, a day that will no longer just commemorate past promises, but mark the entry into the next phase of mobilization for an Africa that is United.
Towards a liberated Africa.
Africa Must Unite [Now]!
This piece is anchored by excerpts of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s address 24th May 1963 address to 32 African Heads of state at the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa.
For more on how you can participate in this movement contact the Economic Fighters League:
Namata Serumaga-Musisi is a Pan Africanist with roots in Uganda. An Architecture graduate, her work is intended to facilitate the movement towards decoloniality, focusing on the People of Africa and the Global South, and how we can facilitate the reclamation of African identity as defined by inhabited space and its making. Architecture led Namata to Socialism. She serves as Commander of Creative Arts & Advocacy with Ghana-based Nkrumahist movement the Economic Fighters League, also serving as a Diaspora Coordinator for People Power, the Ugandan liberation movement led by Kyagulanyi ‘Bobi Wine’ Ssentamu.