Today is Africa Day (!!!), the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity, which is now known as the Africa Union. You may have your qualms with the productivity, or effectiveness of the AU, but it does symbolize a lot for Africa. The pan-African ideal that was spear-headed by Kwame Nkrumah was about coming together as a continent, outside of tribal, religious, or national affiliations, to create an Africa free from the physiological oppression that crippled the continent during colonization.
This psychological oppression that plagued the continent can be best described in Frantz Fanon’s piece “The Fact of Blackness.” Fanon speaks in this piece of meeting a white Frenchman and war veteran who had an amputated leg in 1950’s Paris. The Frenchman says to him “resign yourself to your color the way I got used to my stump; we’re both victims.” Fanon reflects on the psychoanalytical cure that has been created for many blacks, the cure from our sorrow is to accept the realities of our victimhood as the inferior race. That this is the cure to our conditions of feeling inadequate, accept our skin color as a handicap, something we can’t help.
African unity, pan-Africanism, what we celebrate today May 25th, is the cure to many of Africa's hurdles. From corruption, to civil wars, religious conflict, and xenophobia, if Africa can continue to bridge our arbitrary and psychological borders, the continent will be stronger than our forefathers could have ever imagined. To remember the importance of our united history, here are five quotes from Africa’s most influential leaders on the importance of a unified Africa:
“We must unite now or perish… We must recognize that our economic independence resides in our African union and requires the same concentration upon the political achievement.” – First President and Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah in his address at the founding of the OAU, Addis Ababa, 1963.
“We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant”. – Julius ‘Mwalimu’ Nyerere, first President of Tanzania, as quoted in David Lamb’s The Africans, New York, 1985.
“The evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes. Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!” – Thabo Mbeki former President of South Africa, “I Am an African” speech delivered on 8 May 1996.
“We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African. We know the objects of the West. Yesterday they divided us on the level of a tribe, clan and village…They want to create antagonistic blocs, satellites…” – Patrice Émery Lumumba, speech at the All-African Conference in Leopoldville, August 25, 1960.
“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children…” – Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, written 1965.