Date Posted: July 19, 2016


Email: editor@uhuruspirit.org

The African Union, at its just concluded summit in Kigali, Rwanda, has unveiled the African passport which is expected to increase the momentum towards a united Africa under AU’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

What normally comes to mind when the issue of African Passport is raised is the ease it will provide to the holders who will no longer need visas to travel to other African countries. The other idea that is immediately evoked when the issue of African Passport is brought up is the way it will boost trade among African countries.

But more importantly is the fact that the introduction of African Passport represents the resumption of the decolonization process that was thwarted in the past. It is also an acknowledgement of our collective failure in the quest for progress as Africans. A recognition that Africa is not yet free!

It is true that much credit has not been given to the contributions of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the AU Commission Chairperson. As a matter of fact, many Afro-pessimists have written off the period of her leadership of the continental body as a “disaster.” These short-sighted so-called pundits judge her on the basis of the multiplicity of problems in Africa without coming to terms with the fact that these problems have their roots in colonialism and the fact that the decolonization has not been completed. Most of the problems we are faced with in Africa today would have disappeared if the decolonization process was not sabotaged by Western countries. Africa must go back to the basics, and the introduction of African passport is expected to trigger a new era of decolonization. For that, Dlamini-Zuma’s place is secured in the pantheon of progressive Pan-Africanists and champions of African unity.

The journey towards decolonization, which ought to have started at the dawn of independence, was abandoned for many reasons. The first reason is that the colonial powers had left reluctantly and, in most cases, before leaving, handed political power to their African puppets most of whom were ignorant of the real meaning of independence. This set of people then went on to run down their countries after so much fanfare over the heroic achievement independence. This group includes people, like Nigeria’s Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a British puppet who became the country’s first Prime Minister even though he never participated in the anti-colonial struggle. Balewa was first used by the British as a very vocal opponent of the anti-colonial forces led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. But at the dawn of independence, he was then redressed and repackaged as an African leader by the British colonialists who rigged Nigeria’s first election to install him as Prime Minister. Today, the seed of neo-colonialism planted by the British in Nigeria has grown into a giant “Iroko” tree of confusion.

Ivory Coast’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny was well-nurtured politically to become more French than French people. When Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah visited Ivory Coast on 7 April 1957 and called on all African colonies to declare independence, Houphouët-Boigny responded and said to Nkrumah, “Your experience is rather impressive ... But due to the human relationships between the French and the Africans, and because in the 20th century, people have become interdependent, we considered that it would perhaps be more interesting to try a new and different experience than yours and unique in itself, one of a Franco-African community based on equality and fraternity.” With history as witness, we have now seen that what Houphouët-Boigny saw as “equality and fraternity” was nothing but neo-colonialism at its sneaky best. It is on record that France has, over the years, done more harm than good to Ivory Coast and other former French colonies in Africa.

In countries where the founding leaders had successfully resisted the alluring embrace of neo-colonialism, the colonialists either plotted their removal or found ways to put the countries into turmoil. The story of Patrice Lumumba of Congo is still very fresh in my memory. As Lumumba wanted to give the best interpretation to independence in the Congo, Western powers conspired and removed him from power, and in his place they installed a puppet – Mobutu Sese Seko, a demented man with no capacity to govern a newly independent African country. Seeing the rising popularity of the ousted Lumumba and fearful that he could yet make a comeback, they had him assassinated and with him also died the decolonization process in the Congo. Since then, Congo, despite her richness in mineral resources, has remained a horrifying theater of war.

There are other many examples. The visionary Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana had not only prescribed the correct path to decolonization for Africa, as the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve independence, Nkrumah’s Ghana had readily put her resources towards the Pan-African project. This really worried the neo-colonist forces and after many unsuccessful attempts on his life, Nkrumah was overthrown in a Western-sponsored coup while undertaking a foreign visit. In his place, they installed stooges and puppets, and Ghana which was then emerging as a great African country became a laughing stock in the comity of nations. Truly, Nkrumah’s demise spelt doom for the process of decolonization in Africa and it was not long before it came to a halt.

It is a shame that the crop of African leaders following Nkrumah lacked the wisdom and courage to proceed with the decolonization process; they were contented with their separate African kingdoms that forever depended on the world outside Africa for survival. Nothing was done to address the many colonial legacies that had continued to hold sway, thus making progress impossible. Things that were inherited from the colonial era which should have been corrected if decolonization had continued were allowed to mutate into various monstrous creatures, like corruption and wars. As a result, when ordinary Africans were not running around as refugees and asylum-seekers, they were locked up within their countries virtually as prisoners. The racist assumption that “Whiteness signified humanity, modernity, civilization, rationality, and scientism; Blackness symbolized only barbarism, savagery, primitiveness, and irrationality” was given a new meaning and many Africans quickly bought into the lie that “we are inferior.”

It is very annoying to see that even today, while most visitors from outside Africa do need visa to travel to most African countries, Africans are made to pay hefty visa fees, among other stringent requirements, when travelling to fellow African countries. How can it be that African leaders are so short-sighted that they cannot see the correlation between migration and development? If Europeans had never left their shores, they would not have colonized us, talk less of taking over our resources and messing with our peace. Is it not a shame that many of our countries are today undermining their sovereignty in order to do business with the Western world, even when they can do more profitable businesses with the rest of the continent?

Indeed, the unveiling of African Passport signals the continuation of the decolonization process which was sabotaged in the past. However, the challenge that faces this new era of decolonization which finds expression in the newly-unveiled African Passport is that we still have many ignorant African leaders who still want to continue doings things as in the past. One is aware that this crop of leaders will certainly do all in their power to sabotage this great effort to empower and truly liberate Africans. But the only hope is that with time, those enemies of progress will be defeated as reality and history will continue to show us that only “UNITY” can solve Africa’s numerous problems.

Hilary Ojukwu is the editor of Uhuruspirit

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