Category Archives: Leadership

Development – Africans Must Restrategise

congosmile

If  Africa’s leadership agreed to an expanded and enfranchised business development model whereby foreigners who want to do business in Africa  would be required  to show proof of capable, experience and qualified Diaspora inclusion, that would  do more to enhance opportunities. But since the leadership is easily bought on a dime – taking anything and everything from the highest bidder regardless of long term impact on their nation, it is hard to convince them to consider such legislation or policy.

Nigeria, for example,  has what is called the Local Content Act, making sure Nigerians are given a shot at opportunities foreign corporations present. However,  given the ‘front’ nature of some Nigerians, that is, fronting for foreigners even at the detriment of the nation, the Act is a laughable provision. But do not despair, for even in the US, some African-Americans are known to ‘front’ for majority owned firms for a little cake at the table. The reason?  In most cases, no real business experience has been gained to make them qualify to be prime. It is always about ‘take the money’ and pretending to be doing something. Is it in the blood of black folks to undermine themselves? This is debatable.

Most Ministers in Africa are easily bought for a mere $100,000 to sign away national resources worth millions/billions of dollars. Back in the 90s, I hosted an Agricultural Minister from Sierra Leone, Harry Will, who served during Kabba. Mr. Will, upon return from his US trip, was relieved of his duties and charged with corruption and misappropriation, not unrelated to what he did while in the US. I was disappointed by his conduct and wondered why anyone would give him such national role. I consoled myself by saying that when the desirable is not available, the available by default becomes desirable, but soon shows why it is undesirable.  By the way, Harry Will, holds a PhD and once worked for the UN on food production matters.

Take the case of a former oil minister of Nigeria, a professor of morbid anatomy but someone from the oil producing region of Nigeria, who former military head IBB, appointed minister. Mr. Tam David West, was sent to jail for accepting a gold wrist watch and obligating Nigeria to an oil contract that has the entire nation scratching their head and is on choke hold. Whether this was a trumped up charge or real, one hear stories like that.

During Kenya’s  former president  Kibaki  tenure, a 20-something year old Briton dazzled Kenya’s entire entire financial sector and  its fiscal and monetary leadership with funny money instruments that saw Kenya Shillings nose dive to its present exchange rate parity. Why was he successful? He colluded with a Kenya finance ministry official. The Present Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ms Okonjo-Iweala, in her first debut during former President Obasanjo’s tenure, demanded to be paid in Dollars instead of Nigeria Naira – a slap on Nigeria, that someone they brought in to help rescue the nation, did not have faith in the country’s currency. She got what she wanted.

In her attempt to stabilize the Naira, she is encouraging Nigeria to borrow more. Well, why would anyone be surprised, she came from World Bank, whose primary role and function, is to saddle nations with debt. Nigeria, paying down her foreign debts and having some of the debts forgiven, has not provided any good traction for the Naira. The exchange rate parity of the Naira during the military led regime was better than what happens now. In late 1990s, before Obasanjo took over in 1999, a Nigerian with One Million Naira, had a glorious Dollar equivalent of nearly $12,000. In Ms Okonjo-Iweala’s financial reform leadership, the same One Million Naira, is mere $6,000, a loss of more than 50% value in less than 14 years. You be the judge. PhD or no PhD.

The saying by FDR that no nation or people should undermine their own economic wellbeing obviously was not meant for Africans. When in 1945, Saudi Arabia – King Saud met FDR on board a US ship in the Suez Canal, Saudi did not have any native with college education. But King Saud was confident and often acting on sheer impulse and baffle, was able to commit FDR to an agreement that saw the creation of ARAMCO, the organization credited for developing Saudi Arabia. Ethiopia was accorded the same audience. Today, compare Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. Equal opportunity as in education and audience, does not always amount to equal outcome.

Africa’s leadership both by design and default, has enjoyed the same amount of access, but if the outcome is less than, it may not be because similar resources were not offered. It is because Africans, often given to dancing to the music in their head, never pay attention to what matters.

In one Commonwealth of Nations summit in Accra, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore first prime minister, lamented on how African government officials were busy spending public funds, staying in expensive hotels and  flying First Class. He called his delegation to a corner and told them point blank that this type of wanton and reckless spending should never happen in Singapore. He prevailed while Africans on the other hand, put a face of saying no to the former colonial masters, but secretly indulged in lifestyle and conducts that tripled what the colonial masters did. Then Nigeria Finance Minister, book keeper turned Finance Minister, was known to spray money and have ‘agbada’ sewn with pound notes. His wanton disregard for probity of public resources is yet to be matched by any Nigeria public official. He invariably sowed the seed that public money can be used as petty cash operation and one will be hailed doing so. Consider the Central African Republic Emperor Bokassa’s coronation in the 1970s that saw water and napkins imported from France, while natives were walking around naked and hapless.

No one is holding Africa down but Africans. They may parade PhDs, and other degrees but when it comes to standing up for the interests of their nation, they have second thoughts. Back in the late 60s and 70s, many African heads of state saw it a badge of honor to be married to foreign ladies; French, English, Russian, among others, some who were allegedly spies (according to many declassified papers) and undermined the fledgling nations. One can easily conjure the reason why John Kerry and Bill Bradley never made it to US presidency. Their spouses are foreign born. John Kerry’s wife, is a Mozambique-Portguese-African and Bill Bradley – German. Former US Senator Texas Phil Graham’s wife is Asian. There are many unwritten rules in rising to the highest office of any nation’s land. Those unwritten rules often carry weight.  The present Senegalese First Family, is the first time in the history of the western African nation that both are native Senegalese.

Despite the challenges faced by minorities in US in business development, the US still remains the best opportunity nation for minority firms to grow given government programs and policies on procurement. Therefore, we should seek how to enhance the franchise deploying all tools of the trade, create well-funded and managed advocacy groups.

Finally, when African-Americans leave congress, how many of them develop good lobbying firms to help African nations gain access on Beltway Circle of Influence? Hardly anyone of substance. When one reviews all the major lobbying firms for developing nations that want Washington access, hardly is one African-American. Well, Vernon Jordan may be an exception, but he was more about hanging out with Clinton, than taking it upon himself to make one African nation a success using his unlimited access. There is more show than substance. This is my juice, what taste you make of it, is entirely yours.

Ejike Okpa II

Africa “leadership” lacks fundamental principles and conviction.

sankara

After 50 years of OAU and Independence, and 13 years into the 21st  Century, what is the future of African Leadership? Leadership remains a challenge in Africa. Alvin Toffler once remarked:“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

We’ve had two cases upon which to judge African leaders. The first case is about fighting colonialism and gaining independence for which most African countries attained and have enjoyed in the last fifty years. The second case is for African natives themselves who over time rose against leaders citing dictatorship, corruption, anarchy, abuse or disregard of the rule of law to say the least. They presented themselves as profound liberators and endeared themselves to their countrymen. Paradoxically, this new breed of ‘liberators’ have proved worse than their predecessors in many aspects. Ultimately, history is repeating itself as confirmed by Alvin Toffler’s worry – we’ve a breed of political illiterates of the 21st Century.

The brutal Rwandan Genocide in 1994 and the 2007-08 post-election violence and heinous murders in Kenya all point to the failure of our leaders and the citizen’s’ level of dissatisfaction with their leaders. The recent twist of occurrences in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Algeria among other African countries leaves many speculating which country will follow suit. There are wide fears that Uganda could implode, looking at how the recent Gen. Sejusa a.k.a Tinyefuza dossier case has been handled.

Africa’s history over the last fifty years has been blighted largely by two areas of weakness:

•Capacity – ability to design and deliver relevant and practicable policies; and
•Accountability – how well a State answers to its people and implements set policies.

In his famous 1973 book “How Europe underdeveloped Africa,” the Guyanese historian, Walter Rodney seems to attribute Africa’s woes to colonialism. After analyzing the social, political and cultural dynamics of Pre-colonial Africa, Rodney laments the impact of European colonization on the Continent: “it was precisely in those years that in other parts of the world the rate of change was greater than ever before… Certainly in relative terms, Africa’s Position vis-a-vis its colonizers became more disadvantageous in the political, economic and military spheres.”

Kenyan  historian and political scientist, Ali Mazrui, holds a similar argument in his 1980 book: “The African condition: A Political Diagnosis” where he attributes Africa’s miserable condition partly to “the nature of the economic change which Western colonialism  fostered in Africa but also quickly recognizes that African leaders need to change their dependency mindset in order to overcome the situation!

It’s useless crying over spilt milk. We must not continue to blame our failures on Colonialism! What has been so difficult to correct in fifty years?

The 21st century leadership is complex if  its key dynamics are ignored but simple if its rules are explored and rightly followed. For instance, in the past, some people (such as monarchs, chiefs and tyrants) became leaders by virtue of birth and invasion. These were seen as fountains of wisdom and custodians of power and might. They were often the most learned and were believed to have divine connection, fierce military power and wealth! Their subjects revered them because they feared persecution, social excommunication and to win their favor. Today, however, things have changed. Some ordinary citizens have more or equally the same education and wealth as their leaders. In fact, some even sponsor their candidates’ political campaigns.

Peter Drucker once observed: “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.” Leaders should stop behaving like their bad predecessors. But nonetheless, emulate the noble character and works of great leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. They should do more civic mobilization and support literacy programs. An elite society is easier led than an illiterate one! Leadership is a service for the common good and not personal gain. Whoever defaults should know that history is a judge with boundless jurisdiction and without chambers. History pronounces its harsh judgment when the time is ripe!

Africa leadership lacks fundamental principles and conviction. It is a form of human concoctions and accidental ascension to power or misplaced appointment. Undoubtedly, such leadership is characterized by countless errors of self – perpetuation, clinging to power, impunity, violation of human rights, lack of moral consciousness, self-centeredness and scarcity mentality syndrome leading to stealing of national resources, intimidation and blackmail, suppression of freedom of expression, big and less effective cabinet, political appointment  with no authority to execute due line duties! These nurture feelings of resentment, internal bickering, demonstrations and caucuses of disgruntled citizens.

Failure to learn, unlearn and re-learn plus ignoring the admonitions of their wise predecessors is the greatest killer cancer to African leadership of the 21st Century. Like Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: “That which shall kill us: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; and worship without sacrifice.” And this is already happening. Where it hasn’t reached, watch the space!

Patrick Katagata, Leadership, organizational development & performance effectiveness consultant  – Uganda.

Patrice Eméry Lumumba’s Second Life

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This man has two lives. The first was cut short by the colonialists. The second will last eternally.

Patrice Emery Lumumba, a young African with attentive, radiant eyes, has for ever taken his place in the ranks of heroic fighters who sacrificed their lives for human happiness. In the Congo we clearly saw this second life of the country’s first Prime Minister, who chose torture and death rather than submit.

He has remained eternally young, fighting and unconquerable.

Time has not yet stilled the pain. It seems only recently that he lived, laughed and frowned. “He made a speech at this very aerodrome,” we were told by Albert Busheri, commissioner of Paulice in Orientale Province, whom we met in the spring of 1961. “The heat was unbearable, but the people stood absolutely still while Patrice spoke.”

“What did he say?”

“I don’t remember the words, but I can still hear his wrathful voice accusing the Belgian colonialists of crimes, of the infinite suffering they caused our country. Then a note of excitement crept in when he spoke of what our country would be like when it became independent. As I listened to him, I pictured a new Congo to myself, a Congo with factories, new houses, schools, hospitals, and new people—doctors and engineers—not Belgians but Congolese. There’s nothing of that now.”

A sad look appeared on Busheri’s face. After a moment’s silence he went on:

“We have a fine hospital here in Paulice, but it’s not operating. There’s not a single doctor in the town. But in spite of everything this country will be what Lumumba wanted it to be. You’ll see….”

One evening we learned that in Paulice there was a man who was called Lumumba’s teacher.

It was already night when we knocked on the door of a small house on the outskirts of the town.

… Paul Kimbala was an elderly man. Our guides respectfully called him “father”. He rose heavily to his feet, went to another room and came back with a tattered book. On it its owner had written in his own hand: “Patrice Lumumba”. We carefully turned over the yellowed pages. A volume of lectures on logic, it had belonged to Lumumba. “I’m going to turn it over to a museum. We’ll have Lumumba museums one day, and towns will be named after him,” Kimbala said.

“Like Lumumba, I am a Batetela. We come from the same village. I knew his father well. His father was a Catholic and Patrice went to a Protestant school. Mission schools were the only places in the Congo where one could get an education. But he did not stay in that school long. Religion did not interest him and he was expelled. Later he came to live with me in Stanleyville. He worked and continued with his studies. He was an amazing youth. There was a library near our house and he used to spend every free moment in it. Every evening, I remember, he used to come home with a large heap of paper, which was covered with writing. ‘They’re extracts, father,’ he said to me. ‘They’ll be useful to me.’ I don’t remember seeing him resting or simply making merry. Even when others would be singing and dancing or feasting, I would always see him with a book. Patrice was very persevering.

“Then he went to Leopoldville, where he studied in a Post Office school for six months. After he finished the school he wrote to me asking whether he should stay on in Leopoldville or return to Stanleyville. I advised him to return. He came back to Stanleyville and worked as the manager of a small Post Office branch 80 kilometres away from the town. All that time he regarded my home as his own. He married Pauline Opanga in my house. How happy he was at his wedding.

“In 1954 I moved to Paulice, leaving my house to Lumumba. I did not see him again until 1960.”

Kimbala grew thoughtful. The flame flickered in the kerosene lamp on the small table. We sat with bated breath and the prolonged shrill notes of the cicadas were all that disturbed the silence of the Congolese night.

“The last time I saw Patrice,” Kimbala said, resuming his story, “was in the summer of 1960, when he was the Prime Minister of the country. I visited him in Leopoldville. There were many people around him and it was impossible to get close to him. But I stood in the house and waited. Suddenly he saw me and came striding over to me. ‘You came, father,’ he said to me in our native Batetela. I had no money and asked him to help me. With an embarrassed smile he said: ‘I don’t have any money either, but we’ll soon fix that.’ He turned to the people around him and said: ‘Who can give me some money?’ Scores of hands were stretched out to him. It was our last meeting. I never saw- him again.

“Patrice was my pupil and I’m proud of him. I watched him begin his struggle. It was when he was working in a Post Office near Stanleyville. He and his friends frequently gathered in my house.”

… In Stanleyville we did not have to look long for Patrice Lumumba’s house. Everybody knew it, and people from all over the Congo came specially to see it. There were many people near the house when we arrived. They carried portraits of Lumumba and stood in silence. And on a green lawn, in front of the verandah where Pauline Lumumba and her younger son Roland were sitting, a group of peasants dressed in ancient national costumes were performing funeral dances to the beat of a tom-tom. The dancers swayed slowly in time to the rhythm. The tiny bells sewn on their costumes jingled, forming a contrast to the hollow sounds of the tom-tom.

The rhythm grew faster and soon the group was performing a war dance. The grief and hopeless despair in the beat of the tom-tom gave way to a call for vengeance….

Lumumba’s family has a heavy burden of sorrow, but they are not alone. The people of the Congo remember their national hero.

Darkness descends swiftly on the equator. When we left Lumumba’s house, the lilac sky was covered with a black, star-spangled blanket. People were still standing near the house, and it seemed that the tall, thin man with the proud name of Patrice Emery Lumumba, who is living on, would appear at any moment.

TOMAS KOLESNICHENKO

(Patrice Lumumba: Fighter for Africa’s Freedom, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1961, pp 110-113.)

Is Africa Bracing for Recolonization?

Françafrique

While sympathisers of the West are still reluctant to believe that the centre of power is no longer the West, it has to be acknowledged that since the end of the Second World War, the world was divided into two sharp contrasting ideologies: Socialism and Capitalism. The two ideologies propounded by the Eastern bloc and the Western bloc respectively sought to influence Africa.

Africa’s embrace of the Eastern bloc was a great threat to the West. Indeed, during late 1980s, the world witnessed the triumph of the Western bloc in the Cold War. The end of the Cold War brought a number of changes in the international politics; leaving the West as the sole determiner of the global affairs. It was during this time that Africa was left in a state of confusion, not knowing exactly which path to follow. Africa had to go and incline to the altar of their former oppressors.

The Eastern bloc started to slowly reorganise for the purpose of taking over the world as Africa stayed behind waiting for the giants to determine her fate. While Russia, the then leading nation in the Eastern bloc was trying to gather the strength and reclaim her position, China in her position also worked hard to penetrate in Africa as a true friend who had been with Africa since the times for struggle for independence, a true friend who helped to construct the post colonial Africa and a true friend who would provide aid to Africa at the time when she had severe economic crises after the cold war.

Today China is the global giant economically and technologically. Since the 15th century (c.1441) for any nation to be regarded as the most powerful nation, reflection was made on the nation’s ability to control and dominate the world economically through Africa. It has to be remembered that during the 15th century, the world witnessed the massive exportation of Africans to the new world (the Americas). Dominating Africans means dominating the global economy. Since the advent of capitalism, Africa had been playing a vital role in the global economy. That is why global hegemonies struggle to capture the prize- Africa and plunder its wealth.

Traditionally, it used to be known that communist countries were atheists in general. No religion was allowed in those countries especially Christianity. It was understood that religion was the tool of class subjugation, oppression and suppression of the majority poor by the few who owned the major means of production. As a result, communism and religion never saw each other eye to eye.

While in socialist countries religion and freedom of worship were legally banned, religion (particularly Christianity) joined hands with capitalism to make sure that in the end of the day, communism collapsed. At the end of the day, religion and capitalism “triumphed” over communism. The late Blessed Pope Paul II is allegedly said to be one of the significant figures who ensured that communists did not emerge as victors in the Cold War. Today, China, once a staunch follower of communism is training and releasing religious leaders to become missionaries in Africa. Is this paving the way for another colonization?

Stanislaus Kigosi

The author stanislaussenior@yahoo.com is a teacher at Nyumbu Secondary School in Tanzania, holding a B.A. Ed (Hons) UDSM, PGD Economic Diplomacy (CFR) and currently pursuing the LLB degree at the Open University of Tanzania.

Africa Loses Billions in Illicit Money Laundering

Thabo Mbeki 2

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki says Africa is losing billions each year to illicit capital outflows in development.

Addressing members of the 53rd Liberian Legislature in a joint session Tuesday in Monrovia, he said that the rate at which Africa loses development money through illegal means is alarming.

“We are losing a lot of this capital that we need as a result of everything we throw out of the continent through illegal means and there is an estimate that the continent loses annually at least fifty billion dollars through illicit capital outflow,” Mbeki notes.

“Now you can compare that to something like US$25 billion that comes into the continent as a result of development assistance.”

He said Africa loses double on what comes in as development assistance as a result of weak systems put in place by African governments and this has prompted finance ministers to start to take actions to curb the situation.

The former President, who is Chairman of the High Level Panel on Illicit Flows of the United Nations Commission for Africa is set to spend four days in Liberia to holding discussions with President Sirleaf and members of the Panel.

He also says African leaders should stop suppressing its citizens, stressing that any government that is engaged in such act might soon lead the country to serious chaos that could create instability.

On Monday, April 29, 2013 Mbeki met with Panel Members at the Royal Grand Hotel in the Sinkor Boulevard before meeting President Sirleaf at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill.

He said the organization was established as a result of a decision of the African Finance Ministers, who realized that the continent faces such development challenges that therefore require all necessary strategies to attend to them.

Meanwhile, Chairman Mbeki will also have a luncheon with the Heads of State of the Mano River Union (MRU) Summit before meeting with the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, the Liberia Business Association and the Liberia Bankers Association later at the Royal Grand Hotel.

NATHANIEL DAYGBOR/THENEWDAWN

Africa: History, Imperialism and Endangered Africans

Africa

Whilst the international community celebrates the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2012,Sankara Kamara reflects on the dehumanization and outright denial of human rights for Africans through the experiences of enslavement and colonisation

On 10 December 2012, the international community celebrated the 64th anniversary of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ On the same day in 1948, the phrase ‘International Community,’ assumed a new meaning when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ By formally making ‘human rights’ international, the world became a place where the dignity of every human being is theoretically recognized.

EDIFYING YOUNG MINDS

The purpose of this article is to edify young African minds by discussing an aspect of our history slowly forgotten by some of Africa’s educational systems. From Cape Town in South Africa to Freetown in Sierra Leone, young African minds continue to be engrossed by modernity without necessarily trying to understand what it means to be an African in a world held hostage by imperialism. In the fast-paced world in which we live, it is easy to forget that the African continent has trekked a long way, from the throes of colonial rule to the emergence of ‘independent’ states in the 1960s. Rather than use modernity’s comforts to delve into their history and keep it alive, modern-day Africans are actually losing their history to willful ignorance, one generation at a time. I cannot end this article without letting young Africans know that before the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in 1948, international law–as understood by Europeans—did NOT recognize the human rights of Africans. The European powers which colonised the African continent, abolished the human rights of Africans by robbing the continent at gunpoint.

DEHUMANIZATION VIA COLONISATION

Were it not for the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which radically changed Portugal’s foreign policy toward people of color, Lisbon would have continued to oppress its colonised Africans until the end of the twentieth century. Portugal was one of the earliest European powers to arrive in Africa as a coloniser and slave-catcher. Disquietingly enough, Portugal did not grant independence to its African colonies until fairly recently, in 1975, one year after a leftist military coup forced Lisbon to end its costly wars of oppression in Africa. How does a synopsis of colonial rule fit into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

The colonisation of Africa was based on the racist belief that Africans do not have human rights. Animated by the racist beliefs of the day, the colonisation of Africa was conducted to destroy the indigenous institutions which kept African societies on an even keel. On top of being exploitative, the colonisation of Africa came along with variants of cruelties that amounted to crimes against humanity. The first amputations of innocent Africans were committed in the Congo, where King Leopold of Belgium killed millions of Africans with genocidal intent. In the jostle to seize African territories and exploit the natural resources they contained, King Leopold of Belgium took over the Congo as virtual ruler, from 1885-1908. A European fraudster living in an era of the imperial brutality approved by the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, King Leopold fixed his gaze on the Congo, where he starved, amputated, and mass-murdered millions of Africans.

GENOCIDAL KING LEOPOLD AND THE GENOCIDAL GERMANS

Alas, King Leopold was not the only mass-murderer with African blood on his hands. While the Belgians literally gored their African subjects to death in the Congo, the Germans were similarly active in Namibia, where the German state committed its first genocide. The Nazi extermination of the Jews was not the first genocide committed by a German state. When the Herero people of Namibia rebelled against colonial rule in 1904, the German government responded with a killer Blitzkrieg, murdering tens of thousands of colonized Africans! Germany wanted the Africans in Namibia to know that resistance against white supremacy would be met with European savagery. A few decades after the German genocide against the Herero people in Namibia, the British Empire showed its fangs in colonial Kenya, where the nationalist Mau Mau movement was targeted for destruction in gulags and torture centers.

NO INTERNATIONAL LAW TO PROTECT AFRICANS

In 2004, the-then German Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation, Heidemarie W. Zeul, officially ‘apologized’ for Germany’s killing sprees in Namibia, calling them a ‘genocide.’ Although the German spokeswoman recognized her country’s ‘guilt’ and ‘moral responsibility’ for the slaughter of Namibians, she implicitly refused to respect the human rights of the Africans murdered in that country. Her argument was that today’s Germany cannot be legally responsible for the 1904 genocide in Namibia. According to her twisted logic, there was no international law at the time to protect civilians against colonial brutality. What the German politician was saying, albeit in codes, is that colonial-era Europe legally saw Africans as sub-humans marked for murder without consequences. Almost every modern European state has made this racist argument, often through invented, legal sophisms. In 1992, the late Nigerian tycoon, Chief Mushood Abiola and a group of eminent Africans coalesced around the Organization of African unity (OAU), with the specific aim of holding Europe accountable for crimes against humanity committed in Africa during slavery and colonial rule. Chief Abiola and the group of eminent Africans failed to make headway because international relations–like race-relations in a multicultural country–are dominated by oppressors versus the oppressed.

Africans will remain uncompensated because race and power determine who gets what in the pitiless world of capitalism. Cliché-driven but true, the expression ‘History Repeats Itself,’ remains valid in Africa, as the continent tries to chart a new course in the twenty-first century. Apparently forgetful of its tragic, historical encounters with Europe, Africa continues to lay itself bare to the exploitative designs of multinational corporations. All over sub-Saharan Africa, governments are entering into questionable deals with multinational corporations, selling large tracts of land to foreigners who want to re-colonize the continent, this time with official, African approval. The lopsided deals signed by African leaders, continue to give open checks to multinational corporations, who pompously put themselves above the rule of law when dealing with Africans. Lest we forget, the Europeans who enslaved, and later colonized, the African continent are the same actors behind the multinational corporations grabbing lands in Africa today. Capitalism is very powerful, but its predatory tentacles can be resisted by a measure of African unity. If we continue to ignore the historical lessons of the past, the imperialists will re-colonize Africa–economically, that is! Needless to say, the economic re-colonisation of Africa will reduce our political independence to a mere, laughingstock.

Sankara Kamara is a Sierra Leonean academic living in Atlanta. He has traveled extensively in West Africa, where he once lived and worked as a teacher and journalist.

Dear Biko (Simphiwe Dana)

In these times of open letters I have decided to pen one to you, and I feel it is long overdue. That we can write open letters without fear or favour should make you proud as one of the bringers of our freedom. So thank you for walking that path so we, your progeny, may never have to walk it. And may we never abuse these freedoms.

I must say I miss your voice of reason. Since you’ve been gone the gains have been very little and the sacrifices plenty for this freedom of ours. Do not worry I have no intention of whining but rather I seek answers that will propel us into action, because you’re a hands-on kind of a guy, this is the depth of your passion.

I remember your calculation of what the apartheid state would do were they to be forced to cede power to the rightful owners. You spoke of a buffer zone that would help protect their ill-gotten privileges. How did you know?

South Africa is the richest economy in Afrika. This is true and it is beautiful – but who are these rich people when two thirds of the country lives on under R2 500 a month? And who are these poor people living such miserly lives?
Why has every state initiative to alleviate poverty and balance the scales of justice failed? Why has the face of our oppression become so invisible? Discussed over tea by the elite who have no intention of being hands on.

You spoke of a separation of powers. Today I see the effects of the separation of political power from economical power spanning the last 18 years. I also see the overzealousness of the buffer zoners in pursuit of excellence in buffer zoning. I see the advent of neocolonialism because the buffer zoners have been duped into doing nothing for their people, playing into the stereotype that we are not capable of governing ourselves, and playing into the hands of our oppressors. Of course you cannot govern without passion and love for your constituency. And when you have passion and love you have vision.

The truth is we are a defeated people. You knew that and you planned for it. You planned our revival and put it to paper so it would outlive you. How could we have gotten it so wrong?

We bent over backwards for the idea of freedom and in the process lost the right to raise our fists in the air in salute of the people’s power. That power had been swindled right under our feet in secret meetings while we were caught up in the euphoria of a free Mandela. Secret meetings that would create a buffer zone to lull us into a rainbow slumber.

How much of a sacrifice do we require of our leaders? Is 27 years enough? Is your death enough? Did you even choose to be a leader for us to have all these expectations of you? Or was it a matter of circumstance?

As obviously has become apparent, the outcome of the secret meetings was not the desired one for us. What should happen now?

I’m asking you because you connected people, got them on the same page. The ball game is slightly different now. The fight is to now inspire. Our leaders lack the will to do right. Our people have given away power over their lives.

See, you were right. This freedom has to start on the inside. I can believe that despite the skewed negotiations of 1992, you would still have pushed a rigorous education campaign because education trumps all oppression. Education is initiation into life, it teaches us how to fish. Skewed negotiations or not we would have made strides that would have equipped us with enough knowledge to dismantle this system that has such a chokehold on our everyday existence even in the days of our ‘freedom’. This knowledge in the hands of a few becomes either a weapon to be used against the masses or, it is used to give reason to ridicule those who dare impart it to the masses. They become ostracized by a society well experienced in policing itself.

Now education has become a class symbol. I remember walking barefoot to school. Uniform 2 sizes too small, on a stomach filled with sour milk or sweet water and umphokoqo (pap). I remember my teachers were not so well equipped, what with Bantu Education and all – but I remember their passion. I remember the books that were available to me at school. I remember Michael Jackson’s soy mince and pap lunch meal donations. The feeling in the air was that education was the way out. Most of us never bunked school. Those who did, had to hide from the whole community because everyone was your parent and had a right to spank you all the way back to school. It was more about the quality of the knowledge/education than it was about whether we were freezing our buttocks off, barefoot in winter, in windowless classrooms. This knowledge gave us the tools to break our oppression so that no other child would have to go through that.

I remember also that your understanding of the freedom that education brings stems from being shaped by a similar environment. This environment shaped most of our leaders as well.

That is why I fail to understand the disconnect between our leaders and us, the people, today. How have they failed to use those tools to implement change? How could they feel better than the rest when they were once where the majority of our people are stuck in? How did they get to those positions if they are so uninterested in the plight of the people? Or what has changed?

I believe that, overwhelmed by the weight of concessions made at the negotiations, our leaders decided to save themselves and their families rather and do what they can for the rest. So our wellbeing became a job for them instead of the next stage of our liberation. That is why they are so hard on us and are even slightly disgusted when they see the true face of blackness in our stark poverty. Then they will say things like, ‘pull up your socks, no one owes you anything’. This can only be a show of their disgust at their own failure, again playing right into the hands of our oppressors. I can imagine that this weighs heavily on those within the power structures who do not see governance as a job but phase 3 of liberation. I feel for them.
Now ‘blacks are lazy’ has become the mantra of the privileged and those who aspire to privilege, even as they are being served on, hand and foot, by our broken backed mothers and fathers.

This is what makes me sad ‘Ta Biko. We have become agents of our own demise. We no longer have a common vision. Individualism becomes a trap if not understood within the concept/context of Ubuntu. Unfortunately it is a trap that ensnares not only those who fall into it but anyone else within reach. We have become victims of individualism, populism and of our leaders’ shortsightedness. These leaders, rather than put their heads together and draft a way forward after The Deceit, they squabble over positions and ideals, dividing us – and the people lose. At election time they bring our people bags of millie meal, t shirts, and remind them who pays their social grants. Do you think a revolution is necessary to bring everyone back to the fold? Or is there a chance we can still talk to each other?

Afrika has always had royalty, in fact has thrived on royalty. This has been our system of governance from time immemorial. It is all we know. So I have no issues with political royalty. Because royalty status could be withdrawn from one family and given to another if the people deemed this to be the best course of action. Yes, we had our National Executive Councils even then. I only take issue with royalty when it does not realize that the people anointed it to serve the nation, not the other way round.

Why do we need governance if not for this?

Unfortunately, unlike in the olden days, we cannot break away from this mother tribe called South Africa and form a new tribe because the rules have changed. We have to stand our ground and fight for a better life. What must we do with all this brokenness? Tell me.

Could it be that it is only now that we are truly defeated? Because I find that the symbol of our oppression is being blackened everyday, while the true perpetrators lurk in the shadows. Could it be that now we will deliver ourselves willingly to neocolonialism because it was right, we are like children, simple minded and incapable of governing ourselves? I ask because this sentiment is growing out here. There is no cohesion in South Africa, there is especially no cohesion within the black community. It is dog eat dog out here. Our centuries’ old fear of being irrelevant and less haunts us, making us trample over each other’s heads to get to the top. It is brutal. The ultimate goal is to be a white black person with your own minions. The boss whose posterior everyone kisses. Yes we want the car, the suit, the job, the farm. And that is ok – but we don’t enjoy it unless there are others below who can envy us – and that is not ok. This is the individualism and lack of vision I am talking about. It breeds greed and a classist superiority. These are traits of a defeated people not comfortable in their own skin. Surely in a country riddled by racist oppression we cannot afford that. It is a vicious cycle and will not end well. Why is our happiness and contentment dependent on being better than others? Is this not how societies break down? Why can’t we work towards equality?

Our society is a reflection of who we truly are. The crime, hate, rape, anger, greed, powerlessness, poverty, lack of empathy, is a reflection of a rot in our society. I foresee either a revolution or a police welfare state, unless we, the people, engage on these questions truthfully.
I have so many questions. And the answers are mapped within the questions. I know it is not a single individual that can answer these questions, but all of us. The answers lie within. However; we could do with guidance. Someone to just plonk us on the right path and shake us out of our slumber.

I miss your voice of reason.

SIMPHIWE DANA

National Culture and the Fight for Freedom (Frantz Fanon)

Colonial domination, because it is total and tends to over-simplify, very soon manages to disrupt in spectacular fashion the cultural life of a conquered people. This cultural obliteration is made possible by the negation of national reality, by new legal relations introduced by the occupying power, by the banishment of the natives and their customs to outlying districts by colonial society, by expropriation, and by the systematic enslaving of men and women.

Three years ago at our first congress I showed that, in the colonial situation, dynamism is replaced fairly quickly by a substantification of the attitudes of the colonising power. The area of culture is then marked off by fences and signposts. These are in fact so many defence mechanisms of the most elementary type, comparable for more than one good reason to the simple instinct for preservation. The interest of this period for us is that the oppressor does not manage to convince himself of the objective non-existence of the oppressed nation and its culture. Every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit the inferiority of his culture which has been transformed into instinctive patterns of behaviour, to recognise the unreality of his ‘nation’, and, in the last extreme, the confused and imperfect character of his own biological structure.

Vis-à-vis this state of affairs, the native’s reactions are not unanimous While the mass of the people maintain intact traditions which are completely different from those of the colonial situation, and the artisan style solidifies into a formalism which is more and more stereotyped, the intellectual throws himself in frenzied fashion into the frantic acquisition of the culture of the occupying power and takes every opportunity of unfavourably criticising his own national culture, or else takes refuge in setting out and substantiating the claims of that culture in a way that is passionate but rapidly becomes unproductive.

The common nature of these two reactions lies in the fact that they both lead to impossible contradictions. Whether a turncoat or a substantialist the native is ineffectual precisely because the analysis of the colonial situation is not carried out on strict lines. The colonial situation calls a halt to national culture in almost every field. Within the framework of colonial domination there is not and there will never be such phenomena as new cultural departures or changes in the national culture. Here and there valiant attempts are sometimes made to reanimate the cultural dynamic and to give fresh impulses to its themes, its forms and its tonalities. The immediate, palpable and obvious interest of such leaps ahead is nil. But if we follow up the consequences to the very end we see that preparations are being thus made to brush the cobwebs off national consciousness to question oppression and to open up the struggle for freedom.

A national culture under colonial domination is a contested culture whose destruction is sought in systematic fashion. It very quickly becomes a culture condemned to secrecy. This idea of clandestine culture is immediately seen in the reactions of the occupying power which interprets attachment to traditions as faithfulness to the spirit of the nation and as a refusal to submit. This persistence in following forms of culture which are already condemned to extinction is already a demonstration of nationality; but it is a demonstration which is a throw-back to the laws of inertia. There is no taking of the offensive and no redefining of relationships. There is simply a concentration on a hard core of culture which is becoming more and more shrivelled up, inert and empty.

By the time a century or two of exploitation has passed there comes about a veritable emaciation of the stock of national culture. It becomes a set of automatic habits, some traditions of dress and a few broken-down institutions. Little movement can be discerned in such remnants of culture; there is no real creativity and no overflowing life. The poverty of the people, national oppression and the inhibition of culture are one and the same thing. After a century of colonial domination we find a culture which is rigid in the extreme, or rather what we find are the dregs of culture, its mineral strata. The withering away of the reality of the nation and the death-pangs of the national culture are linked to each other in mutual dependences. This is why it is of capital importance to follow the evolution of these relations during the struggle for national freedom. The negation of the native’s culture, the contempt for any manifestation of culture whether active or emotional and the placing outside the pale of all specialised branches of organisation contribute to breed aggressive patterns of conduct in the native. But these patterns of conduct are of the reflexive type; they are poorly differentiated, anarchic and ineffective. Colonial exploitation, poverty and endemic famine drive the native more and more to open, organised revolt. The necessity for an open and decisive breach is formed progressively and imperceptibly, and comes to be felt by the great majority of the people. Those tensions which hitherto were non-existent come into being. International events, the collapse of whole sections of colonial empires and the contradictions inherent in the colonial system strengthen and uphold the native’s combativity while promoting and giving support to national consciousness.

These new-found tensions which are present at all stages in the real nature of colonialism have their repercussions on the cultural plane. In literature, for example, there is relative over-production. From being a reply on a minor scale to the dominating power, the literature produced by natives becomes differentiated and makes itself into a will to particularism. The intelligentsia, which during the period of repression was essentially a consuming public, now themselves become producers. This literature at first chooses to confine itself to the tragic and poetic style; but later on novels, short stories and essays are attempted. It is as if a kind of internal organisation or law of expression existed which wills that poetic expression become less frequent in proportion as the objectives and the methods of the struggle for liberation become more precise. Themes are completely altered; in fact, we find less and less of bitter, hopeless recrimination and less also of that violent, resounding, florid writing which on the whole serves to reassure the occupying power. The colonialists have in former times encouraged these modes of expression and made their existence possible. Stinging denunciations, the exposing of distressing conditions and passions which find their outlet in expression are in fact assimilated by the occupying power in a cathartic process. To aid such processes is in a certain sense to avoid their dramatisation and to clear the atmosphere. But such a situation can only be transitory. In fact, the progress of national consciousness among the people modifies and gives precision to the literary utterances of the native intellectual. The continued cohesion of the people constitutes for the intellectual an invitation to go farther than his cry of protest. The lament first makes the indictment; then it makes an appeal. In the period that follows, the words of command are heard. The crystallisation of the national consciousness will both disrupt literary styles and themes, and also create a completely new public. While at the beginning the native intellectual used to produce his work to be read exclusively by the oppressor, whether with the intention of charming him or of denouncing him through ethnical or subjectivist means, now the native writer progressively takes on the habit of addressing his own people.

It is only from that moment that we can speak of a national literature. Here there is, at the level of literary creation, the taking up and clarification of themes which are typically nationalist. This may be properly called a literature of combat, in the sense that it calls on the whole people to fight for their existence as a nation. It is a literature of combat, because it moulds the national consciousness, giving it form and contours and flinging open before it new and boundless horizons; it is a literature of combat because it assumes responsibility, and because it is the will to liberty expressed in terms of time and space.

On another level, the oral tradition – stories, epics and songs of the people – which formerly were filed away as set pieces are now beginning to change. The storytellers who used to relate inert episodes now bring them alive and introduce into them modifications which are increasingly fundamental. There is a tendency to bring conflicts up to date and to modernise the kinds of struggle which the stories evoke, together with the names of heroes and the types of weapons. The method of allusion is more and more widely used. The formula ‘This all happened long ago’ is substituted by that of ‘What we are going to speak of happened somewhere else, but it might well have happened here today, and it might happen tomorrow’. The example of Algeria is significant in this context. From 1952-3 on, the storytellers, who were before that time stereotyped and tedious to listen to, completely overturned their traditional methods of storytelling and the contents of their tales. Their public, which was formerly scattered, became compact. The epic, with its typified categories, reappeared; it became an authentic form of entertainment which took on once more a cultural value. Colonialism made no mistake when from 1955 on it proceeded to arrest these storytellers systematically.

The contact of the people with the new movement gives rise to a new rhythm of life and to forgotten muscular tensions, and develops the imagination. Every time the storyteller relates a fresh episode to his public, he presides over a real invocation. The existence of a new type of man is revealed to the public. The present is no longer turned in upon itself but spread out for all to see. The storyteller once more gives free rein to his imagination; he makes innovations and he creates a work of art. It even happens that the characters, which are barely ready for such a transformation – highway robbers or more or less antisocial vagabonds – are taken up and remodelled. The emergence of the imagination and of the creative urge in the songs and epic stories of a colonised country is worth following. The storyteller replies to the expectant people by successive approximations, and makes his way, apparently alone but in fact helped on by his public, towards the seeking out of new patterns, that is to say national patterns. Comedy and farce disappear, or lose their attraction. As for dramatisation, it is no longer placed on the plane of the troubled intellectual and his tormented conscience. By losing its characteristics of despair and revolt, the drama becomes part of the common lot of the people and forms part of an action in preparation or already in progress.

Where handicrafts are concerned, the forms of expression which formerly were the dregs of art, surviving as if in a daze, now begin to reach out. Woodwork, for .example, which formerly turned out certain faces and attitudes by the million, begins to be differentiated. The inexpressive or overwrought mask comes to life and the arms tend to be raised from the body as if to sketch an action. Compositions containing two, three or five figures appear. The traditional schools are led on to creative efforts by the rising avalanche of amateurs or of critics. This new vigour in this sector of cultural life very often passes unseen; and yet its contribution to the national effort is of capital importance. By carving figures and faces which are full of life, and by taking as his theme a group fixed on the same pedestal, the artist invites participation in an organised movement.

If we study the repercussions of the awakening of national consciousness in the domains of ceramics and pottery-making, the same observations may be drawn. Formalism is abandoned in the craftsman’s work. Jugs, jars and trays are modified, at first imperceptibly, then almost savagely. The colours, of which formerly there were but few and which obeyed the traditional rules of harmony, increase in number and are influenced by the repercussion of the rising revolution. Certain ochres and blues, which seemed forbidden to all eternity in a given cultural area, now assert themselves without giving rise to scandal. In the same way the stylisation of the human face, which according to sociologists is typical of very clearly defined regions, becomes suddenly completely relative. The specialist coming from the home country and the ethnologist are quick to note these changes. On the whole such changes are condemned in the name of a rigid code of artistic style and of a cultural life which grows up at the heart of the colonial system. The colonialist specialists do not recognise these new forms and rush to the help of the traditions of the indigenous society. It is the colonialists who become the defenders of the native style. We remember perfectly, and the example took on a certain measure of importance since the real nature of colonialism was not involved, the reactions of the white jazz specialists when after the Second World War new styles such as the be-bop took definite shape. The fact is that in their eyes jazz should only be the despairing, broken-down nostalgia of an old Negro who is trapped between five glasses of whisky, the curse of his race, and the racial hatred of the white men. As soon as the Negro comes to an understanding of himself, and understands the rest of the world differently, when he gives birth to hope and forces back the racist universe, it is clear that his trumpet sounds more clearly and his voice less hoarsely. The new fashions in jazz are not simply born of economic competition. We must without any doubt see in them one of the consequences of the defeat, slow but sure, of the southern world of the United States. And it is not utopian to suppose that in fifty years’ time the type of jazz howl hiccupped by a poor misfortunate Negro will be upheld only by the whites who believe in it as an expression of nigger-hood, and who are faithful to this arrested image of a type of relationship.

We might in the same way seek and find in dancing, singing, and traditional rites and ceremonies the same upward-springing trend, and make out the same changes and the same impatience in this field. Well before the political or fighting phase of the national movement an attentive spectator can thus feel and see the manifestation of new vigour and feel the approaching conflict. He will note unusual forms of expression and themes which are fresh and imbued with a power which is no longer that of invocation but rather of the assembling of the people, a summoning together for a precise purpose. Everything works together to awaken the native’s sensibility and to make unreal and inacceptable the contemplative attitude, or the acceptance of defeat. The native rebuilds his perceptions because he renews the purpose and dynamism of the craftsmen, of dancing and music and of literature and the oral tradition. His world comes to lose its accursed character. The conditions necessary for the inevitable conflict are brought together.

We have noted the appearance of the movement in cultural forms and we have seen that this movement and these new forms are linked to the state of maturity of the national consciousness. Now, this movement tends more and more to express itself objectively, in institutions. From thence comes the need for a national existence, whatever the cost.

A frequent mistake, and one which is moreover hardly justifiable is to try to find cultural expressions for and to give new values to native culture within the framework of colonial domination. This is why we arrive at a proposition which at first sight seems paradoxical: the fact that in a colonised country the most elementary, most savage and the most undifferentiated nationalism is the most fervent and efficient means of defending national culture. For culture is first the expression of a nation, the expression of its preferences, of its taboos and of its patterns. It is at every stage of the whole of society that other taboos, values and patterns are formed. A national culture is the sum total of all these appraisals; it is the result of internal and external extensions exerted over society as a whole and also at every level of that society. In the colonial situation, culture, which is doubly deprived of the support of the nation and of the state, falls away and dies. The condition for its existence is therefore national liberation and the renaissance of the state.

The nation is not only the condition of culture, its fruitfulness, its continuous renewal, and its deepening. It is also a necessity. It is the fight for national existence which sets culture moving and opens to it the doors of creation. Later on it is the nation which will ensure the conditions and framework necessary to culture. The nation gathers together the various indispensable elements necessary for the creation of a culture, those elements which alone can give it credibility, validity, life and creative power. In the same way it is its national character that will make such a culture open to other cultures and which will enable it to influence and permeate other cultures. A non-existent culture can hardly be expected to have bearing on reality, or to influence reality. The first necessity is the re-establishment of the nation in order to give life to national culture in the strictly biological sense of the phrase.

Thus we have followed the break-up of the old strata of culture, a shattering which becomes increasingly fundamental; and we have noticed, on the eve of the decisive conflict for national freedom, the renewing of forms of expression and the rebirth of the imagination. There remains one essential question: what are the relations between the struggle – whether political or military – and culture? Is there a suspension of culture during the conflict? Is the national struggle an expression of a culture? Finally, ought one to say that the battle for freedom, however fertile a posteriori with regard to culture, is in itself a negation of culture? In short is the struggle for liberation a cultural phenomenon or not?

We believe that the conscious and organised undertaking by a colonised people to re-establish the sovereignty of that nation constitutes the most complete and obvious cultural manifestation that exists. It is not alone the success of the struggle which afterwards gives validity and vigour to culture; culture is not put into cold storage during the conflict. The struggle itself in its development and in its internal progression sends culture along different paths and traces out entirely new ones for it. The struggle for freedom does not give back to the national culture its former value and shapes; this struggle which aims at a fundamentally different set of relations between men cannot leave intact either the form or the content of the people’s culture. After the conflict there is not only the disappearance of colonialism but also the disappearance of the colonised man.

This new humanity cannot do otherwise than define a new humanism both for itself and for others. It is prefigured in the objectives and methods of the conflict. A struggle which mobilises all classes of the people and which expresses their aims and their impatience, which is not afraid to count almost exclusively on the people’s support, will of necessity triumph. The value of this type of conflict is that it supplies the maximum of conditions necessary for the development and aims of culture. After national freedom has been obtained in these conditions, there is no such painful cultural indecision which is found in certain countries which are newly independent, because the nation by its manner of coming into being and in the terms of its existence exerts a fundamental influence over culture. A nation which is born of the people’s concerted action and which embodies the real aspirations of the people while changing the state cannot exist save in the expression of exceptionally rich forms of culture.

The natives who are anxious for the culture of their country and who wish to give to it a universal dimension ought not therefore to place their confidence in the single principle of inevitable, undifferentiated independence written into the consciousness of the people in order to achieve their task. The liberation of the nation is one thing; the methods and popular content of the fight are another. It seems to me that the future of national culture and its riches are equally also part and parcel of the values which have ordained the struggle for freedom.

And now it is time to denounce certain pharisees. National claims, it is here and there stated, are a phase that humanity has left behind. It is the day of great concerted actions, and retarded nationalists ought in consequence to set their mistakes aright. We, however, consider that the mistake, which may have very serious consequences, lies in wishing to skip the national period. If culture is the expression of national consciousness, I will not hesitate to affirm that in the case with which we are dealing it is the national consciousness which is the most elaborate form of culture.

The consciousness of self is not the closing of a door to communication. Philosophic thought teaches us, on the contrary, that it is its guarantee. National consciousness, which is not nationalism, is the only thing that will give us an international dimension. This problem of national consciousness and of national culture takes on in Africa a special dimension. The birth of national consciousness in Africa has a strictly contemporaneous connexion with the African consciousness. The responsibility of the African as regards national culture is also a responsibility with regard to African-Negro culture. This joint responsibility is not the fact of a metaphysical principle but the awareness of a simple rule which wills that every independent nation in an Africa where colonialism is still entrenched is an encircled nation, a nation which is fragile and in permanent danger.

If man is known by his acts, then we will say that the most urgent thing today for the intellectual is to build up his nation. If this building up is true, that is to say if it interprets the manifest will of the people and reveals the eager African peoples, then the building of a nation is of necessity accompanied by the discovery and encouragement of universalising values. Far from keeping aloof from other nations, therefore, it is national liberation which leads the nation to play its part on the stage of history. It is at the heart of national consciousness that international consciousness lives and grows. And this two-fold emerging is ultimately the source of all culture.

Frantz Fanon, Reproduced from Wretched of the Earth (1959) publ. Pelican. Speech to Congress of Black African Writers.

“Black Demagogues and Pseudo-Scholars”? A Dissenting View (Dr. John Henrik Clarke)

The following is Dr. John H. Clarke’s response to a 1992 New York Times OP-ED by Henry Louis Gates Jr. entitled “Black Demagogues and Pseudo-Scholars”:

I am raising the following questions: At once, I questioned the title of Professor Gates’ article. He should never refer to anyone as a demagogue unless he’s ready to call the names of the demagogues, singular or plural, and point out the nature of their demagoguery. He should never refer to any scholar as being pseudo, unless he is ready to name the scholar and prove the pseudo nature of his or her work. To disagree with a scholar does not make the scholar a demagogue. Most of the old and new Black scholars asking for a total reconsideration of African history, in particular, and world history, in general, are using neglected documents by radical White Scholars who are generally neglected by the White academic community.

In African history I am referring to scholars like Gerald Massey and his work, Egypt, Light of the World, (two volumes), The Book of the Beginnings, (two volumes) and Natural Genesis, (two volumes).I am also referring to Gerald Massey’s greatest English disciple, Albert Churchward, whose book, The Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man, asks for a reconsideration of the role of people outside of Europe and their role in human development.Your attention should also be called to the work, Anacalypsis, two volumes by Godfrey Higgins, published in 1837.

These books deal with the dispersions of African people throughout the world.Many of these Black scholars, whose work Professor Gates questioned, were reading works by Whites in French, German and other languages that spoke positively about African American achievement long before Mr. Gates’ parents were born.This school of Black scholars are neither demagogues nor are they pseudos; they are the forerunners of the present propagators of Afrocentricity. They know what Professor Gates doesn’t seem to know: that African people are the most written about and the least understood people in the world.If Professor Gates has not read the works of the White pioneer scholars about the role of African people in world history, it stands to reason that he has no understanding of the senior Black scholars such as Yosef ben-Jochannan, John G. Jackson, Cheikh Anta Diop, Jacob Carruthers, Chancellor Williams, Lao Hansberry and myself.Professor Gates’ reference to Black anti-Semitism is an exaggeration.

A new Black awareness is causing Blacks, young and old, to question everything that has any influence on their lives. We are realizing that Jewish people have an influence on our lives far out of proportion to their numbers in the population. I totally disagree with Professor Gates that anti-Semitism among Whites is on the wane in the country. Quite the contrary, I think it is increasing in this country and in the world, and Black people are not the cause of it.What you have in this new charge of Black and Semitism against Blacks is the most pathetic of all tragedies, a scapegoat looking for a scapegoat. Because of Black Americans’ reading or misreading of the Bible, we have always had a sentimental attachment to Jewish people and, to a large extent, most of us still do. During slavery, we wanted to attach ourselves to a people who had escaped from bondage.

So, the Exodus story in the Bible became more real to us than to the Jewish people. Right now, in a large number of Black Baptist churches, you can get a large number of the congregation to shed real tears of sympathy over the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace. Most of tganized White hate groups in the United States. I know of no overt attacks by the Jews being made on any of them. Yet, Jewish people have attacked Louis Farrakhan more than they have attacked the leaders of the Aryan Nation or the American Nazi Party. Are the Jews in America looking for an easy victory or the Truth? Black Americans have never been their enemy. And they, the Jews, have never been our friends unless it was to their convenience. Neo-Nazism has fully re-emerged in Germany and in other states in Europe.

These are people with a nation structure and armies. Why is it that a group of weak Black Americans are getting more attention from the Jews than these powerful White forces rising against them?I’m sorry that Professor Cornell West saw fit to make a statement about this false charge of Black anti-Semitism. I could agree with his statement if the statement were true. What Black people are realizing in this country, in the Caribbean Islands and in Africa is that the Jewish people, of European descent, are a part of the world apparatus of European control. And, in the matter of White control over the world, their position is no different than that of other Europeans. I am not saying that the Jews of Europe are more bent on world dominance than other Europeans; I am saying that they are not radically different from other Europeans in this regard. Internal disputes between the Jews and other Europeans is a form of European domestic racism.

European racism has spent itself out outside of Europe. During the Nazi regime in Germany, that racism turned inward on itself and created what is referred to as The Holocaust. This was a problem started in Europe by Europeans that should have been resolved in Europe by Europeans.Repeatedly I have said that Europeans are geniuses at draining the diseased pus of their political sores on the lands of other people. What is now being called anti Semitism among a newly awakened Black intellectual class is that they are beginning to look at the people referred to as Jews as part of the totality of European world dominance. We are not saying that the European who is a Jew is any more of an imperialist than any other of the Europeans, but that he is basically the same. We are not saying that the role of the Jews in the slave trade was any different than any other Europeans, but that it was basically the same. When they saw the opportunity to make money in the slave trade, they took advantage of this opportunity the same as other Europeans in the same business.

I do not choose to deal with Jesse Jackson’s opportunistic appearances at the World Jewish Congress and the statements that he made. Jesse Jackson has his own agenda that is unrelated to the Liberation Movement of his own people. He was catering to his Jewish audiences for reasons unrelated to Black people and their liberation movements.Black people are becoming increasingly conscious of people who exploit their community and hold them in contempt. We make no exceptions when these exploiters are non-European.In referring to present-day anti-Semitism and the attempt to trace it to having roots in Christianity, Professor Gates shows his lack of understanding of the manifestation of Christianity among American Blacks and how that interpretation of this religion is part of their humanity.

Their interpretation, in no way, relates to anti-Semitism.I wonder if Professor Gates would explain the words in the Negro spiritual:Go down Moses … Tell ol’ PharaohTo let my people go.or the words:Deep river,My home is over Jordan.This is African identification with the Biblical people of the Hebrew faith. It would help if Professor Gates would read a towering masterpiece in three volumes by James Fraser, The Folklore in the Old Testament and another contemporary book, Hebrew Myths, edited by Robert Graves and Raphael Patai.I do not think that Professor Gates completely read Michael Bradley’s The Iceman Inheritance before referring to it because in it Michael Bradley has very little to say about the Jews.

The book, in essence, is about the rise of a certain kind of temperament that changed the world-the European Personality. This personality has shown little or no respect for civilizations, cultures and ways of life that it did not create. Cultures and people that the European did not understand were declared primitive.In the last 500 years especially, European historians have inferred, or said outright, that the world waited in darkness for the Europeans to bring the light. In fact, the Europeans destroyed more civilizations than they ever created.

They destroyed civilizations that were already old before Europe was born.Michael Bradley was characterizing the Europeans as “Icemen” is not totally incorrect, if it is incorrect at all. I wrote the Introduction to the new edition of this book, because I considered the book to be of some significance in explaining the origin of racism. I did not say the book was a masterpiece of the greatest achievement in writing. It was good basic research and told honesty about Europeans’ beginnings and the impact of racism on the broader world. I have also written the Foreword to another book by Michael Bradley that will be even more controversial, Chosen People From The Caucasus: Jewish Origins, Delusions Deceptions, and Historical in the Slave Trade, Genocide Cultural Colonization. (Third World Press, Chicago).My writing on Black-Jewish relationships is not new. I participated in forums on this subject in the old Harlem History Club in the 30s.

In my latest book, Notes for an African World Revolution: Africans at the Crossroads, (Africa World Press, Trenton, 1991), Chapter Four is called ‘Africa, Zionism, and Friends Without Friendship.” This is an analysis of 500 years of African-Jewish relationships. I am not writing about an historical Black-Jewish affiance, because the one often referred to is a myth. There can be no successful alliance between weak people and strong people.There have been times when it was to the best interest of the Jews to support certain Black causes, and they have supported them. When it was no longer in their interest, they withdrew from them. The Jewish people have practiced what all people on this earth have a right to practice the essential selfishness of survival. Indeed, I have criticized multiculturalism and Jewish control over the education system in New York City and the education system in the United States, in general, especially the Teachers Union. Jews have had no compunction in fighting for a holocaust curriculum.

And in many schools it is mandated and Black students must learn about the Holocaust before they learn about their own history.Over the years, I have said repeatedly I am not willing to argue whether Hitler killed 6,000,000 or six. He was wrong if he only killed six. I think he committed one of the greatest crimes in history. No human being would ever approve of this crime. If we are honest about historical information, we would know that the mass murder and what is referred to as the Holocaust was a small event in comparison to other mass murder events in history.

The Belgians killed three times more people than this in the Congo. In an island near Australia called Tasmania, the British killed every man, woman and child. In the years of the slave trade, Africa lost, over one hundred million people. For every African captured, three were killed. The Arab slave trade in East Africa that started a thousand years before the European Atlantic slave trade and the Atlantic slave trade that lasted approximately 300 years was a holocaust against African people, which started 500 years ago and is not completely over to this day. If the four policeman in Los Angeles had been beating a dog instead of Rodney King, they would have been put on trial and convicted.

It is time to speak of the Great Holocaust in history. The European holocaust, I repeat, was small in comparison to some of the others.When Professor Gates refers to me as the paterfamilias of the Afrocentric movement,” I’m not too clear about whether this is a compliment or a thinly veiled insult. I did not go to the dictionary to look up the words because I never use dollar words in 25 cents situations. But, as a matter of fact, my interest in African history and world history in general started when I was a Baptist Sunday School teacher in Columbus, Georgia, where I grew to early manhood. I could not find the image of my people in the Bible, so I began the search through the literature of the world until I found them and learned why some people considered it a necessity to leave African people out of the respectful commentary of history. I became active in the old Harlem History Club at the Harlem YMCA soon after arriving in New York City at the age of 18 in 1933.The study of African history, culture and politics and world history in general has been the all-prevailing passion of my existence. It is something I do, like breathing is something I do. I think too much fuss has been made of the case of Professor Jeffries who has said nothing that he cannot document.

It is too often forgotten that most of the information Professor Jeffries gave on the slave trade was taken from Jewish writers. The book, The Grandees, by Steven Birmingham, set his search in motion. He read large numbers of documents over and beyond that book, such as more revealing books by Professor Ben-ram Wallace Korn: Jews and Negro Slavery in the Old South 1789-1865, (1961), and The Early Jews of New Orleans, (1969). The story of Aaron Lopez of Newport, Rhode Island, is too well-known to be retold here. Conrad Muhammad and Kahlid Kahfah are not intellectual cohorts with Professor Jeffries. I doubt if he’s met either one of them. Neither one of these men belong to the academic community, nor is either one well read enough to be classified as a scholar. They are mainly Moslem zealots; not too different from zealots of other religions. I have no argument for or against the Learned Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I have not been able to authenticate it one way or the other.

If someone assures me that it is a piece of fiction, I am not prepared to argue. Professor Gates’ complaint about the book, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews seems without justification. The book is no masterpiece. It is a competent piece of research. The documentation is good. Instead of complaining about the footnotes, Professor Gates should read some of the footnotes and the books they refer to; especially he should read the works of Professor Bertram W. Korn, an able Jewish scholar whose writings about the role of American Jews in the slave trade is most revealing. Professor Gates should also learn that neither Blacks nor Jews can go on forever denouncing every thing that is not in their favor.

Honest sentiment and some very able research in favor of the Jewish people was started in the old Harlem History Club by Willis N. Huggins in the 30s. Some of the best known of these findings were published in the Chicago Defender and in the magazine, The African. The following quote is from Willis N. Huggins’ article, “How Wrong is Hitler?…On the History of Jews, Black Folk and ‘Aryanism?’” (Chicago Defender, Chicago, January 28, 1939). When the news broke in the American Press on July 15th that the Italians were ready to go tread “The Aryan Path,” it evoked as much laughter as the world may get when news comes from Germany that Max Schmeling has been cast out of the “Aryan Fold” because “anonymous scientists” have discovered that he has a grandfather named Goldberg.

“Political Aryanism,” according to a prominent Nazi leader, “aims to turn its ire against Jews, Gypsies and the Negro races. “Since Jews are able to take care of their part of this “sentence” and, doubtless, the Gypsy does not give a hoot I should like to summarize the reactions of black folk to the new “Aryan Wave.” If we should look at the records we would see that the early Aryan language-groups stemmed from the black Dravidians who occupied southern India in remote times. ‘Me two peoples mingled freely. Thus, the so-called Indo-European movements around 2,500 B.C., were basically migrations of a Negroid folk which pooled itself in southern southeastern and southwestern Europe, around 2,000 B.C. Indeed black African races, The Grimaldi” had already covered most of Europe as early as 20,000 B.C.

They left a secondary African base for art in ancient Hellas (Greece) and a primary African base for color in Austria, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. Willis N. Huggins also wrote a series of articles on the African origin of Adolf Hitler’s racist symbols. In my opinion, I think both Blacks and Jews are often arguing about the right thing the wrong way. Jews who lived in slave trading countries participated in the slave trade as citizens of the respective country. Slavery was a business, a dirty business, but still a business. Business people engage in any business where profit can be made. The same thing is true about business people living in colonial countries in relationship to African people. I place no special blame on Jewish people who are white Europeans. I offer no special vindication, either. Their behavior in relationship to non-Europeans is basically the same as other Europeans. The internal difference and difficulties that Jews have had within the White family does not alter or change what I have just said.

What Professor Gates, the Jews and some people referred to as “Black Conservatives” fail to understand is that the African people throughout the world have suffered a special catastrophe over and above that of other people of the world. When Europeans rose in the 15th and 16th century, started the slave trade, colonized history and information about history, they also colonized the image Of God. They took away from millions of people the image of their original God-concept and replaced him or her by a god conceived in Europe. Again, I ask Professor Gates and other Black conservatives to try to understand that for 500 years we have lived in a European-conceived intellectual universe. I am willing to acknowledge that I am influenced by this conception, but I am, at least, at war against it because I realize that it is not only detrimental to my people, it is detrimental to the whole world.

Professor Gates and other Black conservatives are the crawling dogs to this new design to continue European world dominance. Professor Gates is snide in his assumption that “We can rarely bring ourselves to forgive those who have helped us.” The truth is the contrary. African people have always over-rewarded those who have helped them, often to their detriment. I wish he would explain the nature of the help and the time it was given. All people that have come among us have taken more than they have given and have eventually done us more harm than good. If you forgive the modesty, I refer you to my pamphlet, Black, White Alliances: A Historical Perspective (Third World Press, Chicago, 1971). Professor Gates keeps referring to an historical alliance between Blacks and Jews. I wish he would be more precise and say when this historical alliance occurred. I have been a teacher of African World History most of my life and a student of history in general.

I know of no evidence indicating such an alliance. The earliest opportunity for a coalition between Blacks and Jews came in 1675 B.C., when an African people called the Egyptians took in the sons and daughters of Abraham, who were fleeing from hunger and starvation in Western Asia. After receiving food, clothing and shelter as well as the foundation for Judaic culture, language and religion, the majority of these a guests” joined the invaders, the Hyksos (or Shepherd Kings) rather than form an alliance to defend the country of their African benefactors. They had found a greater acceptance in Africans than Africans have ever found in a European-dominated country. With this visit to Africa, the people who would later be known as Jews conspicuously entered world history.

Professor Gates, Cornel West and other Black conservatives use beautiful words, sometimes to say nothing, sometimes to say what has already been said and sometimes to say what is not in debate. They display their ignorance of European history and history in general. They decry any form of Black nationalism and often call it racism without knowing that for the last 500 years the world has been controlled by European or White nationalism. African self-assertion, the demand for a proper curriculum in the schools demand that we stop praising a liar and a faker like Christopher Columbus who discovered absolutely nothing-threatens an apparatus of European control set in motion by the Atlantic slave trade and continued with colonialism that ultimately laid the basis for present-day monopoly capitalism.

No matter what Europeans say they believe religiously, politically or culturally, their main objective in the world is control. Everything that has ever been developed in the European mind was meant to facilitate mind control of the world. There are no exceptions, Left or Right politically. Black conservatives are really frustrated slaves crawling back to the plantation, figuratively, letting their master know that they are willing to go back into bondage. One needs to question their words because, as slaves and enemies of their people, they will say what they are told to say and do what they are told to do. The Black conservatives have nothing to conserve except their miserable obscurity and their tragic cowardice.

These pathetically lost creatures and avid White behind kissers don’t have the nerve to be African or Black. To be African or Black with the understanding of all of its ramifications is, in itself, a commitment to the unification and uplift of all African people on the face of this earth. It is a commitment, also, to take Pan-Africanism beyond its narrow base of Black nationalism to a concept of an African world union. When the real tragedy of Black-Jewish relations is finally identified, I think it will be the dictionary and how we have misused its words.

Here is a case where semantics change depending on who is listening and what they are listening for. Your listener will often hear what you did not say and stubbornly ignore what you said. The present controversy around Black and Jewish relations is a good example of a poor and unimaginative use of words. What exactly do we mean by Black-Jewish relations? From these words we have no way of knowing that there are Blacks who are also Jews, members of the Hebrew faith. There is a genuine conflict between Black and Jewish people, and this conflict has international implications.

We can not deal with this conflict honestly until we call it by its correct name and examine its origin and development. African people the world over have no culture or religious fight with Jewish people. We come out of pluralistic societies, of our own making, where we lived side by side with a multiplicity of cultures and religions, most of the time in peace. Cultural and religious tolerance is part of our heritage as a people. If we were disposed to be against any culture or religion, it would probably not be Jewish culture and religion that had part of its early development in Africa.

Now that I have eliminated culture and religion as the basis of the Black-Jewish conflict, precisely what is the conflict about? It is about power and the emerging expectations of most of the world’s people who until recently were mainly ruled by Europeans or people of European extraction. The one thing the conflict is not about is anti-Semitism. There is a world-wide Black-White conflict which is part of the broader conflict between European and non-European people. African people are on one side of that conflict, and the people we refer to as Jews are on the other side.

When I use the words Jews or Jewish people, I am referring to White people of European descent, whose culture, development and political loyalty is European. This political loyalty to Europe and the part that Jewish people still play in maintaining European world-wide power, and not anti-Semitism, is the basis of the conflict between us. This conflict will become more fierce and tragic as non-European people challenge the power of European people all over the world.

With urgency I invite you to read Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan’s book, We the Black Jews and the book by John G. Jackson, Christianity Before Christ. I believe that Blacks and Jews need a genuine partnership. Before one can be built both of them have to be honest in admitting that they have no partnership now. Figuratively speaking, the partnership between a horse and a rider is neither a partnership or an agreement.

Today the Jews are aligning themselves with the forces of White supremacy that is diametrically opposed to the interest of most of mankind. I think they have made a political mistake of disastrous proportions, and I compare their present political position with the period of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt and the period and time that followed the loss of political connections with the Egyptian Court that Joseph made for them. And I wonder will their present position lead to another time when a king will arise, figuratively speaking, who politically knew not Joseph.

Dr. John H. Clarke, as published on The Liberator Magazine

The Political Leader Considered as the Representative of a Culture (Sekou Touré)

Since culture is not an entity or a phenomenon which is separate or separable from a people, the political leaders who have, in a free and democratic manner, acquired the confidence of that people with a view to directing it along the way it has chosen, are at the same time the expression of the aspirations of their people and the representatives or defenders of its cultural values.

The culture of a people is necessarily determined by its material and moral conditions. The man and his surroundings constitute a whole.

Every free and sovereign people finds itself placed in conditions more favourable to the expression of its cultural values than a colonized country, deprived of all freedom, whose cultué sustains the nefarious consequences of its state of subjection4 Whether it is a question of a free people or of a colonized people, the political leader who truly remains the authentic expression of his people is the one whose thought, sense of existence, social conduct and objects of action are in perfect harmony with the characteristics of his people.

Whether he tends, in a conservative spirit, to ensure the maintenance of an old economic, social and moral equilibrium, or in revolutionary manner, to replace the old conditions, by new conditions more favourable to the people, the political leader is by the very fact of his communion of ideas and action with his people, the representative of a culture. That culture may be reactionary or progressist according to the nature of the aims set for the action of the political movement to which the people have committed themselves.

The man, before becoming the leader of a group, a people, or party of the people, has inevitably made a choice between the par and the future. In this way he will represent and defend the a values, or he will sustain and give impulsion to the development and constant enrichment of all the values of his people, including the cultural values, which by their content and their form will express the realities of the conditions of existence of the people, or the need which they experience or feel for a transformation.

In consequence, whatever may be the fundamental character of a culture, reactionary or progressist, the political leader who is freely chosen by a people, maintains a natural link between action and the culture proper to his people, since, in any event, he could not act effectively upon the people if he ceased to obey the rules and values which determine their behaviour and influence their thought.
Why are the great thinkers of capitalism not accepted by the peoples who have chosen other ways of evolution? The leaders of the popular democracies could not represent a culture which was capitalist in essence for the good reason that their peoples have chosen the socialist system.

Arab culture is equally different from Latin culture because of the fact that the Arab peoples and the Latin peoples obey different thoughts and different rules of life.

In addition to the material and technical state in which a people finds itself, their mental, philosophic and moral state gives their culture a form of expression and a significance which are proper to them, quite independent of the extent to which they have a decisive influence on the general cultural context.

The imperialists use scientific, technical, economic, literary and moral cultural values in order to maintain their regime of exploitation and oppression. The oppressed peoples equally use cultural values of a contrary nature to the former, in order to make a better fight against imperialism and to extricate themselves from the colonial system. If scientific knowledge, modern techniques and the elevation of thought to the level of higher human principles for the perfecting of social life, are necessary for the enrichment of a culture, they none the less retain the capacity of being used for contradictory purposes.

It is at this point that the cultural value of a people must be identified with the contributory value which it may represent in the development of universal civilization in establishing between human beings concrete relations of equality, solidarity, unity and fraternity.

Thus, the true political leaders of Africa, whose thought and attitude tend towards the national liberation of their peoples can only be committed men, fundamentally committed against all the forms and forces of depersonalization of African culture. They represent, by the anti-colonialist nature and the national content of their struggle, the cultural values of their society mobilized against colonization.

It is as representatives of these cultural values that they lead the struggle for the decolonization of all the structures of their country.

But decolonization does not consist merely in liberating oneself from the presence of the colonizers: it must necessarily be completed by total liberation from the spirit of the ‘colonized’, that is to say, from all the evil consequences, moral, intellectual and cultural, of the colonial system.

Colonization, in order to enjoy a certain security, always needs to create and maintain a psychological climate favourable to its justification: hence the negation of the cultural, moral and intellectual values of the subjected people; that is why the struggle for national liberation is only complete when, once disengaged from the colonial apparatus, the country becomes conscious of the negative values deliberately injected into its life, thought and traditions… in order to extirpate them in the conditions of its evolution and flourishing. This science of depersonalizing the colonized people is sometimes so subtle in its methods that it progressively succeeds in falsifying our natural psychic behaviour and devaluing our own original virtues and qualities with a view to our assimilation. It is no mere chance that French colonialism reached its height at the period of the famous and now exploded theory of ‘primitive’ and ‘pre-logical mentality’ of Lévy-Bruhl. In modifying certain forms of its manifestations, although it apparently tries to adapt itself to the inevitable evolution of the oppressed peoples, colonization has never engendered, under the most diverse and subtle aspects, anything but a moral, intellectual and cultural superiority complex towards the colonized peoples. And this policy of depersonalization is all the more successful since the nature of the degree of evolution of the colonized and the colonizer is different. It is all the more deeply rooted where domination is long-lasting.

In the most varied forms, the ‘colonized complex’ taints evolution and imprints itself on our very reflexes. Thus the wearing of a cap and sun-glasses, regarded as a sign of western civilization, bears witness to this depersonalization which runs counter to the current of our evolution.

Nevertheless, it is wrong to think that one people, one race one culture possess by themselves all the moral, spiritual, social or intellectual values: to believe that the truth is not necessarily to be  found elsewhere than in one’s own national, racial or cultural background is an Utopia.

We have already said that human discoveries, intellectual acquisitions, the expansion of knowledge do not belong exclusively to anyone. They are the result of a sum of universal discoveries, acquisitions and expansion in which no people has the right to claim a monopoly.

The immigrants into the United States did not leave behind them at the frontiers of their respective countries all that they acquired in the intellectual field; they did not have to reinvent sailing ships, iron tools or gunpowder. They used them for their own needs before certain colonial powers thought of claiming their discovery and the rights of ownership in them.

It is not because he symbolizes the colonial presence that the French gendarme in garrison at Dakar or Algiers is the ‘proprietor’ of the process of liberating the atom. And yet it is in this form and by similar intellectual approaches that colonialism has established the principle of its superiority.

Our school books in the colonial schools teach us about the wars of the Gauls, the life of Joan of Arc or Napoleon, the list of French Départements, the poems of Lamartine or the plays of Moliere, as though Africa had never had any history, any past, any geographical existence, any cultural life… Our pupils were only appreciated according to their aptitude in this policy of integral cultural assimilation.

Colonialism, through its diverse manifestations, by boasting of having taught our elite in its schools science, technique, mechanics and electricity, succeeds in influencing a number of our intellectuals to such an extent that they end up by finding in this the justification for colonial domination. Some go so far as to believe that, in order to acquire the true universal knowledge of science, they must necessarily disregard the moral, intellectual and cultural values of their own country in order to subject themselves to and assimilate a culture which is often foreign to them in a thousand respects.

And yet, is not the knowledge which leads to the practice of surgery taught in the same way in London, Prague, Belgrade and Bordeaux? Is the procedure for calculating the volume of a body not identical in New York, Budapest and Berlin? Is the principle of Archimedes not the same in China and in Holland? There is no Russian chemistry or Japanese chemistry, there is only chemistry pure and simple.

The science which results from all universal knowledge has no nationality. The ridiculous conflicts which rage about the origin of this or that discovery do not interest us, because they add nothing to the value of the discovery.

But, however much it may dissemble, colonialism betrays its intentions in the organization and nature of the education which it claims to dispense in the name of some humanism or other, I know not what. The truth is that, to start with, it had to satisfy its needs for junior staff, clerks, book-keepers, typists, messengers etc. The elementary character of the education dispensed bears sufficiently eloquent witness to the object in view, for the colonial power took great care, for example, not to set up real administrative colleges for young Africans which might have trained genuine executives, or to teach the real history of Africa and so forth.

What would have happened on the morow of the Independance of Guinea, if we had not ourselves created, during the period of the Outline Law, our own administrative college? The administrative life of the Republic of Guinea would have faced us at Government level with a multitude of problems which we could only have solved in empirical fashion.

This determination to keep the populations in a constant state of inferiority marks both the programmes and the nature of colonial education. It was desired that the African teacher should be and should remain a teacher of inferior quality, in order to keep the quality of teaching in Africa at an inferior level. In contrast, an obstacle was placed in the way of African officials attaining to senior rank by insisting on the equivalence of diplomas. This diversion was so well managed that some of our trade union comrades, although anti-colonialist, fought furiously about these problems of the equivalent value of parchments instead of directly attacking the fundamental reasons for this policy of hocus-pocus.

Special teachers, special doctors! what the colonial system needed was men to produce, men to create, labourers, woodcutters in the Middle Congo or the Ivory Coast, peasants in the Sudan or Dahomey, and so forth. The colonists of French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa, the powerful colonial companies of the Belgian Congo and Rhodesia would not installed themselves in Africa had it not been for the wealth of Africa in its soil and its men, regarded as an instrument to exploit that wealth. And it was in order to resist the great endemic scourges which threatened the quantitative equilibrium of the population by reducing manpower that the colonial power created the corps of African doctors, with the determination to make them a subordinate corps, of ‘medical workers’.

Thus, on the level of pure knowledge, on the level of universal knowledge, the education dispensed in Africa was deliberately inferior and limited to those disciplines which would allow the better exploitation of the population. In addition, primary and secondary education was constantly directed towards depersonalization and cultural dependence.

We must denounce that false sentimentalism which consists in believing ourselves indebted to the contribution of a culture imposed to the detriment of our own. The problem must be tackled objectively. How many of our young students, even without realizing it, judge African culture by assessing it according to the hierarchy of values established in this field by the culture of the colonial power?

The value of a culture can only be assessed in relation to its influence in the development of social conduct. Culture is the way in which a given society directs and utilizes its resources of thought.

Marx and Ghandi have not contributed less to the progress of humanity than Victor Hugo or Pasteur.

But while we were learning to appreciate such a culture and to know the names of its most eminent interpreters, we were gradually losing the traditional notions of our own culture and the memory of those who had thrown lustre upon it. How many of our young schoolchildren who can quote Bossuet, are ignorant of the life of El Hadj Omar? How many African intellectuals have unconsciously deprived themselves of the wealth of our culture so as to assimilate the philosophic concepts of a Descartes or a Bergson?

So long as we argue solely in the light of this external acquisition, so long as we continue to judge and to make our determinations according to the values of colonial culture, we shall not be decolonized and we shall not succeed in giving our thoughts and acts a national content, that is to say a utility placed at the service of our Society. So true is it that every culture worthy of the name must be able to give and to receive; we can only regard foreign cultures as a necessary contribution to the enrichment of our own culture.

The surroundings determine the individual; that is why the peasant in our villages has more authentically African characteristics than the lawyer or doctor in the big towns. In fact the former, who preserves more or less intact his personality and the nature of his culture, is more sensitive to the real needs of Africa.

There is no indictment to be drawn up against intellectualism but it is important to demonstrate the depersonalization of the African intellectual, a depersonalization for which nobody can hold him responsible, because it is the price which the colonial system demands for teaching him the universal knowledge which enables him to be an engineer, a doctor, an architect or an accountant. That is why decolonization at the individual level must operate more profoundly upon those who have been trained by the colonial system.

It is in relation to this decolonization that the African intellectual will afford effective and invaluable aid to Africa. The more he realizes the need to free himself intellectually from the colonized complex, the more he will discover our original virtues and the more he will serve the African cause.

Our incessant efforts will be directed towards finding our own ways of development if we wish our emancipation and our evolution to take place without our personality being changed thereby. Every time we adopt a solution which is authentically African in its nature and its conception, we shall solve our problems easily, because all those who take part will not be disorientated or surprised by what they have to achieve; they will realize without difficulty the manner in which they must work, act, and think. Our specific qualities will be used to the full and, in the long run, we shall speed up our historic evolution.

How many young men and young girls have lost the taste our traditional dances and the cultural value of our popular songs; they have all become enthusiasts for the tango or the waltz or for some singer of charm or realism.
This unconsciousness of our characteristic values inevitably leads to our isolation from our own social background, whose slightest human qualities escape us. In this way we finish by disregarding the real significance of the things which surround us, our own significance.

In contrast, the African peasants and craftsmen are in no way complicated by the colonial system, whose culture, habits and values they do not know.—

Is it necessary to emphasize that, in spite of their good will, their discipline and their fidelity to the ideal of freedom and democracy, in spite of their faith in the destiny of their country, the colonized who have been educated by the colonizer have their thought more tainted by the colonial imprint than the rural masses who have evolved in their original context.

Africa is essentially a country of community government. Collective life and social solidarity give its habits a fund of humanism which many peoples might envy. It is also because of these human qualities that a human being in Africa cannot conceive the organization of his life outside that of the family, village or clan society. The voice of the African peoples has no features, no name, no individual ring. But in the circles which have been contaminated by the spirit of the colonizers, who has not observed the progress of personal egoism?

Who has not heard the defence of the theory of art for art’s sake, the theory of poetry for poetry’s sake, the theory of every man for himself?

Whereas our anonymous artists are the wonder of the world, and everywhere we are asked for our dances, our music, our songs, our statuettes, in order that their profound significance may be better known, some of our young intellectuals think that it is enough to know Prévert, Rimbaud, Picasso or Renoir to be cultivated and to be able to carry our culture, our art and our personality on to a higher plane. These people only appreciate the appearances of things, they only judge through the medium of their complexes and mentality of the ‘colonized’. For them, our popular songs are only of value so far as they fit harmoniously into the western modes which are foreign to their social significance.

Our painters! they would like them to be more classical; our masks and our statuettes! purely aesthetic; without realizing that African art is essentially utilitarian and social.

Mechanized and reduced to a certain restrictive form of thought, habituated to judge in the light of values which they have not been allowed to determine for themselves, educated to appreciate according to the spirit, thought, conditions and will of the colonial system, they are stupefied every time we denounce the nefarious character of their behaviour. But if they interrogated themselves, in the light, not of their theoretical knowledge of the world, but by attaining to selfconsciousness, about the true values of their people and their motherland, if they asked themselves what their conduct contributes to all Africa turned towards its objectives of liberation and progress, of peace and dignity, they would judge and appreciate our problems.

They do not realize that the slightest of our original artistic manifestations represents an active participation in the life of our people. They divorce themselves from the culture of the people, the art of real life.

In all things there is form and substance, and what is of prime importance in African art is its effective and living content, the profound thought which animates it and makes it useful to Society.

Intellectuals or artists, thinkers or researchers, their capacities have no values unless they really concur with the life of the people, unless they are integrated in fundamental manner with the action, thought and aspirations of the populations.

If they isolate themselves from their own surroundings by their special mentality of the colonized, they can have no influence, they will be of no value to the revolutionary action which the African populations have undertaken to liberate themselves from colonialism, they will be outcasts and strangers in their own country.

This intellectual decolonization, this decolonization of thoughts and concepts may seem infinitely difficult. There is, in effect, a sum of acquired habits, of uncontrolled behaviour, a way of living, a manner of thinking, the combination of which constitutes a sort of second nature which certainly seems to have destroyed the original personality of the colonized.

It is not intellectual approaches, nor even a sustained and patient labour of readapting the will which will achieve the purpose. It will only be enough if there is reintegration in the social background, a return to Africa by the daily practice of African life so as to readapt oneself to its basic values, its proper activities, its special mentality.

The official, who lives constantly among other officials, will not give up his bad colonial habits, because they represent a daily practice for himself and the circles in which he lives. He will not succeed in defining himself in relation to the African revolution, he will continue to define himself in relation to himself as an official living in administrative circles. He will have reduced his human objectives solely to an administrative career.

The artist who is proudly convinced that it is enough for him to be known in order to express the African personality in his works, will remain a colonized intelligence, an intelligence enslaved by colonial thought.

Take the example of the Ballets of our comrade Keita Fodeiba which for several years have been touring the world to reveal through the medium of that traditional mode of expression, African dancing, the cultural, moral and intellectual values of our Society. And yet it was not at the Paris Opera or the Vienna Opera that these artists were initiated. Their choreographic initiation merely starts from their authentically African education and the national consciousness of our artistic values. The troupe is an anonymous troupe in which there is no first or second star. The singers only know the popular songs of Africa as they learned them in their far-off village. The value of the troupe of our comrade Keita Fodeiba is its authenticity, and it will have done more to reveal the social and choreographic values of Africa than will ever be done by all the works of colonial inspiration which have been written on this subject. And that because no author has been able or has understood how to interpret the internal significance of the dance, which is, in Africa, a part of the social and intellectual life of the people.

It is not enough to write a revolutionary hymn to take part in the African revolution; it is necessary to act in the revolution with the people—with the people and the hymns will come of their own accord.

In order to exercise authentic action, it is necessary to be oneself a living part of Africa and its thought, an element in that popular energy which is totally mobilized for the Liberation, progress and happiness of Africa. There is no place outside this one combat either for the artist or the intellectual who is not himself committed and totally mobilized with the people in the great struggle of Africa and of suffering humanity.

The man of Africa, yesterday still marked by the unworthiness of others, still excluded from universal enterprises, set at a distance from a world which had made him inferior by the practice of domination, this man, deprived of everything, stateless in his own country, seated naked and impoverished on his own wealth, is suddenly re-emerging into the world, to claim the fulness of his human rights and an entire share in universal life.

This attitude is not without doing some damage to the caricatured image which the colonial conquest had projected here and there, of the black man, doomed, according to them, to congenital incapacity. It is not the least of the errors of certain civilizations to shut themselves up in egocentric considerations in judging what is foreign to them and could not either satisfy their special criterions or their historic tradition, nor correspond to their hierarchy of conventional values.

It is a very heavy responsibility borne by the civilizations of conquest that they oriented their forces towards the destruction of human societies whose values they had neither the capacity nor the power to appreciate objectively. Contemplating the ruins of this destruction, the world of thought and the world of research are to-day in communion in the same anxious effort to try to snatch from the destroyed civilizations the secret of the unknown values which enabled them to develop according to an intellectual process, the universal knowledge of which is forever lost.

The crime of Fernando Cortez in torturing the last Emperor óf the Aztecs appears less as the misdeed of a man than as an irremediable error on the part of the civilizations of conquest.

In judging in the light of their own proper surroundings, in determining according to the values of their own proper cu1ture, the civilizations of conquest, far from encouraging the development of human values, have reduced their possibilities of expression and, of set purpose, subjected them partially to ferocious exploitation and generalized oppression.

But the reign of force and fraudulent possession is henceforth doomed to disaster, for there no longer exists any external influence, any foreign pressure which can bend a people to the laws of dispossession and domination. In the slow progress of the human universe, which is given sanction in proportion to the development of the universal conscience, brute force and illegitimate sway are becoming increasingly on the fringe of man’s positive values.

Africa which only yesterday was still the plaything and the take of boundless appetites, the mute witness of the slow degradation of the noblest social mentalities, is to-day totally committed to the road of its freedom, its dignity and its complete rehabilitation. Yesterday dominated, but not conquered, Africa is determined to deliver its special message to the world, and to contribute to the human universe the fruit of its experiences, the whole of its intellectual resources and the teachings of its proper culture.

The moral personality of Africa, long denied through the medium of the most fantastic interpretations and the grossest historical falsifications, barely precedes the growing manifestation of the African personality, which the forces of conquest and domination can no longer reduce with impunity.

The Negro, whatever may be his place of asylum, whatever his natal region, has finally liberated himself from the weight of a factitious inferiority inflicted upon him by the domination, from the moment that he reappeared in his full and entire authenticity, legitimately proud of the ability to reclaim control over his destiny and full responsibility for his history.

In truth, there could be no confusion between the apparent submission of the African peoples and their profound determination to escape from depersonalization. ‘To submit in order to save yourself’, ‘to accept in order to endure’, that has been the hard philosophy of the Negro snatched from his origins, or deprived of his free will.

No malediction will have weighed so heavily upon a people as that born of a coalition of race and interests to achieve, in the same enterprise, enslavement or destruction, exploitation or ruin.

But the domain of man, growing and extending beyond the bounds of the world, could not tolerate those enclosed estates which the feudal nations appropriated to themselves under the sign of force: the man of to-day requires the whole earth, a total solidarity and a full participation in its works and its enterprises. Partly by necessity and partly by conscious determination, man is proceeding to eliminate the individualistic and racist heresies of which the Negro world will have been the last tragic victim.

The gates of the future will not open before a few privileged ones, nor before a people elect among peoples, but they will yield to the combined thrust of peoples and races when the efforts of all peoples allied by the need of a universal fraternity are joined together and complete each other.

However near this time may be, and however powerful human hopes for a fruitful and unlimited future, universal reconciliation cannot become effective until the excluded peoples have achieved their total independence, exercised their entire dignity and ensured their full blossoming. To meet its requirements and abdicate none of its human responsibilities, Africa is drawing untiringly upon its own sources so as to perfect its authenticity and enrich the nourishing sap from which it has arisen throughout the obscure milleniums of history.

Harmonizing the resources of his thought with the pitiless laws of a world led and directed by the necessities of a constant development, having recourse to the hard disciplines of concrete knowledge as much as to his own moral and spiritual riches, the Negro is committed to maintain intact the values and outlook of an original culture which has survived all the extreme vicissitudes which have marked its destiny. It is just as superfluous to inquire what might or might not have been good as to try to determine opportunities lost or missed. Only error, analysed objectively according to its causes and effects, brings the mind a constant enrichment and gives man the positive achievement of experimentation.

Negro culture, preserved from any profound alteration, flows into universal life, not as an antagonistic element, but with the anxious care to be a factor of equilibrium, a power for peace, a force of solidarity in favour of a new civilization which will outdistance the great hopes of mankind and fashion itself in contact with all the currents of thought.

The future cannot be conceived as a reiteration of the past, no, as a closed field reserved solely for those human societies which are secretly initiated or arbitrarily privileged.

The future will be the sum of cultures and civilizations which do not measure their special contribution or drive a bargain in respect of their singular values. To reach these successive summits it is not too much for each one to join his efforts with those of others, to deliver to the world his intellectual resources and his scientific and technical knowledge, for no people, no nation, can move and grow except with and by the others. Any doctrine of cultural isolation of cellularization, whether its motives are a proud superiority or an unacceptable group selfishness, conceals a fatal error in consequence of which the isolated particle will succumb.

Without even wishing to respond to the unnatural challenge of the racist ideal, which insolently claims to harness for itself alone the sap and the fruits of the world, the Negro is convinced that his mere presence entitles him to a full and complete participation in human works, not as a denatured or outdone element, but in the character of a new power, of an unexploited intellectual force whose potentialities are relevant to the universal enterprises of progress, justice and human solidarity.

In the domain of thought man can claim to be the brain of the world, but on the plane of concrete life, where every intervention affects the physical and spiritual being, the world is always the brain of man, for it is at that level that the totality of thinking powers and units are found, the dynamic forces of development and perfection, it is there that the fusion of energies operates and that in the long run the sum of man’s intellectual values inscribed. But who can claim to exclude a particular group of thought, a particular form of thought, or a particular human family without by that very fact putting himself beyond the pale of universal life?

The right of existence extends to presence, conception, expression and action. Any amputation of this fundamental right must be set down as a debit to mankind’s account.

It is, for the rest, a difficult mission which the Negro has set himself who has chosen to be at the same time the intellectual instrument of the rehabilitation of a race and the messenger of a culture dispossessed of its right of free expression, and whose profound content and real significance have been falsified by the multiple interpretations given to it by the outside world.

But this action undertaken by the messengers of our culture cannot be isolated from the general movement for the reconquest of the rights of expression and means of development of the people of Africa, totally mobilized in the struggle for their dignity and their liberty, on the side of the equality of men and peoples.

The process of the participation of the Negro in universal achievements stems in the first place from the African personality, which cannot be validly reconstituted by the intermediary of wills or forces external to Africa, or outside the factors of independence and unity on which the destiny of the Negro world reposes. The cultural compromises which the domination has established by way of contact and by way of constraint, impose a complete reconversion upon the man of Africa so that his authentic personality, the full possibilities of his singular values and the means of employing his human resources may all reappear.

In the independence of its young sovereignty, that is the way which the people of Guinea have unanimously engaged themselves for the total liberation and effective unity of the African people so as to accelerate their march towards technical, economic a cultural progress in a society in perfect social and equilibrium and in a world of real human civilization.

On October 2, 1958 Sekou Touré, proclaimed Guinea’s independence from France and became its first president.  One year later he gave the speech above in Conakry, the capital in which he outlined the role of political leaders in reflecting and developing the culture of their nations.