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Re-focus on African liberation

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It is good to note that at least one of our major commemorative activities is being continued again this year. The month of May used to be an important one in our national calendar with WORKERS DAY (MAY DAY) leading it off and, since 1974, AFRICAN LIBERATION DAY becoming an annual event. With changing times, and levels of consciousness, recent years have witnessed the decline in scope of the respective activities, with May Day faring much worse.{{more}}

African Liberation Day was a product of the black consciousness and anti-colonial movement, not just in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but in the Caribbean, North America and Britain as well. It was our own way of identifying with the land of the origin not only of Black People, but of the human race as well. Yet it was more than a mere cultural and emotional link. African Liberation Day was always linked with the cause of African emancipation. Its origins arose from the vision of the great Pan-Africanists, one of whom, Kwame Nkrumah, one year after leading Ghana to independence, convened the 1st Conference of Independent African states, in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

That historic gathering took place on April 15th 1958 and gave rise to that date being commemorated thereafter as AFRICAN FREEDOM DAY. Over the next five years, the freedom bell rang out all over Africa with many countries attaining formal political independence. This led to a convening on May 25th 1963 of a Heads of African States Summit, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Attended by some 31 leaders of African nations, that Conference established the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which is today simply known as the African Union (AU).

It was that Addis Ababa meeting, at which then Emperor Haile Selassie presided which was to establish May 25th firmly on the international calendar as African Liberation day, replacing the African Freedom Day of 15th April. It marked an intensification of the liberation struggle in Africa and a commitment of all independent African states to support the liberation struggle, to work for the independence of those nations still under European subjection (Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe etc) and to bring an end to white racist rule in southern Africa. Haile Selassie was to put this commitment to the United Nations five years later in a speech immortalized in song by the late, great Bob Marley. “WAR.”

Today, while the struggle to maintain the cultural ties is ongoing, a number of developments on that continent demand a shift in focus. Post independence Africa is not a pretty picture. Yes, there have been many advances, in education, in economic and political advancement. Regrettably, there are not enough of these. Africa in these times, a country rich in natural and human resources, remains firmly under the yoke of powerful corporations and companies from without, draining daily its immense wealth. In turn, this mighty continent, accounting for over 20 per cent, of the earth’s land surface has gained infamy for starvation, genocide, wars, human misery and AIDS. Africa is today not only still largely underdeveloped, it is fact, “underdeveloping,” if one can use that term. It is, in economic terms, poorer today than 30 years ago.

So, colonial rule has been replaced by neo-colonial plunder. But we can ill afford to be simplistic or hypocritical in laying all the blame at the feet of others. Many African nations today have tyrants and dictators at their helm, participating not only in the rape of the continent (its natural and human resources), but in the genocide of its people. Some, like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, came in the garb of liberation. That Jacob’s coat is today of a very different hue. Yes, there is African complicity in the tragedy of its people.

So for us, just as we were moved by colonial cruelty in Mozambique and Angola, just as we made the defeat of apartheid, our major focus, African liberation can only mean solidarity with the struggle to rid Africa of poverty, disease, war, genocide, corruption and …DICTATORS. African liberation can only mean encouraging our governments both to foster wider relations with the African continent as well as to speak out against continued oppression of the African people by corrupt dictators, their armies and henchmen. Culture is not only about clothes, music, food and art; it is also about life, about democracy, about livelihoods. That will give real content to African Liberation day, 2008.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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