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1960-2010: The Africa of independences 3

The year was … It was 1960 and it was declared the Year of Africa. Half a century later many of the dreams that inspired the fight to be free from colonialism are still just that: dreams. During those months the continent walked towards independence setting its sights on a future in which there would no longer be owners.

There was hope that a promising future lay ahead, a future in which natural and human resources and a careful management of national sovereignty would lead to harmonious, sustainable development and that fairness would govern Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world.

The drive towards freedom peaked in 1960 when seventeen colonies rid themselves of their colonial masters: France, Great Britain and Belgium. Only the Portuguese colonies had to wait until the mid seventies, when democracy was won in Lisbon.

The sixties: years of birth

On May 25 1963, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was created, later to become the African Union, in 2002. This marked the beginning of another utopia: the United States of Africa.

That vision was embraced by some of Africa’s great figures: from Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah to Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, Senegal’s Leopold Sedar Senghor, to the Cote d’Ivoire’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny from Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere to Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda. Men who were luminaries, who had charisma and who led panAfrican and pro-independence movements. And yet none of them managed to change the grid that colonialism had drawn. It was impossible to redesign the continent. So the boundaries of Africa, which today is made up of sovereign states, are the same boundaries that European map makers drew in the 19th century at the services of imperil interests.

2010, which for many African countries marks the 50 year anniversary of independence, is also the rather more sad anniversary of the division of Africa along lines that, then as much as today, ignore ethnic and geographical realities, separating homogenous populations or grouping together diverse populations.

Within these boundaries, imposed on the continent by its history, African peoples have seen a dream turn into a utopia. In many countries the generation of the charismatic fathers has been succeeded by a greedy ruling class which uses public resources wastefully and is little interested in the public good. Europe and the West in general has a responsibility for what happened in the past, but history cannot explain it all away.

Just as the slave trade was not just an Arab and Euro-American disgrace, as it was fomented by a class of tribal Africans who got rich selling their people, corruption too is is not merely an external phenomenon. Inefficient or corrupt government officials and directors have a great deal of responsibility for wrecking the dream. The fragile democracies created in 1960 were torn apart by ruthless, power-greedy soldiers, by tribal tyrants.

As the years passed, the dream crumbled before the bloodthirsty craze of internal and supranational conflicts that devastated the very soul of Africa. The continent remains trapped in colonial and neocolonial nets. And the consequences of the nineteenth century partition are still being felt today.

Take Sudan, for example, a country that has its head in the North, which is arabic and Muslim, and its body in the Bantù South, which is inspired by traditional religions and where Christianity has a firm hold. Peoples who have nothing in common – neither language, nor faith, nor customs, nor do they share a common vision of the world or of life. An explosive mix.

When Berlin and London negotiated a slight retouching of the borders between Kenya and Tanganika – allegedly because Kaiser Wilhelm I wanted to plant a German flag on the African’s highest peak, the Kilimanjaro, which had until then been under British rule – the proud Masai people were divided because the peak became German.

Today people ask themselves whether Africa is dreaming, like it had in the sixties, the same dreams that can be found within the speeches about peace its charismatic fathers used to make.

Will that violated world know how to rediscover its self, refusing to be shaped by models that have nothing to do with its nature? The problem that arises is that of Africa’s common identity and is a problem that the African Union has not yet known how to respond to.

In the words of the ex-SouthAfrican president, Thabo Mbeki: “In the 21st century, the world has changed, and especially Africa has changed. No nation is an island sufficient unto itself. The African Union is itself an expression of the African continent’s desire for integration and unity. The striving towards economic and political integration is more than a manifestation of Africa’s deep-seated recognition that our strength comes from our common identity. Closer ties among ourselves are a necessity for our continent’s security and development.”

Celebrating fifty years of independence also means finding the courage to ask how much of the responsibility for not achieving that dream is ours.

By Angelo FerrariAgiAfro

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  1. i am very thanks for that

  2. david glenn says:

    Dear Angelo
    Why are you singling out the Sudan,and how can judge the Sudanese as non-africans?And who says there are no Moslems in the South of Sudan as there are Moslems in Kenya,Uganda,Tanzania,etc..
    Redividing Africa is a plan that may not end in the Sudan,think of Nigeria too.

  3. niger delta last born says:

    I want every body in this continent to understand that nigeria my country is still a foll at fifty and as i view and understand it will remain foll for ever.Imagine the poverty and had ship that we are facing in nigeria,the president or what ever budget 6.6billion just to celebrate nigeria at 50s.if we focus on the mineral resort that we have in nigeria which most africa country that are living better than us does not have it,come to think of it we even have oil,the so call leaders use the oil money for dear own self interest and forget every body to live poverty and as nigeria mark this 50 may bad storm blow all over the bad ruler of this nation.I am from niger delta,delta state.All nigerians should keep this in back of their mind including mr president that sooner they shall be the final revolution to mark naija at 50s.

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi