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Is it time to pan Pan-Africanism?

By Gauz

Ivorian author. He has written a variety of works in French such as Debout-Payé (2014), Camarade Papa (2018) and Black Manoo (2020).

Posted on Tuesday, 12 January 2021 11:54

Founding fathers mural at the Organization of African Unity headquarters, the predecessor to the African Union. (Vincent FOURNIER/JA)

It might be fashionable to describe oneself as a Pan-Africanist, but 60 years after the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the concept has been stripped of its substance and core ideals by negligent leaders and Western meddling.

Is it still possible to critique Pan-Africanism? The topic is divisive and often off-limits, as decided by ayatollahs using mystical language and with their quick-to-issue-a-fatwa ways.

It’s easy to imagine a dramatically heroic Gauz standing up to a pack of furious “Pan-Africanists”, spouting off his unshakeable arguments against mysterious incantations directly inspired by the pyramids.

But you can keep your superhero imagery because I’m scared out of my wits! This is even more true now that, after releasing a novel amid a COVID-19 curfew (yes, promoting the book has been a messy business), my application for Malian citizenship was rejected (even though I was told it was “in the bag”).

Fantasies of redemption

If I weren’t so afraid of “Pan-Africanists”, then I would tell them that “pan” means “all” in Greek, an “all” driven by a disdainful Western civilisation for which “black is black” and “Africanist” refers to an academic field, in the same way as an entomologist or a botanist.

I’m wary of an ideology that only has ‘founding fathers’ and not a sole mother hidden in some corner of history or in the smoke-filled kitchens of memories.

I would also add that “African” is so hard to define that “Pan-African” is a sophistry. I would point out that the idea is a perpetual good intention created on foreign shores where people had the poetic gift to invent a single Africa as a way to resist age-old oppression, and that this Africa served as a means to project fantasies of redemption.

READ MORE Thandika Mkandawire : an intellectual giant and incorrigible Pan-African

Then, I would explain to them that though the “founding fathers” had perhaps won by emancipating the people and creating the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), they had also permanently lost when the construction of the African Union’s new headquarters was entrusted to the Chinese.

Could they ever have imagined that 60 years down the line, the United States and the European Union would pay for three-fourths of the operating budget of what is today the largest pan-African institution?

READ MORE African Union: Theft, intimidation, nepotism allegations against AU body

I would also tell them that I’m wary of an ideology that only has “founding fathers” and not a sole mother hidden in some corner of history or in the smoke-filled kitchens of memories. I would talk to them about my friend, Bruno Jaffré, who isn’t African but compiled a magnificent work of every speech ever made by Thomas Sankara, an African figure and “Pan-Africanist” idol, and I would show them that he scarcely mentioned “Pan-Africanism”. And yes, I use speech marks because “Pan-Africanists” have left the world of ideas for that of religion, and I’m aware that I’m a blasphemer rather than a detractor.

Ultimate humiliation

However, since I’m afraid, I keep quiet and choose to focus on an African news story that revolts me to the core but doesn’t bother them. A draft law was debated on 10 December 2020 at the French National Assembly. This particular piece of legislation involved the reform of the CFA franc and contained a single article to approve a text signed on the sly one year ago by two bankers in Abidjan.

READ MORE The CFA Franc, Macron and everyone else

It was about currency, the fundamental tool a society has at its disposal to steer its economic development, currency emanating from independent and sovereign African countries. The people concerned were not even informed, let alone educated, about what was going on and its implications for their future.

And what of their leaders? They were busy keeping their people in the dark and under the illusion that they live in democracies! And as if nothing has transpired in these past 60 years, the fate of millions of Africans was sealed in Paris, in the middle of the world’s “Pan-Africanist” capital (yes, France is probably home to the largest number of “Pan-Africanists”).

Not one protest, not one symbolic action by one African, with or without a prefix, occurred. And on social media, there were barely a few rumblings, even though the removal of statues of white men had provoked a firestorm several months earlier.

I watched live online as one of the greatest post-independence humiliations in the history of French-speaking African sovereign powers occurred. I never thought I would feel a keener sense of shame than the time I saw (also live) Laurent Gbagbo, then president-elect of Côte d’Ivoire, get arrested by the French police in a simple intervention.

READ MORE President Macron: ‘Between France and Africa, it must be a love story’

Only the French Communist Party voted against the draft law, but the legislative process isn’t over yet. If our leaders don’t want to lose their presidential seats, then the very least African nations can do is to pester France’s assemblies where their fate is decided in their absence. Otherwise, we should pan Pan-Africanism.

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