New African Writers
Bode Osanyin


Woes of African Unity

In 1899, a young man asked Booker T. Washington (a black American educator who supported racial segregation) what he would advice for a young black man, starting into the new century. Washington’s answer was characteristic: “Work! Work! Work! Be patient and win by superior service.” The same young man asked Federick Douglass (a black spokesman) the very same question less than a month before he died. The old man’s answer came from the entirety of his life: “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” Far into the twentieth century, black Americans would testify that one bit of advice was of little use without the other. ...more


Lyrics of Kabutu



               WOES OF AFRICAN UNITY


     “It is not true that the work of man is finished, that we have nothing to do in the world, that we are parasites in the world, that we have only to accept the way of the world. But the work of man has only began and no race has a monopoly of beauty, intelligence and strength and there is room for all at the rendezvous of conquest.”

         - Aime Cesaire

History of African Unity:

In 1899, a young man asked Booker T. Washington (a black American educator who supported racial segregation) what he would advice for a young black man, starting into the new century. Washington’s answer was characteristic: “Work! Work! Work! Be patient and win by superior service.” The same young man asked Federick Douglass (a black spokesman) the very same question less than a month before he died. The old man’s answer came from the entirety of his life: “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” Far into the twentieth century, black Americans would testify that one bit of advice was of little use without the other.

Edward Blyden, the West Indian Negro who settled in Liberia as early as 1850, was probably the first man to use the term “African Personality.” He explained this term by writing that, “ Every race has a soul, and the soul of a race finds expression in its institutions.” He went on to write in 1888 that, he would rather be a member of the African race, than a Greek in the time of Alexander, a Roman in the Augustan period, or an Anglo-Saxon in the nineteenth century.  Also, it is note-worthy to know that, a Jamaican Lawyer of African descent, called Henry Sylvester Williams, who sponsored the first Pan-African Conference held in London in 1900, first initiated the idea of African Unity. The second, third and fourth Pan-African congresses were held in 1919, 1921 and 1922 respectively. Pan-Africanism was later taken up by some West African personalities like Casely Hayford of Ghana (then the Gold Coast), Herbert Macauley of Nigeria and Isaac Wallace Johnson of Sierra Leone in the 1920’s. As important as they were, they achieved very little since they were mostly of class who stood aloof from the people they claimed to represent. Herbert Macauley, of course, might be an exception. It was after the Second World War that positive action rather than discussions began on the wish of African leaders to unite.

Significantly enough, the 5th Pan-African Conference was held in Manchester, England, in 1945 and was attended by many future African leaders like the former President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya. Nkrumah was, in fact, the Joint-Secretary with George Padmore, a Trinidadian of African decent who later played a major role in the government of Ghana and in the African Unity. The congress adopted strongly worded resolutions condemning colonialism, which stated that, “ We are determined to be free. We want education. We want the right to earn a decent living, the rights to express our thoughts and emotions, to adopt and create forms of beauty. We demand for Black Africa autonomy and independence. We will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy and social betterment.” Pan-Africanism again took another big step forward in May 1963, at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when both the Casablanca and the Monrovia groups of African powers signed the charter of the Organization for African Unity. Their aim was to unite so that the welfare and well-being of our people can be assured. In order to achieve this aim, each member country was expected to co-ordinate and harmonize their general policies especially in political, diplomatic, educational, cultural, health, scientific, technical, security and defense areas. The OAU has now matured into a fully grown Pan-African institution called African Union (AU), with the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) as it’s backbone.

However, the full contribution of some great men like William E.B DuBois, J. B Danquah, Blaise Diagne, Gamel Nasser, Nelson Mandela, Haile Salassie and Marcus Aurelius Garvey can not be overemphasized. They are obvious. These attempts explains why the call for African Unity and Solidarity on economic, social and political development of our continent, has become urgent for all people of African decent than ever. What then is Pan-Africanism? Pan-Africanism makes an African. It is the totality of those principles and values that give your life the sense of direction and meaning, for “the total liberation and unification of Africa under one scientific socialist government”. It is a movement to achieve solidarity among African people, serving the academic realm by correcting the errors and lies of `history` and properly, truthfully telling the African story. It is Afro-centric, pro-human, proactive and liberating. It is a response to imperialism, racism, colonialism and oppression. It is non-racial, for there is no race other than the human race. It is the spiritual and creative expression of our African Personality and Consciousness.  This consciousness is right and necessary for our present generation than ever. But before Africans start advocating for a new partnership called NEPAD, we must not fail to first identify and tackle the agents, which have caused “African Disunity” over the years. The main agents of African Disunity are the socio-economic and political frustrations in and among African countries.

The Socio-economic frustrations:

In 1960, the about 124 million Africans who were estimated to be illiterate have now increased to over 213 million. Firstly, what Timothy Shaw has called the “continuing dependence and development,” of Africa can well be traced. No one, in his right conscience, will dispute the fact that, greater part of Africans economic problems are as the results of Western Europe’s trade policies and strategies towards Africa. History will never deny Africans the argument that, the slave trade strategy used by the West became the pivot of capitalism, development, industrialization and modern civilization of the Western World. The reasons for the slavery, as written by Gibbon Wakefield, “are not moral, but economical circumstance; they relate not to vice and virtue, but to production.” Black Africans were stolen in Africa to work the lands stolen from the Indians in America. It is unfortunate to note that, the total import of slaves from our continent into British colonies between 1680 and 1786 was over two million. It is estimated that, during the period of the slave trade, more than fifty million Africans were taking from our continent. It is again estimated that Brazil has the second largest population of people with African decent in the world. Is it not true that, the British Empire was a magnificent superstructure on naval power of an African foundation? As Professor Pitman further puts it, “it was the wealth accumulated from West Indian trade which more than anything underlay the prosperity and civilization of New England and the middle Colonies.”

According to Professors Norman D. Palmer and Howard C. Parkins, without the raw materials of continental Africa to develop Western economics and industries, the Western World would be in a vulnerable position indeed. All because, Africa alone is made to supply the Western World about 66 percent of the world cocoa, 95 percent of the world diamond, 58 percent of the world sisal, 65 percent of the world palm oil, 26 percent of the world coffee, etc. Not only that, Africa is also powerful in terms of the enormous reserves she still possesses. In 1996, according to UN figures, her timber reserves accounted for 27 percent of all the forest in the world, her potential water-power resources was 274 million horsepower, more than three times the European water-power potential. This could make a United States of Africa, water-power potential about 40 percent of the world water resources. This fact, made Professor John Gunther to observe that,  “Africa is not vital for what it already has, but is in comparably the greatest potential source of wealth awaiting development in the world.”

However, our full contribution and sacrifice to the development of the Western World at the expense of ours is not even the main issue. The issue is, when the Western World used to be our colonial masters, they deliberately set an evil agenda for the direction of the African economy. Africa was the farmland of the Western World, producing only primary or traditional goods to feed their industries and markets. This evil-conceived strategy is now affecting African economy adversely, since the world economy demands only 12 percent of agricultural products from Africa. The West, however, only demand less or no primary products from Africa any more. For instance, the economy of Ghana since independence has greatly depended on the world price for cocoa and gold, which we have no control over. It is very sad. But the African economic frustrations will continue to be no better until the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank amend their trade liberalization policies which seeks to disunite us. Many years ago, writing on this issue, in his book-The Social Contract-, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote that “as an architect, before erecting a large edifice, examines and tests the soil in order to see whether it can support the weight, so a wise Law-giver does not begin by drawing up laws that are good in themselves, but considers first whether the people for whom he designs them are fit to endure them. It is on this account that Plato refused to legislate for the Arcadians and Cyrenians, knowing that these two people were rich and could not tolerate equality”. Sometimes, one wonders which African leaders they consult when establishing, prescribing and imposing those evil economic legislation them on us.

One of their policies towards Africa is the free market system, which allows all sorts of foreign goods to compete with local goods on the African market. This goes a long way to get the local manufacturers out of job, since the foreign goods on our markets are relatively cheap. It is estimated that about 46% of the over 500 million people living in Sub-Sahara Africa live on less than a dollar a day, making over 34 million Africans in danger of hunger on this continent. Also, about half or more of the entire African population on the continent live on 65 cents a day or less.  Whilst a cow in the European Union earns about two $2 or more as subsidies on their feeds and drugs per day, and the United States and Europe spending over $6 billion as subsidies on cotton per year, the Western trades policies, seeks to devaluate our currencies and also causes African governments to remove all forms of subsides from agricultural inputs and Petroleum products. This is a clear and obvious prove that, the West values their cows more than Africans. Moreover, though the Western countries always have a greater comparative advantage over African countries in international trade relations, our governments are forced to cut down expenditures on infrastructures. Export earnings are almost always diverted to service huge foreign debt and import foreign goods. Falling commodity prices have also devastated our economy, forcing governments to borrow more for manufactured goods and fuel. Despite Africans natural riches such as copper, diamond, gold, natural gas, petroleum, phosphate, timber, cocoa, etc, Africa has the world’s lowest per capita GNPs. And until Africans take a united effort to change these activities now, poverty, diseases and other symptoms of economic frustrations will continue to be our siblings. Indeed, the evil of the West has successfully prevailed against the Africans.

Furthermore, funds meant for the day to day administration of the Union has not been forthcoming. As at July 2003, the annual $28 million budgeted for the AU activities for the previous years, which was suppose to be settled by member states, was in a debt of about $36 million. However, the $43 million budgeted for the 2003 financial year, is yet to be fulfilled. This reluctance of member states to promptly fulfill their financial obligations in support of the Union’s activities has also caused a very big threat to the successful growth and development of the total unification of the African continent.

 Remedy to the Socio-economic frustration:

It is estimated that Africa produce only 1.1 percent of the world manufactured products. The freedom of Africa from imperialism and neo-colonialism to enhance African Unity in this twenty-first century, is to seek to improve our local manufacturing sector and concentrate less on primary exports. As written in his book-The Economics of Developing Countries- published in 1967, H. Mint wrote that, “It is now generally assumed that the expansion of primary exports is highly unlikely ever to provide a satisfactory basis of continues economic growth for the underdeveloped countries.” Professor R. Narks added that, “…rather, they should look to the development of the domestic manufacturing sector as the alternative engine of growth to international trade.” But none of the states in today’s continental Africa can fully benefit from all this abundance of Mother Nature because, none of them is free enough to have the continental means to control and develop them for their population. That is why Dr. Nkrumah and others maintained that, “If we are to remain free. If we are to enjoy the full benefits of continental Africa’s rich resources, we must unite to plan for our total defense and the full application of our material and human means, in the full interest of our people.” “To go it alone,” will limit our horizons, curtail our expectations and threaten our liberty. As Professor I. Wallerstein put it, for an industry as well as investment to be viable, survive and benefit the people, it needs a larger market that only a united African government can offer us.

 Also, we must agree with Professor Adu Boahen, that, if we do not put an end to the reckless accumulation of foreign debts, we stand a great risk of being recolonised by the industrialized countries and their agencies in the near future. It should never be forgotten that one of the reasons for the scramble for and partition of Africa was the need felt by the imperial countries to safeguard their investments and loans. It was definitely this consideration that led to the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, which touched off the scramble in that region. Already, there are so many IMF and World Bank experts in both advisory and managerial positions in our various African countries. We are warned? Indeed, the solution is neither ERP, PAMSCAD, SAP, AGOA, HIPIC nor NEPAD, but it is fairness in international trade and our very attitudes to patronize our own produce.

The Political frustrations:

        1. The power-consciousness factor-

One of the political factors encouraging “African Disunity” is the power-consciousness attitude of some charismatic leaders in our societies who are never ready to reduce or give up powers to enhance African Unity. This megalomania and power-drunkenness attitude causes a lack of political stability in Africa; governments are not stable because a change in the ruling power may come any time. Coup d’etat and unrest in many parts of Africa, do not allow many African nations to be active in supporting the activities of the total unification of the African continent. For example, according to Professor Albert Adu Boahen, in his J.B Danquah Memorial Lectures in 1989, between 1972-1976, there were alleged four coup attempts in Ghana. The first occurred only six months after the accession of the National Redemption Council (NRC) to office. It was supposed to have been master-minded by members of Busia’s Progress Party (PP) and hence termed the “The Busia Coup.” Some ex-Convention People’s Party (CPP) politicians were alleged to have made the second attempt in October 1973. A third plot was uncovered in October 1975, which led to the arrest and trial of J.H Mensah. In December 1975, another plot was unearthed. It was supposed to have been master-minded by those young officials who had been among the architects of the 13th January Coup. This led to the arrest and trial of five officers and two civilians including Captain Kojo Tsikata and Dr. Kofi Awoonor. Such events also show that we are somehow, responsible for their own plight.

 It is also an established fact that, because of the power-consciousness nature of some of our leaders, right from its formation to its evolution, there was lack of civil and grassroots involvement within the OAU vis-à-vis the masses of the people of its member states. This was (and still is) an obvious aberration and betrayal, which made the OAU a mere club of Heads of States and dignitaries. Who met annually and made vain speeches, wined and dined at the expense of the sweat and toil of their citizens, who for years have yearned for a qualitative change in their conditions of life. Thankfully, the newly established African Union (AU), is designed to enhance civil society involvement in the affairs of the continent. But we are yet to see it at work.

2. The borders factor-

It can clearly be seen now, after many years of the establishment of OAU, now AU that, Dr. Nkrumah and his fellow crusaders were 100% aware that, we could never “create a true political union of all the independent states of Africa, with executive powers, for political direction, to tackle hopefully every emergency and any complexity,” without every African independent nation sacrificing it’s pride of nationhood. Africans, who are about 30% of the world’s population, speak more than 1,600 dialects and over 800 languages, belongs to almost as many ethnic groups and are further split along religious lines. But from 1875 to 1912, when the colonial powers carved up Africa for their selfish gains, they took little or no regard to ethnic, religious or tribal boundaries. Africans then won independence colony by colony, each becoming a sovereign nation-state within the European-imposed borders.

 In his speech in Addis Ababa on the inauguration of the OAU in May 1963, President Nkrumah of Ghana, without much consideration and deliberation said, “Unity, we must, without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, big or small. We can here and now forge a political union based on defense, foreign affairs and diplomacy, and a common citizenship, an African currency, an African monetary zone and African central bank. We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent. We need a common defense system with an African high command, to ensure the stability and security of Africa.” But ask yourself, how can African states achieve all these without totally sacrificing their sovereignties? Indeed, this assertion made by Dr Nkrumah, will be an impracticable idea that would never materialize if we still hold onto the glorification of the nation-state that we inherited from colonialism and the artificial nations we are trying to forge from that inheritance.

Moreover, Julius Nyerere, the former President of Tanzania in his speech in Accra on 6th March 1997, on the occasion of Ghana’s 40th Independence anniversary, said that, the founding fathers of the OAU had set themselves two major objectives: the liberation of our continent from colonialism and settler minorities, and the unity of Africa. The first objective was expressed through the immediate establishment of the Liberation Committee by the founding summit of 1963. The second objective was expressed in the name of the organization- the Organization of Africa Unity. He went on to say that, critics could say that the OAU Charter itself, with its great emphasis on the sovereign independence of each member state, combined with the Cairo Declaration on the sanctity of the inherited borders, make it look like the “Organization of African Disunity.” It is now obvious that the Cario Declaration of 1964 which advocated for the respect for the borders inherited from colonialism and had the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of member states of the OAU, enshrined in the OAU charter, served as a great deterrent to African Unity. These problems still persist though we now have a new name called African Union (AU). Truly, Africa has come to stay with a free but disunited walls.

3. The external factor-                       

 The Western World can never be left out whenever anyone talks about political agents of African disunity. When they used to be our colonial masters, they often governed their territories by setting rival tribes against each other or generated so much hostility that rival guerrilla groups vied for leading role in the push for independence. Both sowed the seeds of conflict in newly independent African countries. Under neo-colonialism, they have adopted the strategy of always helping to overthrow constitutional governments who do not support their evil and unfair political agenda, sometimes through the spectacles of the United Nations Organization (UNO). But this unjust action contravenes Article 2, Section 7 of the UN Charter, which stipulates that, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters, which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”  In the Casablanca Conference on January 7th 1961, President Nkrumah made a passionate confession that, what he fear worst of all was, if Africans do not formulate plans for unity and take active steps to form a political union, we would soon be fighting and warring among ourselves. With imperialist and colonialist standing behind the screen pulling vicious wires, to make us cut each other for the sake of their diabolical purpose in Africa.

Ten days after this speech, in the same month, Patrice Lumumba, the then Prime Minister of the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Maurice Mpolo, the Minister in his government who was elected from Katanga Province and Joseph Okito, the Vice President of the Congolese Senate, were killed by the Joseph Mobutu’s illegal army with modern weapons supplied by the government of Belgium. Mobutu, who was Lumumba’s personal secretary and later became the Chief of his defense staff, betrayed Africans and we have all witnessed how his end became. The Prime Minister and his men were killed because the United Nation, whom Patrice Lumumba himself, as Prime Minister, had invited to Congo to preserve Law and Order, not only failed to maintain that Law and Order, but also denied to the Lawful government of the Congo all other means of self-protection. According to John A. Stormer in his book -None Call It Treason- published in 1964, during the 18-month on-again, off-again war against Katanga, the United Nations committed unbelievable atrocities. At one point, uncivilized and untrained bands of Congolese soldiers were transported to Katanga by the UN in US planes and unleashed.

The two-week orgy of mass murder, rape, pillage and cannibalism they carried out under the UN flag with the United States paying the bill is unequalled in modern times. Hospitals, schools, missions and homes were made targets for UN bombs and mortar fire on December 7-8,1961. UN troops fired on ambulances; bayoneted helpless infants; and slaughtered women and children. It became clearer that the crises in the Congo was not so much the possibility of a civil war between Africans, but rather, a colonialist war in which the colonialist and imperialist powers hid behind African puppet regimes. In fact, it was not a fight between factions, but a brutish butchery of helpless Africans. Recently, the American author, Adam Hochschild revealed that, “…a CIA agent ended up driving around the city with Lumumba’s body in his car trunk trying to find a place to dispose of it.” The Belgium government, about 42years later, on 6th February 2002, formally admitted and apologize to the good people of the DR Congo, for being one of the key players in the death of Patrice Lumumba and the other prominent members of his government. The murder of Lumumba and the mysterious death of Hammarskjold, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations in September that same year, was indeed a terrible example of the iniquity and Satanism of colonialism and neo-colonialism which will go any length to achieve its criminal and devilish aims.

Again, the subsequent tragedy in Angola, the involvement of the American CIA in the overthrow of President Nkrumah of Ghana in 1966, Haille Salassie of Ethiopia in 1975 and several African great leaders, shows how hard the Western World has worked with the help of unpatriotic Africans over the years to disunite us. Writing on this matter in his autobiography- Sowing the Mustard Seed- published in 1997, President Musseveni of Uganda, wrote that, “…There is now evidence to show that the frustration of these ventures (i.e. Nkrumah’s dream of uniting Africa and the Zanzibar Revolution) had the backing of American and British imperialism.” Also, the Cold War between 1950 and 1990 resulted in political rivalries between the first and second worlds that were worked out in third world countries, such as Africa. Some of our countries were particularly affected by these external activities. South Africa, for example, maintained a policy of destabilizing any of its neighbors that might help groups antagonistic to apartheid within South Africa. Ethiopia became a battlefield as Soviet forces supported its communist government against rebels from Somalia or those fighting for Eritrean independence. Angola drew Soviet and Cuban forces to help its internal struggles. French troops also fought the Libyans in Chad. The catalogue of civil wars in our countries is long and continues, although there are has been some reduction in such fighting since the Cold War ended. A recent development is the direct involvement of the French and the neglect by the international community in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which over 800,000 people were massacred within the first 100 days of the civil war.

Remedy to the political frustration:

When Ghana achieved independence in 1957, only seven African states existed, which made the hard won independence of Ghana meaningless. But with God on our side and with our fearless African Personality, the independence of Ghana is now meaningful, because it is now closely linked up with the total liberation of the African continent. Together with our brothers, we have been able to carry and won the struggle of liberation, first with Ghana in 1957 and triumphantly crashed apartheid and colonialism with South Africa in 1994. Now that we have been totally liberated from colonialism, let us confidently surrender our national sovereignty, each and every state, to obtain the United States of Africa. It is only in this way, can we constitute ourselves into a force, sufficiently formidable to crash neo-colonialism and imperialism utterly and completely from the face of this continent. And until all Africans especially our leaders learn to put away the glory of some being in  “Western suits” and others in “Berets,” imperialism and neo-colonialism will continue to be the order in Africa. And the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) will be once again a “Talk Shop”.

Also, every African (either dark or fair) must ask where he or she stands in this just struggle. Over forty-three years ago, in 1958, the Treaty of Rome was signed which gave birth to the European Union. We can all faithfully testify to what force that Union has grown to become. If unity is good for Europe and North America, why is it wrong for Africa? In other words, if unity is good for them, why is it wrong for you and me? Moreover, the most radical element of the rationale justifying the independence of the United States, where some of our brothers and sisters are, was the seeming justification for revolutions with each generation. To paraphrase the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, “When a past becomes limiting to change, it is the right of a people to abolish it and create a new one.” This declaration proves that analyzing our problems without planning a purposeful action for a positive change is a vain effort. Also, bewailing our lot without seeking solutions is empty. A continent on the verge of catastrophe like ours needs unafraid patriots and idealists like you. People with a sense of history and a sense of mission. African youths of today have a great opportunity to work for a noble and meaningful goal, for the land of our birth and destiny. Uniting our continent will not be handed over to us like manna from heaven. African youths have to work for it. It calls for sacrifice, self-determination, commitment and patriotic courage. It cannot be formed in the luxury of summit conference halls; over good food and exquisite wine. It must be advocated and fought for.  


To conclude, the combination of unequal positions in the world markets, external interference in our politics and economics, and tribal rivalries, have greatly contributed to African disunity. As written in the 1950s by a Cote d’ Ivories poet, Bernard Dadie, “Together, let us build the new City…Think of the Africa that must wait for us.” We need to keep the unity of the spirit of Africa in the bond of peace with all lowliness, gentleness and longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, according to the principles of God. For He Himself is our peace, who has giving us freedom and dignity from the oppressor’s rule and has broken down the walls of slavery and ignorance. Let us not grow weary while seeking unity, peace and justice, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us fight and work in love, with all perseverance, for the spirit of Africa is crying for oneness. Africa must awake in words, thoughts and deeds in the spirit of unity. Africans awaking to ensure Africa’s survival means organizing ourselves to halt Africa’s decline and preparing to build our common future. Indeed, the task of awaking and constructing a United States of Africa or better put, a Continental African States (CAS) is set on the agenda of our history. And amidst all the wars, famines, diseases and injustice, Africa has and shall always seek the brighter light of unity and oneness. Finally, let all persons with the true African mind, sincerely keep these prophetic words of the late President Nkrumah in their spirits, when he said, “I see Africa as a united entity. I see African continent as a social, economical and political force, even a moral force. We have a vast history behind us; we have still much to do…I must go on. Time is against me.”      



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                              Accra: Afram Publications Ltd.


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                              London: Pitman Press. (Preface, p.vii)


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                                    London: Longman Group Ltd. (p.323)


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                                 New York: Russell and Russell, Inc.


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