Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The failed vision of a united Africa - part XI


By Dr Peter Kafumu

The pan-Africanism Legacy of Léopold Sédar Senghor is summed up in the proceeding narrative. Senghor a poet, and politician, who through his Senegalese Democratic Bloc party, ruled Senegal for two decades from 1960 to 1980 when he voluntarily stepped aside.

He was an African Socialist who created his own version of African socialism ideology from his Négritude philosophy he earlier created while in France. African socialism was supposed to be an alternative to Marxist socialism of the USSR and China.

Négritude philosophy of Senghor was a pan-Africanism philosophy endeavoring to return to a singular, traditional - One African concept about culture, society, and values. Pan-Africanism that wanted a collective and self-reliant Africa. A pan-Africanism that would exist as a united Government of the African Continent.

By creating the African socialism, Senghor avoided Marxist an anti-Western ideology that played out in many post-colonial Africa. He maintained a close relationship with France. That is why Senegal remained politically stable and never had a coup d’état. It always had peaceful transfer of power.

As many African states in the 1960s through1980s achieved independence, the desire to unite the continent into one African nation grew; the pan-African activities intensified. But it remained a challenge on how this unity could be achieved.

In this respect two groups in West and North Africa emerged. One group led by Leopold Senghor called the Monrovian Bloc, felt that unity should be achieved gradually through economic cooperation. This group consisted of Nigeria, Liberia, Ethiopia and most former French colonies who later became independent.

The other group led by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, formed the “progressive states”. Casablanca Bloc that wanted an immediate political Federation of all African countries. The group comprised of Ghana, Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, Egypt, Mali and Libya.

In 1963, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia invited the two groups to Addis Ababa, to establish the Organization of the African Unity (OAU). 32 independent African states from across Africa attended the Conference and signed a Charter to create the OAU and the two groups ceased.

The legacy of Senghor can be summed up by the expressions of tributes accredited to him the day he died; the 20th December 2001. The tributes organized and broadcasted by the BBC to honor the great African Leader were captivating and some are presented here.

On the day Senghor died the French President Jacques Chirac said: “Senegal has lost a statesman; Africa, a visionary; and France, a friend” Also Musa Suma from the UK said the following: “As a student I was interested in his views of pan-Africanism. As one of the founders, he has always been a visionary for democracy and independence for all of Africa”

Michael Kanyingi, a citizen of the Republic of Kenya who lived in Maryland in USA at the time of Senghor’s death; had this to say: “…Senghor is a rare breed of African leaders. He joins the class of South Africa’s Mandela, Tanzania’s Nyerere and Botswana’s Katumile Masire. These are true African statesmen who led their countries at the most critical times and eventually handed power to their successors through democratic elections”

And finally Nebro from Ethiopia he gave his tribute by saying: “A true statesman; a pioneer; a man who peacefully stepped down rather than being put down. A lesson that many African leaders never seem to learn. A true loss to Africa and Africans!!”

Yes! Once again God provided Africa with extraordinary leaders like Léopold Sédar Senghor, who wanted Africa united as one nation. Despite the efforts and struggles of the first generation of leaders like Senghor with his colleagues; Africa has never won the menaces of separation. Léopold Senghor is a beacon of a united Africa who enshrined to Africa a lesson that need to be emulated by the current African Leadership.