African Liberation Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Union/African Union.
It recognises the liberation independence; anti-racialist peoples’ and human rights struggles of Africans on the continent together with people of African descent dispersed throughout the world consequent to the 600 years of maafa (tragedy) of enslavement, occupation and colonialisation.
Peoples’ resistance and freedom movements for socio-economic, political and cultural rights emerged amongst African peoples throughout the world converged in a unity of purpose.
The ideological expression of this phenomenon is Pan Africanism. Decolonization, Anti-racism, Revolutionary Nationalism, African Unity and Social Economic Self-determination are all elements of the Pan African heritage of African liberation.
The Process of forging African peoples’ global liberation independence, peoples’ rights movements entailed armed struggle and civil disobedience. The collective accomplishment of Africans in this struggle is one of, if not the greatest leaps forward of the 20th century affirming peoples’ political, cultural and human rights.
The response from the colonizing powers and racialist institutions of governments of Europe and America was repressive, violent and sinister.
Within the African world, the anti-racist, civil rights, Black Power and Back to Africa movements in Americas and the anticolonial, anti-racialist movements in Africa were cross-fertilizing phenomena that engendered Pan African solidarity.
Repressive actions of subterfuge and violence against the freedom and dignity of Africans by the forces and institutions of maintenance of the colonial and racist status quo was a continuous feature throughout the decades of the 600 years of maafa.
Tanzania’s unique and central role in the liberation of Africa
Pan African solidarity was a central element of the national ethos and identity of the people and state of Tanzanian.
Globally it remains a central aspect of legacy of African Unity and liberation personified by Mwalimu Nyerere. That legacy and national profile of Tanzania is a result of the fact that, despite Tanzania being one of the most impoverished nations of Africa, it became the beacon and support base of Pan African solidarity, African liberation and African Unity.
Predating independence, TANU was a founding organiser of PAFMESCA (Pan African Freedom Movement for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa). Even at those early stages Tanzanians supported the anti-colonial struggles in Kenya and Burundi.
Mwalimu Nyerere was one of the founding fathers of the OAU and the East Africa Community. Tanzania hosted the OAU Liberation Committee and several Southern African liberations organisations and their armed wings.
It provided material resources, employment and political support to organizations struggling against colonialism and racism in in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Significantly, the first Pan African Conferences held on the continent of Africa, the 6th Pan African Conference, was convened in Tanzania.
The previous 5 Pan African Congresses were held in in Europe and North America. Tanzania was also the first African nation that purposely established a programme, The Pan African Skills programme, to recruit Africans from the Diaspora to come and participate in national development and nation building endeavours. These actions evidence the centrality of unity of purpose and action and the ethos of the historical legacy of Tanzania and African Liberation Day!
The heritage of African liberation
Wars of resistance by the likes of Queen Nzinga of Angola against Portuguese enslavers and colonizers, Nana Ya Asantewaa of Ghana against the British, Toussaint Louverture of Haiti against the French, Denmark Vesey, and Harriet Tubman against the slave aristocracy of the USA, Omar Mukhtar of Libya, Melenik and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia against Italy, the Maji Maji resistance in East Africa against the Germany and Nehanda of Zimbabwe against the British, are a few examples of African responses to imperialism and racialist dehumanisation over the centuries.
This phenomenal continuum of anti-imperialist, anti-racist struggles generated a collective consciousness and appreciation of social justice, human dignity, collective peoples’ rights and democratic voice among oppressed Black people globally. Folktales, songs, collective memories and moral narratives of liberation theology nurtured this legacy.
The ideas of activists and guerrilla intellectuals such as W. E. B. Dubois, Paul Robeson, Robert Sobukwe, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Albertina Sisulu, Franz Fanon, Ella Baker, Julius Nyerere, Winnie Mandela, Amilcar Cabral and Malcolm X found resonance in organisations such as the African Nationalist Congress, Universal Negro Improvement Association, Kenya Land and Freedom Army, the Pan African Congresses, PAFMESCA, National Front for the Liberation of Algeria, the All African Peoples’ Revolutionary Party, and the Black Panther Party for Self-defence.
This conglomerate expression for social justice and self-determination culminated in the founding of the Organisation of African Unity.
The sociocultural manifestation of Africans’ experiences throughout the 600-year-old ‘maafa’ of the western capitalist world dominion spawned the realisation of a collective fate connecting the welfare of Africans of the Diaspora with that of the newly emerging African nations.
Black people throughout the Pan African world began to identify anticolonial, anti-imperialism and antiracist human rights struggle as one.
In April 1958, the All African People’s Conference convened in Ghana. Prior to this continental gatherings, several Pan African Congresses and conclaves dating back to the 19th century inclusive of colonised and formerly enslaved African peoples convened in Europe and the Americas.
After decades of organising by Pan African groups and acts of emancipatory resistance, the Organisation of African Unity came into being On May 25, 1963. African Liberation Day (ALD) was established simultaneously to maintain awareness and support worldwide for the liberation movements and African Peoples’ global struggle for freedom, dignity and democratic participation.
Currently there appears a lapse of historical consciousness and Pan African solidarity and discourse within educational, cultural and political institutions that promote knowledge and ideas of unity of purpose and historical commonality among African.
There is a danger of the obliteration or distortion of the records and living memories of current and successive generations of this legacy and heritage of African peoples. The need is urgent to preserve for the historical narrative of the physical and philosophical dimensions of this great accomplishment of humanity by African peoples.
The commemoration of ALD is a call to all African peoples and societal sectors for a continuous agenda of activities to the recollect our collective accomplishment of ending colonialism and statutory racial apartheid in Africa and the Americas.
Such a mobilising activity process of collective memorialisation will counteract micro-nationalist xenophobic tendencies emerging. It will also bring to the forefront of public awareness the remaining challenges to our total liberation. The issue of the rights of the Sahawari people to self-determination cries out for resolution.
Another important challenge is the US imperialist regime change activities as typified by the machinations against the people of Venezuela. In the spirit of solidarity for social justice, Pan African forces are holding the line against the bullying and provocations of current US administration in respect to Venezuela and Cuba.
A recent letter sent from the Global African Congress to the President of Ghana and to the African Union calls on Africans to resist the pressures of the United States against Venezuela and Cuba.
We would be remiss not to condemn the institutionalised violation of the human and peoples’ rights of Palestinians and call for the end to Zionists’ apartheid practices, illegal occupation of Gaza and illegal settlements in the original homeland of the Palestinian people.
Prof. Ikaweba Bunting, Director Department of Unity - Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, Secretary General of Global Pan African Movement (The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone)