Saturday August 23 2014

Let’s start by revisiting our African heritage

By David F. K. Mpanga

Last week’s piece was a look at the trends emerging from the ongoing global turmoil through the prism of Bob Marley’s song, “So Much Trouble in the World” from the album “Survival”.

I noted that Marley’s visionary gift and insightful lyrics have caused some people to consider him a prophet because if you listened to that song, written in 1979, you would think that he had seen everything that is going on across the world today.

So having observed the trends and noted with concern that we are headed for more trouble, as we continue to be the grass over which global powers fight for access to resources, I opined that we Africans have to come up with a strategy for our own survival.

We cannot continue to believe that our progress shall be a necessary by-product of other peoples’ progress.

The Western (Judaeo-Christian), the Arabic (Muslim) and Eastern (Chinese and Indian) civilisations all have their own strategies for survival, and even dominance, in the coming century.

We Africans have none.
In his song, Bob Marley warns that the presumed solution to the trouble in the world is “just another illusion” and urges us to seek real solutions that do not leave the “cornerstone standing there behind”. Some of us have tried the European solution to African problems and, if we are honest to ourselves, it has failed us.

Other Africans have been trying the Arab solution to African problems without much success either.

We have also tried all manner of gimmicks to dress up the alien solutions as African but they have remained incapable of ensuring our survival, much less guarantee us meaningful and sustainable peace, freedom, happiness and prosperity.

Why? I believe that it’s because we have overlooked the basic thing that should be the cornerstone of any truly African superstructure – our African heritage in terms of history, culture, philosophy, concepts and values.

The world is changing and the tumultuous events all around us are akin to the rough waves of the sea, buffeting us from left to right. The shore is out of sight behind us and our destination harbour is far off.

Yet we Africans have chosen to discard our campus, sea charts and all navigational tools and to rely, instead, on the direction being taken by other ships.

As a result, we have neither a clear understanding of where we are going nor of how we are going to get there. This must change.

We should revisit the nature and purpose of our states, as well as of regional and pan-African institutions.

They should serve the true interests of the people of Africa instead of being the custodians of the foreign economic interests and/or stages on which big men strut their venal stuff.

We should look at the much maligned and neglected native social and political structures, as the natural building blocks of new African political superstructures.

Out of these native social and political structures, still pejoratively referred to as “tribes”, large functional confederations can be created by a new native African consensus.

Thus we shall replace the weak failed or failing states, which came into existence as colonial geographical expressions, with proper states that reflect who and what we really are as peoples. We shall have states anchored in and guaranteed by native African society and not in UN or AU charters.

When we own our states and they reflect who and what we really are and aspire to be as Africans, rather than try to destroy us and make us pale imitations of Europeans, we shall become capable of articulating and protecting our political, economic, social and cultural aspirations in the 21st Century.
The simplicity of my argument should not suggest that I think that our problems can be overcome overnight and that peace, happiness and prosperity shall break out as soon as we change course.

All I am saying is that arriving at the desired destination starts with turning and facing in the right direction.
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