Africans Reclaiming Africa
Africa is truly a great continent; it is a land inconceivably rich with material and human wealth. This is the land where the paragons of spirituality once lived in abundance. These words must never be confused with empty rhetoric, as they speak of a simple tangible fact. We Africans are not just the origin of human beings, but also the origin of civilization. The elements that made us pinnacles of civilization are still here in Africa, but we forgot our greatness when we imported cheap foreign ideals. We have been the co-conspirators in the greatest tragedy that made Africa poor. The story and history of Africa continues to be narrated by outsiders, while we persist in echoing this imported narrative that functions to shackle and oppress our minds. Thus, we must reclaim Africa by decolonizing our minds, before we can return to the greatness we once enjoyed.
Before I rush into the central issue, let me contextualize the meanings I wish to communicate in the word, ‘reclaim’. The word basically means taking back something, and this thing is our land with its resources, our citizens, and basically our history and shared destiny as Africans. The other meaning of ‘reclaim’ has to do with abandoning a wrong course of life so as to adopt a righteous path. Verily, this is the huge task ahead of us; we must cease trying to measure what is African using western standards, and seek the virtuous path that is authentically African. To reclaim is also to transform the waste into value. Internal and external forces, which I will address soon, have squandered the riches of Africa, and so we must rebuild our continent with a prophetic vision that can transport us into a future of affluence.
Africa can return to its greatness; still be the land of humanity that it once was. We can still be great, but only when we reclaim Africa. Reclaiming the ‘spirit’ of Africa is the igniting force that creates the strength for physically reclaiming Africa. The spirit and mental attitude Africans have towards themselves has truly been corrupting and self-loathing for too long. It is also the cause for the reverence with which we regard western life. To understand the weight of such debilitating metal captivity, let us ponder how colonization of the majority was possible by the minority, and let us examine the unique factor that made the Holocaust and Apartheid a reality.
Sheer force may capture and enslave people for a while, but only spiritual and mental hegemony has the power to systematically colonize and enchain people for more than 400 years. As Elie Wiesel expressed it in ‘Night’, it was neither Nazi Germans nor Jew capos that guarded the concentration camps and the gas chamber; it was rather illusion. To colonize and enslave Africans too, the colonizers and enslavers made us accept an illusion. We accepted their superiority and our inferiority, and so did some of the post-independence leaders of African nations. The Africans who were educated, or rather indoctrinated, in western mentality, still imitated the oppressors in governance and ambition. Westernized Africans continue to reignite the dying fire of colonialism while extinguishing the living fire of freedom from Africans. We, the generations that followed, still struggle to breath an African air, as we are suffocated under the dark mist of oppressed mentality.
We have inherited western dreams and ambitions from our political, spiritual and intellectual leaders. To reclaim Africa, we must abandon the false prophets who roam in our midst spreading the oppressors’ false narratives. We have inherited westernized institutions that made mental colonization possible even in the absence of the colonizer. We have measured our education in western standards, and so our curriculum prepare us for a western life. Our financial institutions and economic systems are directly imported, with little to no consideration as to their applicability in African context. We are entertained by cheaply imported Hollywood movies, we form opinions based on the brainwashing Western mainstream media, and we call this news and documentaries.
Collective amnesia has been instilled in Africans, making us forget and ignore our past greatness. Westerners have told us that we are uncivilized, barbaric, poor, and have called us by nasty names. But most hurtful is our reaction – we have accepted it. We echoed of our uncivil nature through our intellectuals, called ourselves barbaric, and lived poor surrounded by abundance. They used ‘white’ to unleash a force of evil across the world. They gave ‘black’ a double meaning: externally, ‘blacks’ were those to be oppressed in the name of civilization, and internally, ‘blacks’ were the uncivilized people who fought civil wars. As national borders were erected by colonizers in a treaty to partition and loot Africa, civil wars were bound to occur in post-independent Africa. We also learned civil wars from the ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy of Europeans, who came to our continent only after committing ethnic cleansing in their own land and created homogeneous European nations. Our western educated leaders imitate the ways of their masters, and so enforce the same cruelty in Africa.
To learn freedom, we must unlearn slavery. To reclaim Africa demands the abandonment of foreign standards of measures we have learnt along the way. For instance, we must stop using the ghostly image of the white skinny female standard of beauty, before we can admire the disarming beauty of black women. The spirit of Thomas Sankara, Markus Garvey, Emperor Menelik II and Haile Selassie continue to haunt Africans who have gone astray from the vision of Pan Africanism. Our forefathers were chained and taken away from Africa, but we currently risk our lives to enter Western countries by any means necessary. Our ancestors, the chieftains of egalitarian Africa, have risked and lost their lives in an attempt to defend Africa – their homeland. Alas! Today our political leaders and elites compete to attract foreigners at the expense of their people. Kwasi Wiredu in his 1998 article, Toward Decolonizing African Philosophy and Religion, has argued, “Such minds are what may justly be called colonized. They are minds that think about and expound their own culture in terms of categories of a colonial origin without any qualms as to any possible conceptual incongruities.”
In Roots, by Alex Haley, we see how Kunta Kinte refuses to accept the new name, Toby, he is given by the slaver. He proudly announces, “I am Kunta Kinte, first son of Omoro, who is the son of the holy man Kairaba Kunta Kinte!” He almost lost his life before abandoning his origin, his identity. Currently, westernized black parents are doing the dirty work of the former colonizers, they willingly name their babies western names they see in Hollywood movies. In Ethiopia, where the colonizers were defeated by black roaring lions, I see neocolonialism slowly invading us. At schools, thanks to westernized parents, curriculums give priority to mastering English more than any other subject matter. I am also ashamed to see businesses in Addis Ababa, the capital of AU, with displays such as New York Café or Texas Language center. All around me, I see westerners in black skin. I see them using fancy English words to cover their ignorance and win arguments. All claim to be complying with the demands of globalization, but in reality they are serving neocolonialism. Malcom added ‘X’ as his last name to indicate the erased African identity. Melancholy and rage would fall on our forefathers if they were to witness Africans prostituting their identity for cheap Western consumerism.
All this is not spoken to tarnish the resilient struggle of authentic African artists, intellectuals, leaders, media, and ordinary people who take pride in leading an African lifestyle. These impediments are highlighted to show what we are up against. The unremitting effort of individuals and organizations that strive towards reclaiming Africa, are struggling against a Western Hydra. In Greek mythology there is a monster with nine heads by the name Lernaean Hydra, which are replaced by two new heads whenever one head is slain. Fighting against western mentality is a fight with Hydra, because we rid of physical colonization only to find that the enemy has transformed itself into an oppressive mentality. It has reemerged in the name of globalization and financial institutions so as to make Africa succumb to Westerners. It reemerged in the name of education, news and entertainment so as to capture the spirit of Africans under the spell of western ideology. Enough is said here and in various times and places of the catastrophes, let us now turn to the great task of reclaiming Africa.
To reclaim Africa, we must reawaken the African spirit that created our ancient civilizations. Those who wish to strip us of our greatness may fabricate history, but they cannot wish away the Axum Obelisk in Tigray, King Fasiledes’ castle in Gondar, Lalibela’s Rock hewn churches in Amhara, the pyramids in Egypt, the mosques in Timbuktu, and numerous majestic evidences of civilization across Africa. They have been effective in creating distractions to keep Africans from the truth. They claim we are the origin of human beings but not of civilization. They claim it was Homo Erectus that left Africa, which implies we were not Homo Sapiens, thinking humans. However, a passing glance at our ancient civilizations, our Ubuntu philosophy, and our oral and written literature is enough to prove Africans are the Homo Sapiens that carried world civilization with them when they left Africa.
Decolonizing the African mentality is the greatest task ahead of us. Only after we reclaim our mindset will we be able to reclaim our land and utilize the economic promises of our natural and human resources. This begins with the realization that Africa is not a single nation, as Western media portray us to be. Our continent is home to nations within which reside diverse cultures. Our diversity does not divide us; it exemplifies the richness we need to reinvigorate Africa. Most importantly, we are unified in the struggle against our common enemies. For centuries, our continent has been the victim of systematic oppression, and no African nation can triumph without the rest. When attacked collectively, the only defense is unity. Pan Africanism must not continue to be a pipedream of tomorrow; it must be a reality of today. Every time visionary leaders like Thomas Sankara reawaken Pan Africanism, Westerners unite to isolate the leader and the nation. Shamefully, the rest of the Africans view such demise from a distance. Our lack of forethought continues to blind us from seeing that the rebirth of Africa dies with the downfall of visionary leaders.
In the spirit of reclaiming Africa, I wish to end with a call for unity to every African nation; an entreaty to stand in solidarity with my beloved nation, Ethiopia. We, the people of Ethiopia, are struggling to defend our nation from internal and external forces of evil. As the land of the unconquered people, Ethiopia has been a beacon of hope in Africans’ struggle for independence. Now, too Ethiopia strives to free Africa from neocolonialism through the power of unity. Our democratic leader, PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed, is the voice of Ethiopians and Africans who strive to make Pan Africanism a reality. Internally, we are faced with the former tyrants who served the Western will in the past, and are currently engaged in terrorizing and ethnically dividing the nation. The TPLF terrorists have joined forces with the OLF Shene terrorist group; they share a vision – they wish to divide a unified nation and stain our history of independence by serving the ambition of our former colonizers. Western nations endorse these terrorists through their political institutions and their media. The US spreads fear by warning its people to leave Ethiopia, and Western media report that the capital city is in chaos. Well, I live in Addis Ababa, and our city is as peaceful as ever thanks to the brave soldiers who sacrifice their lives for freedom. Just as Emperor Menelik II and Empress Tayitu personally fought and defeated Italians in the battle of Adwa, PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed has now joined the battle to defend our nation.
The freedom of Ethiopia is an expression of the freedom of Africa.
We need fellow Africans to stand with us in solidarity. We must unite to reclaim Africa now – the time is always today.
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Abel Merawi is from Addis Ababa. He is an English literature teacher, freelance writer/reporter for Ezega.com and an Amharic-English translator and editor. He also writes for www.msingiafrikamagazine.com. You can reach him via: firstname.lastname@example.org