“Reflections on Peacemaking, State Sovereignty and Democratic Governance in Africa.”
Director of Ceremonies,
Vice Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape,
Members of staff, students and workers of the UWC and the Community Law Centre,
Our dear sister, Farida Omar and other members of the Omar family,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Comrades and friends:
Firstly, I would like to thank the Community Law Centre for giving me the opportunity to deliver this 8th Dullah Omar Memorial Lecture, as well as apologise for having obliged the Centre, last year, to postpone the delivery of this Lecture.
I would also like to salute the Centre for having instituted this Lecture Series, thus to honour and sustain the memory of a truly outstanding South African.
I was privileged to address a Memorial Meeting on March 24, 2004 which was held to pay tribute to Dullah Omar whose mortal remains had been laid to rest eleven days earlier.
On that occasion I said:
“We should speak of what it is that makes us to value Dullah Omar as we do, as an outstanding comrade and African, who belongs among the galaxy of stars that point our way to a better future…
“We owe it to him and others who dedicated themselves to serve the people of South Africa, ready to lay down their lives, to ensure that we eradicate poverty and underdevelopment, racism and sexism in our country, realise the renewal of Africa, and contribute to the construction of a new world order of equality among the peoples and a shared prosperity…
“To achieve these objectives we need the quiet courage of a Dullah Omar, without seeking fame and acclaim. We need the steadfast attachment to principle of a Dullah Omar, without expectation of personal reward. We require the unwavering focus on the interests and aspirations of the masses of the people of a Dullah Omar. We must cultivate the use of our minds and skills to advance the interests of the people as did Dullah Omar, rather than our selfish desires.”
I am more than certain that we have even greater need today to commit ourselves to emulate Dullah Omar in practical ways, than perhaps we did when we said our final farewell to him eight years ago.
The subject I have been asked to address this evening relates directly to the important issue of the State and Governance on our Continent.
In this context, I know that many of us present here this evening will recall that when we came into government in 1994 there was much discussion about what was described as the “right-sizing” of government.
We will also recall that whatever the domestic merits of this discussion, it was taking place in a situation of the global domination of the neo-liberal ideological perspective which argued for the “minimisation of the role of the state”, in favour of the so-called market.
I mention all this because it was Dullah Omar who first warned us that as we went about “right-sizing” government, to avoid creating a bloated and expensive public administration, we should take care not to fall into the dangerous trap of weakening and therefore disempowering the democratic state.
In this regard, he warned against the surrender to the private sector by the democratic state of a substantial portion of the delivery of services especially to the poor, which the private sector would do, informed by the goal of the pursuit of profit, rather than the needs of the people.
I recall this today to underline that Dullah Omar advanced the view that for us and other developing countries, the sovereign democratic state, a state which derives its legitimacy from the will of the people, has to play a critical role as a motive force for progressive change.
I also recall this to make the point that Dullah Omar the lawyer was not only a ‘legal eagle’, but also played an important role as a theoretician of the national democratic revolution and a principled defender of the perspectives of this revolution.
This is yet another reason why we owe the UWC Community Law Centre a debt of gratitude for what it has done to ensure that we do not apply to the eminent revolutionary, Dullah Omar, the prescript – out of sight, out of mind!
At its close, the First Pan African Congress, held in London, England, in 1900, issued a call "To the Nations of the World", in which it said:
"In the metropolis of the modern world, in this closing year of the nineteenth century, there has been assembled a Congress of men and women of African blood, to deliberate solemnly upon the present situation and outlook of the darker races of mankind. The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the colour line, the question as to how far differences of race, which show themselves chiefly in the colour of the skin and the texture of the hair, are going to be made, hereafter, the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization.”
In these famous words, 112 years ago leaders from the African Continent and the African Diaspora, including the Caribbean and the United States of America, made the assertion that the 20th Century would have to address the related issues of:
· the liberation of the peoples of Africa and the Caribbean from colonialism and imperialism, enabling them fully to enjoy the rights to self-determination and development; and,
· the emancipation of the peoples in the African Diaspora, especially in the United States, from racial discrimination and oppression, to enable them to enjoy equal citizenship rights and thus access all available opportunities for development.
To underline all this, in his closing address on July 25, 1900, the outstanding African American, W.E.B. du Bois said:
“Let the nations of the world respect the integrity and independence of the free Negro states of Abyssinia, Liberia, Haiti, and the rest, and let the inhabitants of these states, the independent tribes of Africa, the Negroes of the West Indies and America, and the black subjects of all nations take courage, strive ceaselessly, and fight bravely, that they may prove to the world their incontestable right to be counted among the great brotherhood of mankind. Thus we appeal with boldness and confidence…for a generous recognition of the righteousness of our cause.”
Five weeks ago we celebrated the Centenary of Dullah Omar’s movement, and ours, the African National Congress. As we continue to mark this historic achievement during the rest of this year, the question we will have to ask is – has the ANC realised the goal which was proclaimed by the 1st Pan African Congress!
We say this because in fact that Congress, held 12 years before the ANC was formed, set the agenda for all African liberation movements, and therefore the ANC itself.
All this relates directly to the important topic we have been asked to address – “Reflections on Peacemaking, State Sovereignty and Democratic Governance in Africa.”
Recent events on our Continent, and specifically what happened in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya last year, have given particular and immediate relevance to this topic.
In the context of this Lecture I will focus on Libya, even as the events in Côte d’Ivoire would also confirm much of what I will say about Libya, relating to the purposes and outcome of contemporary foreign armed interventions in Africa.
Before I proceed any further, I would like to reiterate what I have said before and elsewhere, which bears on the insulting allegation that the African Union and some of us had been bought with petrodollars we had received from the Libyan Gaddafi regime.
In this regard, the charge has been made that we took the positions we did to oppose the abuse of the United Nations Security Council to effect regime-change in Libya, because we had been corrupted by these petrodollars.
Once again I would like unreservedly to repudiate the fabrications that have been propagated that the African Union depended on Libya for its budget requirements, and that Libya supported the ANC in any way whatsoever during the period of our struggle against the apartheid regime prior to 1990.
Despite this reality, much of our domestic media and its international counterparts, and the so-called analysts, have consistently and stubbornly propagated the entirely unfounded falsehood that Gaddafi’s Libya played a significant role in helping to give the ANC the wherewithal to survive and successfully conduct the struggle against apartheid.
What I will say relating to the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, in support of the AU positions in this regard, has nothing whatsoever to do with any supposed historic friendly relationship with Gaddafi’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
On March 10, 2011, the AU Peace and Security Council adopted a Roadmap for the peaceful resolution of the then Libyan conflict.
Among other things, this Roadmap provided for an end to the violent conflict in Libya and the institution of a process whereby the Libyan people would engage one another in inclusive negotiations freely to determine the future of their country, including its obligatory and genuine democratisation.
The African Union secured the agreement of the Gaddafi regime to this Roadmap, relying on the fact that Libya is one of its members.
This created the framework to address the issues identified in the theme of this Lecture – peace-making, state sovereignty and democratic governance in Libya - without further resort to force and therefore the needless killing of tens of thousands of Libyans and the destruction of valuable national infrastructure and other property.
The AU forwarded its March 10 decision to the United Nations, the League of Arab States and other relevant organisations.
However, the UN Security Council wilfully elected to ignore the decisions of the African Union, treating these decisions relating to an African country, and therefore us, the peoples of Africa, with absolute contempt.
Even in its communications, the Security Council virtually decreed that Libya had ceased to be an African country. Accordingly it argued that it derived the legitimacy of its actions from decisions taken by the League of Arab States.
On March 17, seven days after the African Union had adopted its Roadmap for the peaceful resolution of the Libyan conflict, it adopted its Resolution 1973, which created the space for NATO, an independent US-European military and political alliance, to intervene in Libya to impose a violent resolution of this conflict, centred on regime change, which objective was completely at variance with Resolution 1973.
I am certain that all of us present here this evening are familiar with what then happened.
In essence, NATO intervened not to impose a no-fly-zone to protect civilians, as prescribed by the UN Security Council, but to lead and empower the opposition National Transitional Council in a military campaign to overthrow the Gaddafi regime.
Indeed, once the NATO campaign was launched, we were forewarned that this was the intention of the major Western powers.
As early as only a month after the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1973, the architects of this Resolution and the NATO campaign, Presidents Obama and Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron, publicly announced their intentions.
In a joint letter published in the newspapers, The Times of London, the French Le Figaro, and the International Herald Tribune, these three Permanent Members of the Security Council, shamelessly repudiating the UNSC mandate, said:
“There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya: a future without Gaddafi…So long as Gaddafi is in power, NATO and its coalition partners must maintain their operations…Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good…”
Having become slaves to this illegal regime-change objective, the relevant United Nations institutions betrayed all the prescriptions they are obliged by international law to respect. Thus:
· the UN Secretary General allowed the representatives of the rebel National Transitional Council to act as the legitimate representatives of the UN Member State of Libya, contrary to all UN protocols;
· the UN Secretary General refused to accredit the representatives of the Libyan Government;
· the UN Secretary General failed to take action to insist that even his own peace Envoy, former Jordan Foreign Minister, Abdel-Elah al-Khatib, should have the space to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the Libyan conflict;
· the UN Security Council refused to ensure that NATO acted in a manner consistent with its own resolutions, thus declining to hold NATO to account;
· the UN Security Council surrendered its authority to oversee the future of Libya to a self-appointed ‘Libya Contact Group’, made up of countries and organisations committed to regime-change in Libya, in defiance of the Security Council decisions; and,
· as we have said, the UN ensured that in all respects Libya should be defined as other than an African country, insisting that the legitimacy of the regime-change agenda derived from its support by the League of Arab States, knowing very well that for many years Libya had become virtually only a nominal member of this regional organisation, thus earning the wrath of many of the Member States of the League.
The naked reality is that the relevant organs of the United Nations - the Security Council and the Office of the Secretary General - elected to betray their binding obligations in terms of international law, especially as prescribed by the UN Charter.
Rather, they chose to give free reign to the so-called P3, the United States, France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland, exclusively to decide the future of Libya.
As we all know, this P3 justified its illegitimate military actions in Libya and its regime-change agenda on the basis of the four propositions that:
· it was acting in the interest of peace in Libya, consistent with the peace-making responsibilities of the United Nations;
· it was acting in support of legitimate representatives of the Libyan people, constituted of a rebel formation opposed to what they unilaterally decreed was an ‘illegitimate’ Government;
· together with this opposition, it was acting to bring democracy to Libya, thus to liberate the Libyan people from a dictatorship; and,
· it was acting to implement the principle of the right of the international community ‘to protect the people’ from criminal abuse by their Government, especially if, to maintain itself in power, this Government committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
In this context I would like to state that there is absolutely no evidence that the Gaddafi regime either committed or had any intention to commit any genocide or wage a war against civilians, justifying the evocation by the UN, the P3 and NATO of the so-called ‘right to protect’.
In this regard, in a Report published in June last year, the International Crisis Group, the ICG, said:
“Much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of
events, portraying the (Libyan) protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no real security challenge.
“This version would appear to ignore evidence that the protest movement exhibited a violent aspect from very early on.
“While there is no doubt that many and quite probably a large majority of the people mobilised in the early demonstrations were indeed intent on demonstrating peacefully, there is also evidence that, as the regime claimed, the demonstrations were infiltrated by violent elements.
“There are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the (Gaddafi) regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging anything remotely warranting use of the term ‘genocide’…
“To insist that (Gaddafi) both leave the country and face trial in the International Criminal Court is virtually to ensure that he will stay in Libya to the bitter end and go down fighting.”
In an article published by the US newspaper, The Boston Globe, on April 14, 2011, Professor Alan Kuperman wrote:
“Evidence is now in that President Barack Obama grossly exaggerated the humanitarian threat to justify military action in Libya…
“Human Rights Watch has released data on Misurata, the next biggest city in Libya (after Benghazi), and scene of protracted fighting, revealing that Moammar Khadafy is not deliberately massacring civilians but narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government…
“(The NATO) intervention did not prevent genocide, because no such bloodbath was in the offing. To the contrary, by emboldening rebellion, US interference has prolonged Libya’s civil war and the resultant suffering of innocents…”
Just over a fortnight before the adoption of Resolution 1973, answering questions at a press conference on March 1st, relating to the allegation that the Gaddafi regime was using its Air Force to massacre civilians, then U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, said: “We’ve seen the press reports, but we have no confirmation of that.”
Admiral Mike Mullen, then head of the US armed forces said – “That’s correct. We’ve seen no confirmation whatsoever.”
Nevertheless the UNSC based its decision to impose the so-called no-fly-zone precisely on these very same unsubstantiated reports!
Interestingly, the US right-wing Heritage Foundation, which has little respect for the United Nations, published an article on September 1 last year, written by one Dr Ted R. Bromund, in which he said:
“The Obama Administration badly wanted to act (against Libya) with the approval of the U.N. Security Council. So on March 17, it got, by a vote of 10-0 with five abstentions, a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing “all necessary measures…to protect civilians.” It then immediately reinterpreted this resolution into approval for NATO to become the rebel air force. The next time the Administration wants to do something through the U.N. – say, on Syria – it will find Russia and China a lot less eager to abstain on resolutions that might be subject to creative reinterpretation. Relying on the U.N. carries immense inherent costs (for the US): tricking the U.N. to get what you want just increases those costs.” [“Obama’s Top Ten Errors on Libya”.]
When I spoke at Stellenbosch University on August 26 last year, I said:
“The naked reality is not that the Western powers did not hear what the ICG said. Rather, they heard, but did not want to listen to anything informed by the objective to address the real interests of the people of Libya. They were…bent on regime-change in Libya, regardless of the cost to this African country, intent to produce a political outcome which would serve their interests.”
Together with everything I have said, we must nevertheless accept that various concrete realities in Libya provided the excuse for the Western powers to intervene in the manner they did.
The fact is that Libya was not a democratic country, having lived under a military autocracy since 1969, when young military officers, led by Colonel Gaddafi, took power through an anti-imperialist coup d’état to overthrow a feudal regime beholden to the Western powers, thus to advance the objective to assert the right of the African and Libyan people to self-determination.
For the record, we must state this that at that time, more than four decades ago, the entire global progressive movement welcomed this coup d’état as a progressive step forward, because it was against feudalism and imperialism.
It is also true that seen as part of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, it was inevitable that any repressive action taken against unarmed demonstrators, as happened at the beginning of the Libyan demonstrations, and also in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain, would be unacceptable.
We must also understand that Gaddafi’s Libya occupied a particular position in the context of the system of international relations.
Through its actions, it had earned the wrath of the major Western powers, partly informed by the conviction that Libya had carried out terrorist actions which had claimed many lives of citizens of these powers.
Similarly, it was in the bad books of especially the Arab Gulf countries, and generally the Arab League.
Within Africa, it had made many enemies and had positioned itself as a rouge element, intent to establish client states which would serve its interests.
At the same time, it was attractive to the Western powers because of its large reserves of high quality crude oil, and the need to recruit it into a geo-strategic arrangement focused on tying the countries of North Africa into a particular partnership with the EU.
For all these reasons, it was relatively easy for the Western powers to intervene in Libya as they did, knowing that they would meet little resistance in this regard, as actually happened.
In the result, they have achieved what to them are welcome strategic outcomes, which:
· will secure Libya as a ‘friendly’ state in the context of the Middle East, especially with regard to the unresolved and globally strategic issue of the fate of the people of Palestine;
· will place them in a strong position to intervene in the African Maghreb, including in Egypt;
· will guarantee their favourable access to Libyan oil;
· will shut down an important point of departure for unacceptable illegal migration into Western Europe; and,
· will serve as a precedent enabling them to intervene in all other African countries as they wish.
At the same time we must fully understand the implications of the critically important and strategic observation made by the EU External Action Service, relating to the linkage between the EU, North Africa, and the African Sahel, which includes Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan, that:
“The current political developments in the Maghreb have consequences for the situation in the Sahel, taking into account the close relations between the countries of the two regions, a significant presence of citizens of Sahel countries in the Maghreb and the risks that arise from the proliferation of arms in the region. The problems facing the Sahel not only affect the local populations but increasingly impact directly on the interests of European citizens.” [European Union External Action Service: Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel.]
Some of the vitally important lessons we, as Africans, must draw from the Libyan experience are that:
· in the post-Cold War setting, the Western powers have enhanced their appetite to intervene on our Continent, including through armed force, to ensure the protection of their interests, regardless of our views as Africans;
· these powers will use the argument that they are our unique friends as defenders of our democratic and human rights, obliged to act in this regard especially when our Continent, through the AU and our regional bodies, can be presented as having failed to act to defend these rights;
· these powers will act as they did in Libya especially if, in situations of internal conflict, which they would also foment, they can argue that they are implementing the UN-approved ‘right to protect’, the so-called R2P; and,
· our Continental disunity and weakness with regard to the defence of the right of all Africa to act to guarantee our right to self-determination opens the door to our ‘re-colonisation’, including in the context of the resolve of the Western powers to limit our possibility to establish a truly strategic alliance especially with the People’s Republic of China.
I trust that all of us understand that this makes the clear statement that as Africans we must act in a decisive manner to ensure the achievement of the objectives we have set ourselves, long before the Libyan debacle, based on the perspective we had elaborated together, to pursue the historic goal of the renaissance of our Continent.
In earlier times, the African scribes saw the terrible tragedy we were visiting on ourselves as Africans, during the years of our independence, as when our ruling African elites became venal rent-seekers who set themselves the objective to suck the blood of the people, in their personal interest.
In this context, the eminent Nigerian and African writer and thinker, Chinua Achebe, warned the African masses:
“Warriors will fight scribes for the control of your institutions; wild bush will conquer your roads and pathways; your land will yield less and less while your offspring multiply; your houses will leak from the floods and your soil will crack from the drought; your sons will refuse to pick up the hoe and prefer to wander in the wilds; you shall learn ways of cheating and you will poison the cola nuts you serve your own friends. Yes, things will fall apart.”
Another scribe, in different circumstances, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, had used exactly the same words – things fall apart!
Yeats had gone on to express in poetic words the catastrophe which Achebe described in beautiful prose, expressed with the necessary sensibility to the African setting.
This is what Yeats said, in part:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The Libyan tragedy and debacle occurred because things fell apart, since, as Africans, as Chinua Achebe had said, we had learnt the ways of cheating, and allowed those who have the means to abuse state power to control us, our institutions and our minds.
In the end, and as a result, the African centre could not hold.
As an exemplar of this reality, indeed with treacherous welcoming smiles on our faces, many of us had poisoned the very eminent gift of friendship, the cola nut, which we had set aside to give to other Africans, knowing that this was a false and deadly affirmation of a non-existent expression of African unity and solidarity.
As W.B. Yeats did, given our own behaviour, we too must ask ourselves the dread question –
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
It is clear that unless we change our ways, consciously to deny the inevitability of the ominous and frightening perspective so accurately described by Chinua Achebe, our own rough beast will slouch towards our Bethlehem, ready to be born!
In this regard, among others, we must act honestly, unequivocally and in unity to:
· reinforce democracy and respect for human rights throughout our Continent, and thus confirm that the noble objectives of African unity and solidarity can only be achieved when each and every one of our countries abides by the inalienable principle and practice that the people shall govern;
· develop our own capacity to resolve our conflicts, committed to find African solutions to African problems, in much the same way that, for instance, the Europeans insist, correctly, that they have the right to arrive at European solutions to European problems, as do the people of the United States of America with regard to their problems;
· implement in all our countries the all-Africa policies adopted through the OAU and the AU, whose implementation would constitute the cement we need to give practical meaning to the objective to achieve genuine African unity and solidarity, thus to build the firewall to guarantee that we succeed to defend our right to self-determination;
· use these policies to structure our individual and collective relations with the rest of the world, specifically to achieve the objective of securing Africa’s rightful place among the world community of nations, understanding that none of our countries can achieve this objective on its own; and,
· strengthen our Continental and Regional organs, relying on our resources, and institutionalise the cooperation among our 54 States, thus to defend the strategic goal of the realisation of the historic objective of African integration and unity even as our governments change as a consequence of the exercise of the democratic right of each of our peoples to mandate any party to serve as the government of their choice.
At the recent AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the AU Commission reported that the requisite number of ratifications had been achieved which brought the important ‘African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance’ into force as a binding legal obligation affecting all AU Member States.
In this regard, I would humbly suggest that all of us present here, under the leadership of the Community Law Centre, should familiarise ourselves with this Charter, thus to position ourselves as activists for its implementation.
I would also suggest that, perhaps starting with a pilot project, the AU Commission must take the necessary steps to help ensure the implementation of all the provisions of this Charter.
This would relate directly and immediately to the theme of this Lecture - Peacemaking, State Sovereignty and Democratic Governance in Africa.
Everything we have said makes the very important statement that:
(i) recent events, as in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, have confirmed that the major Western powers remain interested and determined to attach Africa to themselves as their appendage, at all costs, ready to use all means to achieve this objective;
(ii) to realise this objective, these powers will exploit the universal commitment to democracy, human rights and good governance to intervene in any and all our countries to advance their interests;
(iii) these powers will intervene in our countries especially during periods of violent conflict, with no regard to the principle of the sovereignty of our states, taking advantage of the UN-approved principle of the ‘right to protect’, which they will interpret freely, to serve their interests;
(iv) unless, practically, we assume responsibility for the advancement of democracy, the protection of human rights and the realisation of the objective of good governance on our Continent, and act to guarantee peace and security, these powers will intervene in our countries in pursuit of their selfish objectives, legitimising such intervention by presenting themselves as ‘friends of Africa’, intent to give us the gift of democracy, human rights, peace, good governance and progress, regardless of our wishes;
(v) in all instances we must expect that such interventions will be supported by some native forces, our own kith and kin, which the world powers concerned will present as the genuine representatives of our peoples, without regard to the truth in this regard;
(vi) these powers will use their might to oblige the supposedly inclusive multilateral institutions to facilitate the achievement of their objectives, including through the imposition of sanctions;
(vii) they will also use the global media to demonise whomsoever they view as their enemy, and present in the best possible light whomsoever they determine is their friend; and,
(viii) where and when necessary, they will misuse especially the UN Security Council to legitimise their actions.
On other occasions I have sought to draw our attention as Africans to the deeply troubling reality of the perspective that has surfaced in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War, which has argued for the re-colonisation of Africa.
If I may, I would like to cite only two statements in this regard.
The British commentator, Richard Gott, wrote in the London New Statesman magazine published on 15 January 2001:
“There is a growing belief, not least within the ranks of latter-day new Labour missionaries, that appears to favour the reconquest of Africa. No one really suggests how this would come about, nor is there a "plan" available for discussion. Yet the implicit suggestion of recent reporting from Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, sometimes echoed in London, is that imperial intervention might indeed be welcomed by peoples threatened with mayhem, anarchy and civil war…
“What Africa really needs, Maier, (in his book This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis), seems to suggest, is the advice of a new generation of foreign missionaries, imbued with the new, secular religion of good governance and human rights…
“With the reporting and analysis of today's Africa in the hands of (this new generation of missionaries)…it is not surprising that public opinion (in the West) is often confused and disarmed when governments embark on neo-colonial interventions. The new missionaries are much like the old ones, an advance guard preparing the way for military and economic conquest.”
Seven years later, on April 19, 2008 The Times (London) published an article by Matthew Parris entitled ‘The new scramble for Africa begins’, which drew attention to the global demand for the immense African natural resources, and said:
“Fifty years ago the decolonisation of Africa began. The next half-century may see the continent recolonised. But the new imperialism will be less benign. Great powers aren't interested in administering wild places any more, still less in settling them: just raping them. Black gangster governments sponsored by self-interested Asian or Western powers could become the central story in 21st-century African history.”
It is very easy for the self-interested to dismiss such concerns as amounting to no more than the ravings of misguided addicts to theories about allegedly fictional malevolent conspiracies.
In our case we have the advantage, if this is the right word, to point to the concrete examples of Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, which are by no means fictional.
Thus we return to the statement issued by the 1st Pan African Congress during the last year of the 19th Century, that ‘the problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the colour line.’
It is clear that despite the advances that were made, the 20th Century did not finally solve ‘the problem of the colour line’, as understood by that Congress.
The question therefore arises – will it happen that the 21st Century, which we made bold to identify as the African Century, finally solves ‘the problem of the colour line’?
In the continuing context of the vision of the 1st Pan African Congress, we must understand that this question also relates to the African Diaspora.
In this regard, using only the example of United States, I would like to cite some observations made by the prestigious US ‘Pew Research Center’, relating to the comparative material conditions of the African American population.
In a report released on July 26, 2011, entitled “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics”, the Center said:
“The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009.
“These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009.”
This statement, based on hard empirical evidence, confirms that even in the African Diaspora, during the second decade of the 21st Century, ‘the problem of the colour line’ persists.
In the period between 1900 and 2012, as Africans we have registered historic victories in pursuit of the objectives handed down to us by the eminent representatives who met at the 1st Pan African Congress, representing the then and future struggles on the African Continent and the African Diaspora.
These victories have given us some space to help us to determine our destiny, and therefore to answer the question, in our interest, about what should happen to achieve the related objectives of peace, state sovereignty and democratic governance certainly on our Continent.
112 years after W.E.B. du Bois spoke in London, we must heed the directive he issued, that, in his words, “the black subjects of all nations (must) take courage, strive ceaselessly, and fight bravely, that they may prove to the world their incontestable right to be counted among the great brotherhood of mankind.”
To be part of that ‘great brotherhood’, and indeed sisterhood, surely means that we must conduct ourselves as Dullah Omar did, and remain loyal, in word and deed, to the objectives which inspired him throughout his life, to serve the ordinary people of our country, of Africa and the world.
Dullah understood the intimate relationship between, and fought for the realisation of the integration through our efforts as Africans, of the objectives of democratic rule in Africa, the construction of sovereign developmental African states committed to serve especially the interests of the poor, and the achievement of peace among the Africans, regardless of race, colour, gender, religion and historical origin.
I know that Dullah Omar shared with the Afrikaner youth I met 14 years ago, the vision that - "Yesterday is a foreign country - tomorrow belongs to us!"
As his movement, and ours, the African National Congress, celebrates its Centenary, and honours the memory of Dullah Omar, it will have to ask itself the simple yet challenging question – does it, as it advances into its second century, remain loyal, still, to the dream to whose realisation Dullah Omar dedicated his life, up to his last day on earth, as a committed and unwavering Pan-African revolutionary democrat, ever-faithful to the clarion call that was made by the 1st Pan African Congress, 112 years ago?
I am honoured that today I have had the privilege to speak here, in honour of the revolutionary intellectual, who belonged among you as a teacher, Advocate Dullah Omar, at this historic ‘intellectual home of the left’, described in these words many years ago by your former Vice Chancellor, Professor Jakes Gerwel.
Because of the combination of these circumstances, I make bold to pose to you a question I believe you have to answer in terms of your practical actions as a centre of learning, teaching, research and uninhibited intellectual inquiry and expansion of the frontiers of knowledge - what shall we, the Africans, do, regardless of the Continent of our abode, to ensure that tomorrow belongs to us!