In an interview on Hood Communist radio, Pan-African organizer and educator, Obi Egbuna Jr., shared an anecdote about how Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF leader and former president of Zimbabwe before overthrown by imperialism for taking back the land, saw the way the diaspora engaged with the struggles for self-determination and justice on the continent. According to Egbuna Jr., Mugabe said we had a very “adventurist analysis of developments on the continent. He said we pay too much attention to coups and we pay too much attention to assassinations . . . we need to begin to pay attention to the methodology [used] to isolate a country, making them vulnerable to a coup and vulnerable to an assassination.”
In Mugabe’s view, the African diaspora only engaged Africa when it was sexy to do so; when it was actively in the news cycle and men with strong jawlines wearing sharp military uniforms were declaring yet again their intention to force the West out culturally, while continuing to welcome it economically and politically. Mugabe believed the diaspora’s relationship to the continent had been honed, for the worse, by the spectacle of the 24-hour news cycle and as CNN, MSNBC, France24, and BBC sent us careening from coup d’etat to terrorist attack, to populist narrow nationalist imperialism-aligned government, we were missing the forest for the trees. We were missing the underlying structures of manipulation and exploitation wielded by capitalism-imperialism that push the continent from instability to crisis to terror and back again, over and over and over. Mugabe was not wrong.
The colonial borders of the US empire form the views that Africans in the US share about the rest of the African world. As such, we are unable to connect Africans globally through the shared struggle against western imperialism. It’s common among Africans in the U.S. to state that “I live in the U.S. so that’s what I know.” That statement can be applied to our collective conditions worldwide, not because we don’t care, but the scarcity model that capitalism operates under forces people to believe their best interests lie in living based on the principle that no matter what, there isn’t ever going to be enough for everyone.
Africa is on fire, the Third World is shifting towards multipolarity and the colonial reality of Africans in the U.S. is continuously muddled to prevent any attempt at reigniting the radical traditions of Black internationalism and Pan-Africanism. For those of us held hostage in the West, we are children that regard their mother like a dispassionate but confused spectator. We understand, to an extent, that Africa is of us and we are of Africa, but we hold Africa at a careful distance, only bringing it close to claim, to pity, or to extract. Each new cataclysm on the continent takes us by surprise, though we think a certain amount of chaos is expected (it’s Africa after all). And when it comes, we try to fit it within the confines of a worldview warped by the individualism and chauvinism of capitalism-imperialism, stripped entirely of the truth of Africa’s collective present and history. Entirely stripped of the truth of who we actually are and why we’re here.
In the US, Africans are led astray by a powerful Black misleadership class, who are inevitably exalted as “first Blacks” during Black History month, and who serve as a continuation of the confusion around neocolonialism and the function of counterinsurgency. As a consequence of Black radicalism and international solidarity with Third World and African anti-colonial movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, a brutal campaign of repression ensued targeting the ideological development of the working-class masses. More opportunities were created for the Black petite-bourgeoisie to climb the ladder, ultimately proving Carter G. Woodson right when he said, “the large majority of the Negroes who have put on the finishing touches of our best colleges are all but worthless in the development of their people.”
Celebrated “first Black” figures like Barack Obama and Colin Powell represent progress despite their roles as tools of empire destroying sovereign African nations from Grenada to Libya. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) collectively approves a $780 billion “defense” bill that expands AFRICOM, SOUTHCOM and the 1033 program as austerity policies become the norm domestically. Historically Black Colleges and Universities churn out Africans who comfortably fold into a labor aristocracy, eager to work in service of the state. This only further dilutes the reality of Africans as colonial subjects in the US and, furthermore, the reality of domestic and global imperialism as counterparts. And the portrayed liberating lifestyles of wealth from African celebrities and micro-celebs (influencers) moves the African masses in the US further away from the class question, in spite of a nationwide eviction crisis and waves of labor strikes. But as James Baldwin understood, “occupied territory is occupied territory.”
As we watch these figures become utilities to the maintenance of Western global hegemony, the fundamental question for Africans is: them or us? The clarity of the organizing in the Third World, which is proving to be fundamentally more sophisticated than what we see here in the US, relies on understanding the contradictions of imperialism that creates these forces. As the decline of the western hegemony seems more inevitable, Western nations are becoming more and more openly repressive, making use of institutions like NED, USAID, OAS and the Core Group to force their will. The neocolonial lackeys in the region follow suit with extra-judicial killings, imprisonments and political assassinations, as seen in Colombia and Brazil. In Guyana, France joined US SOUTHCOM for Operation Tradewinds exercises as a flex of imperial strength while its colonies, like Guadeloupe and Martinique, continue organized strikes against mandates, exposing its status as a French territory with no economic solutions during a pandemic. Similarly, Puerto Rico has had daily protests against the neoliberalism and privatization plaguing the colonized island due to US policy.
Clear on the primary contradiction, the masses of the Third World are organizing to “take back” their nations from right-wing western influenced leadership, as seen in Honduras and Bolivia, and defend their nations from western psyops, as seen in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. A consequence, however, to the leftward non-aligned shift happening in the region has been a tighter grip on the working-class in Haiti by white rulers with the approval of African elites who may uplift Haiti as the “first free Black nation,” but also ensures it remains as close to being colonized as possible.
Africa today is a continent full of contradictions. It’s riddled with puppet leaders who’s only allegiance lies with the West, and imperialism of the US/EU/NATO varieties to such an extent that you would be hard pressed to find any African soldier today who hasn’t been trained by the West. The African Union has been functionally useless and now can’t seem to get away from its decision to grant the genocidal state of Israel observer status. For every radical movement being built, you can find the budding presence of technologies like cryptocurrency and data mining being held up as solutions for African people. As the African bourgeoisie gains more and more access to comforts and western privileges, the African masses continue to see a decline in their living standards. But Africa is also a land that is ripe for revolution, even when it can’t be immediately seen.
Across East Africa and the Horn region, imperialism continues to exploit and fan the flames of internal and regional contradictions through the use of international sanctions and almost a dozen AFRICOM bases. With three bases in Kenya, two in Djibouti, one in Uganda, and five in Somalia (which has seen US drone strikes just as recent as July 2021), imperialism remains the primary contradiction in our homeland today. Each of these bases plays a different role. While AFRICOM claims that it is in the region for the security and protection of African people, in Somalia and Djibouti the bases support the U.S and other western powers in gaining access to the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and other routes through which they can extract oil. Uganda acts as a neocolonial weapons bunker of sorts in the region, used by the West to surveil and police it’s neighbors.
In 2021, millions across the world came out in support of the campaign #NoMore to oppose the ongoing Western media disinformation campaign, Western economic warfare, diplomatic propaganda and military interventions in Africa in general, and the Horn in particular. While major, the limits of the solidarity campaign will be tested with time, as the contradictions of the myth that Ethiopia “was never colonized” and other Abyssianian fundamentalist ideologies that challenge the question of self-determination of oppressed nationalities in Ethiopia continue to be exposed. In Sudan, a recent coup has only further confirmed the people’s belief that the military is not on their side and that the Sudanese revolution is incomplete. Sudani people have already recently proven that they had the balls to remove Omar al-Bashir from power in 2019, and there is faith that with tactical organization, they can see the mission through. While the international stage pressures elections in the region, Sudan is lit up with protests, strikes and grassroots movement building, led by their historic Neighborhood Resistance Committees.
62 years after the rise of Mali’s first democratically elected president, Modibo Keïta (a name you’ll never hear during BHM), Mali too, finds itself the center of attention because of a recent coup. But the context of this one is different, because the colonial history is different. Mali sits in a region of Africa whose relationship to neo-colonialism is like no other, because France’s presence in its “former” colonies remains virtually unchanged since the gain of “independence”. To this day their currency is the CFA Franc, tied to France who has veto power in their central banks, requiring them to keep half of its federal reserve in the Paris treasury. But the recent coup has seen the removal of France’s ambassador from the country, a starting point in addressing the demands of the people. The international and regional pushback has been swift, with sanctions being placed on the country by ECOWAS, followed by heightened yellow journalism in the West, fear mongering the presence of Russia. But Mali is not alone. For years, an anti-France movement has been creeping across the Sahel, and the world should look out for further developments in Senegal (with organizations like the Front for an Anti Imperialist Popular and Pan-African Revolution), Burkina Faso, and especially Niger, as France creates the illusion that it will be moving out of Mali and deepening it’s hold there.
Nobody at this point can predict what this moment will become, but as pointed out on a recent episode of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party’s podcast, Forward Ever, we all should remember that it took the Cuban Revolution two years to develop it’s socialist character. The other shoe has also yet to drop in South Africa, where the shadow of apartheid continues to loom, masquerading as “liberal democracy”. It’s true in Zimbabwe where our people continue to struggle under genocidal sanctions. It’s the reality across an entire African continent trying and failing, getting close and sometimes losing ground, fighting to release itself from the shackles of neo-colonialism and western imperialism. Regardless of the African diaspora’s anxieties, we must continue to lend support to our mother. When the coups aren’t news anymore, when the streets have cleared, the question remains: will we continue to support the people and follow their struggle from this point forward? There’s never been a perfect road to sovereignty.
Now, more than ever, Pan-Africanism makes sense because unlike scarcity model thinking and practice, Pan-Africanism sees African people garnering control of all of our vast resources in Africa as the correct solution to all of the issues that befall us. And, despite the capitalist system’s consistent effort to convince our people that Pan-Africanism will always be nothing more than a lofty ideal with no real concrete on the ground basis, there are plenty of things our people can do, regardless of our education, resources, or capacities, to make real life contributions to bring Pan-Africanism closer.
The first and necessary steps to build our Pan-African reality are to educate our people everywhere about the necessity to think and act on an international basis, stretching our hands across desserts, mountains, and water, to unite with one another. This work requires educational materials and consistency. Currently, organizations like the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) have strong and well developed relationships with Africans all over the planet. But the A-APRP is not the only entity with that reach. Other groups, like the Black Alliance for Peace, We Charge Colonialism, and many more, that engage in African unity work need to continue to carry out their essential day to day work. Africans not in those organizations can still make strong contributions by prioritizing supporting Pan-African work by facilitating fundraisers to raise money to do this work. Money to buy educational materials, agricultural mechanisms, travel expenses, computers, cell phones, and other mutual aid supplies for Pan-African organizations on the ground in Africa and the diaspora doing the work. We need to build a mass, international campaign designed to facilitate this. Every African needs to begin to see assisting this cause as their responsibility. Whether your politics are electoral, Marxist/Leninist, Maoist, Trotskyist, Anarchist, Nkrumahist/Tureist, collective, individualist, we must all see supporting this Pan-African work as our duty.
Those of us in the belly of the beast have a responsibility to be along for more than a racist and opportunistic narrative ride when it comes to how we engage the African world. The only thing we lack to build this worldwide organizing mechanism is the will on behalf of enough of our people to ensure it happens and is sustainable. That means the work right now is convincing enough of us to contribute to this objective. Once we achieve that end and get these processes rolling, there really isn’t a force on Earth that will be able to stop us.