We all know we are in a Cold War. Some say the last one is still here, others say it’s a newer, shallower one (“first as tragedy, then as farce blah blah”). Some say it was a struggle between ideological opposites, others say it was a crude struggle for power determined by primordial power politics. One thing is for sure, it’s here, and we can feel it every day. With every price increase, wage decrease and chattering drawl about offensive and defensive weapons (of all kinds mind you, balloons are not just taking over our kids minds in our ends or hoods! Balloons have also developed satellite and missile potentials beaming straight from Beijing!).
The thing about the “last” Cold War is that it was a sort of delirious cold, where the victim’s sensibilities (due to recorded history) would normally lead him to assume he had a cold, but a medical person would say he was technically suffering from a fever. A fever which goes on to leave him with sweat patches and other noticeable signs of a fever amidst the sneezing and shivering (I hope you know where I am going with this)? The mind is cold, the body is hot. The metropolis is cold (and dirty) and the periphery is hot. The lives of the people we praise but rarely embody in the “Black Radical Tradition” during that stormy plague called the 20th century should stand as testament that things quickly became hot for us.
We desperately need a temperature check. The parable of the frog in slowly boiling water applies to us and if we do not jump into action, we will slowly fade into dust. Elder historian Gerald Horne has dropped many gems, but one of the most poignant is that the ultimate retreat and limitation of the civil rights movement was ensured by its isolation from the International decolonial and socialist movement. As most of his work shows, The Red Scare and its sister program, Mccarthyism, did a number on the African Liberation Movement. It shifted the civil rights movements’ audience from its international allies to liberals. If Paul Robeson fought on the international stage, then MLK settled for the national stage. The effects of this deal can be seen in the fact that MLK won civil rights policy but died fighting the struggle over the Vietnam invasion. Additionally, Jesse Jackson, who in 1984 traveled to Libya to protest Reagan’s bombing can be seen putting on a commander’s tone in 2011, telling Obama’s regime to ‘’move in’’ to ‘’protect civilians’’. The dormant grassroots Pan-Africanism that has been so far ignored can be seen in the fact that #EndSARS would not have happened without #BLM.
We can not allow this to continue happening. No more kente clad Democrats!
Here I will argue that it is imperative for us to add a defence of Burkinabe into our daily activism and work. As work aiming towards building what Nkrumah called a “liberated zone” (a proper safe space) and work that allows us to shape our connection to the Pan-African objective.
Africans are disconnected from ourselves and each other, the fact that Africans still use and more importantly adhere to the concepts of Anglophone and Francophone spheres proves this. As a Ghanaian, my country serves as the underbelly to Burkinabe, connecting Burkina Faso’s landlocked borders to a port. In turn, Burkina Faso has served as a buffer separating Ghana from the harsh Sahel. My colleagues in Accra are ignorant about the happenings in northern Ghana— an attempted bombing and rumours of terrorist incursions. And most concerning, they are unaware that unpopular President Akuffo Addo is the face of the ECOWAS sanctioning of Burkina Faso, the only thing standing between Ghanaians and ISIS style sex slavery. This is where I believe the first course of action should be explored. I am currently using my former role as President of the Ghanaian Society at University of Sussex (UK) to gather as many churches, local businesses and student societies representing Ghanaians and Nigerians (the closest Africans we can seek) on all levels in order to raise money at the very least and at most organise an advocacy group on behalf of Burkina Faso
We should learn lessons from everywhere. Advocacy of a regime locked in Cold War shenanigans is a tall order, but it has happened before. From the advocate and translator for the FNLA; Elaine Mokhtefi, to names that deserve more attention like Alosei Inyumba, the commissioner of finance of the RPF. Burkina Faso organised this year’s African Film Festival last week. One can compare this to Mokhtefi’s assisted Algerian Pan-African Music Festival which had Kwame Ture, Miriam Makeba and Nina Simone amongst its attendees. A more unique tactic that Inyumba used was to organise more well to do Tutsi exiles to travel the fledgling bases in the freezing mountains. “Seeing young people withstanding that kind of condition made people go and sell everything they had,” said an observer.
The Burkina Faso liberated zone is the perfect opportunity to build ties with local Africans from the continent and to break the Franco/Anglophone curse. We can show the great feats performed by Burkinabe under Thomas Sankara like ‘’building a railway with the masses’ hands’’, to show how another Africa can be built. The alternative of a strong Burkina Faso, flanked by Mali and expanding its anti-colonial influence is a blessing for Pan Africans living in the metropolis. We can finally imagine the concrete obstacles and concrete steps that can take us towards a united socialist Africa. Everything we do now has a real horizon no longer found in history books.
For me and my colleagues in our online Pan African study group, our main theoretical barriers when thinking about a united socialist Africa are :
- How the borders have de facto operated outside of legal national boundaries (traders have ignored national borders in their activity by simply searching for cheaper goods wherever they are)
- How continental politics operates when nations, ethnic groups, and organisations are acting outside of the conscious direction of Pan-Africanism (the clearly defined objective of a united Socialist Africa)
- How rapid economic development will either serve or endanger Pan-Africanism
We call our current investigation Afro Polarity— the study of the continental politics of Africa by analysing what we call ‘’unconscious forces’’ as opposed to the conscious Pan-African drive. We are striving to shape insights from Nkrumahism-Toureism-Cabralism, Afrocentricity and if Google Translate permits, Kyelem De Tambela’s work on International Relations (perhaps a reader somewhere knows a person who knows a person).
An additional supplement to our investigation is an idea that is back in fashion now: uneven and combined development. Development happens at an uneven pace so weaker countries are forced to adapt or become puppets (or it’s forced to copy its former masters). This is used to explain the rise of the Japanese Meji and Asian Tigers, and offers a glimpse of an explanation for the rise of Rwanda and its expansion into Congo to sell diamonds (Rwanda has no diamonds on its land but is the second highest exporter of diamonds in the world).
All in all, Burkina Faso becoming a quickly expanding liberated zone means every organisational decision and every new theory is more important than ever. We are on the International Stage! Homeland or Death!