Welcome Distinguished Guests, members of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic corps, Elders, Scholars, Teachers, and Students. I am Seba Damani an officer in the Pan Afrikan Strategy and Policy Research Group, PANAFSTRAG, a think tank for Global Afrikan People. Today I want to talk about Pan Afrikanism. You know there was actually Pan Afrikanism before we called it Pan Afrikanism-- it was Pan Negroism. Early Pan Negroists included men like Paul Cuffe, Robert Alexander Young, Alexander Crummell, and Edward Wilmot Blyden. The themes of Pan Negroism were racial identity/unity across nation-state boundaries, repatriation, Negro commerce, and civilizing Afrika via Christianity. It was a pre-Berlin Conference phenomenon; consequently there was no talk of Afrikan independence--there were no nation-states, though there were kingdoms and caliphates. Hence the difference between Pan Negroism and Pan Afrikanism proper was in the historical period itself: Pan Afrikanism develops after and in response to the Berlin Conference and the colonizing of Afrika.
In 1900, Henry Sylvester Williams, an Afrikan Trinidadian barrister convened a Pan Afrikan Conference (later called Congresses) in London England. It was a primarily a political movement designed to end colonization in Afrika and the West Indies (British Caribbean). It shared some of the sentiments with Pan Negroism, such as, racial identity, links to Afrika, but the religious emphasis on Christianizing Afrikans is gone. This was an organized political movement that challenged paternalism, racism, and colonialism. From the beginning of the Pan Afrikanist movement there were a number of issues that helped to weaken the movement. The first was its audience and global outreach. Apart from a few Francophone participants, the movement was largely Anglophone. This means that a place like Brazil, which has the large population of Afrikan descendants outside of Afrika, was left out of the movement. It has only been recently under Lula (and Venezuela under the late Chavez) that Brazil has began to address racial inequity. Now Brazil has a Chief Justice of Afrikan descent, and every child in Brazil, irrespective of race or color must learn the history of Afrika. In fact, the UNESCO's 9-volumes of history of Afrika Brazil has translated into Portuguese.
Latin America has been historically excluded from Pan Afrikanism. Apart from Venezuela, Afrikan descendants in Latin America are voiceless. For example, Afro-Columbians compose 13% of Colombia but have no representation in the National Assembly. When you add up the Afrikan descendants in Portuguese, Spanish and French-speaking world, which we've left out the Pan Afrikanist movement, you are talking about a lot of people--most of the Diaspora. And in all these places racial discrimination has marginalized and criminalized Afrikan people. So Pan Afrikanism as a political movement was derelict in involving the Western Afrikan Diaspora. And they were totally remiss in addressing the Eastern Afrikan Diaspora--the descendants of enslaved Afrikans that were victims of the Arab Trans-Saharan and Trans-Indian Slave trades. Today in Iraq, Iran, and other Middle Eastern nations, these Afrikan descended people are third-class citizens. Hence a major shortcoming of the Pan Afrikanist movement has been it has left out most Afrikan descended people—the entire Eastern Afrikan Diaspora and all the non-English speaking Western Afrikan Diaspora.
A second problem of Pan-Afrikanism was in its political construction. In the Organization of Afrikan Unity (OAU) first incarnation, Pan Afrikanism assumed a continental and geographical unity. Nkrumah championed this concept, which grew out of the Pan Afrikan Congresses. Nkrumah envisioned a united Afrika that consisted of Arab sates north of the Sahara and Afrikan states south of the Sahara. But this conception did not take into account the history of the Arabs in Afrika. The Arabs have been notoriously anti-Afrikan: they initiated and institutionalized two slave trade networks, the Trans-Saharan and Tran-Indian; they introduced a color prejudice/racism, associating Black skin with a biblical/quranic cursed; and slavery is reportedly still practice in the Arab world, through it officially ended in Saudi Arabia in 1963. Apart from prejudice, the Arabs are already organized into Arab leagues and other Pan-Arab organizations. Whenever, the OAU, now the Afrikan Union (AU) asks for troops in an Afrikan peacekeeping venture, Arab states fail to send troops. Khadafy was the exception and he alienated himself from Arab states by acting as a Pan Afrikanist and not a Pan Arabist. Arabs have their own mission, which often includes jihad that destabilizes Afrikan states. But most importantly, Arabs do not identify with sub-Saharan Afrikans or the Afrikan Diaspora. Arabs are only part of the AU because of geography and convenience-but not because they see themselves as Afrikan people.
A third problem with Pan Afrikanism is it has achieved its goal--today the Afrikan and Caribbean nations that Pan Afrikanism sought to free are free. With the ending South Afrika's Apartheid system in 1994, Pan Afrikanism technically died. So as a political construct, Pan Afrikan is outdated, and just as it supplanted Pan Negroism, it too we must revise or update. We need a Pan Afrikanism that is expansive and has new objectives.
To begin with the AU is a divided configuration, with Arab and Afrikan interests. While Arabs are organized as Arabs, Afrikans are not organized as Afrikans, putting us at a disadvantage. Afrikans must organized as Afrikans; therefore, there is a need for an Organization of Sub-Saharan Afrikan States (OSSAS) based on Black Afrikan interest/power. We must identify the Western and Eastern Afrikan Diasporas and connected to the OSSAS. Perhaps we should use the term Global Afrikan People (GAP) to encompass us all. These new ideas need a Global Afrikan Movement.PANAFSTRAG believes the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action of 2001 (DDPA), the OSSAS should use as a binding document, a sort of Magna Carta. Why? Because it addresses the following relevant issues: 1) It addresses the various maladies that have marred our history: Slavery, Colonialism, Xenophobia and Ethnocentrism, and 2) For the first time a UN document bring issues that concern Afrikan development to the forefront: Issues such as poverty, hunger, education, health, disability, political participation, political representation and economic visibility (General Williams UN for 2 years and says Afrikan issues are always on the back burner). (Western powers are using the Palestinian question to distract and weaken the DDPA.)
As a people one of our continuing issues is lack of effective organization and powerlessness. The UN General Assembly declared 2011 "The Year for Afro descendants" but Western countries refused to put a budget behind it. And no AU and CARICOM nations could fund it, thus, the year went by relative unnoticed or uneventful, whereas it should have been a year to remember. Why did this happen? Because we are not organized, and Afrikan nations are financially dependent on outsiders, such as EU, Canada and US. Afrikans must be able to use our own resources and the support all the global Afrikan countries and communities in the world to fund our own projects. In addition DDPA, there's another UN document, the Millennium Development Goals/Sustainable Development Goals, which highlights many of the same concerns, as the DDPA. PANAFSTRAG believes we have to combine these documents and make them work for us. We have to use the UN, this world stage to bring our issues to the forefront and exploit them. This does not negate us working on local and grassroots fronts but it does require we organize ourselves effectively. These are the challenges that face us and that we must resolve.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak.