NewsFrom: AHS President - Mutumwa Mawere
16 May 2012 12:49 am
Who is and who is not? This is the question that divides rather than builds and unites.
Africa's narrative is not complete without reference to the national question.
Colonialism attempted to build a nation within a nation and the experiment failed because it ignored the universality and indivisibility of human rights.
The colonial nation was stratified on racial and class lines putting native Africans outside the project.
All oppressed people were, therefore, accorded inferior rights through an immoral and unjust constitutional order.
The decolonisation of Africa did little to address the politics of identity.
It is not unnatural, therefore, to expect that notwithstanding the viability and strength of integration, Africans remain divided along ethnic and national identities.
Even the enlightened would say for instance that: "I am Nigerian first before I am African" and yet at the end of the day, the physical features of the author of such a statement may not be different from a Brazilian.
People of African ancestry and descent are distinguishable but the challenge that we all confront is whether we can rise above the limitations imposed by geography, language and ethnicity to realise the full potential of African citizenship.
The politics of identity has been linked to economic power in a manner that locates the national question in the realm of nationalisation or citizen empowerment.
Although citizens without exclusion must share the rights and obligations arising from that status, the concept of equality enshrined in most of the African constitutions is easily eroded in the interests of according rights using particular identities that are not provided for in the constitution.
Citizenship ought to claim priority over other identities but in practice this has often resulted in the elevation of other identities that are overtly politicised to the extent that the identity of "citizen" has itself been contested, distorted and even destabilized.
The rise of identity politics has produced its own challenges and opportunities.
Politics is largely confined to the state and, therefore, to the extent that the source of state power arises from the expression of the majority through electoral systems, no politician would escape the temptation of using identity as an instrument to seize and maintain political power.
The African reality would suggest that a better understanding of the national question is necessary to facilitate the transformation of the condition that the majority of Africans find themselves but regrettably it has been used in the same manner that the colonial system used race for political and economic expediency.
The national question has been used to create differences even between the former oppressed people.
A person of Malawian ancestry, for example, who has acquired Zimbabwean citizenship voluntarily, will always carry the Malawian identity and the successors may not be able to escape labelling unless they change their surnames to conform to the majority definition of what it means to be Zimbabwean.
A secure future for Africa will inevitably be determined by how the national question is resolved.
We claim ownership on land, geography and geology including every life that human beings are not able to create but in reality human beings are not capable of owning anything except acquiring rights that are then confused with ownership.
When small minds meet, they automatically assume the power of God by appropriating the resources that were generously provided by a third party to themselves or their loved ones.
Some would want to connect birth with identity and yet birth does not give a human being identity in as much as bird born in one country would be capable of being identified by its birth place.
A human being born in Senegal, for instance, will not change features if he or she decides to acquire the citizenship of another state.
The power of humanity is found in the choices that are made in life. So identity is also a consequence of choice.
Language, for instance, can confer on the speaker new rights to the extent that the limitations imposed by birth can disappear.
As we seek a better and prosperous Africa, we are compelled to critically examine the national question with a view to coming up with solutions that seek to include rather than exclude and unite rather than divide.
Politics exposes the lowest denominator in man and yet in it lays the hope of millions of African citizens.
The continent is a geographic fact that is united and yet the human beings who act in it temporarily working on their dashes impose boundaries and limitations that undermine the connection that God made created so that all Africans can advance their lives by thinking and acting outside the box in which differences are manifest.
Economic nationalism is an ideology deeply rooted in the politics of identity. Such ideology calls on the authors to resolve the national question.
Such resolution will inform the choices made as to who has a better claim on the resources created by God.
The resources have no voice and to a large extent will remain unexploited where it is deemed just and equitable that access must be denied if one does not share the majority identity.
What is ironic is that in a democratic constitutional order, the majority ought to have the last laugh and yet the reality is that the complainants who raise the flag in the name of the national question expose their drought of knowledge when they seek to assign rights and not obligations administratively.
Africa's prospect will not improve simply through sloganeering or propaganda. A new thinking is necessary starting with a correct understanding of the national question.
The power of human action is more evident in free societies. The migration of Africa's brain trust to the unlikely and hostile addresses shows that at the retail and individual level people do make choices in their self interest.
Such choices have to be respected and strategies aimed at changing choices must be informed by a clear understanding of what best captures the human spirit.
State actors that think they know it all have the tendency of crowding out others whereas environments that encourage creativity and innovation will always attract the best brains.
We have a choice as Africans given the condition of our economies. The place of peoples of African ancestry and heritage in the human chain is unacceptable but state actors have to appreciate that flexibility and openness can create better outcomes than dictatorship. Equally the silence of the majority is more toxic than the actions of a few evil men and women.
The future ultimately belongs to builders. Human intellect and imagination is not transferrable and, therefore, the best mechanism of unleashing the human spirit is to accommodate diversity because in diversity new ideas are possible and new addresses are reachable.
South Africa will jointly host the Inaugural Summit convened pursuant to a resolution passed at the 17th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU.
This platform will provide space for us as Africans to negotiate a future that is founded not only on resolving the national question but the general identity of peoples of African ancestry and heritage.
Africa has created its own icons, superstars, heroes but it must be accepted that the real threat to African progress and prosperity may be found in the attitudes of the very people from who so much is expected.
We all want a better life and it would be unrealistic, for instance, to expect a Head of State or Government to possess superior intellect or wisdom to the extent that he/she can think for the people he/she purports to govern.
Human beings are self governing and in the wagon of even the most powerful political player will be found friendly human beings and enemies will naturally not find room to be heard.
An Africa that appreciates the limitations of human action will be better placed to address the challenges of poverty and inequality.