Fifty-five years later – Africa is woke

by Sungu Oyoo

African Liberation Day – the apex organizing moment for the Pan-African movement – is commemorated annually on 25 May to celebrate our determination as the people of Africa to free ourselves from foreign domination and exploitation. This year marked the 55th African Liberation Day since 1963 when representatives of 32 independent African states met in Ethiopia and formed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

In its journey from brutal colonial rule to self-governance, Africa has had its fair share of the good and the ugly. Post-colonial African states have progressed to different political and economic heights compared to 1963, though most are yet to achieve complete agency and real self-governance so many years after ‘independence’. Most of our countries are today dominated by tiny clubs of local elite who engage in the plunder of public resources and facilitate the extraction of our natural resources as the majority wallow in debilitating poverty.

This past year has been a significant one for Africa with regards to citizen organising, and discourses emanating from it. Events such as the #FaureMustGo protests in Togo against the continued rule of Faure Gnassingbé, the release of political dissidents in Sudan, sustained protests in Ethiopia, and the nullification of Kenya’s presidential election result by its supreme court show that in as much as personal and collective liberties continue to be violated, the citizens and descendants of Africa remain vigilant and active in the struggle to safeguard democratic space.

Historical and current events have made our youth realise that the political systems in place do not work for them, and they are translating this realisation into action, effectively through positioning themselves at the forefront of political struggles. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, the Lucha movement has organised a largely youthful network in the struggle against Joseph Kabila’s attempt to extend his presidency beyond the constitutionally prescribed two terms.

Fifty-five years after the commemoration of the first African Liberation Day, we face the same economic struggles our parents faced, only that today’s struggles are more complex as systems of oppression have become more sophisticated, globally connected and organised than they were fifty-five years ago.

The systems that enable and facilitate political repression also are behind the economic struggles we face across Africa. This effectively forces us to relate our political struggles to issues for economic emancipation, restoration of our people’s dignity, and safeguarding of the environment.

Organising against well-organised global systems of finance, resource extraction, political repression, conflict and war, means that we must be very deliberate about the formations we settle on as vehicles for the Pan-African struggle for justice, peace and dignity – for collective pushback against such systems requires equally well-organised peoples’ movements.

Over the next year and beyond, citizens and descendants of Africa must continue to take a firm stand on the side of the oppressed. These include those facing persecution in Southern Cameroon, the millions displaced by war and conflict in South Sudan, the hundreds of millions across Africa who cannot access basic social services because corrupt leaders drain public coffers, and the countless African women who continue the struggle for equality. We must stand up against a wave of repressive laws that are shrinking civic space across Africa, and condemn activities that harm our environment.

We must continuously interrogate how they are incorporating grassroots voices in their work. More pertinently, we should critically examine how our movements are leveraging on the dreams, interests, talents, and aspirations of youth in advancing the struggle for justice, peace, and dignity.

Fifty-five years later, the people continue speaking truth to power. Africa still demands that the peoples’ voices be heard.

Africa is woke, are you?

Sungu Oyoo is a writer, organiser and campaigner at the Kenyans for Tax Justice movement, and a founding member of Africans Rising. He works with movements on campaigns, strategy and non-violent resistance.

This is the seventh NGO analysis of my #NGOs4Africa Campaign.


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