African Liberation Day Conference Paints a Future of Bondage
A Review of UWI's African Liberation Day Seminar
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May 25, 2004
May 25, 2004, marked the 41st Anniversary of African Liberation Day celebrated throughout the world. The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus held a seminar entitled, "Towards the African Union for African Liberation" with Dr. Isaac Omane, Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana as the main speaker, in celebration of this occasion. While few University students attended the lecture the John F Kennedy auditorium was packed with many secondary school students.
The lecture was informative, especially for the students who knew little or nothing about African history. Dr. Omane began by tracing humanity to the continent of Africa. He made it clear that we all need to pay homage to the land of our ancestors and contribute in any way possible to ensure its ultimate liberation. This, he stated, was only possible with education. He hoped that with this education, negative stereotypes of Africa would be eradicated and new, positive images would emerge. He criticized the media especially for the propagation of largely erroneous images of Africa; the perpetual images of Africans swinging on trees like monkeys, living amongst the animals and with no ability to create civilization. Knowledge about the true situation existing in Africa, he believed, would enable Africans in the Diaspora to look towards the continent with shameless eyes.
He did admit, however, that there were parts of Africa, particularly the countries located in the Eastern Horn of the continent that experience tremendous poverty and disease. AIDS, he said, affects all of Africa, particularly Central and Southern Africa.
Dr. Omane also blamed the Atlantic Slave Trade and European imperialism for the present condition of Africa. He explained that the Slave trade removed much of the human resources from Africa and the carving of the continent did further damage to Africa by exploiting its mineral resources. In retrospect, these were the issues that seemed to have affected Africa the most. In fact, these were the issues that he believed were responsible for the technological 'backwardness' of the continent.
Dr. Omane's remedy for the present condition of Africa was internal and external peace. He believed that the heads of governments in Africa should come together to solve their problems. He claimed that this process began with the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) by the former President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah and is continuing with the African Union (AU). In terms of external assistance, Dr Omane is of the view that Africa needs to maintain peaceful relations with the 'big boys': North America and Europe. In other words, he believes that Africa should bow to the pressures of the super-powers in order for Africa to advance and 'catch up' with the rest of the world. Dr. Omane failed to attack the root of Africa's problems, addressing only the fruit of the problems. His resolution was to deal with Africa's issues within the framework of the existing capitalist system, which would never work. The knowledge of history, it seems is only necessary to showcase the marvelous civilization that existed before the intervention of the white man in Africa. History was not seen to hold the answer to the problems that the world has presently.
Other problems addressed were: corruption in government, internal political divisions in Africa, and the inability of past and present governments to deal with crises such as the AIDS epidemic and chronic poverty. Again, he was unable to give proper solutions to these problems. He praised the President of the United States, George Bush for his initiative to grant a multi-million dollar concession for the distribution of medicine to deal with the AIDS virus at a reduced cost. There was no mention of plans to deal with such and other issues internally. External aid was the main solution proposed.
During the question and answer session, a student asked, "What are the Governments in Africa doing to ensure that they will control their own resources." This question seemed difficult for the Ambassador to answer. He rambled for a while then finally said that it would be impossible for Africa to develop without the expertise of foreign assistance. Wouldn't this defeat the purpose of African Liberation Day? It was disappointing that the forum came to a close on that note especially since it was expected that possible solutions would have been given. Instead, the audience left with the knowledge of what Africa had and lost. So what exactly was Africa liberated from? I am yet to discern.