Writing the Struggle – Nyerere’s elusive dream: Africa Unity II

The late Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere was one of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity and he spent his entire life pushing for the attainment of this goal. In a speech delivered in Zambia in 1966, he said that talking of unity as though it would be a panacea of all ills is walking naked into a den of hungry lions but still with determination it can be done, writes WONDER GUCHU
While Africa has remained largely divided politically, Nyerere noted also that economies have contributed greatly to the divide where each African country fights for its own survival without caring a hoot about ‘development of Central Africa or of East Africa’.
This, Nyerere argued, does not contribute to any meaningful growth but a ‘reduction in unity’.
“All of the states of Africa need to attract capital from outside, and all of us wish to sell more of our goods to countries abroad. So, we 36 little states each spend money to send our delegations to the wealthy countries, and our representatives to trade talks.
“Then each one of these national representatives is forced to prove why investment should be made in his country rather than in another and forced to offer some advantages to the wealthy country if it will buy his goods rather than those emanating from another part of Africa. And the result? Not only worse terms for each of us in relation to aid or trade but also a kind of fear of each other – a suspicion that the neighbouring country will take advantage of any weakness we have for its own benefit.
“And my point is that this neighbouring country will do that; it has little choice in the matter. However, much it may sympathise with our difficulty, only in rare cases will this sense of ‘onenesses be able to transcend the hard necessities of its own economic need,” he said.
Nyerere bemoaned the drift caused by such a scenario and urged for ‘definite and deliberate counteracting steps’ to be taken or risk dead nationalism in the long run.
According to Nyerere, Africans have a willingness to unite against poverty because: “They could not, and would not, agree to stagnation or regression while we pursue the goal of unity.”
He reiterated the fact that individualism entrenches differences inherited from the colonial period and develop new ones.
“This is the dilemma of the Pan-Africanist in Africa now.
For although national pride does not automatically preclude the development of pride in Africa, it is very easily twisted to have that effect and certainly it will be deliberately bolstered by those who are anxious to keep Africa weak by her division or those anxious to keep Africa divided because they would rather be important people in a small state than less important people in a bigger one,” he stated.
Interestingly, Nyerere touched on the issue of how African countries are labeled and then divided into Chinese, Russian or French controlled spheres.
“Kenyans and Zambians will be told ‑ indeed are already being told ‑ that Tanzania is communist and under Chinese control or that it is so weak that it is the unwilling and unwitting base for Chinese subversion.
“Tanzanians, on the other hand, are told that Kenya is under American control and Zambia hostile to it because of its policy on Rhodesia. And so on. Everything will be done and said which can sow suspicion and disunity between us until finally our people and our leaders say: ‘Let us carry on alone, let us forget this mirage of unity and freedom for the whole of Africa’,” he said.
African unity, he said, is very possible if the people are willing to face the dangers and overcome them because ‘platitudes are not enough; signatures to the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity are not enough’.
“Both these things help, because they maintain the atmosphere and the institutions of unity. But they must be combined with a realisation that unity will be difficult to achieve, and difficult to maintain, and that it will demand sacrifices both from nations and from individuals.
“To talk of unity as though it would be a panacea of all ills is to walk naked into a den of hungry lions. In its early stages, unity brings difficulties — probably more than it disposes of. It is in the longer term, after 15 or 20 years, that its overwhelming benefits can begin to be felt,” he explained.

July 2013
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