On May 25, the Pan African Movement –Rwanda Chapter will mark its maiden African Liberation Day.
The objective of the African Liberation Day (ALD) is to emulate the ideals of African pioneers who championed the freedom and liberation of the continent, namely late Dr Nkwame Nkrumah and other Comrades who sacrificed themselves for the liberation of all Africans.
In Rwanda, the Movement is championed by the Patron of the Pan African Movement- Rwanda Chapter, His Excellency President Paul Kagame
About the African Freedom Day
On 15 April 1958, in Accra, Ghana, African leaders and political activists gathered at the first Conference of Independent African States.
In attendance were representatives of the only eight “independent” Governments of Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon.
This conference was significant in that it marked the first Pan-African conference to be held on African soil.
The conference was called by the late Comrade Nkrumah, the then President of Ghana, and marked the founding of African Freedom Day, a day “to mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation”.
The date of April 15 was then declared the African Freedom Day.
From “African Freedom Day” to the “African Liberation Day”
Between 1958 and 1963, the nation and class struggle intensified in Africa and the world. 17 countries in Africa won their “independence” and 1960 was proclaimed the Year of Africa.
Five years after the First Conference of Independent African States was held in Accra (Ghana), another historic meeting was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On 25 May 1963, leaders of 32 independent African states convened a summit meeting to found the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
By then, more than two-thirds of the continent had achieved independence, mostly from imperial European states.
At this meeting, the date of Africa Freedom Day was changed from 15 April to 25 May, and African Freedom Day was declared African Liberation Day (ALD).
The World War, the Atlantic Charter and the independence in Africa
The direct cause of World War One was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914. However, historians posit; a number of factors contributed to the rivalry between Great Powers that allowed war on such a wide-scale to break out.
The exact reasons should be found into the spirit of imperialism aiming at control of resources and international markets. That spirit led to the formation of The Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in 1882) on one hand and, The Triple Entente (Britain, Russia and France in 1907) on the other hand.
As a result, when the Triple Entente defeated the Triple Alliance in the World War One, the later occupied different territories previously occupied by the earlier and its allied countries.
The Second World War began on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939 and all members of the Commonwealth, except Ireland, followed suit.
Germany defeated France and came about to defeat the Great Britain. The then Great Britain Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, appealed to the United States for support against Germany and its allies. To save Great Britain from collapse, the U.S. Congress voted Lend-Lease Act aid in March 1941.
Though the United States had already assured Britain of the material support, German forces threatened to overrun Egypt and to close off the Suez Canal, thereby restricting Britain access to its possessions in India.
While the British government focused its efforts on dealing with the Germans in Europe, they were also concerned that Japan might take advantage of the situation to seize British, French and Dutch territories in Southeast Asia.
In this context, Churchill and the United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met on the high seas in Newfoundland and, on August 14, 1941, they both signed the Atlantic Charter, outlining the post war international system.
Both countries agreed not to seek territorial expansion; to seek the liberalisation of international trade; to establish freedom of the seas, and international labour, economic and welfare standards. Most importantly, both the United States and the Great Britain were committed to supporting the restoration of self-governments for all countries that had been occupied during the war and allowing all peoples to choose their own form of government.
Post World War African activists inherited a devastated continent. Colonial masters were obliged to surrender their territories. Those who actively showed up to claim the independence of their countries were killed on one hand, and those who passively requested independence were listened to.
Such a conjectural situation still had a direct impact on Africa. The colonial masters did not want Africa to be independent, but they were obliged to withdraw from Africa against their wishes.
Also, the Atlantic Charter had an open imperialist agenda for the occupied territories, as the United States wanted to have access to resources and international markets as was the situation for the previous masters.
Why celebrate the African Liberation Day
Africa is still struggling against the imperialism ideology (mpatsibihugu). The vision of the Pan African Movement is to build a United, Stable and Prosperous Africa, by and for Africans.
This day reflects the fact that; we have not obtained our freedom. It is a day to reaffirm our commitment to Pan Africanism, the total liberation and unification of Africa in all sectors: political and socioeconomic.
We must struggle and take whichever risks to achieve sustainable development, economy and security.
Rwanda, under the leadership of President Kagame, has been at the forefront in the promotion of Pan African ideals namely; mutual protection and defence, free movement of goods services and people, inclusive governance, promotion of Science and ICT, as well as trade and investments, among others.
Beyond “Ndi Umunyarwanda” (I am Rwandan), there is another broader way to go: “Ndi Umunyafrika” (I am African).
Africans may not be able to change the current world now, but we can actively resist elements in it that cause adverse consequences to Africa’s interests.
As we celebrate the African Liberation Day, we remember and we honour all the African freedom fighters who risked their lives to liberate Africa. We remember late Dr Nkwame Nkrumah, late Mwalimu Nyerere, and late Patrice Lumumba, and late Mouammar Kadhafi, among others
By Peterson Tumwebaz
The Express News