Because today is Africa Day I let the giants speak for me. I hope these quotes from the people that were there when great change was made on the continent can remind us of the task at hand. And perhaps some of the themes in these quotes can be discussed wholeheartedly today.
KWAME NKRUMAH: Something in the nature of an economic revolution is required. Our development has been held back for too long by the colonial-type economy. We need to reorganize entirely, so that each country can specialize in producing the goods and crops for which it is best suited. (Neocolonialism The Last Stage of Imperialism)
CHINUA ACHEBE: Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform.
PATRICE LUMUMBA: You must energetically combat tribalism, which is a poison, a social scourge that is the country’s misfortune today. You must combat all the separatist manoeuvres, which some of the preachers of the policy of division are trying to pass off to young and inexperienced people under the name of federalism, federation or confederation. In reality, young people, these names are only a new vocabulary brought by the imperialists to divide us in order the better and more conveniently to exploit us. Your entire future will be threatened if you do not oppose these manoeuvres, this new, disguised colonisation. – Address to Congolese Youth (August, 1960)
HAILE SELASSIE I: Africans are in bondage today because they approach spirituality through religion provided by foreign invaders and conquerors. We must stop confusing religion and spirituality. Religion is a set of rules, regulations and rituals created by humans, which was suppose to help people grow spiritually. Due to human imperfection religion has become corrupt, political, divisive and a tool for power struggle. Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as was given by the Most High of Creation. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other…”
JULIUS NYERERE: Having come into contact with a civilization which has over-emphasized the freedom of the individual, we are in fact faced with one of the big problems of Africa in the modern world. Our problem is just this: how to get the benefits of European society — benefits that have been brought about by an organization based upon the individual — and yet retain African’s own structure of society in which the individual is a member of a kind of fellowship.“ In the New York Times Magazine on 27 March 1960.
WANGARI MAATHAI: Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come”
STEVE BIKO: It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.” We Blacks, I Write What I Like, 1978.
SIR SERETSE KHAMA: It should now be our intention to try to retrieve what we can of our past. We should write our own history books to prove that we did have a past, and that it was a past that was just as worth writing and learning about as any other. We must do this for the simple reason that a nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past is a people without a soul.” Speech at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, 15 May 1970, as quoted in the Botswana Daily News, 19 May 1970.
THOMAS SANKARA: Inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights, resulting from an upheaval in the means of production and in all social relations. Thus, the status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them
WOLE SOYINKA: Well, the first thing is that truth and power for me form an antithesis, an antagonism, which will hardly ever be resolved. I can define in fact, can simplify the history of human society, the evolution of human society, as a contest between power and freedom.
That brings my short list to an end. I wish I could have added more, then I’d have never stopped, so rich are the utterances of these greats. High-five to you if you got to the end of this list without clicking on any of the wikipedia links. Feel free to add your own favourite quotes.
THOMAS SANKARA: It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.
(So nice, I quoted him twice!)
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My own musings on the continent can be found here: [Siyanda writes about Africa]