By Nyokabi Ng’ang’a
Thumbnail photo, courtesy of: Nyokabi Ng’ang’a
Many who have crossed paths with me, will know one thing if not a multitude of things about me: and that is my passion about Africa. A passion that has been nurtured by many people I’ve met in my lifetime. And with this article, I’ll share some of my aspirations and observances about the African continent and its inhabitants, in a twisted way.
Today, unlike the many days of my article writing, I won’t put much hard-inked references, if any, within this piece. As I stated and to further reinforce, this is more of an observatory or analytical piece that stems from the deepest veins of my soul.
Africa! The word itself seems recital given how much it’s used by many a people from different nations, ethnic groups, professions etc. If we were to pen down the most used words in our world today, I dare say, Africa would be one of them.
There is no day, truthfully speaking, that goes without we mentioning the word Africa. And by ‘we’ I mean us all as inhabitants of this world. If it’s not about a war that occurred recently or a coup that took place instantaneously, then it could be about the target location of our business premises or its prospects, or even, a corruption scandal that has been unearthed, and the narrative continues.
But this doesn’t mean that Africa is the only continent in mention in our lips today. Many continents are and thanks to the flow of information, today we can appreciate other nations from other continental approaches and feel free to talk about their issues, histories and intricacies from a third person’s perspective. In a similar manner, we of the African descent are enabled and empowered to speak about issues facing us as a continent though with some ‘caution’ attached to it. By this I mean, some African nations opt to have them themselves pin point their own challenges as well as successes with no ‘outsider’s help’. I believe we can identify such audacious nations within our continent, without me mentioning them.
However, worth the note, this spirit of enablement and empowerment has not touched all peoples of Africa, given the narratives of: marginalization and seclusion of some people and the divide-phenomenon evident in various sectors within our societies, such as: the digital divide; the economic divide, the geographical divide, the political divide and so on. Now, let us take a stroll to the most used phrase in Africa today: “We must unite as Africans.” Whenever I hear these words, I love to position to myself the following questions:
• Why are we uniting?
• Were we united back in the days?
• What will we achieve by uniting?
“Why are we uniting?” It’s quite obvious that people unite because of a common goal; a common purpose, which they would love to achieve.
This I would love to believe is the same line of thought where Africa is concerned. We want to unite because- as captured in the words of the African Union (an organization I hope we haven’t lost belief in)- we want “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” That’s our goal, but I ask, what’s our incentive? Let’s go back to history. The history that declares the formation of our continent as ancient yet treasurable. Giving rightful praise to all the civilizations evident in our continent before the colonialists set foot in Africa, it’s quite ascertainable and worthy of rightful-historical positioning that before colonialism waved itself into Africa, Africans were interacting with one another- without the help of anyone. In Swahili, we would say: “Waafrika walikuwa wana(ki)tangamana…” and from my linguistic leaning, I feel this Swahili phrase captures the intensity of the words I want to position, for if it were in English, the word “tangamana” would be substituted for “mix”, which carries less weightiness, for me.
Away from my linguistic leaning, what I am trying to position is that Africa was, before; before we came to know it was. In short, Africa was existing in its make, outlook, vibrancy, cultures, and oneness before we came to know that it was. “Before we came to know that it was” means before we came to the acknowledgement of the words: “Africa must unite.” The proliferation of the phrase, “We must unite as Africans,” to me, begun when African nations, through their people, were fighting for their independence. The urge and urgency to unite against colonialism and colonialists, became prevalent and necessary. To me, that is/was the incentive: “we are fighting against a common enemy: colonialism/colonialists.” That’s why I asked, earlier on: yes we are uniting, but what’s the incentive? Many answers can stream from this question, but I would love to have you answer this question by yourself. Moving on, “were we united back in the days?”.
While it’s hard to establish how in exact we were united back in the days- pre-colonial times to be precise-, one thing for sure that we can’t erase is that there was a working relationship amongst the Inhabitants of Africa. A relationship that caused people to intermarry, to trade with one another, to pay homage to one another, to fight with each other and so on. This goes to show, the narrative of unity doesn’t only lie in the face of trouble. All these aforementioned acts show that we were in unity with one another. Though this doesn’t cover the whole narrative, given that tribes fought other tribes; kingdoms raided other kingdoms and so on, but it seeks to show, we didn’t need to have a common enemy for us to know that we needed to unite. Small acts of tribute that extended a welcoming hand from one tribe to another and from one kingdom to another, show that people in Africa were seeking harmonious living- where possible- with one another.
Lastly, “what will we achieve by uniting?” For this question, I would love to leave it blank. Reason being, it’s a question that seems to have direct answers, such as: a great continental frontier, good working relations, strengthening of our economy and so on, but it requires- I tend to believe- more than a physical manifestation of this achievement. Though, all these achievements from our continental unity are truthful and certified, as such. It’s my understanding, that maybe I haven’t answered all the three questions wholly. However, onto a far-fetched thought, these three questions call for three things: understanding our present, understanding our past and understanding our future.
“Why are we uniting” is a present question seeking for past references and now and future changes; “Were we united in the past” is a question of the past, seeking for inner retrospection of our past in its entirety and truthfulness; and “what will we achieve by uniting” is a forward moving question, which seeks to solve the present and the past into the future. In summary, understanding/defending/calling for the unification of Africa requires the past, the present and the future. Too obvious of an analogy, we might state. All in all, I believe I have established the foundation and because I intend this to be a personal and personable article to you, I will close in a poem that will share my aspirations, as well as observations of my continent in a tangled way, given the length- constraint this article has:
IN 1000 WORDS
In 1000 words, we sing your praises and call you a mother of all rights Africa,
In 1000 words, we shower you with blessings and splash you with profanities oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we call you and image you rightfully Africa,
In 1000 words, we pray for you and cry for your freedom oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we understand your history Africa,
In 1000 words, we comprehend your inner mysteries oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we stand with you to watch your reclaim Africa,
In 1000 words, we desert you to have our bargain oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we cry for your Independence Africa,
In 1000 words, we tie you with restraints of all kinds oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we hope for your return Africa,
In 1000 words, you cry for our return oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we purge you Africa,
In 1000 words, you cry for yours and our consecration oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we look up to your salvation Africa,
In 1000 words you beseech your maker for a congregation oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we wish you peace Africa,
In 1000 words you seek for your inner calm oh Africa!
In 1000 words, we write our sentiments Africa,
In 1000 words, you write back in your inked-tears oh Africa!
This poem carries with it my observations as well as my aspirations, if looked into keenly. Since length is an issue, my final words as a humbled Involvement writer are:
“The reawakening we so wish to have as a continent, has already set foot. People, youths more so to this regard, have risen to the task of their calling, which is to defend their place of birth or rightful belonging. But as I love to position, there are challenges within that moving on, we will grapple with as we embark to the road of discovering the Africa we want, but that’s the fun of it.”