You can not be a Lizard in your village and expect to be a Crocodile overseas- Nigerian proverb.
African Youth I celebrate and salute you for your diversity, your energy, your enthusiasm and eagerness for change and your appreciation of the enormous task ahead of you; the task to transform and unite this continent.
Last year (2014), I attended the African Union youth consultation to the Third High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance. The theme being ‘Silencing the guns in Africa’ which is in direct response to the 50thAnniversary Solemn Declaration adopted by the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government on 26th May 2013 to end all wars in Africa by 2020. To be honest I wasn’t quite sure on my expectations. These dialogues happen all the time; we draft beautiful and lofty resolutions but hardly ever come up with tangible and impactful implementation. Why the gap? Why the inconsistency?
I was both relieved and challenged by this forum. This dialogue was different. Not because we discussed key thematic topics such as youth, power and politics for sustainable peace or the engagement strategy for youth in the Africa Governance Structure within the African Union framework, or even the role of young people in fostering accountable, responsive and effective governance in Africa. All these have been discussed time and again on various platforms. What sparked my interest is simply the fact that young African leaders from over 40 countries across the continent shared one ideology; pan African consciousness; an African renaissance brought about by consciously depicting our identities and charting our destinies. What do I mean by this? And why is this so important in transforming our continent?
Majority of us are aware of the dire need to address the conflicts on our continent; to silence the economic and political guns that have been blazing and bleeding our continent dry. Our leaders have envisioned this by the year 2020, quite a brave and ambitious declaration if you ask me and even for most, an unrealistic one.
We have read numerous reports that state that majority of Africans are poor and living below the poverty line, that corrupt government officials are robbing us of our resources and that leaders are thriving off this very conflicts and riding the wave of the poorly told African narrative. This is true to a very large extent but I beg to differ with one thought. Africans are not poor and this ideology is artificial.
The intellectual, brilliant and clear sighted Brian Kagoro, rightly put it, we need an emergence of self confident, self believing African individuals who are ready to steer and propel this continent forward and this begins by creating identities built on consciousness. Kwame Nkrumah consistently reiterated the fact that political independence is not independence in its entirety. Independence begins in the mind.
We fight over resources, we face challenges in rising insecurity, and we have a youth demographic that is bursting at the seams. It is these youth who are picking these guns, youth who are frustrated and experiencing numerous challenges on this resource rich continent.
Pan africanism is not about disowning our brothers fighting and focusing on our growth individually. Nor is it a reserve for intellectuals. Pan africanism is about accepting our challenges and moving forward together regardless of our diversity, an inclusive and collective effort in developing this continent to one of peace and prosperity.
As Mr. Kagoro stated, “The true emancipation of African youth lies in this consciousness that our humanity, our freedom and our justice is indivisible.” This involves inclusiveness and tolerating one other at our weakest moments; and that moment being right now with wars, poor leadership and poverty crippling the continent. A great example of this inclusiveness and toleration that I speak of is Malcolm X, the revolutionary young man who changed black history. Did you know that this man had attempted to straighten his hair and bleach his skin? Had society decided to shun this man based on this temporary moment of weakness, black history would not be what it is today.
Pan Africanism is about you and I shedding light on this continent by telling our own stories, by helping each other arrive at this consciousness in ways we know best. If a photographer, let not the gun but the camera shoot.
Many times as youth we do feel the need to critic and involve ourselves in the immature politics of hurling insults at our governments. We want to be ‘big’ without even peering through the window to know let alone concern ourselves with what our neighbor is doing or facing. Focusing solely on our economic progression without realizing it is our very regression. Let us resist the temptation to be important before our time and not put title and class before humanity.
If you develop yourself consciously I consider you pan African, if you help even just one other person arrive at this consciousness, I consider you too to be pan African. As Brian Kagoro put it, “In a world bound by such dark clouds of conflict, violence and bitterness, no one light suffices to dispel evil. Light many lights of peace, love and joint prosperity.”
Wishing you all a blessed, prosperous and conscious year. Happy 2015.
Nyaguthii Wangui Maina is a Pan African enthusiast and activist whose main passion is the youth and girl’s and women’s empowerment; she is a blogger who believes in telling the African story from an African perspective. Nyaguthii volunteers as a weekly columnist of YouthHub Africa; a cyber-community for young Africans involved in social change. She is also keenly interested in governance, democracy and policy issues and blogs on the African Union Commission’s DGTrends platform. In Kenya, Nyaguthii is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and works with the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the UN offices in Nairobi. She tweets @nm_wangui and blogs here
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