Africa and the Theory of Independence

Ahmad KamalHISTORY

6th March 2022

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Ahmad Kamal, Ghana

On 22 February 2022, in a statement to an Emergency Session of the UN Security Council on the situation in Ukraine, Martin Kimani said:

‘This situation echoes our history. Kenya and almost every African country was birthed by the ending of empire. Our borders were not of our own drawing. They were drawn in the distant colonial metropoles of London, Paris, and Lisbon, with no regard for the ancient nations that they cleaved apart.

Today, across the border of every single African country, live our countrymen with whom we share deep historical, cultural, and linguistic bonds. At independence, had we chosen to pursue states on the basis of ethnic, racial, or religious homogeneity, we would still be waging bloody wars these many decades later.

Instead, we agreed that we would settle for the borders that we inherited, but we would still pursue continental political, economic, and legal integration. Rather than form nations that looked ever backwards into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known. We chose to follow the rules of the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations charter, not because our borders satisfied us, but because we wanted something greater, forged in peace.’ [1]

Since then, this speech has been widely circulated and has received much praise on the international stage but it echoes an almost similar message given by another individual a few years ago; on the 23rd of November 2013, in an event organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Pan-African Association, an address was delivered by the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) in which he stated:

‘If one thinks that adopting extremist measures is the way to have decisions made in their favour they are entirely wrong. Such an approach will cause only harm and will mean that despite achieving independence and freedom, their nation and its people will never succeed or advance. We should always make sure that our differences, our personal egos and party interests are set aside for the greater good, and rather we must prioritise national progress. When we think and act in this way our differences will not be a means of impairment, but will actually play a positive role in our nation’s future well-being and development.’ [2]

African Independence from Colonial Powers

The years 1957 – 1963 stand very important in the annals of African history in the context of gaining independence from colonial powers. After they were conquered, these African kingdoms were subjected to colonialism. Colonialism means:

‘Enslavement and exploitation through the military, political, and economic coercion of peoples, countries, and territories- primarily economically less developed ones with populations of another nationality than that of the metropolitan country.’ [3]

In his speech at the UN General Assembly on 23 September 1960, Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana further shed light on colonialism:

‘For years, Africa has been the foot-stool of colonialism and imperialism, exploitation and degradation. From the north to the south, from the east to the west, her sons languished in the chains of slavery and humiliation, and Africa’s exploiters and self-appointed controllers of her destiny strode across our land with incredible inhumanity without mercy, without shame, and without honour. Those days are gone and gone forever, and now I, an African, stand before this august Assembly of the United Nations and speak with a voice of peace and freedom, proclaiming to the world the dawn of a new era….’ [4]

In his independence address on 30 June 1960, the former Prime Minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, also captured what the African nation had to endure during the colonial period:

‘Because of what we have gone through during 80 years of a colonial regime, our wounds are still too fresh and painful for us to chase them from our memories. We have known hard labour for which we were paid salaries that could not properly feed us, nor dress or house us decently, nor raise our dear children. We have been mocked, insulted and struck morning, noon and night because we are [black]….

The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed and our dear country is now in the hands of its own children. Together, my brothers and sisters, we will begin a new struggle, a magnificent struggle that will lead our country to peace, prosperity and greatness. We will together establish social justice and ensure that everyone receives just pay for their labour.’ [5]

It is vital that at such cruel points of history, we remember the superior teachings of Islam. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) has also stated:

‘I would like to say that Islam places great emphasis on the independence of each nation and each people. Islam teaches that to free others from servitude and oppression is a great form of piety that leads to huge rewards from Allah. In Chapter 90 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah has very clearly spoken of the need to free others from slavery, to fulfill the needs of the hungry, to help those in need and to care for orphans.’ [6]

But over time, the essence of independence has been lost because these countries still remain highly dependent on their old colonial masters. The reality is that no African country is truly free or independent; all of them are still being destabilised and manipulated so that their former European colonisers can still make a profit. This type of colonisation is called ‘Neo-Colonialism’. [7]

Neo-Colonialism

The strategies of the neo-colonisers to maintain control include colonial debt, automatic confiscation of national reserves, the right of first refusal on any raw or natural resource, the exclusive right to supply military equipment and train the country’s military officers, the right to pre-deploy troops and intervene militarily in the country to defend its interests, obligation to use colonial money, the obligation to make the colonial language the official language of the country and the language for education and money; and much more. [8]

Regarding this, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) has also stated:

‘But remember, whilst at a superficial level the vast majority of countries are independent and have formed governments from amongst their own people, yet in reality many developing nations or those that are sometimes referred to as Third World countries, are still heavily influenced and pressured by the major powers of the world. The powerful nations take advantage of the weaker nations and dictate their own preferred policies, and so in this way they have practically enslaved the developing countries. Sadly, the major powers take benefit and advantage of the natural resources of the poorer nations and do not give what is the due right of the weaker nations in return. Thus, clear exploitation of the developing countries and their people is taking place.’ [9]

Furthermore, in another address Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) has stated:

‘Hence, to protect its freedom, whether it is an African or Asian country where only a short time has passed since its independence, there is a need for great effort, and to be trustworthy and to plan properly. So, if we are not careful, other governments that have their eyes on our resources will once again take us under their rule. It is not necessary to formally take over a country or its government to rule over it. By taking over a country’s resources, the country can be enslaved.

And this kind of slavery destroys the traditions of a country, and it destroys a nation’s identity and self-esteem. Therefore, although this celebration of fifty years of independence brings great happiness, it should also draw our attention towards deep reflection and concern.’ [10]

Learning from History

As African countries celebrate their independence day, it is very important that we remember the words of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) once more:

‘Thus today the Day of Independence is a celebration of freedom from colonialism.

It is a sign of living and progressive nations that they always keep their past history in view and learn lessons from it. As a result, they are able to strengthen and prepare their future. Good traditions and practices are maintained on strong foundations, and to avoid mistakes and errors, great planning and effort is under-taken.

Thus, when I said that this Independence Day should infuse a new spirit in the country and its leaders, this is what I meant, because in order to continually progress and safeguard your independence, you must never repeat your past mistakes that granted the Western World the opportunity to bring African countries under their rule.’ [11]

About the Author: Ahmad Kamal is Fifth-year student at the International Ahmadiyya University of Theology and Scholastic Sciences in Ghana.

ENDNOTES

[1] americanrhetoric. (2022, 02 23). Retrieved from https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/martinkimaniunitednationsrussiaukraine.htm

[2] (15.12.2013). Africa’s True Independence. Retrieved from Review of Religion: https://www.reviewofreligions.org/10105/africas-true-independence/

[3] Eghagha, H. (30 , September 2019). What does ‘independence’ mean? Retrieved from The Guardian: https://guardian.ng/opinion/what-does-independence-mean/

[4] Africa Renewal. (2010, August). Visions of independence, then and now. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/august-2010/visions-independence-then-and-now

[5] ibid

[6] (15.12.2013). Africa’s True Independence. Retrieved from Review of Religion: https://www.reviewofreligions.org/10105/africas-true-independence/

[7] Diouf, K. (2020, April 30). Why no African country is truly free or independent. Retrieved from https://www.theafricancourier.de/news/africa/neo-colonialism-in-africa-the-illusion-of-freedom/#:~:text=The%20reality%20is%20that%20no,called%20%E2%80%9CNeo%2DColonialism%E2%80%9D.

[8] ibid

[9] (15.12.2013). Africa’s True Independence. Retrieved from Review of Religion: https://www.reviewofreligions.org/10105/africas-true-independence/

[10] Protecting Africa’s Freedoms. (13). Retrieved from https://www.alislam.org/articles/protecting-africas-freedoms/

[11] ibid

source https://www.reviewofreligions.org/37682/africa-and-the-theory-of-independence/

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