Celebrating Africa Day despite the Covid-19 pandemic

Milton Obote
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In 1963, Uganda's then prime minister Obote was the only leader to endorse Nkrumah's call for immediate African unity. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Harold Acemah

[Aluta Continua!]

On Tuesday, May 25, Uganda and all African countries celebrate Africa Day despite the Covid-19 pandemic which has done enormous damage and havoc and brought untold suffering and sorrow to Africa and the world. The theme for this year’s Africa Day celebrations is: “Silencing the guns: Creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development and intensifying the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Africa Day is an annual commemoration of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 25, 1963 by 32 independent African countries, including Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda. Uganda was ably and effectively represented at the first OAU Summit by the late Prime Minister Apolo Milton Obote.

It was at this summit that President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana made a passionate and visionary appeal to African leaders for the immediate establishment of a continental government for Africa. After a long and acrimonious debate, African leaders gathered at Addis Ababa rejected Nkrumah’s proposal in favor of a gradual approach to achieve an African union.

With the benefit of hindsight, I believe it was a big mistake and a lost opportunity which may not come again soon. Only two countries expressed full and unconditional support for Nkrumah’s call for immediate continental union namely, Ghana and Uganda. When I hear some arrogant, belligerent, corrupt and mediocre African leaders brag about being champions of pan-Africanism when they routinely loot, plunder and meddle in the internal affairs of African countries, I shudder and recall with dismay that lost opportunity of 1963.

In the liturgical calendar, May 23 is the day of Pentecost which comes 50 days after Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday. The day of Pentecost commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ promised the disciples and apostles before he ascended into heaven. In the Christian tradition this momentous event which took place in Jerusalem marks the birth of the Church in the first century.

Almost 60 years since the advent of independence, things are falling apart in many African countries, including Africa’s giant Nigeria which is a leading producer and exporter of oil and gas. Boko Haram and many other criminal, fundamentalist and terrorist groups appear to be holding the government of Nigeria at ransom, a regime led by President Buhari, himself a military General, who hails from Northern Nigeria the worst affected region of that West African country. The possibility of Nigeria breaking up into three or more countries is no longer an illusion, but a reality.

Several African countries are in a similar category; Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan to mention, but a few. If Nkrumah’s dream had been realized in 1963 the ongoing fratricidal and vicious internal conflicts raging in many African countries would not be happening.

One of the challenges facing African countries today is the proliferation of guns and other weapons of destruction and war. In this regard, the African Union must make every effort to translate into reality the theme of Africa Day and silence the guns because Africa will continue to lag behind other continents as long as gunmen misrule and control affairs of African states for personal gain.

In the Great Lakes region, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the brutal and criminal assassination, on January 17, 1961, of DR Congo’s first Prime Minister, the charismatic Patrice Emery Lumumba. My dear friend Constantine Tadria (RIP) named his son after the great pan-Africanist whose legacy will guide and inspire Africans for generations. The ghost of Patrice Lumumba continues to haunt DR Congo six decades after treacherous and unpatriotic hired agents of imperialism killed that great son of Africa in cold blood.

I would like to thank Franco Makiadi & TP OK Jazz for paying a glowing tribute to Lumumba in one of my favourite Congolese Rumba tunes titled, “Lumumba Heros Nationale.” Lumumba Oyee! Aluta continua!

Arua, Uganda.

May 18, 2021.

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