A Pan African Step Forward: A Preliminary Report
by David L. Horne, Ph. D
From January 14-16, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa, approximately 160 attendees (personal hand count) from over 20 countries crowded into a series of rooms in the Language Institute conference hall at the University of Witswatersrand, the higher education pride of South Africa, to convene what the organizers called the 8th Pan African Congress.
The aim of this gathering was to interrogate the issue of speeding up Africa’s unification into a United States of Africa through community-based or Non-governmental organization work (NGOs), particularly among the African Diaspora populations worldwide.
This gathering was the 8th in the series of Pan African Congresses started by Dr. W.E.B. Dubois in 1919 in Paris, France. This gathering was the third on African soil, and followed a modern pattern of a PAC every 20 years. The 6th PAC was in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in 1974, the 7th in Kampala, Uganda in 1994, and this one was in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2014.
Similar to the others, this one was not without controversy in its planning and preparation. It billed itself as the anti-continentalism Congress, that is, the organizers advocated an African unification of sub-Saharan states and peoples, and strongly suggested that the Arab-African states in the north of the continent were only geographically African, not African-first, and thus they should be ignored.
The organizers of this gathering said they were echoing Marcus Garvey, who in 1924 first called for African unification of all Black African territories. The African Union (the dominant African organization on the continent), on the other hand, has long advocated a unification of all of the current African countries, and thus another group of organizers within that same vein has challenged the South African meeting as being illegitimate as a Pan African Congress gathering.
A second issue for those nay-sayers is that this current gathering was convened and organized by an elite group of 15 self-selected activists and academics without much, if any, regional community organizing as had been the pattern with other Congresses.. This challenging group has said the South African meeting should only call itself a conference, not a Congress, within the Dubois tradition of Pan African Congresses, and they have begun organizing for their own gathering later this year or in 2015 which they plan to call the 8th PAC.
Be that as it may, the 8th Pan African Congress in South Africa came and went this past week with an audience of talkative Afro-Latin Americans from Ecuador, Brazil Columbia, Venezuela, and Peru, the Black Siddis from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, African-descendants from England, Denmark, Poland, France, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad-Tobago, Canada and the US., etc.
Based on an approach that invited each delegation to present its summary of the status of African descendants in their part of the world, the Siddis enthralled everyone with their story of relentless discrimination and abject poverty. The status of the Siddis is currently below that of the Dalit untouchables.
The convening/organizing committee—essentially 15 African descendants, most living in South Africa—was chaired by Dr. Kwesi Kwaa Prah, a renowned African Diasporan faculty member at the University of Cape Town, and a noted author on African affairs. He is the executive officer of CASAS, the Centre for the Advanced Study of African Society, headquartered in South Africa, and CASAS was elected at the 8th PAC to continue as the Interim PAC Secretariat.
The gathering ended with a series of implementable recommendations, including the establishment of a policy of including youth in all phases of future Pan African work, and a commitment to focus extraordinary effort in creating and operationalizing a new Pan African education curriculum that would not only teach more STEM courses, but which would also teach all African children to see themselves first as Africans, and only secondarily as a member of a Wolof, Zulu or any other ethno-tribal group.
The Johannesburg 8th PAC made a powerful step forward this January. But it will be the aftermath that will determine whether it will have a lasting influence on and a significant legacy for 21st century Pan Africanism.
The first Preparatory Committee Meeting Towards the 8th PAC took place at the Garden Court, Sandton, in Johannesburg from the 7th-8th January, 2010. Present were: Prof. Dani Wadada Nabudere, Prof. Mammo Muchie, Dr. Simphiwe Sesanti, Dr. Yvonne King, Adv. Sipho Mantula, Mr. Andile Mngxitama, Ms. Alyxandra Gomes Nunes, Adv. Sabelo Sibanda, Mr. Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, Ms. Sandi Radebe, Adv. Bankie Bankie, Dr. Peter Advok Nyaba, Prof. Kenneth Simmons, Gen. Ishola Williams and Prof. Kwesi Kwaa Prah.