24th May is a significant date for Africa it is the African Day when for the first time African leaders converged in Addis Ababa to discuss ways to unite Africans and completely put an end to Colonisation. The department of African Studies of the University of Vienna marked this day by inviting the outspoken Pan-africanist the great Proffessor PLO Lumumba. When I read that the great Prof will be in town I was so excited since I knew it was a chance to get to meet one of the greatest most eloquent speakers and champion of African Unity in person. I therefore promptly requested Professor Bodomo, the head of the department at the University, to meet the great PLO Lumumba for a chat.
To my surprise I got a lot more than I asked for. Professor Bodomo asked if I could pick PLO from the airport and escort him to his hotel. This was an opportunity that I could just dream of now it was going to be a reality. With the help of a fellow Kenyan friend we organised a Limo to pick up PLO a feat which he really appreciated.
As we sat in the Limo I was totally speechless it was like in a dream. I was riding in a Limo sited next to Prof. PLO Lumumba. I was so awe struck that all the stuff I had prepared for days to talk about and ask had evaporated. I struggled to keep my cool I felt like slapping myself back to my senses. The Prof though was very gentle asking about life in Austria and interesting nitty gritties about the city of Vienna.
Most of you did not have the chance to attend his lecture I will fill you in on the most memorable lecture I have ever listened to and I will also with pleasure share with you behind-the-scenes stories of the Great PLO Lumumba as I spent a lot of time with him and his wife.
PLO and his wife are great listeners. I could observe how he paid attention eyes fixed on me and an occasional node to confirm he was still with me in the conversation. I had expected that he would do all the talking and I would be there just listening in awe as I am not much if a talker myself. But PLO was like always ready to learn I felt like he was mentally preparing for his next speech. I was not wrong because in his speech quoted a lot of stuff that we had talked about.
At a shopping mall I watched as PLO picked up a piece of paper that was lying on the ground and dispose it in a trash can he did that again when we were walking on the streets of Vienna and after lunch at Mc Donald’s, Prof. PLO Lumumba put the trays in the tray rack and used the serviette to clean up the table ready for the next diners. I was deeply touched by these acts of humility and self-lessness. I was walking and sitting with a living African Legend with an Encyclopaedia in his head and probably smarter and more successful than 99% of the people we passed on the streets yet so down to earth. I remembered a Kenyan artist was invited to perform in Vienna she demanded for luxury transport, bodyguards in Vienna a city where the president uses public transport and buys his grocery at the supermarket like everybody else. Then there is PLO whose work has changed lives and inspired and could lead to greater phenomenal achievements. He would get a red carpet laid across the streets for him to step on; he deserves it or be brought to Vienna in a private jet; he deserves it. But PLO did not even complain at the sight of his hotel room which was a booking mistake that landed him in a low standard hotel. On transferring him to the correct Hotel PLO told the receptionist he recommends a desk in the rooms so that people who like to study, like him, can have a comfortable place. Someone else would have tones of complaints.
I have written enough about the behind-the-scenes with Prof. PLO Lumumba let me indulge you with his speech. This what I captured with my notes. I cannot 100% reflect how fascinating his speech was as more often than not I was carried away by the magnitude and importance and urgency of what he talked about. In other words my report is watered down in comparison to what PLO said in his lecture.
‘As you grow older you get more modest’ were his first words. Very true and the meaning of that statement became eminent as he continued with his speech. He was not here to entertain and flabbergast the filled-up hall with his eloquent speech full of exotic terminology as most of us were accustomed to. Rather PLO kept the audience glued to his silver-tongued discourse by enlightening us with an articulate accurate rendition of African History spiced with all important dates and names of great African leaders all that without a script in his hand leaving everyone bewildered at the vast knowledge the great Professor has on our Continent and his history.
The History of Africa starts with the slavers period so have the Western world led us to believe. The Prof. fondly refers to them as conceptual west. The truth of the matter, PLO suggested, Africa was already civilized when the Westerners were living in Caves. Fire, organised communities and use of simple tools all started in Africa. Critical persons from the Bible, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Jesus all came to Africa. Our History goes way beyond the slavery period. Africa was the beginning of modern day civilisation. Our civilisation was disrupted by the westerners who and the Arabs who brought Religion and Slavery to Africa and made away with natural resources that was used to develop their lands.
Slavery and Colonisation has never stopped hitherto. Colonialists never left. The whole process of colonisation was to thingify the Africans. The Colonisers have always been ahead of their game. They gave the Africans new names, new religion, new language. By doing this they killed a part of Africans that gave them identity. The Africans would argue amongst themselves that their colonisers were better than the other. English colonies argued that they were better than the French and vice versa and all laughed at the Portuguese colony ass it was too small. That’s how brainwashed Africa became. Africa was led to believe that the West has a divine duty to tell us what to do and how to think. Up to today it is still the same English colonies call themselves Anglo-phone, French Franco-phone etc. The head of the common wealth is the British monarch and major Banks in French colonies have their headquarters in France. The colonizers still control their colonies through Aid.
Being African is not being black skinned or white skinned. African is a state of mind. Arabs are schizophrenic they say they are African inly when it is convenient for them Colonel Gaddafi is the only Arab leader who openly identified himself as an African and an Arab.
The paradox of all this is that Africa has been on the fore-front in international development and modernisation. Africa is the cradle of humanity. Africa has always been rising. Half of the African population was involved in the Agrarian revolution when the Westerners came and took slaves to work in their fields. The natural resources used in the industrial revolution came from Africa.
African countries have, on average, attained independence in the last 50 years. Our leaders since then so the need for total independence through the formation of African Union. In a bold speech by Kwame Nkurumah on 24th May 1963 in Addis Ababa, he saw a sense of urgency in Africa uniting. He admonished the leaders not to live the summit before forming a political union based on defence, foreign affairs and diplomacy. A common citizenship, a common currency, a common monetary zone and a common central Bank. ‘We must unite in order to achieve full liberation of our continent.’ There was a sense of enlightenment back then.
The colonisers have always been ahead of their game. They created a state designed to fail. Efforts to create a united state of Africa was met by challenges there were coupes and governments toppled. Coupes were as frequent as breakfast. The state of destabilisation left the vision of African unity to be a dream.
The problem is we Africans vilify ourselves too much. We are resilient. Despite slavery and colonisation and the mass looting of our natural resources we have shown the western world that our diversity is our strength. The British is Great Britain politically but at the world cup they are England, Wales, Scotland etc. The western world would not stand if it had diverse cultures and languages as do African states.
African countries are doing very well. Botswana is the only country in Africa to have a surplus in their budget. Kigali Rwanda has made amazing noteworthy development despite the genocide in the 90s. Equatorial Guinea has GDP of $35000 per capita the highest in the world. Africa has the potential to arise. Bad leadership is the biggest problem. We are part of our problem; our docility is our undoing. In order to move forward we need to be politically awake. Democracy is protected by eternal vigilance. Gains are made through demands. The diaspora community needs to be on the fore-front in the struggle for total independence from the colonialists.
We begin by loving ourselves. We should not rely on foreign Aid. Foreign Aid is designed to keep Africans in Economic diapers. Westerners do everything for their own benefit. We must organise ourselves. The African diaspora needs to unite so that it can be able to enforce demands on the African states. We the diaspora are the eyes and ears of Africa. After living in your house for a while you start considering the cobwebs as part of your furniture, a visitor will be the one to point out that something needs to be done about the webs.
At dining a table you are either the diner, the servant or the food. Africa has been the food for long enough. It is our time now to be the diners. The Africa diaspora needs to demand for observer status in the regional bodies, AU, ECOWAS, SADCC etc. Africa will arise it starts with us. His closing remarks were a quote from the late great Martin Luther; ‘“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”