Africa is more than its many struggles for unity

By Pat Watson Wednesday May 21 2014 in Opinion
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In northern Mali in recent days, Tuareg separatists and Mali military have been in conflict resulting in fatalities. The conflict in the landlocked West African nation involving the separatists has been ongoing.


World attention has been drawn more, though, to the 300 high school girls taken forcibly from their school in Chibok, located in northeastern Nigeria a month ago by a militant group. With a long list of complaints against the Nigerian government, this latest aggression seems to be generating tremendous response.


The Central African Republic is in a state of civil war, and the transition by South Sudan into an independent nation has been bloody, to say the least.


When African Freedom Day was designated back in 1958 at the Conference of Independent African States in Accra, the aim was to “mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploration”.


Five years later, the then Organization of African Unity, today’s African Union, redesignated it African Liberation Day. This Sunday, May 25, marks the 56th year since the inaugural African Freedom Day observance.


Whatever the goals might have been in terms of breaking the shackles of European colonization, it is clear that the battles taking place within a significant number of Africa’s nations are also a challenge in the pursuit of freedom in the motherland.


On the other hand, the challenge for those of us living outside of Africa, and especially for those who have never been to any African country, is to hold in our minds a realistic picture, even as we understand that it is a vast and diverse continent.


We know that the nature of news reports is to focus first on all that is wrong and terrible in this world. For that reason alone, it takes a committed effort when looking at contemporary African nations to realize that people there are not forever contending with only war and destruction.


Millions of Africans in many nations within the continent live ordinary lives and go about their business, raise their families and hold down jobs. The major cities across the continent very much resemble other metropolises with their high-rise buildings and their highways.


It bears grasping that there are people living in parts of the United States that exist at a level of poverty that exceeds conditions of a good portion of people living in Africa.


Perhaps part of the effort toward African liberation is to liberate the world from thinking that the continent is one big mess of warring factions and starving children.


Of course there are important matters that urgently need resolution, but that does not make the continent any different from any other region in the world today. There remains concern that the vast wealth of natural resources that many exploiters cast a hungry eye at is not benefiting enough of the people who inhabit the lands.


There is concern that a few at the top, notably politicians of many stripes, cooperate with foreign interests and put their own selfish interest ahead of national prosperity which, consequently, is to the disadvantage of the many. But that behavior, that kind of unconscionable greed, is not limited to political and business figures in Africa alone. We need not look to faraway places for such examples.


Therefore, this African Liberation Day, if not involved in marches or speeches or other overt acts of support, at the very least make some time to take in some news about what is happening in Africa that do not follow those trite and familiar narratives.

A note on Ford addiction…


One would have thought that with Rob Ford now working on his addiction issues with a stay at a facility that treats people with substance abuse the news reporting on him and his antics would have subsided. But, it is now clear that news media have ironically become dependent on Ford. Every small movement still garners headlines. So now who is the shameless one? The other emerging trend is that older brother, Doug Ford, has now inherited the spotlight. The saga continues, but you can hear the murmurs of those who are not even Ford supporters saying, ‘Enough already’.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose

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