AMÍLCAR CABRAL AS A PROMOTER OF PAN-AFRICANISM

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Lopes Carlos

by Carlos Lopes

2014-08-01
 

The occasion of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Amilcar Cabral, gives us the opportunity to celebrate the contribution of this great Pan-African to the unification process of Africa. This is especially significant as 2013 was also the year in which we celebrate and reflect upon fifty years of the history of the African Union and its predecessor the OAU. The commemorations evolved around the desire for a more affirmative ownership of the development processes by Africans themselves. Agenda 2063, launched by the African Union with the support of the Economic Commission for Africa and the African development Bank, is supposed to be the rallying point for a new vision that will help Africans define what they want for the next fifty years.


Having been fortunate as an impressionable young man to have served under the tutorship of Mario de Andrade, and now to see myself involved in developing a Pan-African ideal for 2063 is both enriching and thrilling. These current circumstances make me return over and over again to the never ending source of Cabral’s knowledge. I however do this with the full awareness that Cabral’s hagiography, may not always be a recommendable path. Cabral is important because he always fought against the societal tendency to use an aura of mystery as a means to ensure people forgot about a hero entirely. It is worth quoting him: “During the great revolutionaries’ lives, the oppressing classes reward them with never ending persecutions (…). After their death, they try to make them harmless icons, they canonize them, so to speak, surrounding their name with a certain aura, in order to “comfort” the oppressed classes or nations, and to mystify them — doing so, they empty the revolutionary doctrine, depreciate it and destroy its revolutionary strength.” (Cabral, 1976)

With this same level of awareness and respect, I will present some arguments that may allow for a better understanding of how Cabral first embraced and thus helped to conceive the pan-Africanist ideal.
 

Pan-Africanism as ideology

According to Thandika Mkandawire, the relation between the African intellectuals, Pan-Africanism and nationalism is, at the same time, symbiotic and contradictory (Mkandawire, 2005). Ali Mazrui adds that one can imagine intellectualism in Africa without the Pan-Africanism but the opposite is not possible. Joseph Ki-Zerbo, in turn, said that the African nationalism had been influenced, from the beginning, by the Pan-Africanist concept, without which it would be meaningless; Ki-Zerbo also inferred that without its national liberation dimension, Pan-Africanism would be an absurdity. This means that it is impossible to talk about Pan-Africanism without referring to the intellectuals that conceived it. They are the protagonists of the political formulation that led to nationalism and national liberation (idem).

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