President Mbeki Address Parliament of Uganda

Honourable Members,

Frantz Fanon wrote in 'On National Culture' that: "Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it."

I think we all agree, that the mission of our generation is the renaissance of the African continent as expressed in the Constitutive Act of the African Union as well as the development programme of the AU, the New Partnership for Africa's Development

(NEPAD).

This mission is to eradicate poverty, ensure development and prosperity for all our people and promote the goal of African unity. This reflects our determination to extricate ourselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment, as well as marginalisation and exclusion in a globalising world.

Our mission must also include the total emancipation of women because we know very well that millions of African women are, as we speak today, still trapped in degrading conditions of poverty and gender discrimination.

To many of these women the taste of the fruit of liberty remains a dream deferred. Accordingly, we must all agree that Africa will never be free until all her women are free!

Having discovered the mission of Africa's renewal, we will not betray it, but together we are obliged by circumstances of history to fulfil it. In this regard, the new leadership on our continent and the African masses constitute the army that must eradicate the legacy of centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

This is very important because we know very well that the terrible systems of slavery and colonialism were not satisfied merely with enslaving and oppressing people. They went to great lengths to ensure the mental enslavement of the native populations, especially here in Africa. Today we see many of the consequences of these processes, which targeted the soul of the African people, among which are the cultural alienation that makes some believe that colonialism was an important instrument to illuminate our advance out of darkness.

Indeed, the colonialists sought to drive into the heads of many Africans the idea that without their supposedly divine intervention, our lives would still be defined by degradation and barbarism.

Again, Frantz Fanon says in his 'On Culture and Identity' that: "..Colonialism therefore did not seek to be considered by the native as a gentle, loving mother who protects her child from a hostile environment, but rather as a mother who unceasingly restrains her fundamentally perverse offspring from managing to commit suicide and from giving free rein to its evil instincts. The colonial mother protects her child from itself, from its ego, and from its physiology, its biology, and its own unhappiness which is its very essence."

In other words, the colonial mother sought to discourage the African masses from rebellion against oppression and dehumanisation, seeking to convince us that to seek our emancipation was to act against our own best interests.

Peter M. Gukina writing about the dishonesty of imperialism says: "It was these selfish money-grabbers who self-styled themselves as manufacturers and distributors of 'civilisation.' They fed the British press all kinds of distorted stories about the African people in order to convince the British people that they had a God-given duty to free, civilise and elevate Africans - the 'lower' races.

"The worst products of British capitalism and imperialism of the nineteenth century were those who filled their mouths with noble phrases and expressions to give an appearance of a sincere, profound desire to establish good government, promote Christianity and eradicate slavery. They, at the same time, projected the African people, their traditions and institutions as the most primitive, most savage and most cruel and that this justifies their domination in order to extend civilisation to the Dark Continent." (PP17-18, Uganda, A case study in African Political Development.)

In response to this millennium-old racist attitude we need to prioritise the matter of reclaiming our past. We have a duty to engage all sectors of society, especially the intelligentsia and the youth to be at the forefront of this battle of taking back our history, our culture and identity.

Fanon says that:

"The native intellectual who takes up arms to defend his nation's legitimacy and who wants to bring proofs to bear out that legitimacy, who is willing to strip himself naked to study the history of his body, is obliged to dissect the heart of his people. "Such an examination is not specifically national. The native intellectual who decides to give battle to colonial lies fights on the field of the whole continent. The past is given back its value.

Culture, extracted from the past to be displayed in all its splendour, is not necessarily that of his own country.

Colonialism, which has not bothered to put too fine a point on its efforts, has never ceased to maintain that the Negro is a savage; and for the colonist, the Negro was neither an Angolan nor a Nigerian, for he simply spoke of 'the Negro'. For colonialism, this vast continent was the haunt of savages, a country riddled with superstitions and fanaticism, destined for contempt, weighted down by the curse of God, a country of cannibals - in short, the Negro's country." (P238, African Intellectual Heritage, Molefi K. Asante and Abu S. Abarry, Temple University Press, 1996) Clearly, a lot of work has been done to reclaim the history of our continent. Today, few will contest the irrefutable fact that Africa is a cradle of humanity.

Few wisation of Egypt was a civilisation of the black people who imparted their superior knowledge to the Greeks, who in turn laid the basis for modern western civilisation.

No longer can anyone sustain an absurd assertion made famous by the German philosopher, Hegel, in his 'Philosophy of History' that "Africa is not a historical continent; it shows neither change nor development and that the black peoples were capable of neither development nor education. As we see them today, so have they always been." (P12, General History of Africa, Unesco, 1981 and 1990)

All of us, as political leaders, as workers, as businesspeople,
youth, women and the intelligentsia have a duty to fight against
poverty and underdevelopment as well as ensure that as Africans we
define ourselves, not in the image of our former colonisers but in
the spirit of our African ancestors, who bequeathed so much to the
human race. I am certain that through our determined and collective
struggles, we shall overcome.
Once more, I thank you most sincerely for the privilege you have
accorded us to address you, the elected representatives of the
sister people of Uganda.

Thank you.

Issued by The Presidency on 13 December 2005.

 

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