"Towards Unity and United Action of Africans and the
African Diaspora in the Caribbean for a Better World: The Case of South Africa",
Kingston, Jamaica, 16 - 18 March 2005.
April 2004, South Africa has been celebrating the tenth anniversary of the defeat
of apartheid, and the establishment of true democracy and social justice for all
its people. The victory over apartheid was primarily the outcome of the struggle
of those who were oppressed. At the same time, however, the contribution of the
global anti-apartheid movement was equally critical.
It is in this context
that in its celebration of this anniversary, the government of South Africa has
organised a series of activities in various parts of the world with a view to
thanking those who supported the anti-apartheid struggle and engaging them on
the challenges of the post-apartheid transition. These celebrations are organised
under the theme "A People United for a Better South Africa and a Better World".
of the major activities envisaged for this year is a conference in the Caribbean
theme: "Towards Unity and United Action of Africans and the African
Diaspora in the
Caribbean for a Better World: The Case of South Africa".
The contribution of the Caribbean region to the struggle against apartheid
in particular, and colonialism in general, has for decades been an inspiration
to the masses on the African continent. It is for this reason that South Africa's
ten-year anniversary celebrations will be incomplete without touching base on
the Caribbean islands. Celebrating this anniversary with a conference will not
only provide a platform for reflection on the historic solidarity between the
peoples of Africa and the Caribbean, but will also strengthen the resolve and
determination of all people of African descent to confront, decisively so, the
plight and predicament of the African continent.
South Africa's celebrations
take place in the context of a 21st century that is underpinned by African development
imperatives. In a speech at the University of the West Indies, Mr Thabo Mbeki,
the President of South Africa, made the following observations:
past few years, we have made bold to speak about an African Renaissance. We have
also spoken of the need for us as Africans to ensure that the 21st century becomes
an African century. In reality, I stand here today to talk about what we might
do together to accomplish these goals, understanding that when we speak of an
African Renaissance, we speak of a rebirth that must encompass all Africans, both
in Africa and the African Diaspora.
The recent formation of the African
Union and the formulation, adoption and implementation of the NEPAD agenda attest
to the realisation of this quest for a rebirth of the African continent and its
peoples. It is in the context, of the 21st century as an African century, that
NEPAD has, amongst others, committed itself to "determine what is wrong in
our societies and what we want done to correct these wrongs and design any programme
of action arising out of this determination
At the university
in the West Indies mentioned above, President Mbeki told the participants that
the aim of the envisaged reforms is to change the conditions that have for many
years imposed the "status of underlings" on Africans everywhere. He
then reminded them of the first Pan African Congress in London, where WEB du Bois
made the prophetic statement that the problem of the 20th century would be the
problem of the colour line. President Mbeki said, "Then the African intelligentsia
united in the search for ways and means by which to confront this problem."
Mbeki then made his own clarion call: "Perhaps the time has come for the
African intelligentsia in the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa to come
together again, this time to make the statement - the problem of the Africans
in the 21st century is the problem of poverty, underdevelopment and marginalisation
- and together search for ways and means by which to confront this problem."
too, the African Union, since its inception and especially in the aftermath of
the Maputo Summit, has taken a number of decisions and measures aimed at strengthening
links between the African continent and its Diaspora. The planned conference,
therefore, is also a contribution to the efforts by the African Union to reach
out to the African Diaspora.
2. Historical Justification
quest for unity and social and economic recovery is a centuries-old endeavour.
The common historical experience of Africans of, first, slavery and, later, colonialism,
ensured that Africans developed a commonly shared consciousness as one people
with a common destiny. This consciousness converged into a Pan-African Movement,
which developed institutionally from the turn of the 19th century under the leadership
of the Diaspora. Pan-Africanism rests on four pillars: (a) a sense of common historical
experience; (b) a sense of common descent, identity and destiny; (c) opposition
to racial discrimination and colonialism; and (d) a determination to create a
Pan-Africanism, a product of the negative encounter
between Africa and European imperialism, is principally manifested in the record
of the struggle of Africans against these foreign forces. Such struggles have
taken place on the levels of overt, armed and covert resistance to enslavement
The relationship between Africa and the African Diaspora
has its roots in the slave trade from 1500s - 1800s that transported millions
of Africans across the Atlantic to the New World of Europe and the Americans.
The so-called slaves struggled for survival and freedom to preserve their dignity
and to assert their worth as human beings. They adapted themselves to the ways
of their new environment but were never completely assimilated because they also
retained as much of the African cultures that they represented. This bond of spiritual
kinship that connected them to the African continent was reflected in the lyrics
and cultural resonance that floated around the plantations and households in which
they lived and worked amidst suffering, humiliation and various forms of depravation.
The Caribbean has made a crucial contribution to Pan-Africanism at all
levels and in all its modes. First, in the grand record of anti-slavery struggles
conducted on the plantations (slave conspiracies and revolts against enslavement,
with the Great Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 being its highest achievement)
as well as struggles against the plantation establishment (grand marronage and,
later, in anti-slavery campaigning in the metropoles). Olaudah Equiano, once enslaved
in the Caribbean, is a good example for his involvement in British anti-slavery.
Crucially, Diasporan African anti-slavery struggles were frequently guided by
specifically African cultural - including military - practice and by a deep and
abiding commitment to the idea of return to the African continent.
19th and early 20th century Caribbean personalities contributed decisively to
the development of the Pan-African movement and its ideas. These personalities
include Edward Wilmot Blyden (Virgin Islands), TES Scholes (Jamaica), Henry Sylvester
Williams (a Trinidadian who placed the word 'Pan-African' on the political map
and organised the first Pan-African Conference in 1900), Marcus Garvey (Jamaica),
George Padmore (Trinidad), Norman Cameron (British Guiana) and CLR James (Trinidad).
The fight against white supremacist racism, the liberation of Africa from colonialism,
and the unification of Africans were their principal focus.
activities and challenges of both continental Africans and Africans in Diaspora
continued to impact upon each other, with history as a common reference point.
Those transported across the Atlantic began as second-class citizens in their
new abode just as the establishment of the colonial order on the African continent
relegated their brothers and sisters to the same status on the continent. Hence,
the quest for freedom and social emancipation became a shared concern. Africans
on both sides of the Atlantic divide felt the impact of vestigial discrimination
in the aftermath of the abolition of the Slave Trade and the onset of the twentieth
Thus, for example, the Civil Rights Movement in the Diaspora
and the Independence Movement in Africa coincided with each other and became mutually
reinforcing. Continental Africans supported the African Diaspora quest for equality
and civil rights while the latter campaigned strenuously for African Independence.
The Pan-Africanist philosophy of founders of the Organization of African Unity
(OAU) drew inspiration from their predecessors in the Diaspora Pan-Africanist
movement. The combined vision of continental Africans on both sides of the Atlantic
created a vision for development and self-actualization that gave impetus to the
struggle for independence in the 1960s and the formation of the OAU in 1963.
be sure, in Africa, the period towards decolonisation witnessed the emergence
of a new breed of African leaders in the form of, notably, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius
Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Kenneth Kaunda, and Leopold Senghor. These leaders not only
led their respective countries to independence, but also pioneered new ideas on
African unity, which resulted in the founding of the OAU.
Pan-Africanism of 19th and early 20th century was not confined to pamphlets, meetings,
conferences, congresses, conventions and schemes for return to Africa. The role
and contribution of ordinary masses of Africans in their daily struggles against
chattel slavery and colonialism was equally critical.
The vital factor
in the post-World War II phase of the Pan-African movement, with its primary focus
on colonialism, was the bringing together of the ongoing and distinct struggles
of the masses of the African people, from the peasants, workers, and the unemployed,
to the lumpen elements and the intelligentsia.
In this phase of the movement,
the contribution of the people of the Caribbean to Pan-Africanism was considerable
and took many forms. Frantz Fanon - from the French Caribbean - is one good example
of direct militant engagement by a Caribbean in the African anti-colonial struggle.
Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks and Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped
Africa remain the must-read books for any person interested in the political economy
of the African predicament.
Rastafari, the Jamaican-originated philosophy,
was to have a pervasive influence at the more broadly cultural and psychological
levels of support for the liberation of continental Africa and the freeing of
the consciousness of Africans more generally. The names of Bob Marley, Mutabaruka,
Tappa Zukie, Peter Tosh, and Tony Rebel represent a small part of a lengthy list
of popular artists (griots) in the reggae genre who amplified the message of freedom
Some Caribbean governments also became directly involved
in the African anti-colonial struggles. The best example is that of Cuba: this
country's role was not limited to providing educational and health training and
other civil support to African liberation movements, but also included direct
military engagement in Angola against the apartheid army. This latter role contributed
directly to the ultimate victory of the liberation movement in Namibia.
the start of the 21st century, Pan-Africanism retains its relevance, because the
historical dynamics, which produced it, remain a factor to this day. The conditions
of poverty, underdevelopment and marginalisation of Africans are but one example.
The challenges to Pan-Africanism today must include generating an understanding
of the political economy of the African predicament, and organising Africans on
the continent and the Diaspora.
3. Conference Theme
It is against the above background that this historic conference
is being organised, with the theme: Towards Unity and United Action of Africans
and the African Diaspora in the Caribbean for a Better World: The Case of South
Africa. The main objective of the conference will be to provide an opportunity
and initiate a dialogue process to find ways to unite Africans in Africa and those
in the Diaspora and to search for solutions to problems that confront them.
- To create linkages between Africa and the Diaspora and
initiate a dialogue on common challenges;
- To strengthen partnerships and
co-operation between the peoples of the two regions;
- To establish
mechanisms for building stronger political and economic relations between Africa
and the Caribbean;
- To identify new opportunities for future collaboration
that can be of mutual benefit in the political, economic and socio-cultural spheres;
develop a common agenda for confronting common problems between Africa and the
- To support the implementation of the African Union decisions
on the African Diaspora.
- Pan Africanism
The discussion will:
- revisit the understanding and
definition of Pan Africanism and the African Diaspora;
- trace the relations
between South Africa, Africa and the Caribbean;
- Analyse the relations
between the above and the rest of the world, and in particular, with the developed
- Situate the material conditions of Africa and its Diaspora
in the current global environment
- International Affairs,
Peace and Security
The discussion will explore the dynamics of contemporary
political and foreign policy challenges such as globalisation, asymmetric North-South
power relations, and international peace and security; and how all these impact
on South Africa/Africa and the Caribbean and their relations with other countries.
The Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
discussion will focus of various aspects and implications of this report from
the African and Caribbean perspectives.
- Democracy and Good Governance
discussion will focus on the evolution of democracy in Africa and the Caribbean,
drawing from the experiences of the first as well the most recent democracies.
Discussion will also focus on race, class, ethnicity and gender and their implications
for effective nation building.
- Regional Development and Integration
discussion will analyse the efforts of the African Union and the Caribbean states
in building regional integration. The discussion will also investigate the role
of NEPAD in the attainment of effective continental integration.
Co-operation and Trade Links
The discussion will interrogate challenges relating
to economic co-operation between South Africa/Africa and the Caribbean in the
context of various other initiatives within and between the two regions and other
economies. This discussion should include debt cancellation, reparations, and
the MDG agenda, as well as co-operation between Africa and the Caribbean in the
democratisation of the international financial and trade architecture.
Socio-Cultural and Religious Commonalities
This discussion will address the
nature and evolution of the social, cultural and religious relations and artistic
heritages in South Africa/Africa and the Caribbean with a view to identifying
areas of convergence and divergence as well as lessons from history.
Cooperation and Solidarity
The discussion will look at the challenges relating
to issues of development and poverty with a specific focus on crime, HIV/Aids,
transnational crime and narcotics trafficking, as well as environmental problems.
This discussion will address the nature of contemporary challenges
related to the production, distribution and sharing of knowledge and information
between South Africa/Africa and the Caribbean in the context of global trends
and challenges. The delegates should identify how the two regions ought to respond
to the challenges and what strategies should be developed to address contemporary
and future challenges with a view to enhancing the mutual interests of both regions.
The following aspects should be considered:
- the nature of the
challenges posed by the production and distribution and utilisation of indigenous
knowledge and information within and between the two regions.
o the challenges
posed by the production, distribution and utilisation of academic and scientific
knowledge and information within both regions and between the two regions.
the challenges posed by the production, distribution of technical knowledge information
and innovations with the aim of enhancing productivity, competitiveness, and inclusive
and equitable growth and development in light of the current global order and
the opportunities and constraints that it poses.
o the challenges posed
by the monopolisation of processes of global cultural exchange on the intellectual
property of the people of Africa and the Caribbean
The anticipated outcomes of the conference are the
- Concrete proposals on economic and trade links in specific
areas and embarking on collaborative programmes on common areas of interest
to solidarity and mutual support in international forums
- The beginnings
of institutionalised Africa-Caribbean co-operation and collaboration amongst governments
and civil society
- A common agenda for collaboration with the view to furthering
the objectives of the African Union
- Publication of conference proceedings.
The following are the principal partners in the organisation of
- The South African Government
- The African Union
- Government of Jamaica.
total of 250 participants will be drawn from the following stakeholders:
- Business people
- Civil Society
- Cultural organisations.
This tenth anniversary celebration conference is a historic
and critical project. It will help take the debates and projects of both South
Africa and the African Union to higher levels. It is important that it is understood
as an initial exploration whose outcomes should lead to, and or connect with,
other long-term projects on the Diaspora. Its success is thus critical not only
for South Africa but also for the agenda of a better world.