THE PROBLEM OF OUR BORDERS IN AFRICA
Lang T.K.A. Nubuor
The Force of African History and Unification: History of the Dual Dynamic Principle – An Nkrumaist Perspective is the title of a book in progress. The text below is the Foreword to the book. It focuses our attention on the problem of our borders as a great obstacle to our emerging African Nation.
The book, as a presentation in analytical history, portrays socio-economic interaction and class differentiation as the dual dynamic force of our society and history. It is the recognition of this dual dynamic principle that exposes to us the lines along which our thoughts should flow if we should appreciate the unviability of the separate states of Africa as the political framework for our development.
We understand by this that the development of individual African states outside the framework of a united Africa remains an impossible undertaking until the masses of Africa rise to dismantle the artificial boundaries for a united People’s Republican State of Africa. This is the task that our misleaders, masquerading as our leaders, will never undertake on our behalf since they benefit from our predicament. According to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah the solution lies in the victorious mass armed struggle across the continent.
The force of history dictates the pattern of development of nations. It has never been by accident that in the history of Africa political institutions and empires have always been built to control and rationalize an emerged economic pattern of life. Economic interactions with immediate and distant neighbours have always led to political integration with such neighbours. The process of integration has never been smooth or without violence.
The disintegration of an empire has always been followed by the integration of its parts into a new empire if only the economic pattern of life shows itself to have merged with that of the new empire. Political unification of people living as neighbours is only inspired by the need to harmonize economic relations within a centralized system for economic efficiency. Such is the dictate of the force of history.
To neglect this logic of history is to miss the most fundamental dynamic in the process of nation-building. It is the understanding of this dynamic which prepares us to intervene in that process. Hence, the ardent unification drive in Africa, throbbing in the heart and mind of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, is the cry of pain at the forceful pigeon-holing of the people of Africa within confines marked by artificial borders on the continent; when on a daily basis the people must have to and seek to freely interact with each other across the borders to transact business.
This reflection in the mind of Kwame Nkrumah of our people’s drive for free economic and social interaction is the reflection of the direction determined by the force of African history. And no other force can forever frustrate its course for self-realization – not even the force of imperialism.
Neo-colonial states in Africa stand in the way of an early realization of that course of history. Rather than intervening in that process to speed it up they have constituted themselves, in behalf of and in collaboration with imperialism, to frustrate it. Forming themselves into regional bodies representing themselves and not our people, these neo-colonial states perpetuate our so-called divisions long designed by imperialism to facilitate our politico-military domination for enhanced economic exploitation of our African Nation.
Such traitors of Africa, interestingly, are paper tigers sustained in outmoded inherited colonial power structures held in place through deceitful democratic practices supported by imperialism. These obstacles to the development and self-realization of Africans, Nkrumah says, can and must be destroyed in armed struggles.
And unless such armed struggles are ultimately directed for socialist reconstruction of African society, the power regained with the destruction of neo-colonialism can only be given back on a silver platter to the imperialists lurking around for their capitalist fulfilment. That is why the armed struggle is not for reforms, however progressive, but is a revolutionary armed struggle to completely destroy the inherited colonial and newly-created neo-colonial power structures and replace them with new and different structures.
While the revolutionary forces prepare for the armed struggle they seize opportunities of the gains of the popular civil struggles to create the alternative structures that will replace the anachronistic inherited power apparatus. Time is not to be wasted awaiting that destruction before the commencement of the new building process.
The study of African history reveals a trajectory of emerging empires integrating higher populations than the empires that precede them. Hence, the Mali Empire absorbs the previous Ghana Empire into its population and the Songhai Empire in turn absorbs both the Ghana and Mali Empires. From the West African coastline, the Denkyira Empire is incorporated into the Adansi Empire which is in turn absorbed by the Akwamu Empire. The Ashanti Empire absorbs all these latter and more.
A careful observation shows the growth of these empires over trade routes forming a growing network bringing people together in increasingly larger geographic and demographic space. A similar logic of history is seen at play in other parts of Africa where large empires incorporating larger and larger geographic and demographic space emerge.
The empire-building processes are not seen merely as processes of geographic and demographic expansion. They involve, as well, processes of social stratification whereby feudal and incipient feudal systems emerge. The advent of European capitalism does not involve absorption of territories and populations the African-style. During the colonial stage of imperialism, capitalism divides territories even within a particular European Empire into sub-divisions which later emerge as so-called nations of Africa.
Thus, whereas the processes before the European advent centralize the administration of all territories within the population, the Europeans decentralize their administration on the African continent and have the central authority located outside its population away in Europe. The principle of divide and rule informs this retrogressive behaviour.
Hence, people speaking the same language and sharing the same culture find themselves divided by an arbitrary line of demarcation. That explains why one finds the Ewe in the three countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin. The Hausa are found in Niger and Nigeria. The Tswana are divided between South Africa and Botswana. The Ewe, Hausa and Tswana are then supposed to respectively form different ‘nations’ in their separate countries. Examples of this retrogression are multiplied across the African continent.
The said retrogression stands in opposition to the progressive force of history that manifests in cross-border interaction in the face of huge security arrangements like the digging of canal-like fissures between countries. The removal of such obstacles to free interaction remains a constant demand of Africans on both sides of the artificial borders. This demand cannot forever be a wild-goose chase, a mere dream.
Unless, however, the organized force of the people is set in motion to forcibly dismantle the neo-colonial state structures and remove the borders in an armed struggle the situation threatens to remain with us unduly for a long while. The extreme obstacles that these borders represent in African development are well captured in Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s 1964 statement in Cairo that: ‘By far the greatest wrong which the departing colonialists inflicted on us, and which we now continue to inflict on ourselves in our present state of disunity, was to leave us divided into economically unviable States which bear no possibility of real development.’
That is the extent of the border issue in its impact on African development. The winner in that case remains the imperialists and neo-colonialists and the indigenous bourgeoisie. Even so, the force of history finally triumphs. And it triumphs in the face of the deceptive imperialist and neo-colonialist display of might with its armed forces and other mechanisms. For, it is not arms that win the war. It is the people in arms who win that war. And that war, a people’s war, has no colour of race.
It involves not only the working people of Africa, who are its immediate prosecutors on the continent, but also the working peoples of all exploited nations in the world including those in the metropolitan centres of imperialism and neo-colonialism in Europe and America. Only conscious and unconscious collaborators with imperialist and neo-colonialist international reaction see and emphasize colour of race in this serious business of the People’s War.
This study of the unification process in Africa has nothing to do with skin colour though it is conscious of imperialist exploitation of it to divide working people world-wide to the disadvantage of the earth’s toiling masses.
It has everything, however, to do with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s statement on one of the features of a revolutionary party in the following terms: ‘Its essential objective is the total destruction of the puppet government or colonial power, in order to build in its place the organs of the people’s political power based on mass organization and mass education.’
That is, the destruction of the inherited colonial power apparatus and its replacement with an alternative people’s power structure are envisaged. He adds that this ‘objective can only be achieved through a policy of direct confrontation with the enemy, and not through devious negotiations and compromise.’ And that ‘This is the only correct approach to the African situation if the problem of the revolution is to be studied in depth and from the people’s point of view.’
To understand these quotes is to capture the essential trajectory of this book in its portrayal of the force of African history, the logic of which suggests that no African neo-colonial state can develop its resources for the people’s prosperity outside a united Africa established as the People’s Republican State of Africa.
Unlike the ill-fated approach of our forebears, who sought to achieve unification from the top downwards by way of round-table conferences and compromises, the historically-determined approach for the current and coming generations of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora is the self-determination of the mass of our people on the basis of their own initiative and dynamism in the prosecution of an armed struggle to destroy imperialism and neo-colonialism for the replacement of these with structures of the people’s own power for popular participation and representation – across the continent.
History is made only by bold ventures and not by retreating in the face of difficulties. Those who argue that the time is not ripe or that the difficulties are too great for the establishment of a Continental Union Government are not recognizing the imperative needs of the African Continent or the overwhelming wishes and desires of the masses of the people of Africa.
Kwame Nkrumah, A New Africa – Speech at OAU Summit Conference in Accra, Ghana, on October 21, 1965.