Response of Southern Sudanese intellectuals to African nationalism.

Author:Ajuok, Albino Deng

Lemelle (1992) states in Pan-Africanism for Beginners that the struggle of Africans for a place and an ideological frame in the modern world began when Antam Goncalvez took twelve Africans from the continent of Africa as slave labourers in 1441. More has been published about the European-led Atlantic slave trade than Arab-led slavery, which continues to up until today. It is only fairly recently that Africans have begun to research Arab-led slavery and its impact on Africa, from the African perspective. Arab-led slavery of Africans represents the largest and, in time, the longest involuntary removal of any indigenous people in the history of humanity. To understand the impact of this slavery, the victims of that slavery, in this instance, the Black people of Sudan, will have to write their own history. This is the work that research organizations, such as the Kush Institution in Juba, will have to undertake.

The Western Hemisphere

In the Western Hemisphere the enslavement of Africans gave birth to their emancipation in North America and the Caribbean. In that process of some five hundred years, Africans in North America passed from being enslaved to being African Americans. They had to struggle to attain their constitutional rights as citizens in the United States, Canada, Jamaica and other countries. In countries such as Jamaica in the Caribbean it was with Black emancipation, Rastafarianism and reggae in the 1970-80s that power shifted from the 'coloured' as in Sudan today to Black. It was that struggle which created African nationalism; that is a political socio-cultural and philosophical articulation of the rights of the African in the modern world, rights such as liberty, equality and human rights.

Part of the struggle for the dignity of Africans in North America, connected those Africans with the continent of Africa from whence they had been forcibly taken and enslaved. Thus, most enslaved Black people brought to America would gladly have returned to Africa. And through time, the descendants of the enslaved knew little of Africa, but whenever problems in the United States overwhelmed them, some would want to immigrate to their Fatherland.

After slavery was abolished in the United States, in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the period 1880-1900 a major question being asked was 'what role should Blacks play in American life'? Hence, enslaved Black Africans supplied their muscle to develop agriculture, especially in the southern part of the United States; they also serviced White households as domestic servants and worked in industries as well as factories in the eastern part of the United States. If their labour was no longer to be free, was there to be a place for them in American society? Many Whites felt that Blacks should be encouraged to leave the United States and return to Africa. Or if they were to remain in the United States, they should be a dependent, nonpolitical and landless labouring class. Such a solution fitted well with the view held by Whites that Africans were uncivilized and marginalized, as happened to Africans in South Africa and as experienced by Africans in the Arab world, such as Khartoum.

Between 1890 and 1910 two prominent Black leaders emerged in the United States, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. Washington, a teacher from the south of the US taught his followers to accept rather than protest the segregation, disenfranchisement and inequality enforced by Whites. And that they should work hard, accumulate money and eventually win respect and equality. Du Bois was a northern Black intellectual with degrees from Harvard University and Berlin. Du Bois insisted that Blacks should use education and culture as a bridge between Blacks and Whites. Therefore, Washington promoted accommodation, while Du Bois promoted protest.

It was White America which established the American Colonization Society, which was dedicated to assisting African Americans freed from slavery to immigrate to Liberia for settlement, just as the Abolitionist Movement worked to end slavery, had been lead by White Americans, mainly church organizations.

Since the arrival of Africans as enslaved people in North America, there was a movement amongst them wishing to return, hence to repatriate to Africa. Many did return to Africa, settling mainly in Liberia in West Africa, because Liberia was a self-governing state for the formerly enslaved, and the first 'independent' state in West Africa. This movement to return to Africa had its political expression in the name 'African nationalism' which could be defined as:

* Africans and persons of African origin recognize Africa as their homeland

* Solidarity among men and women of African descent

* Belief in a distinct 'African personality'

* Restoration of African history

* Pride in African cultural history

* Africa for Africans in church and state

* The expectation of a united Africa and the restoration of Africa to its former leading role

The words 'African nationalism/black nationalism/Pan-Africanism used here are interchangeable, and to be more precise, African nationalism is the political theory or definition of the African quest for emancipation, liberty, freedom and equality in the land of birth, whereas Pan-Africanism is the international component of African nationalism.

The self-government period of 1950-2000 in the small states created by the European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884 was meaningless as none of those states, except perhaps South Africa, was viable in itself. And according to many, Africa would only meaningfully develop if those states united. The ideology for unifying the states of Africa; the states peopled by Africans outside Africa (e.g., Haiti, Jamaica etc.), the...

To continue reading