/ 8 March 2020

Africa’s youth must continue the struggle of great leaders

Supporters in Ouagadougou of Thomas Sankara commemorate the 20th anniversary of his assassination.
The likes of Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and many others laid a foundation. The onus is now on us, especially the youth, to continue what they began. (Kambou Sia/AFP)


Perhaps we must weep every time we speak about the African continent because there is no other place in the world that has faced the same atrocities as this continent of ours. 

Africa was colonised and suffered brutally under the unrelenting hand of imperialism. The history of Africa is one of pain and suffering, engineered by countries and people who saw us as below-beings who could be violated with impunity. 

They saw the lands of our forefathers as some terra nullius that they could demarcate, plunder and destroy at will. 

The truth is that it is not because of the indigenous people of Africa that we are divided into countries the way we are. A group of white people sat in Berlin in 1884-1885 and decided that they would determine the fate of African people. 

Not only this but they also decided to shun our gods and give us theirs. They disrespected our ways of being and force-fed us theirs. They stripped us of our languages and our culture. 

Today we are still suffering because of a crisis that we neither created nor benefited from as a continent. 

But, despite all of this, wounded as it may be, Africa still stands. That means we have the capacity to resist and it means that we do have something to offer the world. 

Perhaps it is also important to mention that the history of Africa does not begin with slavery and colonisation or apartheid. We have a history that precedes these moments (even though they have gone on to affect our lives immensely).  

We had systems of government and order. We had ways to co-exist, trade and organise ourselves as a people. Africa was not a dark continent devoid of orderly life as it has been depicted by those who colonised us. 

It is important to internalise this because if we have a past it means that we are capable of having a future that is radically different from the present. 

This is a future where Africa is united, where borders are not justification for discrimination against fellow Africans. 

This is a future where those from this continent actively participate in the economy and own the resources of their land. 

An acknowledgement of these facts can help us move away from a nihilist approach and start thinking about how Africa can be a better continent. 

We have ancestors who demonstrated to us that if we fully commit ourselves to the complete liberation of our continent then it is possible. The likes of Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and many others laid a foundation. The onus is now on us, especially the youth, to continue what they began. 

The need to be united as Africans does not only stem from the fact that we share a geographical location but because we share similar experiences. This is to say that what the people of Nambia went through is not that much different from what South Africans have endured. 

We must unite, regardless of which countries we come from. 

We must not unite only to discuss, but also to take action. For too long we have been discussing and not demonstrating through action. We can no longer rely on other people to solve our problems. We must organise ourselves, create and make a difference. 

Africa is not just a continent after all — it is our country. 

Mcebo Dlamini is a former Wits SRC president. He is also an activist, constantly trying to bridge the chasm between theory and praxis. He is interested in social justice and is a committed scholar of Black studies