By: Lesego Tanaka
On the 3rd of May, 2020, The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) hosted a virtual lecture on Pan Africanism with Professor PLO Lumumba, the director of the Kenyan School of Laws and a renowned Pan-Africanist, as the main speaker. The talk included an extensive and informative lesson about the origins of Pan-Africanism within Africa and the overall message was clear, ‘’ united we stand and divided we fall’’. Particularly clearer was his message to the youth of Africa that stated ‘’the time is now that younger generations must take the baton.’’
What does this mean for me as a young person living in Africa?
Well, in order to fathom why younger generations ‘’must take the baton’’, a brief look into history is mandatory. Throughout history, across the globe, young people have often been at the forefront of change. From the Soweto student uprisings of 1976 in South Africa to the Dakar protest of 1968 in Senegal, it was young people that rallied together against an oppressive system. The Black Student Strike of 1969 at UW Madison in America, saw the coming together of black students and their white student allies to present 13 non-negotiable demands to the university. Even though the university agreed to only one of the requested demands, the protest stands as a great example of the power that lies in uniting, regardless of racial and economic differences.
The important lesson that can be learned from the ‘’13 Demands’’ protest is that it is possible for everyone to support, in action and in understanding, the demands, cries and calls for justice of any group, just as the white students at UW Madison supported black students even though they were not personally affected by the issues that were faced by black students.
Most of us choose to turn a blind eye unless the issue affects us directly yet we, the youth, have the power to change this narrative, just as the youth of South Africa did with the #FEESMUSTFALL movement, and the youth of Nigeria did with the #NotTooYoungtoRun movement which prompted the reduction of the age limits being lowered so that young people can run for office. Such movements are great present day examples that the youth can mobilise and unite for the creation of a better Africa and all who reside in it.
What then, would be the first step for myself, a young person in Africa and South Africa respectively, exposed to tribalism and xenophobia be? Well the answer is the simple understanding that ‘’it is not our Tanzanian-ness, Kenyan-ness, Angola-ness or Ugandan-ness that matters. It is our Africaness [that matters]’’, as stated by Professor PLO Lumumba.
It is our duty as the youth of Africa to look beyond our cultural and border differences and unite in creating a better Africa for its people, by its people. We ourselves must take the stand because the futures indeed lies in our hands.
Professor Lumumba concluded his Pan-Africanism lecture by stated that ‘’ the young generation must only have one mantra and one claim to fame, that they must irritate those who are in power so effectively and in such an organised manner that they’ll have no choice but to do what is good and right’’ and history has proven that we are indeed capable of achieving this.