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Why I am NOT Celebrating Africa Day Today

By Hassan A Keynan

May, 25, 2018, marks the 55th anniversary of the foundation of the Organization of African Union (OAU), now known as the African Union (AU). This year, like the 54 years before, we are being asked to celebrate the Africa Day also alternatively known as African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day. But what is there to celebrate for?

The biggest and richest country in the continent is mired in endless conflict, bloodletting and endemic poverty, coupled with the most egregious assault on human dignity imaginable. Yes. You guessed it. It is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This country is blessed with all types of resources and assets that make nations wealthy: human capital, fertile land, forests, water, and mineral wealth. Yet the majority of its population depends on external handouts to survive and on the UN for protection.

How many countries in Africa achieved the the 6 Education for All (EFA) goals? None. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has one-seventh of the population worldwide. Yet it accounts for nearly half of all youth illiterates and more than a quarter of adult illiterate population world worldwide, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2015). Ethiopia and Nigeria are home to the largest number of youth and adults in SSA who lack  basic literacy skills, estimated at 29 million and 42 million respectively. How about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? There is not much to celebrate either, although some countries recorded small baby steps forward here and there. According to the World Bank, rapid population growth cancelled out the modest progress made in poverty reduction between 1990 and 2012, with the net result being the number of Africans blighted by extreme poverty increasing ‘by more than 100 million’ during the same period here. The target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is 12 years away. However, barring miracles or extraordinary divine intervention, no one seriously and honestly believes that Africa could realistically eradicate poverty and hunger, deliver the promise of good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable energy, decent work, and most importantly, peace, justice and strong institutions.

The African Union has its own Agenda 2063: The Africa We want. It declared 2018, its 55th anniversary, Year of Combatting Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africans Transformation. These are beautiful words and lofty ideals. However, no one takes the AU seriously, including its own members. It could not even sustain its own existence. Its new Head Quarters was donated by the AU’s latest and biggest patron, China. The benevolent patron then reportedly bugged the entire complex it built for the AU. The AU relies on external assistance for its annual operations. When its new Chairperson, President Paul Kagame, tried to urge his counterparts to raise the AU’s core funds from their own resources, his proposal was snubbed, with some of the continent’s heavyweights spearheading the chorus of disapproval.

The great African thinker and Nobel laureate, Wole Soyink, has captured the plight of Africa and the African condition in his book Of Africa (2012).

Africa remains the monumental fiction of European creativity. Every so-called nation on that continent is a mere fiction perpetrated in the cause of external interests by imperial powers, a fiction that both colonial rule and post-independence exertions have struggled and failed – in the main – to turn into an enduring, coherent reality. It is a gross fiction whose exposure continues to exact penalties in hundreds of thousands of lives…Africa has paid, and continues to pay, a heavy price for the upkeep of a European fiction. 

The Africa Union is the principal peddler and perpetuator of this lethal fiction. For 55 years it has promoted the power and legitimacy of African states, but criminally neglected or wantonly violated the fundamental rights, freedoms, and human dignity of African peoples. The AU defended or at best turned a blind eye when dictators and tyrants in its midst butchered their people and looted state coffers. It has pursued big projects and celebrated double digit economic growth, but spectacularly failed to address or even explain the terrible and never-ending saga of corrosive corruption, crumbling infrastructure, endemic poverty and hunger, rampant disease, dysfunctional education systems, and protracted social strife and violent conflicts.

I am African. And for the reasons stated above, I am not in a position to celebrate the Africa Day today. My contribution today is the following poem titled Aly Juju and the 54 Thieves. 

Ali Juju and the 54 Thieves

A Poem

It is that time of year

The incumbent strongmen of Africa
Assemble for their grand Jamboree affair
In the City of Flowers

Where the seasons
 Suddenly fly

Into a magical universe of unseasonable bliss
Light years away

From the epidemic of misery and tyranny
Sweeping the lands and peoples

They lead and leave behind.

It is that time of year
When the godfathers

Of the power cartel Africa Unlimited
Demented monarchs
Veteran despots

Military dictators

Ailing autocrats
Rebel commanders
Revolutionary demagogues
Scheming warlords
Rent-seeking opportunists
Megalomaniac usurpers
Ethnic supremacists
Tribal chauvinists
False prophets

Fake democrats
Predatory conmen

Flock to the Illusions Capital of Africa

And pack the soulless corridors and haunted chambers
Of the hermetically sealed Africa Hall

Peddling the peculiar and lethal pan-African leadership fetish
That has kept the cradle of humanity and its teeming masses
In perpetual anomie and bondage.

This year

The lords of intrigue

Flanked by mercurial aid lords and vulture capitalists
Gather in the Machinations Capital of Africa

For yet another malefic spectacle

Of the linchpins of oligarchy and kleptocracy
Proclaiming a rapturous, clinical, clean break

With the lucrative rackets

And privileged patronage networks

That keep their decadent dominions afloat.

In this special year

The 55th anniversary of the long-tailed calamity
The master weavers

Crown their landmark 30th Union Summit
With a bizarre episode

Of the one thousand and one night African beauty
Featuring the mega thriller

Ali Juju and the 54 thieves.

In the Africa Unlimited scheme of things
A dark, deeply entrenched Orwellian cabal holds sway.
Sovereignty is majestic void
Predation is power
 is liberty
 is freedom
Poverty is progress

 is peace
Reign of terror is rule of law
Humiliation is dignity.

Beautiful Africa blossoms in gore and despair.

Hassan A Keynan
Mr. Keynan is an author and Former UNESCO expert



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