Veteran politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says the African freedom struggle was never about fighting to gain access to state resources in order to corruptly and speedily accumulate wealth for leaders and their families.
Speaking ahead of this week’s Africa Day to be commemorated on Wednesday, Dr. Mwaanga said it is time Africa critically remembered where it has come from.
He said despite Africa being endowed with an abundance of minerals and other valuable natural resources, which are the envy of the world, many times these resources have been wasted in the past.
“As we mark another Africa Day, previously known as Africa Freedom Day, it is critically important to remember where our continent has come from. Yes, we defeated colonialism and apartheid and as a result, we now have 56 sovereign states on the continent. It is a time for us to reflect on where we have come from, where we are now and where we want to be. The struggle for independence was never easy. Leaders involved like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Modibo Keita of Mali, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Amical Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula of Zambia and many others, were great nationalists and visionaries. They carefully guided the struggle for national independence in their respective countries. They were not alone. They worked with men, women and youth who also sacrificed tremendously to support the struggle for independence and freedom. It was their wish to see Africa develop and defeat poverty, to see better education, health and shelter facilities,” Dr. Mwaanga stated.
The former minister in the MMD regime regretted conflicts that have continued in some parts of Africa.
“Africa is endowed with an abundance of minerals and other valuable natural resources, which are the envy of the world. Regrettably, a lot of time and resources have in the past been wasted on internal conflicts and military coups, which have set our continent back many years. Lack of commitment to freedom for African citizens, human rights, failure by some countries to embrace democratic values and youth unemployment have become a time bomb. Rural to urban migration is over burdening essential services in towns and cities,” Dr. Mwaanga said.
“When I asked the first President of Ghana and staunch African nationalist, Kwame Nkrumah in Conakry, Guinea, when I paid him a four hour courtesy call in 1970, as to what worried him most about the future of the African Continent, his response was very direct. He said:”Young man, I worry that some leaders who come after our generation of visionaries will betray the people and abandon the spirit of service to the country and people we stand for. They will embrace corruption and work to enrich themselves, their families and friends.”What foresight great foresight.Indeed in many of our countries, it is very common to see those who have only served in government for a short time becoming inexplicably wealthy within a very short period of time, while many who fought for freedom and served in government for much longer periods live either modestly or in poverty. That is because they understood the key fundamental reason for the freedom struggle – which was to bring dignity to fellow citizens. *The freedom struggle was never about fighting to gain access to state resources in order to corruptly and speedily accumulate wealth for leaders and their families, which is what we unfortunately witness so often in many parts of our continent,” Dr. Mwaanga observed.
He charged that in some countries, corruption has been so entrenched and normalized.
“In some countries, corruption has been so entrenched and normalised that it is seen as being abnormal to hold a senior position in government and yet not be corrupt. The settling in and self orientation of some newly appointed government leaders now involves not in exploring how best they can serve their fellow citizens, but prioritising and actively looking out for money making opportunities. Sadly, this is done without any self restraint or even the slightest shame. The African Union has adopted a zero tolerance approach to military coups and many African countries now hold free, democratic and transparent elections, where citizens freely choose their local and national leaders. Issues of corruption, bad governance and lack of respect for human rights, inability to achieve sustainable levels of economic growth remain unresolved.”
“High external debt has become a major burden and is not sustainable. Internal Conflicts remain unresolved in a number of African countries. The Department for Conflict Prevention Management and Resolution, based in the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, appears to wait until people start killing each other before intervening. That is not what was originally intended. The Preventive part of this mechanism is supposed to be used much more often, to pre-empt looming conflicts. Let us remember and honour Africa’s freedom fighters for the selfless sacrifices they made to free our continent from slavery, colonialism and apartheid,” Dr. Mwaanga stated.
He continued:”Let the history of Africa’s struggle be systematically and carefully recorded, so that our children can learn about it in schools, colleges and universities. Africa has achieved a lot since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 – now renamed the African Union (AU), notwithstanding its dark side. But much more needs to be done to liberate itself from poverty, bad governance, improve human rights, improve economic performance and create a better future for all. Most of all let the true love of our people and selflessness in our approach be an important part of our leadership style.”