A report on an all-African day, by J L Samboma
African Liberation Day (ALD) was commemorated in London Saturday 28 May at North London’s Chestnut Community Centre by progressive African organisations and well-wishers. The occasion was observed at the precise moment imperialist dogs of war are softening up international opinion for their impending deployment of “bunk-buster” bombs and killer-drones in their bloody onslaught against the people of Libya and Africa.
The theme of the event – which was organised by the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) and A Just African Movement for Unity (AJAMU) – was “Hands off Libya, Hands off Africa.” It was well-attended, with a strong, encouraging presence of enthusiastic youths, who are the future of the Pan-Africanist movement, and also of white comrades from the Communist party who came to lend fraternal support.
The main event of the evening was a panel discussion on the situation in Libya and Africa. But before that Brother Ateinda of the AAPRP (right) paid tribute to Comrade Olu Gordon, a leader of the Pan-African Union (PANAFU) of Sierra Leone and former central committee member of the AAPRP who passed away recently. He was a journalist and pro-democracy activist who put his life on the line on many occasions in his fearless fight for representative government in war-ravaged Sierra Leone. Brother Olu’s example, Ateinda said, was one to emulate.
West hijacked Libya protests
Under the direction of moderator Sister Panyin, the panel discussion commenced with independent television journalist and filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove recounting the experiences of a recent fact-finding mission to Libya of which he was a member. With clinical precision the comrade made short shrift of claims by the Western media that the aggression against the African nation was to protect civilian lives and assist so-called freedom fighters.
“The West simply hijacked the protest,” he said. “I have no illusions about that. There was an imperialist agenda from the very beginning. Don’t be deluded that it was otherwise. Within days the ICC [International Criminal Court] were talking about investigations. Where was the ICC for Fallujah [in Iraq]; where was the ICC to investigate Israel over Lebanon, where was the ICC to investigate Israel over Gaza? And within ten days we had the first [UN] resolution, on 26 February.”
Within days of the protests, which came upon the heels of those in Tunisia and Egypt, British Special Forces were in the country, Brother Blagrove (left) said: “The rebels captured SAS officers. What were they doing there so soon after? Look at the protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia. They called them all protests, but in Libya they called it a rebellion.”
You could see Blagrove was incensed by this skulduggery as he delivered his piece, not least by the fact that the Western media, including the BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera, were co-opted into selling lies to the credulous about what was actually taking place in the Libya. We were told that thousands had been killed by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, a piece of misinformation which was swallowed wholesale by many and which served as justification for imperialism’s latest offensive against Africa.
The filmmaker, who later found out that their fact-finding mission was partly funded by the Libyan Government but whose professional integrity is beyond reproach, said:“They claim that ten thousand civilians have been killed in Libya. Where were the mass funerals? We saw none.”
He suggested a simple litmus test anyone who wanted the truth could perform: Use your Google search engine, that innovation “which has made PhDs out of all of us.” He said: “Type ‘civilian casualties in Fallujah in 2004,’ you’ll see the destruction, the mayhem and the death. Type Lebanon in 2006 and you’ll see the destruction and death. Type in ‘Gaza civilian bombing in 2008’ and see the destruction, murder and death. And then type in ‘civilian bombing Libya.’ You’ll get nothing.”
Lies like these are being sold by the Western media every day, such as when the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen tells viewers, with no hint of tongue-in-cheek, that the US are going to use drones in Libya and that “we all know how accurate drones are.” And these are the self-same so-called smart technologies which have killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Or when Ben Brown of – you guessed it! – the BBC tells us that a Libyan father who survived the “humanitarian” bombing in which his children were killed, allegedly said it was “a price worth paying.” My Google PhD told me a minute ago that those words belong to Bill Clinton’s hawkish secretary of state Madeline Albright.
Black Africans lynched by so-called rebels
Although Blagrove voiced some reservations about the Libyan leader, he was clear that the imperialist dogs (of war!) must be condemned for their acts of aggression and that Libya must be defended by all right-thinking people. Perhaps the most harrowing part of Blagrove’s presentation was his tale of how black Africans were and are still being killed by the so-called rebels in Libya.
Anger seethed through the room when he told how hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrant workers were butchered on the streets or otherwise lynched by the so-called rebels. This was after Western media put out that Gaddafi was using black mercenaries to put down the protests.
“That type of propaganda is very, very sophisticated,” he said. The reality is that Nato are bombing; Nato are killing civilians. But all of that has been sidelined, just as the peace initiatives by the African Union and [Venezuela President] Hugo Chavez have been sidelined,” the comrade said.
Next up was Brother Emile Kargbo (right), a Sierra Leonean brother from PANAFU, who lamented the “very serious” political, economic and social dislocation facing Africa and people of African descent at this point in our history. “With the exception of the Canary Islands and Diego Garcia, most of Africa claims independence, but Africa is not independent,” he said. “Our economies are controlled by the imperialists and their puppets. In his book, Neocolonialism, Kwame Nkrumah distinguished between flag independence and what real independence is.”
Nkrumah’s words have come to pass
The situation in Libya illustrates perhaps more than any other the fact that real independence had eluded Africa. Brother Nkrumah, he said, advocated many years ago that Africa should form a High Command to defend the motherland against attacks by imperialism and its running dogs. Kargbo echoed the words of the Osagyefo (the redeemer), when he said that without a military high command, Africa would be at the mercy of imperialism and neo-colonialism: “And that has come to pass when you see what’s happening in Libya today.”
He scored a bull’s eye and got applause from the sisters and brothers when he castigated Africa’s present leadership for their inaction in the face of the imperialist onslaught against the sovereign African state of Libya. “The AU [African Union] went with a road map for peace, which was not even looked at. Where are the African leaders? Where is the voice of Africa? As Africans, we need to organise, organise, organise!”
The theme of supporting Gaddafi and Libya despite previous disagreements was also present in Comrade Kargbo’s exposition. The colonel may have done things we disagreed with, such as posing as Europe’s frontier guards and imprisoning Africans, but he had done many things to promote African unity. Unity at this time of adversity was the thick red line running through his piece.
He said: “We as the young generation of Africa ask ourselves, ‘Where is Africa going?’ For most of our mentors that we look up to are going, and those in power are just puppets of imperialism. We see what is happening in Latin America, the so-called people’s revolutions; we’re seeing progress, we’re seeing unity. We’re seeing people organising themselves, trades unions, students unions, all of them organising. We need that in Africa.”
Significance of African Liberation Day
Comrade Maxine Davies (left), a leader of the AAPRP, rounded off the discussion with another passionate appeal for unity. She brought some much-needed cheer to the house when she began by saying, “My mouth is dry, somebody give me water, my mouth is dry.” One could be forgiven for thinking that the condition had been brought on by too many African Liberation Day speeches over the years.
If that diagnosis was the correct one, the sister had no intention of letting it affect her groove, for she segued effortlessly into a beautiful exposition on the historical significance of African Liberation Day (that, of course, was after a comrade had dutifully rustled up some bottled water for the thirsty sister).
The institution that is African Liberation Day was born in 1958 when the Ghanaian leader, the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, called together the leaders of independent African states and political activists in Accra to observe the day as one on which to “mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”
“That is why 53 years after it was founded by the honourable Osagyefo, we continue to gather, and we will continue to gather, to review our liberation struggle, to review what we are doing, to look at solutions to our problems – until Africa is totally liberated under an all-African socialist government,” she said. “That, sisters and brothers, is our task. To unite our homeland and to unite our people. Our task is outside these walls; we come back here to review what we have done.”
Sister Davies went on to lambast those Africans who question our support for Libya because they were Arabs, Muslims, or because they may have offended black Africans in some way.
“Nkrumah did not say unite everyone of black skin”
“The AAPRP was formed to bring into being the vision that Kwame Nkrumah had as far back as the 1960s,” she said. “Nkrumah knew as far back as then that we had to unite the most progressive and revolutionary forces for the African liberation struggle. He did not say we had to unite everyone of black skin or black blood; he said the most progressive and revolutionary forces. So why do we question him? Is there anyone here with more revolutionary experience, who has given more than Nkrumah and others like him?”
Among the other speakers were Comrades Asari of the AAPRP and Kanja Sesay of Britain's African and Caribbean Student Society. The latter gave a brief talk on how their students union was liaising with other student bodies in Africa and and the Caribbean countries. He also highlighted their role in recent student demonstrations against spending cuts by Britain's right-wing, Tory-fronted coalition government which were hitting black students harder than those from other communities. Brother Asari spoke on the lack of employment opportunities for black youth, reminding the meeting that the first step to fighting for a fairer deal was organisation.
Comrades from the Communist Party of Great Britain were also in attendance, one of whom (right) delivered a fraternal message to "our brothers and sisters of African descent." There was a brief question and answer session at the conclusion of the proceedings, after which poets Niyi and Masol served up inspirational words of freedom. Brother Niyi's verses paid special tribute to the revolutionary poet-singer Gil Scott-Heron who passed away at the weekend. "The revolution will not be televised, he reminded us, to rapturous applause.
The evening was lively and inspirational. If anything, it was a celebration of all that unites the dispossessed children of Mama Africa against the continent’s mis-leaders and their imperialist puppeteers. There was no Jamaican, Ghanaian, Zambian, Antiguan or Sierra Leonean there that evening. We were all working class Africans, united in struggle, gathering strength from one another and recharging our batteries for struggles ahead. Fraternal messages by comrades from the Communist party served to reinforce the reality that our struggle is indivisible from the international fight for social justice.