Dear Friends of Alaffia,
It is my sincere wish this note finds you and your family in good health. On behalf of our entire Alaffia team in the US and in West Africa, I wish you a healthy and peaceful 2015. May this year be the one where all the citizens of this world foster peace and reduce the environmental destruction of our planet.
In celebration of African American history month in February and to honor those that have given their lives for social justice, I feel I must share with you my reflections on where we Africans are today and to pose the question whether we are moving our communities forward. From studying the past and through my travels and observations throughout West Africa, it pains me to conclude the state of current African societies is far from the just and fair goal for which many before have sacrificed their lives. From the late 1800s through the civil rights era, almost all the African nations fought and won independence from European colonial control. During this time, many thought since we were no longer under direct European rule, we would be able to create and establish just societies, but after 60 years of decolonization, the majority of African states do not have true democracy, and the economic situation is still worsening . Even sadder, the hope for African unity that many believed would be realized never came. In fact, we are more divided today than ever.
Examples of Africa’s struggle to move forward can be seen in the lives and experiences of two of our great musicians. Miriam Makeba was exiled from her beloved South Africa for 30 years for speaking out against the atrocities in her own country and expressing her beliefs in African unity. When she was finally allowed to return home, she was happy to be back with her family, but she was also disappointed the African unity she had worked so hard for had never come. Similarly, Boubacar Traoré, singer and songwriter from Mali, sang of the new hope and optimism in the 60s for Mali’s independence. Today, Mali is one of the poorest nations on Earth and is in danger of losing its great historical legacies, such as the oldest university in Timbuktu, to religious extremism.
The future of Africa is utterly bleak without unity. While there is no guarantee a “just society” will not be eventually brought down by others, unity allows us to see our similarities and our differences as a positive element rather than a point of contention. For instance, the mass genocide of Tutsi by the Hutu in Rwanda may not have occurred had the two sides focused on their similarities and moved forward together to resolve economic and social hardships. Unity also prevents general societal collapse and ongoing colonization. Today, China is economically colonizing many of our nations, taking advantage of existing weaknesses and divisions among African nations. Furthermore, a sense of unity leads to positive feelings towards cultural heritage, which creates self-worth and allows each individual to reach his or her full potential. Therefore, unity is absolutely essential to a peaceful and functional society.
While we Africans and the African diaspora are not united as people and communities, we must not give up. Those of us who are fortunate to see the disconnects must take steps to further togetherness by providing economic opportunities and ultimately reduce poverty in our communities. As my mother often says, “One can never be defeated as long as there is hope.” We cannot concede the struggle for unity and justice. Together, we can build on the struggles and accomplishments of those before us and strive for a peaceful and fair world.