African Union: some see mud, others see the stars.

Author:Figueiredo, Antonio de
Position:Lest we Forget
 
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"Two men look through the same prison bars; one sees the mud, the other sees the stars". Given that Africa is still captive of new forms of debt and political bondage, the meaning of the above verses still applies to those converging on Maputo for the 2nd African Union Summit.

A part from sharing in Mozambique's sense of achievement in hosting the 2nd African union Summit in Maputo (11-14 July), the event has also a deep personal significance for me. As it happens, after living 10 years in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), I was arrested by the Portuguese police (PIDE) on 23 January 1959 and kept incommunicado in a cell at the police headquarters, accused of "subversive" and pro-Africanist activities.

This was years before PIDE moved into their exclusive mansion "Villa Algarve", or Frelimo could be formed in Tanzania Most of Africa was then still partitioned into colonies and "spheres of influence" between competing European countries. My imprisonment and inquisitorial ordeal ended in deportation to Lisbon, from where I escaped to exile in London, mined, missing my family and without either money to eat or a career.

Aptly enough, my first emergency job in London was provided by the Anti-Slavery Society, through the intercession of the anti-colonialist writer, Basil Davidson whose name I knew by having read his books. We are still good friends, well aware that we can only be called "pioneers" if the causes we fought for were worth the sacrifices of both those who perished or survived.

To this day, perhaps as a reminder of my inquisitorial ordeal in Maputo, I keep in my working desk a small plate with the inscription: "Two men look through the same prison bars; one sees the mud, the other sees the stars". Given that Africa, after centuries of the dehumanising impact of slavery and colonialism, is still captive of new forms of debt and political bondage, the meaning of those two verses still applies to those converging on Maputo for the 2nd African union (AU) Summit. The long march for freedom has not ended, but the pace is now faster and increasingly confident.

Since the AU's aims are well known and so valid as a rational stage in the continent's development, perhaps I should confine myself to some comments on pan-Africanism and Mozambique, the starting point of my Africanist dedication.

It is important for young Africans to remember why it is that the ideals of pan-Africanism or trans-Africa unity preceded by decades those of nationalism in...

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