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Jun 17, 2008, 7:35 AM | Article By: By Alhagi Ba Tarawale

The Role of Political Leaders during the Liberation Struggle

Mr./Madam Chairperson,

This is a very important subject and I wish to start my deliberation by quoting a Ghanaian Professor who in a conversation with me, said that African elders don't present papers per se in the western sense of the word.

He said because of the range and depth of their experience, combining what have been derived from sources of western education with indigenous knowledge, and what they themselves have witnessed with their own eyes, what they do is to give talks. That is why am not sure whether I am presenting a paper or giving a talk or a combination of all. Whichever it is, please bear with me.

First, I wish to congratulate the organizers of this ceremony on the observance of these auspicious day. And in the same vein thank you the organisers for considering me competent to appear before you, to address and to be listened to on a subject of the commemoration of 2008 African Liberation Day Struggle.

As a living witness with a good memory of events of what transpired at the time of the struggle and able to fall back on my reservoir of knowledge of the occurrences of the time, added to the advantage of having being involved in the formation, launching and promotion of political parties, I feel, and rightly so, that this is a subject I can discuss objectively.

This subject is a very important one which, as far as I know, has never been brought out for discussion in this organised and respectable way. In my view, Pan Africanist and African Historians have been too slow in bringing together people to highlight what knowledge lies in their memories about the work of political leaders and to acknowledge, publicise, popularise, and promote their contributions and accord them the credit and honour they deserve as heroes and valiants who had dangerously ventured and without any feeling of what may happen to them, struggled with colonial powers already established with all the trappings of a government, an administration with an hierarchy ranging from a Governor to a district Commissioner, a police force, an army, a death squad, a secret service and informers all secretly and openly working for a government that owed its loyalty to a King/Queen for whom and in whose name the country was being ruled. This monarch never had a first hand knowledge of the situation on the ground. The only way a subject people were able to make their views heard was by petition through a colonial governor who may support or reject the petition.

Did we as individuals or representatives of institutions ever ask ourselves, how the chain of colonial bondage was shattered? We should all know that something had happened and that thing is a strong force to liberate Africa. It should be acknowledged that some people among the subject people decided to sacrifice themselves for a better life for you and I.

Political leaders at the time were selected carefully considering among the several factors social, ethnic, educational background, and capacity to face the challenge that lay ahead. The challenge was of great risk for the colonial expatriates who would not have had even a menial job in his own country. In Africa he rose to the level of a district commissioner flying the flag of king and queen basked on the glory and the achievement of the enslavement of Africans.

These expatriates considered anybody among the indigenous who attempted to educate, and show light to the people as a dangerous enemy, attempting to cut the ground under their feet. They should be liquidated. And the reactions involved among other things imprisonment, assassination and exile among several unpleasant acts. This is why political leaders at the time faced an unpredictable life whether in or out of his house more so when he was out in the street, he was not sure whether he would go back home on his feet or in a coffin or land in a police cell.

Among the several roles they performed included presiding over political meetings, visiting the lawyer's chambers to appear for them in court for a very trivial thing they called public disorder, libel and other concocted charges. Also in some other times, the politicians are in a doctor's clinic to see that the life of a supporter shot by a colonial service man is saved. In other times the politician is a peacemaker trying to bring peace among quarrelling neighbours and supporters. Another time he is in a press room trying to prepare an editorial for his newspaper. Another times he is acting as the commander-in-chief of his fighting army was presiding over his war council. He was everything to everybody. They also operated as unionists advocating a fair labour law and a living wage for all workers

This trend continued up to the attainment of independence and beyond. It is unfortunate that the masses of the people of this day and age are not aware of the acute nature of the struggle, the hardship, risk, African political leaders went through at the height of the colonial rule. And what is glaringly painful is that many people nowadays enjoying the fruits of the sacrifices of these leaders don't even know how these achievements came about, others do know but choose to depraise the effort of the leaders in an attempt to downplay their contributions. The efforts of these leaders should be proclaimed loud and clear it should be trumpeted that the good life being enjoyed today has not come in a silver platter. 

 African leaders struggled for everything acquired in the face of threats, harassment, imprisonment and even assassinations and that did not make them back down. A case in point is that governor Armitage once told Edward Francis Small that he would break every bone in his body if he fell foul of the law. Despite all those threats and actions against the African leaders, they were able to take their countries to independence and freedom. At the beginning and up to this moment, the count of the independent states of Africa are 53 in number. But the number of territories before independence far exceeded this number. Some leaders were not only satisfied with fighting for the freedom of their own country but they also had their eyes cast on neighbouring countries with a view of annexing them. Example is Ethopia annexed Eriteria, Cameroon annex British mandated territory of Cameroon and this is why Cameroon is a bilingual country. And British Togo on their own volition joined Gold Coast to become Ghana. These 53 present day states vary in size and their geopolitics, determining the nature of politics of each territory. These also determine the level of stakes and the task on the part of the political leaders to produce results for their people. These ended in many unpleasant acts. For the audience to understand the struggle, the nature, the variety and intensity, herewith is presented in four different groups, the ordeal through which African leaders went. The leaders of what I categorise as group one had to take up arms to go to war to liberate their countries.

Group one consists of 10 countries namely Algeria, Kenya, Ethopia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, South West Africa, Angola, Guinea Bissau and Western Sahara. Group two consists of five leaders killed namely (1) Phillip Moumie of Cameroon, (2) Samori Marcel of Mozambique whose predecessor (3) was also killed, (4) Cabral of Guinea Bissau and (5) Patrick Lumumba. Those imprisoned consists of seven leaders and they are (1) Ben Bella of Algeria, (2) Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, (3 )Keneyatta of Kenya, (4) Mandella of South Africa, (5)Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, (6)Dr Hastins Banda of Malawi and (7) Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Other categories of politicians who fought for the total liberation of the whole continent giving their financial resources and diplomatic support consists of seven. These were Kwame Nkrumah, Dr Ndamdi Azikwe, Saikou Toure, Modibo Keita, Colonel Nasa, Dr Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kwanda and President Leopold Sedat Senghor. At this point, I wish to reiterate that the freedom, prosperity and progress enjoyed in all areas of our social lives had been paid for through the blood, sacrifice and the lives of others. May I at this point strike an unpleasant note. All the first generation of African politicians have all except four gone to eternity. These four are; Kenneth Kaunda, Sir Dawda Jawara, Nelson Mandela and Sam Nujoma of Namibia. Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, I call on all to stand up and give a big hand to these surviving politicians. I also call on all to stand in remembrance of the dead veteran politicians who have made life what it is today for Africa but are not with us to enjoy.