Africa Day was a fitting occasion to remember Taju

May 25 was Africa Day. A day to celebrate our political, if not economic independence. Not that we would have known it was Africa Day from any of our mainstream media. Or from our politicians.

Thank god for ordinary Africans —who do still ascribe meaning to the day.

Africans Rising — a new pan-African platform for citizen organising and action – was launched in no less than 40 countries across the continent, including about five events across Kenya.

Linked to Kumi Naidoo, South African anti-apartheid activist and former head of both Civicus and Greenpeace, Africans Rising is a play on the term Africa Rising.

Surviving drought

Africa may be “rising” in terms of economic growth, selling itself as the new emerging market and trying to draw in higher levels of foreign direct investment. But most ordinary Africans are still a long way from rising.

They’re caught up in conflicts not of their making, surviving drought and famine all the way across the Sahel.

And the next generation are fleeing the continent in whatever way they can. Including treks across the Sahara to jump into overloaded and rickety boats to get to places they know don’t want us.

Africans Rising is saying let’s create spaces to talk about this, to think about what to do about this.

Tried and tested

From the demand side — that is us, the citizens. Not the supply side — as all the bureaucratised, institutionalised and politicised ways we’ve now tried and tested since 2002 are so obviously letting us down.

The Coalition of African Lesbians also organised a cleverly subversive continental, online discussion on Africa Day.

They were obviously pointing to the fact that it is not just class and income or livelihood possibilities that drive us.

A car accident

By laying claim to the day, they were asserting that (contrary to retrogressive assumptions), the African queer community is, in fact, African. And they were also laying claim to their right to liberation themselves.

All of which was completely in line with another set of events to commemorate the late (and indeed great) Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, former secretary-general of the Pan-African Movement, who lost his life in a car accident in Kenya on Africa Liberation Day.

This year, the events were held in Nairobi, Abuja and Harare — organised both by the senior African intellectual and progressive organisations and think-tanks and (more interestingly) the younger generation of intellectuals and activists who were inspired by him, even if they hadn’t known him personally.

Heads of state

And his weekly “postcards,” first circulated by himself and then by Pambazuka News. They were for many people their first exposure to his unique take on goings-on and shenanigans all across the continent.

Taju assumed the best of everyone. Even the most hardened heads of state broke out laughing when they caught sight of him, even knowing some sort of admonition was about to follow.

He was a force of nature and they loved him.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

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