The beginnings of Pan-Africanism

W.E.B Du Bois

At the beginning of the 20th century, while all Africa, with the exception of Ethiopia, which defeated under Menelik II the Italian invader and Liberia, founded by the Afrodescendants, was under the total yoke of colonization, blacks in the diaspora slowly awaken to an asserted African conscience. The process of destruction of the once rich Black Africa began 400 years earlier by Europe reached its peak with land use.

It is an Africa decimated by 400 to 600 million human losses during the European and Arab treatises that suffers the domination of white English, French, Portuguese, German, Belgian, Dutch and Spanish settlers, establishing everywhere a system of apartheid and segregation, enslaved blacks at home and looting the continent to satiety. to enrich Europe without raw materials. Among the most abominable crimes, the 10,000,000 deaths in Congo committed by Belgian King Leopold II in 20 years, remains the most atrocious event of this period. In the Americas, many Blacks are beginning to hope for the equality they have been fighting for since then, and African pride is gradually rising.

The intellectual return to Africa is intensifying. Thus, an African-Trinidadian lawyer, Henri Sylvester Williams (1861-1911), founded the African Association in London, whose purpose is to unite Africans natives of the continent and those of the diaspora. It is the first international conference against racism and colonialism. The word Panafrican was born in London in 1900. Henri Sylvester Williams is the founder of Panafricanism. Among the 30 delegates a majority of Caribbean and Blacks living in England. A few Africans and African-Americans are also present. Among these, William Edward Du Bois (1868-1963), a gifted academic, became the leader of the movement. The conference that reviews the state of Africa and its diaspora gives birth to a committee headed by W.E.B Du Bois, which calls for moderate reforms of colonial policy. The document implores colonialist nations to “recognize and protect the rights of Africans and descendants of Africans.” It will have no impact.

It is only at the end of the First World War that pan-Africanism will again give voice.

W.E.B Du Bois, on the sidelines of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which seals the redistribution of German colonies to the English and French victors, asks US President Wilson to include the possibility of self-determination for Africans. If Wilson hears Du Bois's message and produces a 14-point memorandum to that effect, this again has virtually no impact on Africa.

In 1919, Du Bois and Senegalese deputy to the French assembly Blaise Diagne organized the Pan-African Conference in Paris, which brought together 60 delegates. Here still few natives of the continent are present. The conference ended on a new resolution calling on settlers to relax their treatment of Africans, particularly in the Congo. The settlers will once again be deaf. This moderate and waiting attitude of Du Bois and Pan-Africanism is swept away by a phenomenon, a hurricane from Jamaica: Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). Radical, he's not looking for compromise. Garvey and his UNIA (United Negro Improvement Association) movement want to bring Africans from the diaspora back to Africa and is able to found the most powerful organization in black history. Based in the USA, UNIA has an astronomical figure of 6 million members. With a very advanced historical awareness, Garvey economically emanates blacks by communitarianism. For him, there is no need to fight in America, the promised land is in Africa, and we must fight to recover it. The clash between Marcus Garvey and W.E.B Du Bois is very violent. Du Bois believes that Blacks in the Americas must continue to fight to live there, will contribute to Garvey's fall, orchestrated by white imperialism. Pan-Africanism was growing, however, and in New York in 1927 208 delegates were gathered.

From the Daily Abidjan