Writing is not simple, frankly a difficult task to regularly be able to story tell. Any writer would like to have a concise, complete, up to date and reliable record. In order to get that record they have to do proper research, read and re-read before they get a first draft. They have to take time away from the first draft before looking at the final draft. This results into a finer and well written concise document that will not only challenge minds but educate. In the aspect of the identity of Africa, she has lost hers. In other words, I would like to state that Africa must fight to reclaim her lost identity.
Some are still wondering what has changed in Africa’s identity and what was the identity of the African Continent to begin with? The search for identity has always been a key issue facing us in its striving for significance and meaning. However the African understanding of self is in crisis having been assailed from a number of directions. Nobel Peace Laureate, environmental activist and writer Wangari Maathai opines that if Africa is to build for the future it must first face its past.
Berlin – Congo Conference in 1884-85 found in Part 1 of a Report on the Reconciliation Conference, Africa took a view of the consequences of colonialism. The report concluded that aside from, “a loss of identity,” and “distrust in African national and regional and tribal identities,” along with economic impoverishment there exists a, “lack of love in Africa” along with “wars, genocide, ethnic conflicts.” The report goes on to say that, “Africans tend to remain in a victim role, which is easier than taking responsibility for their own sins and hatred.”
Long before the coming of Europeans to the continent Africans possessed social and political philosophies as valid as those of their European counterparts. These systems revolved around a universal recognition of human worth which formed the spiritual foundation of African societies. The name given to the underlying philosophy is Ubuntu (a Zulu word). It is a unifying vision or worldview inspired by the Zulumaxim, “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is a person through other persons). The word and the inspiration has spread in the past years as to the need to recognize it.
According to Ubuntu, there exists a common bond between all human beings and it is through this bond and through our interaction with our fellow human beings that we discover our own human qualities. South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Tutu describes Ubuntu in this way:
“Africans have this thing called UBUNTU . . . the essence of being human. It is part of the gift that Africans will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, willing to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe a person is a person through another person that my humanity is caught up, bound up and inextricable in yours. When I dehumanize you I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary individual is a contradiction in terms and, therefore, you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own community, in belonging.”
I boldly declare that Africa has lost its identity. The lack and loss of value systems in my country where people are selling sugar laced with hard metals like mercury and copper (we are still left wondering if the claims are factual because the report has never seen the light of day. And if it is a lie, what kind of rumors are pegged on millions to leave them in fear and uncertainty). Additionally, where over 100 billion has been lost in widespread corruption according to the various reports of the government’s chief auditor and many cannot fathom how much that actually is.
In Democratic Republic of Congo, wars have caused stagnation of the country. We no longer depend on ourselves to bring the desired change, but we have set our eyes away from the continent. The crisis in South Sudan due to resources and ethnicity, we have thousands of people displaced and others killed because of political differences. The political instability in the African continent is a result of our lost Ubuntu- the African identity of caring for one another.
If we are to regain our lost identity, it is time we invested in our values. We have to start at the family level to ensure that the lost identity is brought back. It is time to reclaim what is ours. We also need to set our priorities right but this can only be done through the change of the value system.
Written by Bonventure Otieno
Bonventure Otieno is a compassionate, dedicated and organized Lawyer Post Grad (Kenya School of Law) Bachelors of Law (CUEA, LLB 2015).