African Leaders at the UN Speak for Imperialism, Not Our Continent, Says Activist
Analysts and activists Ajamu Baraka and Andile Mngxitama discuss subversion of African attempts for liberation at the United Nations
JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.
As representatives of the world gather this week at the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations much of the focus is, as usual, on the same big players and their big plans for the world. But what of Africa and African nations, and their role to the UN or relationship to it? To discuss at least some of this we have with us today Ajamu Baraka joining us from Colombia, South America, and brother Andile joining us from South Africa. Ajamu is a human rights activist and geopolitical analyst. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. Brother Andile is formerly of the Economic Freedom Fighters and now governor of Black First Land First, a black consciousness and pan-Africanist movement.
Welcome to the both of you, back to the Real News Network.
AJAMU BARAKA: My pleasure.
ANDILE MNGXITAMA: Thanks, my brother.
BALL: So brother Andile, let’s start with you. But of course, this question goes to the both of you. So far we’ve heard from several African heads of state, most notably perhaps Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. Each in his own way made reference to the collective nature of the continental African relationship to the UN, each praising that institution for its role in peacekeeping or assisting the collective advance of the international community. And while there is often a sense of theatre at these gatherings I do want to start by asking you both to consider for a moment the general accuracy of those claims. In other words, how would each of you describe the role played historically by the UN throughout the continent, and then particularly with any of these three nations mentioned os far. Brother Andile, I’ll start with you and get your response to that question and anything that you heard from Zuma’s comments.
MNGXITAMA: Yes, thanks, Jared. The relationship of the African continent and the UN is one which is unfortunate, which is punctuated by generally being betrayed. The UN, in fact, in many numerous times has been part of counterrevolutionary activities, subversion of the African attempts for liberation. We must remember, for instance, Patrice Lumumba of the DRC was assassinated with direct assistance of the United Nations [systems]. It continues up to today. They bring in their soldiers generally to take sides with some of the conflicts which are created, of course, by imperialism which goes back to the UN system, that go back to Brussels and Washington, DC. So the current leaders of the African continent generally are people we see as neocolonialists. They operate as clients of the imperialist project, and the UN is part of that system. In fact, the South African president speaks about what happened in Libya with Muammar Gaddafi being attacked and so on. But South Africa was part of, at the time, the rotation system of the UN Security Council, and South Africa voted with the Americans and the Europeans to justify or to give support to the attack of Libya.
So the part of our leaders in the African continent generally today as we speak, they are clients of imperialism. And therefore they’re going to speak well of the UN. They’re not going to emphasize the need for African systems of self defense, good governance, and anti-imperialism. And this is what is missing in the continent, and that’s why the wars are continuing. The plundering of the African continent is continuing. And I’d also like your viewers to remember as we speak the UN in Haiti, which–Haiti, a nation which we see as part of the African nation, see what is happening there. Bringing in cholera, harassing people. Making sure that the deal, the will of the people is subverted.
So we don’t have a good relationship historically and contemporately with the United Nations system. So our, our leaders, our presidents from the African continent do not speak for our people. They speak for imperialism.
BALL: Ajamu, let me ask you that same broad question to get us started here.
BARAKA: I think that the brother laid out the contradictory history of the United Nations. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that when the UN was structured that this was a structure that was put in place by the victorious powers coming out of the second world war. The power was basically divided up between the Soviet Union and the U.S., with the U.S. bringing in some of its allies as, as support. So you had a structure put in place that represented the, in some ways the hegemony of Western powers. And that was reflected, for example, in the Security Council and the ability of the Security Council to engage in controlling the activities of the UN.
But you know, it’s important for us to be reminded, also, that when we look at the UN process we shouldn’t just look at it from the lenses of states. And that’s why I say it’s a contradictory process, and experience. For example, for African-American people, the radical movement, we saw the construction of the UN as a positive. That is, we saw the possibility of an international forum that would allow for us to raise the contradictions of the continuation of racial oppression within the U.S., and to also raise the issue of the ongoing colonial status of African people around the world. And that’s, in fact, what we did.
Now, we know that in the end that the, again, the UN played contradictory roles in that process. But we saw that structure as a structure in which certain ideals could be contested. And that’s what we did. Remember, that was one of the councils that brother Malcolm X suggested, that we need to raise to the level of the international question the issue of racial oppression and colonialism at the UN and within UN structures.
BALL: So when we hear from, for instance, Robert Mugabe calling for or requesting perhaps that the UN, the industrialized nations in the UN, live up to their promise to offer I think it was 0.7 percent of their GDP to development around the world, is this something that he can or anyone throughout Africa or elsewhere could expect to actually take place? It sounds like you both are skeptical at that–that that could actually occur, or would be designed to actually help develop in a progressive or positive way any African country. Andile, let me get your quick response to that, and then we’ll come back to you, Ajamu.
MNGXITAMA: I think it’s an illusionary thinking process that somehow our leaders still believe that imperialism can serve any good purpose. What we need is reparations. To demand that the UN system, Europe and U.S., actually pays reparations to Africa. Not accept this 7 percent or 1.7 percent, whatever percent that they will give us. This–if you look at the amount of wealth which is stolen every single year from the African continent to Europe and the U.S. is staggering. What we need is to stop that, because Africa is not poor because we do not have national resources, we don’t have wealth here. We do. The problem we have is that it has been taken away. And our leaders are not protecting the worth of the African people. They are not protecting our sovereignty.
So to even go to the UN and ask for these kind of crumbs from the table of imperialism shows the distance of our leaders from the people of our continent, who want freedom and true independence from the oppression that we have suffered [thus far]. So what we need, really, is a new multilateral system, a new globalization if you like, which would center the interests of the people and cannot be run by the current states who are anti-people, and particularly are driven by white supremacy.
BALL: You know, Andile, I know we don’t really have the time to get into this, but I can’t help but bring it up in light of what you just said. I mean, I–I got chills a little bit when I saw Zuma make mention of the 50th, I think the 50th anniversary or the 50 years since the Freedom Charter was signed in South Africa. And all that is misunderstood about what that charter was meant to be and what it has been since it was “implemented”. Is there anything you could just quickly say in reference to that, in light of the comments you just made?
MNGXITAMA: The Freedom Charter is a sellout charter, by the way. It’s a document written by white liberals who told our people in 1955 that South Africa belonged to all who live in it, both black and white. And the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela and Zuma, accepted that proposition. That is why 20 years after democracy or so-called freedom in South Africa, black people, the black majority remains landless in their own country, because the Freedom Charter sold us out. I mean, it again shows that whole slave mentality which drives our leaders, that they would accept a document written by settler colonialists who say South Africa belong to all who live in it, black and white, when we’re colonized internally by these people.
So the Freedom Charter is a document that should not be mentioned by any people who desire true, real freedom for black people.
BALL: You know–and Ajamu, I know we’re discussing the African continent specifically, we know that the role of Cuba in African liberation struggles has been strong and consistent. I know you were also watching the comments made by Raul Castro and the fact that he made mention this week of there still being a need to challenge the colonial origins of the United Nations. What do you think that this means going forward?
BARAKA: I think what it means is basically that the UN, if it’s going to be relevant, it has to be transformed fundamentally. That it can no longer represent the perspectives and the interests of the Western powers and Western imperialism. Raul spoke very clearly that the UN has been complicit in perpetuating the dominance of Western imperialism. And that if states and people are serious about fashioning a new future we have to be serious about critiquing and transcending the current constraints of the international order as is presently organized.
So Raul was the only one that talked about the ongoing need to address the issue of African-descendent people. He talked about the need for transforming the UN. He called for the independence of Puerto Rico, which we know has a large population of African-descendent people. So what it means is if the UN’s going to be relevant for African people that we have to understand that not only do we have to transform those structures, but that we have to recognize that the struggle for authentic decolonization continues. And it can’t be constrained by the legalism and the state-centric processes of the current UN configuration.
BALL: Ajamu Baraka and brother Andile, I want to thank you very much for this all too brief conversation about the relationship of the United Nations to the African world. And brother Andile, man, let me–I don’t want my Anglicized tongue to carry the day, here. We’ve got to have you at least speak that beautiful Xhosa language and properly pronounce your name for me before we get out of here. And again, thank you for joining us.
MNGXITAMA: Thank you. Andile Mngxitama.
BALL: [From the] [Speaking Xhosa], as we say.
BALL: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. All right. Well, thank you both very much for joining us here at the Real News Network.
BARAKA: Thank you.
BALL: And thank you for joining us here as well at the Real News. And for all involved, again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore saying as always, as Fred Hampton used to say, that to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.
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