Words matter and have the ability to shape narratives, which we Africans typically undermine. Among African leaders, several duplicity and ambiguity cases have been identified regarding downplaying the connection between national interests and the pan-African approach. There is much confusion surrounding the concept of “United Peoples of Africa” due to the seeming inconsistency between “I am an African” poetry and the derogatory term “foreigner” or “alien.”
In particular, they were unable to accept African citizens as part of a broader African citizenship effort, as stipulated by the African Union’s founding document and subsequent declarations. “We have observed that some African leaders are pan-Africanists in the morning, nationalists in the afternoon, and tribalists at night.”
“An African man cannot be called a foreign national on African soil.”
In an interview with the late President Robert Gabriel Mugabe for CNN in 2009, Christiane Amanpour posed the following questions: I can understand why you evicted white farmers, but I do not comprehend why you did the same to black farm workers. He responded, “We instructed the aliens from Mozambique and Malawi to go home.”
The late President may not have been anti-black per se, but his choice of language was offensive and evocative.
My second encounter came following the 2015 Afrophobic assault on non-South African nationals. The government of South Africa encouraged various stakeholders to find reasonable solutions. During that discussion, I proposed that we stop alienating African nationals because it will harm us in the long run by preventing us from doing business and achieving regional cohesion.
Government authorities agreed with the suggestion not to employ foreign nationals. Nonetheless, this position could not be maintained for long, although I am unable to explain why. As recently as October 8, 2022, Panyaza Lesufi, premier of Gauteng, made an inattentive statement to eradicate non-South African traders from JHB.
Using the same logic, an African who now resides in a different part of Africa cannot be considered part of the “Diaspora.” I don’t see how a person who is born in the West and moves to the Eastern, Northern, or Southern parts of Africa, or vice versa, qualifies as a member of the African Diaspora.
A diaspora is a population that has been dispersed to different places or that has been forced to relocate from its original homeland. Someone who is geographically distant from their own realm or continent is said to be “off the coast.”
What we are today does not accurately reflect who we are, but rather, “we are all Africans,” and the boundary we are claiming is merely a symbol. Today’s borders of African countries were not drawn by Africans but by our colonial overlords.
By referring to our fellow African citizens as “foreign nationals,” we are doing more to promote colonial Balkanization than the colonial masters themselves. African leaders are skilled at significantly enforcing the colonialists’ blueprints by isolating those who live beyond colonial borders through derogatory terms.
When I say “Africanity” or “African citizenship and identity,” what exactly do I mean?
The first position of Africanity is established within the context of a particular political objective that necessitates a defined understanding of Africanity based on specific characteristics. It comprises the psychological values, practices, ways of thinking and traditions that make up African culture.
Some people might assume that we can use a singular word. When we talk about Africa, we refer to its people, communities, and institutions. In my opinion, the terms “Africa” and “African” refer to more than just a landmass.
Africa has become omnipresent throughout recent ages. What makes “Africa” and “African” possible and valuable? Why do we call this group of people “Africans”? This subject is complicated by the fact that describing something produces its image and likeness.
Although Kwame Nkrumah, a vocal proponent of pan-African political unity, acknowledged the diversity of Africa’s people as a limitation of any such definition, the continent is home to a wide range of ethnic groups, languages, and religious groups. While some of us are trilingual in French, English, and Portuguese, millions more speak any one of the hundreds of languages spoken in Africa.
African culture shapes our perspectives and maturity as political beings.
“African nations must prohibit discrimination against African citizens”!
In the domains of culture, citizenship, and the creation of identities, transnational themes are entwined with pan-Africanism and regionalism. These topics continue to interact from a political and economic standpoint.
Pan-Africanism and regionalism have emerged as political ideologies in a response to the continent’s disintegration, marginalization, and subjugation at the hands of outside power. The idea stokes the flames of African identity and citizenship, which in turn causes the independent nation-states of Africa to give way to a more unified African state.
African versions of Black Nationalism are developing into violent forms of intolerance geared against black-on-black racism, as predicted by Frantz Fanon, a French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher. This new kind of Black Nationalism is an ethno-racial project with the goal of breaking away from Africa and the people who have been forced to flee there. It has created two enemies: one fears and envies, and another despises and resents.
African unification can only be achieved by recovering our rights and implementing the correct policies to suit the objectives of African citizens. The people and the states of Africa need to address the critical question of where and when they might begin laying the framework for continental citizenship.
How can Africans achieve these grand aspirations without comprehensive immigration and citizenship policies at the national and continental levels? In light of this, there is no nation in contemporary Africa that is more desirable than the others.
Stop spreading false and emotional messages that victimize our African sisters and brothers
In the course of history, there will eventually come a day when no African or anyone of African origin will ever be made to feel ashamed. We might be able to see it when no African person is compelled to relocate, putting their lives in danger while attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the deserts of Libya.
One day, Africans may not wish to live on European or American soil, where they will either be unwelcomed or victimized, with their faces buried in shame and embarrassment. These Africans yearn for precisely the setting you have here.
Lastly, it is essential to remind the African Union Commission (AUC), the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), and the AU Executive Council to relay this grave concern to the AU Head of State in order to reach a unified understanding and resolution. African nations must change their terminology and stop referring to Africans residing on their soil as “foreign nationals.”
The media, academic community, and civil society should refrain from referring to African nationals as foreign nationals. Instead, Africans who reside in different African nations should be referred to as “non-citizen African nationals” until continental citizenship becomes feasible. Hence, a foreign national is a person who is born and resides outside of Africa’s landmass and shores.
Seife Tadelle Kidane (PhD) is a senior research fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Institute of Pan African Thought and Conversation (IPATC).