RALF Newsletter May 2021: Africa Day – Whose Africa?

On 25 May we celebrated Africa Day, previously known as African Freedom day or African Liberation day. Africa Day is the annual celebration of the establishment of the African Union in 1963, then known as the Organisation of African Unity. Around the continent and the diaspora, Africans celebrate the continent’s success in liberating Africans from colonialism and apartheid as well as the progress African people and states have made thus far while “reflecting upon the common challenges that the continent faces in the global environment”. 

This year’s theme was “The Year of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for building the Africa we want”. 

In Sierra Leone, the residents of Black Johnson Beach are in direct opposition to their government in terms of the kind of the community, the kind of country, the kind of continent they want. The Ministry of Fisheries in Sierra Leone is planning to turn more than 100 hectares of Black Johnson beach and forest into a commercial fishing hub, essentially displacing residents and landowners of Black Johnson. The government has stated that the proposed harbour would increase Sierra Leone’s export capacity. Residents and civil society are concerned the harbour will strip the coast of its natural resources and deprive countless fishing communities of their livelihood. 

In March of this year, preceding the attacks and subsequent raiding and shut down of an LGBTI rights group’s offices based in Accra, the Ghanaian Minister-designate of Gender, Children and Social Protection stated that the LGBTI community was unlawful and had no place in a Ghanaian cultural setting. Anti-queer sentiments continued this month as 21 Ghanaians were arrested for unlawful assembly and promoting an LGBTI agenda. “The arrests came after a group of journalists reportedly descended on an event by Rightify Ghana, which was held to provide training for activists and paralegals when supporting LGBTQ+ people.”

Not far from the Continent in location or context is Israeli settler colonialism, illegal occupation, genocide and apartheid against Palestinians. This month the Israel government began forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, a village in Jerusalem, that led to widespread local and international protest against Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid. Known as and portrayed as the Middle-East’s most gay friendly nation, Israel has used its seemingly gay-friendly policies and stance on homosexuality to detract from the gross human rights violations the state of Israel is carrying out in Palestine. “It’s important to understand that racist understandings of sexuality are currently being weaponised to maintain contemporary imperialist and colonial political aims. The best theory which explains this is homo-nationalism. Homo-nationalism explains the way the right to, or quality of sovereignty is now evaluated by the way a state treats its homosexual subjects. For example, the US has positioned itself as a global defender of LGBTQ rights in its capacity as a world superpower despite its shoddy domestic treatment of queer rights. This is similar to the way the US positioned/ still positions itself as a saviour of Muslim women to further its own imperial aims in the Middle East. This is all to say: don’t be fooled by the way western powers claim to care about the rights of oppressed groups while ignoring justice.” The Daily Vox 

As we reflect on 58 years since the establishment of the African Union, 58 years of celebration of African liberation from colonial rule and the struggle against the apartheid regime we have to wonder – whose Africa? Which Africans form part of African art, culture and heritage and which of us are celebrated as such? When Africans celebrate the establishment of the African Union as a symbol of African freedom and liberation, which African people can celebrate that win as their own, and which people can rely on the solidarity of the African Union and indeed African states in their own fight against oppression and neocolonialism and neoliberalism?

At the beginning of 2021 CAL put out a call for submissions for the 5th issue of The African Feminist Standpoint. Titled #ConcerningViolence, the call asked contributors to submit articles, poetry, podcasts and a wide array of work on the mechanics of violence and how, while it is and can be quite overt, it very often hides in plain sight. In lieu of the upcoming issue of the AFS and the recently passed Africa Day, we thought we would begin to share with you how African Feminists are not only quite clearly naming the violence they have witnessed and experienced, but are also very deliberately carving out space for themselves and their ideas and analyses and by extension creating a continent that claims us all.

A glimpse inside  AFS #4

Ubuntu, as a concept of ‘Africanness’, is quite popularly used in liberation and Pan-African discourse. In an article that discusses regional human-rights mechanisms, the author discusses the use of Ubuntu as a strategy in pursuing human rights for LGBTI persons.

In another contribution we explore the nature of motherhood and mothering in capitalist frameworks. Similarly to Pinkwashing and the co-option of human rights discourse by States to hide oppression and violence, this author explores neo-liberal values that purport gender equality and women’s rights in the workplace without addressing the violence of capitalist labour or reproductive labour in the household.

And finally – a poetry submission reminds how deeply our experiences of violence go – and how they ‘hide in plain sight’ – affecting us in ways we see and those we don’t.