Justus Mbae: “Africa and the Crisis of Identity”

Al termine del secondo training course di “Together for a New Africa”, svolto presso la Mariapolis Piero a Nairobi, Kenya (28 dicembre 2019 – 5 gennaio 2020), riceviamo testi e immagini che documentano il programma su “Identity and Leadership for Unity”, con 100 studenti universitari e giovani professionisti provenienti da 7 nazioni dell’Africa dell’Est, R.D. Congo, Madagascar ed altre nazioni, accanto ai tutors dei gruppi nazionali, ai docenti di Sophia e di alcune università della regione. Per dare un saggio dei lavori, riportiamo la parte finale dell’intervento in inglese del prof. Justus G. Mbae, pedagogista, già Gran Cancelliere della Catholic University of East Africa/CUEA.



What does it mean to think about us as a people? What does it take to be an African and how does one become an African? These are not easy questions to answer. Over time, Africa has been different things to different people. Every new web of interest brings with it a new face of Africa — a new identity of what Africa is. Africa has variously been described as the birthplace of first humans, Site of the pyramids, Fabled land of Ophir and a long lost white kingdom, the land of slaves, the Wilderness and, The dark continent.

Who may be defined as an African? (…) Africa has been the object of theft after theft. The colonizers stole not only our history, our resources, our traditions but also our identity.

(…) In the process of asserting themselves, Africans are also realizing that the destiny of Africa lies in the unity of the continent. This is what Kwame Nkrumah and the early advocates of Pan Africanism understood many years ago. A community that has shared interests and values has a common identity and a common destiny. That destiny is best realized in unity. Unfortunately, there is little that shows that Africans and African countries are trying to understand and appreciate one another. If the destiny of the nations of African continent is intertwined, there is not much to show for it. Instances of ethnic cleansing attest to the fact that we have not really come to terms with who we are as Africans. Indeed, the Rwanda genocide, the continuing conflict in Dafur, the post-elections violence in Kenya in 2007, the situation in Sudan today, the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and the many other conflicts in the Central African Republic and the DRC Congo are all clear indications of the existence of identity crisis on our continent. Africa has either lost, or never had a clear sense of collective destiny.

Part of the reason why Africans have difficulties defining their identity is that they have lost their cultural roots. The traditional Africans were guided by the practical philosophy of ubuntu with its emphasis on the importance of the society and our responsibility towards realizing the common good. Because they fully embraced this foundational philosophy, traditional Africans knew exactly who they were, their place in society, and the values and  norms of their society. Today, most people have either forsaken this philosophy or they have embraced other ideologies and philosophies which are incompatible with ubuntu. The Kiswahili saying “mkosa mila ni mtumwa” (he who has no culture is a slave”) could not be truer. As long as Africans ignore or despise their true culture as expressed in ubuntu, so long will they continue to be undefined peoples with no culture, no identity and no roots.

(…) By now it should be clear that we are addressing identity in a very broad sense and in an even broader context. To be an African is not to exist in special world curved out for African people. It is not to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. On the contrary, ubuntu, if well construed, does not end with the familiar circle of relatives and friends. It widens its horizon to include not only those that we know or are familiar with but also opens outwards to include all humanity. Ubuntu logically points to the reality of universal brotherhood of man. An African, like all other people, is first and foremost a human being. To be an African is to belong to a human family, to a clan, to a tribe, to a community or society that identifies itself as African. But it does not end there. To be an African is to be a citizen of a country, of a continent, of the world. Ultimately, therefore, the African is a citizen of the world, sharing that identity with all other human beings.  However, the world does not, and must not demand that the African should drop his identity and adopt a new one so as to be fit for global citizenship. The global village, just like ubuntu, must not swallow our African identity but rather recognize and respect it for what it is. If the African, however, comes to the global table without a clear identity, without an idea of who he is, what values he holds, and what he stands for, he will only have himself to blame if others continue to treat him as a non-entity or some kind of misfit.

(…) To understand ourselves is to know who we are, to establish our identity. If for no other reason, Africans need to know themselves so that they can better understand and better appreciate their fellow Africans as well as other people in the world. As they do so, they will also earn themselves recognition and more respect from others as they demolish those stereotypes that have for so long dominated and misrepresented them. To do this, we must be prepared to unapologetically redefine who we are, and to write a new history that shows where we are coming from, where we are and what where we are headed.

Communication Team – T4NA

Articoli correlati