Algeria’s contribution to Africa’s liberation

Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

“It is the Algerian army which transformed me into the highest level of human specie - a freedom fighter…” -Madiba Nelson Mandela, paying tribute to Algeria.

YESTERDAY, we marked the 53rd anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution. That Revolution, in a sense, resembles the struggle of the people of South Africa against apartheid, which, in a wider sense resembles what was in place in Zanzibar where a minority governed, suppressing the majority.

Now when we talk of the Zanzibar Revolution, reminiscences come to mind of the total liberation of Africa. There is one country in Africa which played a subtle but effective role that brought to an end both colonialism and minority rule in Africa.

This is Algeria. Few people know this and if they know, it is via a book by Nelson Mandela himself: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM. In his book, one sees Mandela leaving his country, South Africa to Algeria, via Tanzania in early sixties. It was in Algeria where Mandela was trained as a soldier.

Following is what I read somewhere: “During his lifetime, Mandela always maintained an intense and privileged relationship with Algeria. This special link was born in the early 1960s and stayed strong until his death in December 2013.

“Convinced that there was no other choice but to fight against apartheid at a time its viciousness was escalating in his country, Mandela chose to flee his country to go and learn guerrilla warfare somewhere to prepare himself for the struggle ahead. The country that came immediately to his mind was Algeria, qualified those days by the father of the independence of Guinea Bissau, Amilcar Cabral as the “Mecca of Revolutionaries.”

“It was in Algeria that Mandela, come March 1962, received his initial military training from the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). He trained at FLN bases along the border with Morocco. “In his book, Long Walk to Freedom Mandela says he was very much inspired by the Algerian Revolution.

In 1990, visiting Algeria after 27 years in prison, Mandela declared: “It is the Algerian army which transformed me into a combatant, a real man,” going ahead to praise Algeria for standing up for the values of freedom and liberation movements allover the world.”

Indeed, it is in this context that we should view Algeria today in its contribution to African liberation, remembering its leaders, such as former Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the seventies, now President of his country, who stood up at the UN to demand the expulsion of apartheid South Africa from UN councils.

Consistent to its honorable past, Algeria the other day – in November last year to be precise - held an international seminar to reflect on its contribution to the liberation of Africa. Most importantly, that seminar was organized to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the launch of the Algerian Revolution of 1st November 1954. A number of historic African figures attended the seminar, which included journalists not only from Africa but from Europe as well. What is instructive to Tanzania, being a country, which was the seat of the Liberation Committee of the Organization of African Union (OAU), were resolutions calling for erection of signals identifying places where freedom fighters from elsewhere in Africa stayed or trained.

In the case of Tanzania, and right in Dar es Salaam buildings exist of former office premises of liberation movements, which were in the forefront to fight for the independence such as FRELIMO of Mozambique and ANC South Africa for instance.

But one sees no signposts on top of buildings along the street, which formerly housed offices of these liberation movements as mentioned above. Not only that, this country had welcomed and offered military training to cadres of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and others from Africa at Mazimbu in Morogoro, for instance, which former freedom fighters who trained at that spot in this country remember only too well. Are there signposts in place to identify these places for the interest of future generations?

I am sure, not yet! Now the seminar in Algiers has come up with related resolutions supreme of which is the call to African countries and elsewhere in the Third World to intensify support for the cause of the Sahrawi people for independence and self-determination in accordance with resolutions of the United Nations and the African Union.

Here we have a strange form of colonialism – of one African country colonising another – unlike in the past where colonialists came from metropolitan powers in Europe.

Africans need, not only to contemptuously laugh off this form of colonialism, but close ranks to end it. Now identical to the other point I raised elsewhere in this perspective, the Algiers seminar resolved to create databases on the erstwhile national liberation movements in Africa and put up memory archives.

Other resolutions passed among others included the establishment of a centre of studies and research on the national liberation movements in Africa, the creation of a fund to support the African scientific research and artistic creativity.

Clearly, the seminar on the reflection of the liberation of Africa part of which resolutions I have indicated above is most commendable for the simple reason that with time fast speeding by, there is a real danger for the upcoming generations in Africa and the Third World not to be aware of their past.

Men such as Algerian President Bouteflika who, in a greater sense, doubles as a freedom fighter in his own right given his earlier role, deserve commendation from the rest of Africa for initiating such a seminar whose resolutions we have just sampled.

Although nobody hears about neo-colonialism and imperialism these days, that does not mean that their presence in Africa and the Third World have disappeared.

It is time African leaders had a second thought and renewed the fight against these enemies; neocolonialism and imperialism, which are actually more fatal than colonialism per se.

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