Thabo Mbeki: Africa rises, problems persist, intellectuals needed

2014-08-01 08:59

Former president Thabo Mbeki has suggested that African intelligentsia be brought back into crucial processes, as was the case in the 1960s and 70s, to help with the continent’s “pressing strategic” problems.

“I would like to suggest that the African intelligentsia has a critically important role to play. I am suggesting that one of the matters we should discuss ... is what should all of us do to help re-insert today’s African intelligentsia ... into the important processes we have convened to discuss,” said Mbeki at a meeting of African leaders in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania yesterday.

“The older among us will remember the period ... when the African intelligentsia in our universities throughout Africa made critical and cogent interventions to help define Africa’s response to her ... issues.”

Intelligentsia is a group of intellectuals or highly educated people who guide the political, artistic, or social development of their society.

Mbeki said continental policies were not being implemented by some governments, and part of the problem was a failure to manage diverse societies.

Some governments were not even aware of the existence of these policies, which were binding on all member states of the African Union.

Africa had an extensive set of policy positions which covered issues from politics to economy, war and peace, gender equality, justice, children’s rights, education, culture, and international relations.

“I believe that this is very important for us here today because it provides at least a point of entry or even leverage to try to persuade our various countries and regions to implement these continentally-approved policies.”

Mbeki said Africa’s failure to manage its diverse societies had resulted in persistent social instability, civil war and violent conflicts, exclusion and inequality, a lack of cohesion, and an increased “brain drain”.

Africa had various diverse cultures and languages, and success on the continent depended on a common national identity, a shared objective, and proper management of diversity.

“The real challenge we face is seriously and successfully to answer the strategic question – what interventions should be made, and by whom, to ensure that ‘sectional’ identities, while they exist as legitimate identities informing the richness of the nation, do not threaten national cohesion and the development of a shared sense of common nationhood?” he asked.

Processes needed to be put in place to make unity attractive.

“All citizens of the nation state, regardless of their ‘sectional’ identities, should have, and feel that they have, the political possibility to help determine theirs and the destiny of their nation as a whole through inclusive and legitimate processes.”

“All socio-economic development initiatives affecting all elements of human development, especially those initiated, permitted or facilitated by the state, should be organised in such a manner that the resultant material benefits are shared by all citizens across their sectional identities,” said Mbeki.

He said all government activities should be organised and executed in a manner that confirmed the shared common political citizenship.

Africa continued to rise, its problems persisted, and intelligentsia was needed.

“I say this because I know from my own practical experience that in reality we have a significantly large pool of this intelligentsia, a vital repository of the ‘brain power/intellectual resource’ we need, which is deeply concerned exactly to help address Africa’s pressing strategic challenges.”

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