Reflecting on African Liberation Day, a journey of unity, struggle, and empowerment

By Esther Muhozi
On 25 May 2024 at 04:19

Every year on May 25th, African nations and their diaspora pause to reflect and celebrate African Liberation Day, also known as Africa Day. Few hours to reach on this day which is not just a mark on the calendar but a symbol of the arduous journey and enduring spirit of a continent that fought valiantly to reclaim its destiny from colonial rule. As we approach this significant day, it’s imperative to delve into its history, understand its profound significance, and explore what it truly means for Africans around the globe.

The Genesis of African Liberation Day

The roots of African Liberation Day stretch back to April 15, 1958, in Accra, Ghana, where the first Conference of Independent African States was held. Spearheaded by the visionary Pan-Africanist and Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah, this gathering was a pioneering event, uniting leaders of the continent’s free nations to oppose colonialism and improve living standards. It marked the first Pan-African conference held on African soil, involving independent states.

This conference sowed the seeds for the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963, which has since evolved into the African Union (AU). This date was subsequently designated as African Liberation Day, serving as a powerful reminder and celebration of the victories over colonial oppressors and the ongoing quest for socio-economic and political liberation.

The Significance of Liberation Day

African Liberation Day transcends a mere commemorative date; it is a day of introspection and mobilization towards sustainable development and unity. For Africans, it is a day to reflect on the strides made since the yokes of colonialism were cast off. It is also a rallying point for discussing the current challenges that the continent faces—such as political instability, economic volatility, and social inequalities—and the paths to overcoming them.

The significance of this day is also palpable in its celebration of cultural heritage. Across the continent and beyond, African Liberation Day is marked by an array of activities including speeches, parades, music, dance, and the donning of traditional attire. These festivities are not just a display of cultural pride but also an act of defiance against the cultural erasure that was attempted during colonial times.

What Were Africans Liberated From?

The core of African Liberation Day is the remembrance and rejection of colonial oppression and its precursor, the transatlantic slave trade. This brutal period involved the forced removal and enslavement of millions of Africans, primarily by European powers, devastating the continent’s social fabric and economy. The slave trade not only depopulated and destabilized African societies but also laid the groundwork for subsequent colonial exploitation. African Liberation Day, therefore, serves as a day of remembrance for the lives lost and damaged by these atrocious acts and a reaffirmation of the continent’s right to self-determination and dignity.

One of the things the African Continet was liberated from is Slavely

What African Liberation Day Means Today

In today’s globalized world, African Liberation Day holds a dual significance. Firstly, it serves as a reminder of the continent’s shared history of colonization and the collective struggle for freedom. It reinforces the idea that despite the diverse cultures and languages within the continent, there exists a unified African identity forged in the fires of liberation struggles.

This day is a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done. Many African countries are still grappling with the legacies of colonization, from arbitrary borders that divide ethnic groups to economies that were structured to favour colonial powers. The day urges current generations and leaders to renew their commitment to fully liberate Africa from the vestiges of exploitation and underdevelopment.

As a Rwandan journalist, African Liberation Day holds a unique significance. Rwanda’s journey through its post-colonial period, marked notably by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, reflects a profound narrative of resilience and rebirth. This day reminds us of our responsibility to narrate our own stories, to honour our past struggles, and to actively shape our future. It is a day to reflect on how far Rwanda, and Africa at large, has come in terms of self-determination and to strategize on how best to overcome existing challenges.

It is also a day to renew my commitment to use journalism as a tool for education, for inspiring unity, and for advocating continuous liberation in thought and action across Africa. It compels me to highlight not only the victories and celebrations but also the areas where we, as a continent, need to focus our energies to achieve the dreams of our forebears.

As we commemorate this day, it is crucial for each of us, as individuals and as a collective, to ponder over our role in advancing Africa’s agenda. Whether it’s through fostering unity, participating in meaningful dialogues, or supporting African businesses, every action counts. African Liberation Day compels us to remember that the freedom fought for by our ancestors comes with the responsibility to build nations that are not only politically sovereign but also economically self-sufficient and socially inclusive.

African Liberation Day is not just a celebration of the past victories against colonialism; it is a continued call to action. It reminds us of the resilience of the African spirit and underscores the ongoing journey towards a liberated, unified, and prosperous Africa. As we look back on this day, let it reinforce our resolve to work towards an Africa that truly reflects the dreams of its founders—and Africa where the wealth of the continent benefits all its people.