FROM THE BORDERLANDS:Africa unity or unity of Africansby B.F. BankieHaiti provides a classic study in the use of race as a social determinant in the 1600s. The large plantations were owned by ‘grand blancs’ - that is by Whites. Below them were the ‘petit blancs’ – those were White clerks and artisans. Then came the mulattos/coloureds, some of whom were better-off that the ‘petit blancs’, but they had no political rights. Further down the social scale were the Black former slaves, now freed Blacks and at the bottom were the Black slaves, who had no rights and were graded according to house slaves and field slaves.In the United States of America, the colour of skin determined social status in the period between the emancipation /freedom of the slaves and the acquisition of social rights by Black people. This was the social practice in a society which called itself a democracy. The issue of skin colour was not officially recognized in the North of the US, but in the South there was segregation, with ‘Whites only’ facilities, as found in Apartheid South Africa. In the North, prestige work situations, such as tourism, the banks etc were the preserve of whites of mulattos/coloureds. This subtle interplay between race and class was manipulated and orchestrated, to provide tension and pressure, to keep Blacks down.In all societies found at the borderlands, where races contact, there are these type of manifestations, as seen in Sudan, especially in the middle belt, in the area around Khartoum. Here there is the additional component of religion, with fierce turf wars for the islamisation and more significantly the Arabisation of the area of contact, which, as seen in Darfur, takes the form of armed confrontation, in the attempt to assert ethic hegemony in what are purported to be tribal conflicts.Whereas in North America, these issues or race were resolved by muscled and bitter struggles for constitutional civil rights, in the quest for a rights based society, in which civil society finds its ultimate refuge in the courts of law, other countries resolve social issues through the barrel of the gun.There can never be enough analysis as to the effects of slavery on the African psyche. All Africa societies which have been the victims of slavery are living in some state of trauma, as a consequence. No other peoples, than the Africans, have undergone such large scale commercial exploitation and no group has commodified Africans on the time scale and numerically as the Arabs. This is a fact which is indelibly enscribed in history. The enlavement of Africans was/is rightly called a psychological catastrophy, requiring reparations, as was resolved at the UN World Conference/NGO Forum on Racism, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001.The duration of Western slavery in Africa was a few hundred years duration, but its trauma continues to manifest in African communities in places like Central and South America. These communities are always marginalized in places such as Preu, Costa Rica and Chile. The Blacks have few economic , social or political rights. Africa, in its African Union has not played the sort of Motherland role, for the development of its Diaspora. As explained earlier, this is due to Arabia’s determination to ensure that Africans in Africa and its Diaspora, be forever severed in their relationship. The metamorphosis of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU) was supposed to make the African Nation whole, but this was not attained. The categorization of the Diaspora as the Sixth Region is meaningless, if that region is not integrated into the Mother body. Consequently Africans disbursed through Western slavery have not received the recognition, support and integration into the Pan-African body they had the right to expect, as has happened in other parts of the world where, for instance, overseas Chinese are represented in the deliberations in the Assemblies in the Great Hallof the Peoples in Beijing, China.Arabia was never part of the Pan-African experience. If anything it was part of the demise of the African, looked from the perspective of the total history of the interaction. It came late to the concept, at the invitation of Nkrumah’s generation, largely out of a misconceived view of solidarity, due to the denial of race as a key component with class, in social analysis. Having been allowed in, it proceeded to exclude those who had elaborated the Pan-African ideal in the first place. In the end, it sort to creat the organization in its own image and to its own interests, as a United States of Africa, which it would lead and Africans would follow.In places such as Sudan, where slavery remains in practice, the rupture and trauma of slavery lasted over a thousand years. The consequential effects are therefore going to be much deeper and enduring. In West Africa we can talk of a sudden decline in status from a free person to a slave remaining in the collective memory, handed down by one generation to the next. There was the removal from a familiar terrain to a foreign country by ship, in conditions which defy description. On arrival, first in the Caribbean, there was onward shipment to the Americas and the slave markets. The slave masters deliberately broke up families and ethnic groups, to create psychological disorientation, in order to break the will. A similar type of social dislocation is currently underway in Darfur, where the African groups are dispossed of their lands, with the calculated use of rape as a weapon as a means to creat a new breed of mulattoes/coloureds, to occupy the lands formerly settled by Black Africans. The consequences of such forced social engineering is to be felt for generations. Like enslavement techniques, such terror tactics are calculated to cause maximum immediate disorientation.The social devastation and disruption caused by slavery, forced Arabisation and such practices, require deliberate social healing, found in situations of post-traumatic distress disorder. This therapy has been elevated into a science in the USA and could be usefully deployed in situations such as those in the marginalized areas of Sudan and the Afro-Arab borderlands in general.The Spaniards and Portuguese adopted the strategy of deliberately preserving tribal differences – that is that the slaves were kept together in their ethnic groups, making it more difficult for them to learn the prevailing European language. So there were many small groups of slaves separated from one another by linguistic differences, who could only conspire in small numbers and within a limited locality.The British and Americans preferred the strategy of leveling and assimilation, whereby there was an attempt to level and stamp out all ethnic differences, so that the members of an ethnic group were, to all intents and purposes, isolated from one another, their memories of Africa being blotted out and their cultural identity denied.In Latin America it was impossible to prevent the slaves from learning Spanish or Portuguese, as well as African languages. Groups such as the Hausa and Yoruba were able to consolidate their presence in places like Brazil, developing their own religious and political movements. These groups came from Nigeria and were later able to organize their return to Nigeria in large numbers. They settled in Sierra Leone and Yorubaland in Nigeria, bringing with them a Pan-African world outlook.In the Spanish and Portuguese systems, it was relatively easy for a slave to obtain freedom by hard work or purchase, after which some chose to return to Africa.
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