The Black Power Pan-Africanist Perspective

Collective Security

By Chinweizu

It is absolutely amazing, quite tragic and a great sin of omission, that collective security has not explicitly been the paramount objective of Pan-Africanism since 1958. For a people all of whose woes for the past 2500 years (since the fall of the Black Egypt of the Pharaohs to White Persians in 525 BC) have resulted from their inability to secure their borders and protect their lands, populations, societies, cultures, values etc., achieving collective security should have been, and still should be, the paramount concern. Other than Nkrumah's repeated demand for an African High Command; and Azikiwe's mention, in 1962, of the need for some arrangements for collective security; and Haile Selassie's mention of that need in his 1963 address at the inauguration of the OAU, I have found in the records no other treatment that has a bearing on the issue. Nkrumah, Azikiwe and Selassie did indeed raise the issue of collective security; however, they did so in an a-historical form, the wrong form.

The "Never Again" question

 Consider a man who has just escaped, half mauled, from the den of a pack of hungry lions. If he is wise, his first order of business is to vow "Never again!" and ask how he strayed there in the first place, and then to take steps never again to make that mistake. If he does not do this, if he fails to learn from his harrowing experience, he is stupid and deserves to become the dinner for the next lion that comes his way. By failing to ask and answer that "never again" question, Black Africa's "independence" generation let Black Africa down and led us astray.

 Unfortunately, since the "independence" generation did not have the ancestral sankofa orientation, the question of collective security was not posed in the correct historical form that would have allowed our past experience to point to an answer for the future.

The African High Command that Nkrumah urged did not go far enough in addressing the fundamental problem. It was limited to "an African High Command which could resist . . . acts which threaten the territorial integrity and sovereignty of African States." [Revolutionary Path, p.345]; it would "plan revolutionary war, and initiate action" so that Africa will be liberated soon. [Revolutionary Path, p.482] It was not a doctrine that posed or answered the comprehensive historical question of how we fell into a history of enslavement, conquest and colonialism in the first place, and how we could ensure that we never again did so.

Unity for security and survival

Since 1958, Pan-Africanism has made African Unity its prime project. Now, the usual motive for the voluntary unification of states is security and survival. However Pan Africanism has strangely been obtuse on the matter of security and survival for its constituency. I do not find Nkrumah, Padmore, Diop, Azikiwe and the other advocates of continental unification anywhere articulating [and I stand to be corrected] the argument that the paramount objective of continental unification is the survival and security of Africans. If they did, and thought the matter through, and had bothered to educate themselves on the nature of Afro-Arab historical relations of the last two millennia, they would be simply suicidal or insane to have proposed a unification of Arabs and Africans under one continental state. Not even Nkrumah, for whom unification seems like a panacea, [note his long catalogue of benefits that he said it would yield], saw fit to include security and survival, whether explicitly or implicitly, among his reasons for advocating continental unification. In light of the articulated and demonstrated Arab ambitions in Africa for the last 1,500 years, any unification of Black Africans with the Arab settler colonialists in Africa would be as suicidal for Black Africans as a unification between mice and cats would be for mice.

Our endangered situation

Consider this true story from Sudan:

"The dispute over oil," Victoria Ajang begins, "first became an issue of life and death for me in 1983. That year the government began its program to pipe oil from our land in the south up to the north. Students in my town were quite upset about our resources being diverted by the government, and so they held a protest march outside the local school. But the government would not tolerate this.

"On a summer night, the government militia forces suddenly swooped in on our village. We were at home relaxing, in the evening, when men on horses with machine guns stormed through, shooting everyone. I saw friends fall dead in front of me. While my husband carried out our little daughter Eva, I ran with the few possessions I could grab. "All around us, we saw children being [hit] in the stomach, in the leg, between the eyes. Against the dark sky, we saw flames from the houses the soldiers had set on fire. The cries of the people forced inside filled our ears as they burned to death. Our people were being turned to ash."

Victoria Ajang's story of what happened to her village, illustrates what dangers they expose themselves to who do not take measures to ensure their security. They will be relaxing and entertaining themselves when their enemies make a surprise attack and destroy them. That is the situation Black Africans have allowed themselves to be in for 2500 years and have foolishly refused to take measures to prevent.

An unasked question

Two vital questions should have been asked and answered in 1958 by the All-African People's Conference, namely: (a) "How do we set the rest of Black Africa free from colonialism?". (This, thankfully, was indeed asked and answered) and (b)"How do we ensure that we shall never again be enslaved, conquered and colonized by anybody?" (This, alas, went unasked and remains unasked and unanswered till this day). Rather than take up the second task, we were diverted into other things. In Nkrumah's own words:

"Long before 1957, I made it clear that the two major tasks to be undertaken after the ending of colonial rule in Ghana would be the vigorous prosecution of a Pan-African policy to advance the African Revolution, and at the same time the adoption of measures to construct socialism in Ghana." –[Path, p.125]

In their desire to establish a new social order - apparently without bothering about how it would protect itself from our enemies-- Nkrumah set about building "scientific socialism" in Ghana; Nyerere set about building African socialism (Ujamaa) in Tanzania; Kaunda set about building African Humanism in Zambia; Houphouet Boigny set about building captalism in Cote d'Ivoire; and others set about building other systems in the other countries, but nobody saw fit to ask the paramount question of African collective security, namely "How do we ensure that we shall never again be enslaved, conquered and colonized by anybody?" This question should have informed whatever new social order they set out to build, but did not. What is the result today?


Consequences of lack of historical focus on Collective Security

Several very costly errors have flowed from this our lack of proper [sankofa] attention to our collective security.

A] Our quest for African unity has been misguided in three respects:

A1] We have sought to unite a territory –the entire African continent--that is far too large for our security needs.

A2] By not finding out who our historic enemies are, we have included our Arab enemies among those we seek to unite with;

A3] By not understanding our security requirements, we failed to seriously undertake industrialization.

B] Even if we still recognize that they were our historic enemies during the centuries of the slave trade and colonialism, we have failed to realize that Europeans did not stop being our enemies with the ending of political colonialism [1957-1994]. In our amnesia and foolishness, we have treated our historic White European enemies as our best friends, as our mentors in development and now as our so-called ‘development partners'; and we have treated our historic Arab enemies as our African brothers and allies, and thereby left ourselves totally unprepared for their enemy attacks, for example:

B1] The AIDSbombing of Black Africa by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the USA took us totally unawares;

B2] For 50 years we have allowed the European imperialist institutions - the UN, and especially its IMF-WB-GATT/WTO troika, and our European "ex-colonizers" to tutor and guide us into maldevelopment and chronic poverty.

B3] For 50 years we have failed to recognize and collectively resist Arab colonialist expansionism and racism against Black Africans, as well as the persisting enslavement of Black Africans by Arabs.

For 50 years, for lack of an explicit and appropriate interest in our collective security, we failed to heed the fundamental strategic principle:

Know your enemy and know yourself, and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated. -- Sun Tzu

Had we sought to know our white enemies, what would we have learnt from our own sages who had already studied them? We would have learnt the following:

"The attitude of the white race is to subjugate, to exploit, and if necessary exterminate the weaker peoples with whom they come in contact."

--- Marcus Garvey

"In their relationship with the Black race, Europeans are psychopaths." --- Bobby Wright

"Black men and women, when will you cease to drift along the way which leads to the extermination of the Black race?"

 --- Azikiwe


For fifty years, due to our lack of focus on our collective security, we have paid a heavy price from AIDS, not just the millions that have died from it, but also the multi-generational consequences from the social dislocations caused by the death of parents and the abandonment of millions of babies as AIDS orphans

For fifty years, due to our lack of focus on our collective security, we have also paid a heavy price from the economic war waged on us by the European powers that got us into their debt trap and impoverished us.

For fifty years, due to our lack of focus on our collective security, we have also paid a heavy price in the millions killed or enslaved by the Arabs, and in the land they have seized from Black Africans.

‘Pacifist morality' and our lack of security consciousness?

We must observe that it was not only the leaders who failed to ask the vital question about our collective security; the entire "independence" generation seems to have failed to do so. They were not suspicious of the colonial masters that had enslaved and conquered and exploited Black Africa for centuries; and even till now we are not suspicious of the Europeans and Arabs, which is why we give their NGOs unchecked access to our villages, without strictly monitoring them to make sure they are not subverting our society or culture. When a behavior is rampant in a society, it is useful to look for an explanation in the culture. I think this suicidal lack of security consciousness is ingrained in our culture.

Cheikh Anta Diop, in his Two Cradles Theory, lists ‘pacifist morality' as one of the traits of the Southern Cradle cultures of which Black Africa is a part.

Nkrumah, in lauding the African Personality, said: "We have the gifts of laughter and joy, a love of music, a lack of malice, an absence of the desire for vengeance for our wrongs, all things of intrinsic worth in a world sick of injustice, revenge, fear and want." - [Revolutionary Path, p.114]

These traits of the African personality are not a virtue in the world as it is. The world requires a ‘warrior morality' not a ‘pacifist morality'.

It was Steve Biko who observed, and correctly I think, that "we are not a suspicious race." Some might think that that trait is a virtue, but it is not. It might be a virtue in ‘pacifist morality' but it is a vice in ‘warrior morality'. And the world we live in demands ‘warrior morality'. To illustrate the warrior mentality that we lack, here is a story from Meiji Japan:

In a Japanese Hospital

The last patient of the evening, a boy less than four years old, is received by nurses and surgeons with smiles and gentle flatteries, to which he does not at all respond ... He is both afraid and angry - especially angry - at finding himself in an hospital tonight: some indiscreet person assured him that he was being taken to the theatre; and he sang for joy on the way, forgetting the pain of his arm; and this is not the theatre! There are doctors here - doctors that hurt people. . . . He lets himself be stripped, and bears the examination without wincing; but when told that he must lie down upon a certain low table, under an electric lamp, he utters a very emphatic "No!" . . . The experience inherited from his ancestors has assured him that to lie down in the presence of a possible enemy is not good; and by the same ghostly wisdom he has divined that the smile of the surgeon was intended to deceive ... ‘But it will be so nice upon the table!' coaxingly observes a young nurse; ‘see the pretty red cloth!' "No!" repeats the little man - made only more wary by this appeal to aesthetic sentiment ... So they lay hands upon him - two surgeons and two nurses - lift him deftly, bear him to the table with the red cloth. Then he shouts his small cry of war - for he comes of good fighting stock - and, to the general alarm, battles most valiantly, in spite of that broken arm. But lo! a white wet cloth descends upon his eyes and mouth, and he cannot cry, and there is a strange sweet smell in his nostrils, and the voices and the lights have floated very, very far away, and he is sinking, sinking, sinking into wavy darkness ... The slight limbs relax; for a moment the breast heaves quickly, in the last fight of the lungs against the paralyzing anaesthetic: then all motion stops. . . .

-- From Lafcadio Hearn, Writings from Japan, ed by Francis King, Harmondsworth: Pengiun, 1984, p. 164

The people of the "independence" generation did not have the healthy suspiciousness that was displayed by that little Japanese boy! Nor have we acquired it till today.

Our tragedy

Why do I say it is tragic that we have not made collective security our paramount concern? Had we made collective security our paramount concern, it would have forced us to correctly answer the question: unity for whom? We would have investigated to determine those enemies from whom we need security; and that would have obliged us to examine the history of our relations with the Arabs and with the Europeans. And having ascertained that Arabs are our mortal enemies, we would not have sought continental union with them. This is one way in which our lack of clarity on the question of who our historic enemies are has cost us dearly.

Just consider the long war in Sudan between the Black Arabs who are entrenched in power in Khartoum and the Black Africans of South Sudan. Black Africa would have mobilized and won that war long ago if we had a doctrine and an organ of collective security. In which case the genocide in Darfur would not have arisen at all. By the same token, the enslavement of Black Africans in Mauritania by the White Arabs there would have been ended by the collective intervention of Black Africa. Furthermore, the current Arab campaign to seize a belt of Sahelian borderlands stretching from Senegal to the Red Sea would have been checked. Same with the Arab ambition to seize the entire Nile Basin, all the way south to Kampala.

 This lack of definition of who our collective enemies are has also prevented us from being on our guard against the Europeans. Many of us do not even recognize that the Europeans are our enemies, despite their having enslaved and colonized and exploited us for many centuries. Because we are not on guard against them, we allow them to come and go unsupervised into our countries, which is how they came in and inflicted AIDS on us by using AIDS-infected vaccines to vaccinate 97 million Black Africans in an alleged campaign to eradicate smallpox.

So, what do we do now?

Breeding out pacifist morality traits

As Cabral taught us, we need to struggle against our own weaknesses. As I have indicated, one of our weaknesses is our pacifist morality. It manifests as our unsuspiciousness, as our lack of malice, as an absence of the desire for vengeance for our wrongs, especially wrongs received at the hands of whites.

Diop pointed out that the most essential function which a culture must serve is survival [Great African Thinkers, p. 244]. As we have seen, the pacifist morality of our culture has been maladaptive and has exposed us to many lethal dangers. We need to repair our culture. We need to evolve a new African culture that breeds out the pacifist mentality and inculcates a warrior mentality in ever four-year old. But can this change be effected? Yes, it can. Just consider what Shaka did, in just ten years, with his reforms. In fact, on just one fearsome day, he wiped out cowardice from the Zulu nation. So, if we set about things correctly, we can change from a pacifist morality to a warrior morality even in one generation. That is a task for our education system.

We need to change our child-rearing methods and adopt some functional equivalent of the Samurai upbringing that produced that 4-year-old Japanese boy. Then we should supplement that by emphasizing martial arts and the game of chess in schools. We should then top it off by instituting compulsory military service for all 18 year olds. The products of such a system are unlikely to have a pacifist mentality, or to be obtuse about collective security. It might be useful to indicate the basics of a Samurai education as a model of what we should functionally reproduce.

A Samurai upbringing

"But sons of samurai were severely disciplined in those days: and the one of whom I write had little time for dreaming. The period of caresses was made painfully brief for him. Even before he was invested with his first hakama, or trousers - a great ceremony in that epoch - he was weaned as far as possible from tender influence, and taught to check the natural impulses of childish affection. Little com­rades would ask him mockingly, 'Do you still need milk?' if they saw him walking out with his mother, although he might love her in the house as demonstratively as he pleased, during the hours he could pass by her side. These were not many. All inactive pleasures were severely restricted by his discipline; and even comforts, except during illness, were not allowed him. Almost from the time he could speak he was enjoined to consider duty the guiding motive of life, self-control the first requisite of conduct, pain and death matters of no consequence in the selfish sense.

There was a grimmer side to this Spartan discipline, designed to cultivate a cold sternness never to be relaxed during youth, except in the screened intimacy of the home. The boys were inured to sights of blood. They were taken to witness executions; they were expected to display no emotions and they were obliged, on their return home, to quell any secret feeling of horror by eating plentifully of rice tinted blood-color by an admixture of salted plum juice. Even more difficult things might be demanded of a very young boy - to go alone at midnight to the execution-ground, for example, and bring back a head in proof of courage. For the fear of the dead was held not less con­temptible in a samurai than the fear of man. The samurai child was pledged to fear nothing. In all such tests, the demeanor exacted was perfect impassiveness; any swaggering would have been judged quite as harshly as any sign of cowardice.

As a boy grew up, he was obliged to find his pleasures chiefly in those bodily exercises which were the samurai's early and constant preparations for war - archery and riding, wrestling and fencing. Playmates were found for him; but these were older youths, sons of retainers, chosen for ability to assist him in the practice of martial exercises. It was their duty also to teach him how to swim, to handle a boat, to develop his young muscles. Between such physical training and the study of the Chinese classics the greater part of each day was divided for him. His diet, though ample, was never dainty; his clothing, except in time of great ceremony, was light and coarse; and he was not allowed the use of fire merely to warm himself. While studying of winter mornings, if his hands became too cold to use the writing brush, he would be ordered to plunge them into icy water to restore the circulation; and if his feet were numbed by frost, he would be told to run about in the snow to make them warm. Still more rigid was his training in the special etiquette of the military class; and he was early made to know that the little sword in his girdle was neither an ornament nor a plaything. He was shown how to use it, how to take his own life at a moment's notice, without shrinking, whenever the code of his class might so order.1


1. Is that really the head of your father?' a prince once asked of a samurai boy only seven years old. The child at once realized the situation. The freshly severed head set before him was not his father's: the daimyo had been deceived, but further deception was necessary. So the lad, after having saluted the head with every sign of reverential grief, suddenly cut out his own bowels. All the prince's doubts vanished before that bloody proof of filial piety; the outlawed father was able to make good his escape; and the memory of the child is still honored in Japanese drama and poetry.


Also in the matter of religion, the training of a samurai boy was peculiar. He was educated to revere the ancient gods and the spirits of his ancestors; he was well schooled in the Chinese ethics; and he was taught something of Buddhist philosophy and faith. But he was likewise taught that hope of heaven and fear of hell were for the ignorant only; and that the superior man should be influenced in his conduct by nothing more selfish than the love of right for its own sake, and the recognition of duty as a universal law.

Gradually, as the period of boyhood ripened into youth, his conduct was less subjected to supervision. He was left more and more free to act upon his own judgment, but with full knowledge that a mistake would not be forgotten; that a serious offense would never be fully condoned; and that a well-merited reprimand was more to be dreaded than death. On the other hand, there were few moral dangers against which to guard him. Professional vice was then strictly banished from many of the provincial castle-towns; and even so much of the non-moral side of life as might have been reflected in popular romance and drama, a young samurai could know little about. He was taught to despise that common literature appealing either to the softer emotions or the passions, as essentially unmanly reading; and the public theater was forbidden to his class.2 Thus, in that innocent provincial life of Old Japan, a young samurai might grow up exceptionally pure-minded and simple-hearted.

So grew up the young samurai concerning whom these things are written - fearless, courteous, self-denying, despising pleasure, and ready at an instant's notice to give his life for love, loyalty, or honor."


2. Samurai women, in some provinces at least, could go to the public theater. The men could not, without committing a breach of good manners. But in samurai homes, or within the grounds of the yashiki, some private performances of a particular character were given. Strolling players were the performers. I know several charming old shizoku who have never been to a public theater in their lives, and refuse all invitations to witness a performance. They still obey the rules of their samurai education.


Extract from "A Conservative" in Lafcadio Hearn, Writings from Japan, pp.291-293


If we learn from the Samurai upbringing, we cannot allow our children to be brought up on Channel O, and the like.

A change in our concept of security

Besides inculcating a warrior mentality in all Black Africans, we need to change our still-colonial concept of security.

The colonial notion of security was the security of the colonial state and enterprise from the people it came to exploit and oppress. This was the doctrine of security which conceived the colonial army as a back-up for the police i.e. as an army to be used for riot control and punitive expeditions. This doctrine has been inherited by the neo-colonial states and has not been changed. [In Nigeria it was applied by the British to suppress the Aba women's uprising, and recently by Obasanjo to wipe out the restive peoples of Odi and Zaki Biam]. 

 In neo-colonial Africa, it has been noted that a small army, incapable of serving as an effective instrument of foreign policy, tends to ‘look inward' - to intervene in domestic politics; and that by and large, African forces are deployed only against their own people in their own countries. Furthermore, as Nyerere noted in 1961, "If an African state is armed, then realistically it can only be armed against another African state"[See Opoku Agyeman, Africa's Persistent Vulnerable Link to Global politics, pp. 18, 19, 20, 23]

Can such internal security armies defend Black Africa against the Arab League, or Belgium or France or the UK, let alone against NATO?

 Here is Azikiwe's suggestion for an African Convention on Collective Security.

"This should make provisions for the following: a multilateral pact of mutual defence . . . ; an African High Command . . .; a doctrine of non-intervention in Africa, on the same lines as the Monroe Doctrine in the Western Hemisphere. This doctrine should make it clear that the establishment or the continued existence of any colonial territory in the continent of Africa, by any European or American or Asian or Australian power shall be regarded not only as an unfriendly act, but as an act of aggression against the concert of African States; a Pan-African Declaration of Neutralism [i.e. non-alignment] . . . " - [Azikiwe, (1962) "Future of Pan-Africanism" in Langley ed., Ideologies, pp.321-322]

We need to adopt and develop this line of thinking. Security has to be against our external enemies: Arabs, Europeans and whoever else; and against enemy capabilities, existing and potential. Hence we will need to monitor enemy capacity as it changes, lest we find ourselves equipping ourselves to defend against obsolete weapons, and preparing for the last war, as it were.

Furthermore, our concept of security must be broadened well beyond military security to include economic, food, health and ideological security, since we have been under attack by the Arabs or the Europeans in all these areas. In fact, we need collective security of a total sort-- security against all possible means of attack, presently known and potential, and from all possible enemies.

Copyright © Chinweizu