Pan-Africanism is the panacea to the West’s systemic racism

Tafi Mhaka

Tafi Mhaka

On April 14, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rebuked the world for treating crises differently depending on race. “I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way,” he said. “Some are more equal than others. And when I say this, it pains me.”

Tedros’s heartfelt plea embodied deep unease with inadequate responses to health and social crises beyond Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine. The UN, for instance, is struggling to get aid into the conflict-hit Tigray region of Ethiopia – a crisis the WHO chief previously described as a “forgotten” one that is plainly “out of sight and out of mind”.

That said, Tedros should not have claimed the “world” is perpetrating systemic racism and ignoring “ongoing emergencies in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria”. It is the West that is in fact so unapologetically indifferent to the many urgent crises engulfing Black and brown people.

Tedros had a front-row seat to the West’s unapologetic spectacle of medical colonialism during the COVID-19 pandemic. The US, for example, acquired enough vaccines for three times its 250 million adult population at a time 130 countries had not administered a single dose. To be precise, the West collectively treated millions of desperate high-risk people, including Africans, as undeserving and ostensibly dispensable second-rate world citizens. Besides, Tedros is a former foreign minister of Ethiopia and should understand the absolute futility of merely appealing to the West’s moral sentimentalities.

Indeed, Western leaders rarely arrive at and implement decisions affecting Africa or the African diaspora on just humanitarian grounds. Many decisions, such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial plan to “process” possibly “tens of thousands” of asylum seekers, more than 6,000km (4,000 miles) away in Rwanda, are immoral and clearly lack compassion and common sense. They are designed to pander to racist predispositions and please voters at any cost.

This explains why the WHO’s chief, no less, has to beg “world leaders” to demonstrate strong and inclusive leadership as Tigray endures a catastrophic disaster. As this “third-world” crisis is sidelined and millions suffer unfathomable hardships, unendingly, only an organised and comprehensive Pan-African response can help to fight endemic racism and whiteness.

The demise of Pan-Africanism is regrettable

The global anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements of the past fought hard to get Western leaders to act against colonialism and apartheid in Africa. They did so in a hostile climate. America, for example, maintained deep economic ties to apartheid South Africa.

Yet, the mostly British and American pressure groups persevered because they demonstrated a steadfast commitment to promoting progressive ideals and Pan-Africanism. In America, for instance, the Council on African Affairs, the American Committee on Africa and TransAfrica were established to promote independence for African and Caribbean countries and all African diaspora groups.

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