By Kenton X. Chance
ACCRA, Ghana (CMC) — St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, has told Africa that solidarity, rather that liberalism’s individualism is needed to remind the world’s “golden billion” that there are seven billion other people in the world.
He has also asked the delegates attending the 30th annual meetings of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to have that solidarity with Cuba, in light of the Caribbean island’s contribution to liberating African countries from colonialism.
“I want to say this — and we are talking about solidarity with Africa: I want you to have the solidarity with the Caribbean country, which has been suffering from terrific blows of imperialism and a criminal, illegal embargo — Cuba. Cuban blood was shed in Angola for the independence of Angola,” Gonsalves said.
“It is the only army of personnel, military people ever came to Africa and left without taking anything,” he told a panel discussion as part of the meetings, which wrapped up here on Tuesday.
“They fought, they left, they didn’t go for any of the minds in Cabinda, they didn’t take a bank in Angola, they left and then what did they do? They sent doctors and engineers and nurses who helped to build war-torn Angola,” Gonsalves said.
He told the discussion that there are “certain people” who think that there is a “golden one billion” people in the world, made up of the populations of Canada and the United States and the United Kingdom and the European Union.
He noted in a panel discussion titled “Shaping the Future on the Platform of Lessons from History – Reflections from Africa and the Caribbean”, that there are 660 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, while Africa, China and India each have 1.4 billion people.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has nearly 600 million people, 150 million in Russia, 90 million in Iran, plus the populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh and the Arab world.
“In the rest of the world, there are seven billion people separate and distinct from the golden billion people — the golden billion, which has been ruling us since the 18th century, and remade this world,” Gonsalves told the panel, which also included Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, of Nigeria and Professor Benedict Oramah, president of Afreximbank.
“Well, no, we’re not saying that we must toss them aside. No, that is not fair nor reasonable. But our time has come. And there are seven billion people outside of that golden billion. And we have to claim our share of Mother Earth in the interests of our new humanisation,” Gonsalves said.
Eleven Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, are members of AFreximbank and this year’s meeting is being held under the theme “Delivering the Vision, Building Prosperity for Africans”
Gonsalves quoted Vincentian poet Daniel Williams as saying “We are the Cenotaphs”, noting that Williams said that of all time, “only the future is ours to desecrate.
“How do we avoid the desecration of the future? I want to suggest in simple terms, you have to listen to our grandfather or grandmother, our fathers and our mothers, we have to listen to our sons and our daughters,” he said.
The prime minister, who lived in Uganda while researching for his doctorate four decades ago, pointed out that Africa, the Caribbean and North America were joined “from the moment In 1619 the first group of enslaved African bodies were forcibly taken from the west coast of Africa to Virginia”.
He said that after that, an estimated 20 million Africans were torn away from their homes and put into chattel slavery.
“And that enslavement and the extraction of the resources from the Caribbean, from Latin America and from Africa, built Europe,” Gonsalves said, noting that Caribbean academics Eric Williams and Walter Rodney pointed this out clearly in their works “Capitalism and Slavery” and “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”.
He noted the struggles of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe for independence from Portugal in the 1970s.
“But I want to zero in on Angola, because it took people from the Caribbean, from Cuba, to come to Angola at the invitation of Agostinho Neto’s MPLA to bolster the fight for independence and the maintenance of the Independence of Angola,” Gonsalves said.
He mentioned the battle of Quito Cannavale, where Cubans and the Angolans liberators defeated the racist South African regime and the allies in southern Angola.
“And Nelson Mandela made the point that it is the battle of Quito Cannavale, the fig tree, by the MPLA and the Cubans that helped to open his cell door in South Africa, and which led eventually to majority rule in South Africa under Nelson Mandela, as the first democratically elected president of South Africa,” Gonsalves said, adding, “That’s where you have the joinder between Caribbean and African people.”
He said “solidarity” is the lesson of history.
“Today, I read all about it, they say ‘my body, my choice’. There’s a pristine individualism, they don’t want to consider any — as though they live in a society by themselves; they preach that. That’s what liberalism tries to tell us about the individual and just the individual alone,” Gonsalves said.
He, however, said “the atomised individual, an individual separate and distinct, can only bring about for Africa and the Caribbean, nothing but disaster.
“What you have achieved — and you have achieved much — and you and me only achieved them because of the solidarity of persons who put their money to help educate us, and brought us up as sons and brought up daughters so that we can live together to help build these societies in a sustainable manner,’ he said, echoing another line of the poem.
“Solidarity,” Gonsalves said, adding, “So I want you to put out this naked, atomised individualism. You don’t live by yourself, you live in a society. And that’s where the solidarity comes in with the African Ex-Im Bank.
“That’s where it comes in with our political solidarity at the United Nations, and all the rest of it. If history teaches one thing, we have to work together because the powerful states, they do what they can and those of us who are smaller, weaker states, we suffer what we must. Well, now is the time for us to be in solidarity with one another to struggle for what is ours,” the 77-year-old leader said.
“We see the world through the prism of our own eyes, and build our Caribbean and build our Africa, in unity and the Caribbean and Latin American unity,” he said.