Dr. Rashida Manjoo, lawyer and international advocate to advance women’s rights makes points in her conversation with University of Connecticut students which have relevance to the issue of African nationalism and independence.
By knowing your struggle—becoming educated on it, and the means of changing it—you can overcome it. Becoming familiar with barriers oppression, one will quickly find legal grounds in policy, and “having a law degree helps you understand the world in a way.”
Having an understanding of policy and the means to change it was a path traveled by Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah obtained a Western education, and used this to assist his advocacy for Pan-Africanism, by organizing supporters and leading conferences on the matter. He was then able to apply his understanding of Western legal systems and political navigation to help Ghana (then the Gold Coast) achieve self-rule from the UK, by the ballot in February of 1951, and ultimately, independence in March of 1957.
Dr. Manjoo also conveyed an approach to measure the effectiveness of issue advocacy. If “what people were demanding in the past, they are demanding today,” then the issue is still in need of advocacy. This relates well to the land issues of Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically, that of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Their freedom struggles were grounded in the return of the land for majority use from the minority white settler populations. Since independence, the black majority is still landless, and the bulk of the land remains in white, Western, and now “Eastern” hands. In many cases, choice properties have become the private estates of leaders in government, or political gifts to their supporters.
There are many examples between the two countries that of land that once was fertile, now fallow and no longer productive. Fear is the issue making the trained agriculturalist a refugee to neighboring Botswana or Mozambique. Land equity has not been effectively addressed “on the ground,” and the issue remains just as pressing as it did at independence and fifty years prior. The need for discussion and resolution persists.
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