Three hundred protesters trooped 5.2 km from Clerks Quarters to Molyko Omnisport Stadium in Buea, Cameroon, on May 27. Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity, a network of Pan-African progressives, and We Build, its local affiliate, organised the morning procession as part of African Liberation Week (May 23-May 28) activities under the theme “Borderless Africa”. In the evening, a part of the crowd was back together at Iku at the foot of the volcanic Mongo ma Ndemi (Mount Cameroon) for a campfire chat with storytelling, indigenous games, food, healing sessions and spoken word performances.
During the hour’s walk to Molyko Omnisport Stadium, the poetry of the future rang out in placards, from, “I see a more integrated, peaceful and developed Africa without borders. We must remove all these boundaries that divide us for we are one people,” and, “A borderless Africa. A land of no frontiers, a land of free entry and exit. A land so vast and open for a blend of culture. A land of peace, of heritage and of goodwill. Africa the world’s precious pearl, the everlasting milk of freedom,” to singular invocations on the blood of fallen migrants to wash away colonial borders.
Groups affiliated to Africans Rising concurrently rolled out Borderless Africa campaign initiatives in 54 African countries and the diaspora during the African Liberation Week. Their foremost demand was to “Bring the [African Union] AU protocol on free movement into force by getting at least 16 more countries to ratify it by 25 May 2023.” While this emancipatory pitch could not be met on the dot, at the 60th anniversary of AU, campaigns are going to the grassroots and roping in government officials.
We Build coordinator and Africans Rising member Epah Nyukechen said the campaigners in Buea not only took over the streets but also broke the internet. “Our participants took over social media,” Nyukechen said. “One of the guys we had on the road – he is called Pen Boy – received more than 67 000 views and over 600 comments for a Borderless Africa video of our activity. William Kano from Kenya also sent us back encouraging visuals of our event.
We came together as Pan-Africanists to discuss ways to unlock Africa the powerhouse, to make Africa work for Africans
“The campaign is not only in Buea where we did our advocacy but is going far into different countries. The conversation is going both horizontally and vertically. While we talk to the local people we are talking to the government,” he explained.
We Build is also involved in the annual Peace in Africa lecture in conjunction with Africans Rising, drawing up to 800 participants in more recent editions. Ekuchen finds the gathering of minds to be an enrichment towards scaling up the Pan-Africanist discourse to real and feasible actions.
“The Borderless Africa campaign was an outcome of the All-African Movements Assembly (AMA) last year in Arusha. We came together as Pan-Africanists to discuss ways to unlock Africa the powerhouse, to make Africa work for Africans, share what is working within our communities, what is working in our countries that can be more broadly pursued.
“The idea that we should remove borders was the outcome of these conversations. I am from Cameroon; Nigeria is just next door. But if I am to go there, because Nigeria is in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) subregion and Cameroon is in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), I obviously need some kind of authorisation to go to Nigeria to do business. Even if I go to Equatorial Guinea which is in the CEMAC area, I still need a visa in order to go there, Tanzania, Kenya and so on”.
“Now that we have honoured the call to remove these restrictions from our continent, the idea is to steer towards the vision of a Borderless Africa beyond the African Liberation Week. This is not just a year theme but something we got to continue strategising and organising around, a continuous advocacy platform.
“I think there are so many advantages, we have seen the current trends of African countries starting to remove barriers. It’s happening in Kenya and we are very proud to be part of the people advocating for this change,” Nyukechen stressed.
In Usa River, Arusha, the Voice of Youth Tanzania (VOYOTA), made good on an Africans Rising resolution birthed in their hometown with a peaceful protest that sat down to an anti-border panel and community interface at the end of the march. “The aim of this peaceful protest was to deliver the message to the community and to the government so as to sign the petition on moving on to an Africa without borders,” said a Voyota representative, Venance Emmanuel.
“We had almost 50 participants and blessings from the government and the police department who were also represented. We started our march from Usa River police station all the way to Moshi-Arusha Road, to Leganga. A group of protesters was guided by the police officers and the Ras Band to the Voice of Youth, Tanzania, compounds where we had community dialogue, signing of the petition and African Liberation Day celebrations.”
The event was moderated by Voyota executive director, Vincent Uhega and attended by Prof. Onesmo Matei, an academic, Hon. Japhet Kurwa, a youth parliamentary representative, and Inspector Salama Ally from Usa River. Ally presented on matters of gender-based violence and human trafficking, suggesting how borderless law enforcement would help contain the crimes.
The session was divided into four groups that were to discuss potential opportunities from a borderless Africa. These came out to be business partnership, expansion of the market, enhanced law enforcement, and an end to displacement.
Adopted last year at Africans Rising’s All-African Movements Assembly platform, the Borderless Africa seeks to mobilise grassroots support and engage leaders for the realisation of visa-free movement through an African Union (AU) protocol. The AU laid the foundation for a borderless Africa when 33 Heads of State signed the Free Movement Protocol in 2018. Once ratified by 15 member states through their national processes, the protocol will remove the visa requirement for Africans travelling within the continent, and guarantee rights of stay and establishment. So far only four countries have signed the protocol.
On February 20, Africans Rising started collecting signatures for its People’s Petition for a Borderless Africa with a view of presenting Heads of State to pressure them into signing the AU’s Free Movement Protocol. African Liberation Week activities coordinated by Africans Rising across 54 countries amplified the cause, reaching out to both the leaders and the people.