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Pan-Africanism, Secularism, and Security highlight Day I

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Tuesday April 21, 2015 - 09:13:41 in Articles by Dahir Alasow
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    Pan-Africanism, Secularism, and Security highlight Day I

    A shiver ran through the public attending the annual Meles Zenawi Lecture Series at the 4thTana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa. One had dared to dispute former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah as an African hero. Even worse, one had questione

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A shiver ran through the public attending the annual Meles Zenawi Lecture Series at the 4thTana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa. One had dared to dispute former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah as an African hero. Even worse, one had questioned the idea spread by the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which later became the African Union (AU). "Pan-Africanism is dead," Tanzanian businessman Ali Mufuruki declared. The CEO of Infotech Investment Group LTD presented Nkrumah's legacy quite differently from the usual praise used in these occassions. "I studied the biography of Nkrumah for several weeks to prepare this lecture. I was first surprised, then disappointed, and petrified about what I found," he said. "Like all leaders full of ideals, the father of Ghana's independence and Pan-Africanism had his own dark moments. As a matter of fact, the Pan-Africanist dream still struggles to be fully implemented. Does it mean one should consider it "dead"?

"One must not judge Nkrumah based on wisdom of today, but that of 50 years ago," replied the world-renowned diplomat and negotiator Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi who personally took part in the struggle for independence over half a century ago.

Joining the conversation, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chairperson of the Tana Board, was delighted. "What we heard is exactly what we want at Tana. Contradictory points of view that are debated and discussed." The public didn't wait to pursue the conversation. Political leaders, academics, and civil society stakeholders took their turns to keep the discussion up on one of the Tana's public dearest topic.

The debate continued later on at the heads of state debate. Seven heads of state or government- a record for Tana- discussed the year's theme "Secularism and Politicised Faith".

Attending presents inclpresidents of Rwanda (Paul Kagame), Kenya (Uhuru Kennyata), Mali (Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta), Uganda (Yoweri Museveni), and of Puntland (Abdiweli Mohamed Ali), as well as the Prime Ministers of Ethiopia (Hailemariam Desalegn) and Somalia (Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke). South Sudan was represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, while Chad was represented by his Minister of Foreign AffairsMoussa Faki Mahamat.

In his speech on the state of peace and security in Africa, Obasanjo declared: "like faith or religion, secularism is capable of advancing public good or public order but can also very quickly undermine them."

The president of Rwanda stated that "government and state have the responsibility to protect citizens without discrimination. There must be a constitutional and legal order that allows tolerance, freedom and democratic practices". The head of the Ethiopian government Hailemariam Desalegn reflected on the national context: "In Ethiopia, we developed tolerance of religion without knowing the colonialist definition of secularism. Why then some politicise religion? To serve their ideological ambitions to come to power for political rent. In this context, the State has to be cautious when it deals with the issue."

In Mali, the context is different. Despite a long Islamic and pacific history, the country is faced with violent extremist threats. "It is now time to have a dialogue and an intellectual effort to understand the current phenomenon," declared the president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

The last word went to Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni: "the first leader of Tanzania, a country that never experienced war, was very religious but he never mixed his faith with state affairs".
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