Great and Historic Pan Africanists
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This article tries to refresh briefly on the great cultural, spiritual and political leaders of the Nile valley. To be included in this list, such a leader must have embraced the ideologies of pan-Africanism and practiced them for the benefits of the people and country. This implies therefore that the agents of colonialists within Nile valley are left out for obvious reasons.

What is pan African-ism then? Out there are many definitions of pan Africanism but few really stand out and underscore the underlying theme of this ideology.  In its truest sense, pan Africanism is clearly articulated by Dr. Henrik Clarke, a prominent African American historian and scholar. Hear what he has to say about the history of Pan African-ism.

Historically speaking, pan African-ism is an ideology that has span beyond the African continent. Some of the key leaders who shaped the parameters of this political pragmatism have been not only from Africa and the Caribbean, but also African Americans.

To have an idea of these folks, one needs to dig deeper and review the history of this important line of thought.  Such a pan Africanist line of thought has also been practiced by some leaders within the Nile valley countries of Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Libya.

1. Uganda

Before Uganda gained ‘independence’ from Britain in 1962, the leadership structure of the country was obviously non-European. There were kingdoms based on several ethnic groups including the Buganda, Bunyoro, Acoli and others.  

The history of the Acoli people, who are the true members of the Luo group, the nilotic ethnic people inhabiting the  present northern Uganda and southern Sudan, can be traced back even before colonial times in the 19th century.

According to a prominent Acoli scholar, Okot p’Bitek, the history of this important nilotic stock of people can be best understood through their traditions which tell us how the different clan groups came to occupy their present territories. Their history also involves combinations of splits, alliances and inter-clan strife that eventually led to the formations of chiefdoms of the Payira, Padibe, Puranga and many others which were based on prominent and dominant clans.

For an interesting read on the chiefdom of Puranga in particular, one may consult Jim Ociti’s book on Okello Mwoka, one of the greatest leaders from Bobi clan and the roles he played during early colonial times. The colonial masters even took him very seriously as they tried to introduce their administrative systems in the Equatorial areas.

Following independence of Uganda in 1962, the political and cultural leadership changed. Ugandan leadership moved from the colonialists, to the first Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote. This video shows the dramatic change that occurred, following the country gaining independence from Britain.

Dr. Apollo Milton Obote in 1962

Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, pictured above while swearing on the occasion for Ugandan independence from Britain on the 9th of October 1962, was a true leader who practiced pan Africanism from the start. For this matter, this article includes and congratulates him.

Ugandans have also had other leaders who came after Apollo Milton Obote including Idi Amin.

Apart from Uganda, it is important to identify and recognize pan African leaders from the Sudan.

2. Sudan

Gaafar Nimeiry

A Sudanese leader that can be considered here is Gaafar Nimeiry. Despite his controversial past, he, in 1972, signed the Addis Ababa Agreement, and then later ended the First Sudanese Civil War that had killed thousands of Sudanese.

That was then. Since Sudan is still within the Nile valley countries, even if it is now split between north and south, it is a country that cannot be left out of this equation. That is why in the recent past, it had been welcome in the folk despite its chaotic past which continues to echo even today. Regardless of this, Sudan as a country is crucial in the Nile valley.

3. Ethiopia

Haile Selassie

Out of the many leaders Ethiopia may have had, one stands out clearly in respect of pan Africanism. This is nothing other than Haile Selassie, who was not only one of the founding fathers of pan Africanism, but also tried to unite all African peoples in the continent. His symbolic statue still stands in Addis Ababa, the headquarters of African union (AU).






4. Egypt

King Menes of Ancient Egypt

 The history of Egypt, the birth place of civilization, is rather mixed and unfortunate. Some foreigners, having realized that they had no history to brag about, planned to invade and control the country for many years. Their legacy of twisting the history of Egypt to benefit themselves still lingers today. The current tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia in respect of the dam are testimonies of this. But there is no doubt that the civilization of Egypt, was started by black Africans from the Nile valley.

One of the leaders of ancient Egypt that needs to be acknowledged here is Menes. Menes who came to power around 3150 BCE was not only legendary, but is also considered the first king of the country who united Upper and Lower Egypt. He founded the First Dynasty and also built the great city of Memphis.

Interestingly, for those who are of the Nilotic stock, the name Menes, which is actually Menya, shows that this leader was Luo. The Luos, whom the Europeans and their African allies have continued to marginalize in the Nile valley politics and other human endeavors, should be grateful that at least one of their sons, the first king of Egypt is recognized without any controversy. As they say, history sometimes repeat itself. There have been many Luos from the great lakes and the Nile valley regions who have been high up in political establishment.

5. Libya


Another interesting leader worthy of mention in this article is Muammar Gaddafi. Without this charismatic Libyan leader, the African struggle to unite the continent against looters would never be noted. He is therefore considered as one of the greatest leaders in the Nile valley that embraced the importance of pan Africanism.

6. Concluding Remarks

Although these leaders have passed on, their legacies in regard to pan Africanism live. It is now the challenge for the new generation, to move on with the dreams that were not realized by their forefathers. This means therefore that all Africans wherever they are in the world, should continue to work together and make the dreams of these liberation fighters become a reality posthumously .

A number of fronts exist in pan Africanism including economics, religion, politics, engineering, education, social anthropology and much more. It is therefore the tasks of the current generation to ensure that pan Africanism is realized in their lifetime by taking part to move forwards from different disciplines and occupations. Take the part you can play well and contribute to the success of this great dream.

In this connection, we need to register the critical contributions of African American scholars that are trying to shed more light on the previously twisted histories of Africa by the colonialists aimed at putting us in the dark for a while. Things are beginning to show clearly what an African can do, and must do, to throw off the grips of capitalism and European domination of Africans for good.



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Okumu p'Okech Luryan

Okumu p'Okech Luryan, Managing Partner, Noh-Vald Consultancy.
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