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Poor, weak countries must unite in face of major global realignments

Global power realignments leave many countries wondering where they belong. China, the real mover of the realignments, first moved out of its ‘forbidden mentality’ that the ‘forbidden city’ in Beijing symbolises.

With the ‘Century of Humiliation’ always in the background, China brought other countries and regions to its fold by emphasising ‘common destiny’ and using its infrastructure and communication expertise as enticement.

It mounted a two-pronged Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on land and sea to bring Europe to China’s orbit. Along the way, African countries became attachments to BRI and received some infrastructural tit-bits in exchange for supplying raw materials that China needed for rapid industrial and technological leapfrogging.

Besides China, Russia and Turkey also threw their weight around in an effort to revive past glory; they ignored what the ‘international community’ thought. Russia, still smarting under its Cold War defeat, turned to strong willed and assertive Vladimir Putin to restore its sense of grandeur. He recaptured Crimea and indicated unhappiness with purported NATO expansion to Russian doorsteps in Ukraine.

The intended expansion violated a geopolitical MoU between George HW Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not threaten Russia by expanding.

The uselessness of the supposed security MoU reinforces Putin’s resolve to protect Russian interests his way. Turkey is similarly power projecting and having geopolitical leverage over the West, generally ignores what the conceptual West wants. Its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan aims at reviving the Ottoman Empire beyond its 19th Century geographical limits.

With big powers realigning themselves, small and relatively weak countries have little choice but to gang up and come up with what looks like the ‘Concert of the Weak’ across the globe. The notion of the Concert of the Weak appeals to African and the Caribbean island countries in order to create strength by mounting common Pan Africanist approaches to challenges.

This calls for leadership commitment to the spirit of Pan-Africanism, rooted in similar past experience as victims of European imperialism. Both sides, therefore, need and are looking for each other because they realise their weaknesses in confronting global issues.

People on the two sides attract and identify with each other politically and culturally. The current global hardships have forced rethinking and makes ‘Concert of the Weak’ viable. The names of anti-imperialists like Jomo Kenyatta and Marcus Garvey have a unifying effect. Haile Selassie’s troubles inspired the Rastafarians in the Caribbean who in turn exported ‘reggae’ to African countries.

As Caribbean intellectuals like George Padmore, George James, Frantz Fanon, and Walter Rodney discredited theories of racial colonial benevolence, continental anti-colonialists pushed out the imperialists in the Mau Mau and the Algerian War. Both sides inspired each other in what was and remains a ‘Concert of the Weak’.

By entering the ‘Concert of the Weak’, the Caribbean and African states can help each other and find their niche in a realigning world. As in the colonial days, they can force others to pay attention by designing a common Pan Africanist ‘grand strategy’ through the ‘Concert of the Weak’.

This is the challenge before African and Caribbean policymakers and it requires focused leadership. Since the name ‘Kenyatta’ resonates well with global anti-imperialists struggles, it enables Uhuru Kenyatta to push for a rejuvenated sense of Pan Africanism as the main part of his legacy. 

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Prof Munene teaches History and International Relations at USIU


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