Africans Rising for peace, justice and equality

In 1884, during a process commonly known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’, European powers negotiated their claims to African land, which were then formalised and mapped – demarking the countries we know today. Europeans sought to legitimise their control over the continent, its people and its natural resources and by 1900 European states had claimed almost 90% of Africa’s landmass, abolishing the local autonomy of African people. The effects of oppression under colonialism, the exploitation of natural resources and slavery left Africa an artificially divided continent, economically dependent on others and often at war with itself.

Freedom for Equality

In 1884, during a process commonly known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’, European powers negotiated their claims to African land, which were then formalised and mapped – demarking the countries we know today. Europeans sought to legitimise their control over the continent, its people and its natural resources and by 1900 European states had claimed almost 90% of Africa’s landmass, abolishing the local autonomy of African people. The effects of oppression under colonialism, the exploitation of natural resources and slavery left Africa an artificially divided continent, economically dependent on others and often at war with itself.

Africans Rising is a product of more than two years of consultations and Africa-wide dialogues amongst social movements, NGOs, social justice movements, intellectuals, artists, sports people, cultural activists environmentalists and others. The process that started out as the Africa Civil Society Centre in October 2015, with the support of Actionaid International and CIVICUS, evolved into the Africa Civil Society Initiative in May 2016. Since August 2016, this assemblage of civil society groups has been known as Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity.

During the Validation Conference of this movement in Arusha 272 people from 44 African countries (and the diaspora) gathered to shape the fundamental values of Africans Rising, aiming to finish the journey of the destined African liberation. They created and pledged their support to ‘The Kilimanjaro Declaration’, which stands against political and economic corruption, celebrates Africa’s promising youth and diaspora, and commits to a citizen-owned future.

What has grown since, is a self-identifying collective of social movements, NGOs, popular social justice efforts, intellectuals, artists and activists from across the continent and the African diaspora, working together for peace, justice and dignity. Africans Rising amplifies the messages of campaigns for social, economic, environmental and gender justice across Africa. Their broad areas of work include: improving accountability and ending corruption, fighting for women’s rights and freedom of expression, expanding space for civic and political action, and raising awareness about environmental justice.

One vital strand of Africans Rising’s work is providing support to individual activists. One way they do this is through running an Activist-in-Residence programme for activists, human rights defenders and civil society leaders. These brave change-makers often face challenges, barriers and intimidation when trying to fight inequality and injustice. This can leave them feeling exhausted, isolated and ready to give up. “African activists are having to work under increasingly difficult conditions – from trying to achieve goals with ever-shrinking resources to dealing with ever-increasing attempts to obstruct and silence them”, Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan, Africans Rising Coordinator, affirms.

African’s Rising aims to bring together activists to take a break, step-back and re-energise. The “Activist-in-Residence” (AiR) Programme offers activists the space and time to reflect, and through their interaction with others, imagine new approaches to their work. Together, activists working in different contexts and on issues across disciplines, can devise new methods to push for structural and systemic change. The 2017 programme included human rights defenders from Benin, Burundi, the DRC, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and Uganda advocating for, among others, the rights of women, children, LGBTQI communities, refugees, people with albinism, and against corruption.

As a catalysing movement with a united civil society as the vanguard of such a movement for justice, peace and dignity, Africans Rising supports and co-creates actions, and events throughout the year, with African Liberation Day (Africa Day) on the 25th of May being the annual apex organising moment. This year, they are working to tell more stories of African unity and reflect on a greater social, political and economic integration of the peoples of Africa, through supporting and connecting movements and activists, to amplify the voices of people struggling for justice, peace and equality across Africa and its diaspora. They are building pan-African solidarity and ensuring that the wealth of the rich continent is shared among all Africans, not concentrated in the hands of a narrow political and economic elite.

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