African Solidarity Caravan Launch

The African Solidarity Caravan, a collaborative initiative catalyzed by the ACTION Support Centre, was launched on Friday 23 May, in Yeoville. The Caravan is a call to action for Africans across the continent and the world to join forces behind the vision of a united Africa, collectively building a vibrant future for the continent. It is a future in which rights and justice prevail, where our shared heritage is celebrated, and our shared humanity cuts across all boundaries, transcending the differences that threaten to divide us. The Caravan will seek to spearhead a movement across the continent to translate this vision into practical action, through a series of events hosted by local networks, such as festivals, dialogues, workshops and campaigns. It was in this spirit that the Caravan was launched, to the sound of music, laughter and dancing, and a march of solidarity for detained activists in Swaziland, victims of violence in the DRC and Central African Republic, and survivors of war, repression and structural violence across Africa and around the world. The 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram was repeatedly raised as an area of major concern, demanding of a strong solidarity response.

The ACTION team began the day by taking the vision into the streets of Yeoville, inviting the local community to join the event. The hall was colourfully decorated with banners and posters, and crowds streamed in to kick the day off with singing and dancing. A large contingent of school children attended, from Ithemba Study Institute and Velamfundo Independent School – schools that cater for migrant and refugee students, assisting them with integratation into South African society.

Remembering the distress of our Nigerian brothers and sisters over the abduction of more than 200 of their schoolgirls, and with the vision of a united Africa in mind, a march was organized to call for their immediate return. The march was lead by the schoolgirls, holding up a banner with the ‘bringbackourgirls’ hashtag. The procession marched through the streets, chanting “bring back our girls!”, and drawing much interest from onlookers. The media soon arrived on the scene, with cameras and notebooks in hand. When asked what the march was about, one schoolboy threw his arms into the air, shouting “we want our girls back!”.

Back inside the hall, people continued to dance for a while before settling down for the press statement to be read. A panel of speakers offered their insights on the significance of the caravan, and delivered messages of solidarity for fellow Africans engaged in struggles elsewhere on the continent.

Isabella Matambanadzo spoke of the uniting purpose of the Caravan, saying that, “no African should struggle on a continent that is full of other people”. She thanked those South Africans who were leading by example, helping and opening their homes to those from other parts of Africa. The Caravan, she said, is to spread this kind of ethic to all parts of Africa, going wherever there are people in trouble, offering a helping hand and declaring “We understand what you are going through”. She pointed out that it is often much easier to send money, drugs or guns across our borders than people. She called upon Africans to dream of an Africa where it is much easier to cross borders – borders that we did not create – and to learn that wherever we come from, we can stand side by side.

A representative of the South African Somali Women’s Network (SASOWNET), Sulega Dahir Hussein, shared her own story of moving to South Africa because of war in Somalia. She described the difficulty she faced integrating into South African society, being victimized by those who misunderstood her reasons for living in South Africa, and the formation of SASOWNET to help with the integration process. She challenged people to seek an understanding of why foreigners have come here, and to welcome them, because “we are one”.

Mzi Sibeko began his talk pointing out our rights to have a home, parents, peace, love and security. However, he asked how far we have come in building a greater, stronger, and more secure Africa, that no longer carries the begging role throughout the world, and an education that brings us closer to ourselves and awakens the giant within. The Caravan, he said, offers an opportunity to look into the future and define what we want as a people, with a just and peaceful society at the forefront of this dream.

Reflecting on the day, a clear precedent was set for the African Solidarity Caravan, to keep the momentum going, and to pave the way for a solidarity movement to spill across the borders of our continent and bring the dream of a renewed Africa to life.

Over the next few months ACTION will be supporting its members and partners across the continent to initiate collaborative events that take the momentum of the caravan forward. If you would like to find out more, or submit an event proposal, please contact philani@asc.org.za.

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