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By C. PAYNE LUCAS, President of Africare
Delivered on the Occasion of the First Anniversary of the Historic Democratic Elections in South Africa, Howard University, Washington, D.C., April 26, 1995
When we scan the map of Africa these days, seeking signs of hope, we inevitably end up focusing on the same quarter: Southern Africa. The West is burdened with political crises in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The national integrity of the latter two is even in some question. To the east, you have Africa's longest-running and bloodiest war, in the Sudan; and there is what used to be Somalia.
Southern Africa is not yet paradise, but it has evidently survived the worst. Considering what it has been through the past generation, it is Africa's best argument that the continent has an important role to play in securing the future of the planet.
To appreciate the stake we have in Southern Africa, we need to reflect on the region's recent history - much of it unknown or imperfectly understood by the outside world. We need to avoid defining Southern Africa solely in terms of the successful anti-apartheid struggle and measuring progress only against the high expectations for a free South Africa.
Southern Africans have suffered long - and suffered together - to liberate themselves from colonial exploitation and domination by white-minority regimes. It has taken the better part of a century, if we date the struggle to the first Chimurenga - the first armed resistance by Zimbabweans to European seizure of their land. That is an arbitrary reference point, but it will do if it reminds us that millions of Angolans, Zambians, Namibians, Mozambicans, and Batswana - not just South Africans - have paid a heavy price for freedom.
In 1978, when Africare began working in Southern Africa, liberation wars were being waged in Zimbabwe and Namibia. There was fighting in Mozambique and Angola. Zambia was being attacked by Rhodesian and South African forces because of its support for the Zimbabwean and Namibian liberation movements. Apartheid was in its prime.
It got worse in the 1980s. South …