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TOWARDS AN ORIGINAL AFRICAN CONSTITUTION

FACING UP TO DESTINY

Williams, then, took some 16 years in all, during the course of the 1960s and 1970s, to explore African history (for us grounding, emergence and navigation), with a view to ultimately releasing – effecting in our terms – the genius of African societies. This took place in four stages:

• firstly, a general exploration of "the destruction of black civilization", over the millennia;

• secondly, a review of the distinctively original, continent-wide "African Constitution": the communitarian form (grounding) of African governance that preceded the tributary monarchical system, that, in turn, preceded representative democracy now spreading across the globe;

• thirdly, a depiction of how such communal origins were subsequently in most instances dissipated, or destroyed, but in some distinctive cases further evolved (emergence), at least to a point; before

• finally, how black people should face up to their destiny, at the cross-roads, with a view to their future navigation, and that ultimately we researchers and innovators, through our own processes of Integral Development, need to put into effect.

THE TWO FACES OF ANCIENT RELIGION: OBEDIENCE AND CREATIVITY

Williams begins with "the great issues of race" from 4500bc on to the present day, in Africa, initially focused on Egypt. Although, for him then, on the one hand, divine kinship was never widespread over the continent, it seems to be true that the ideas and practices of the divine despots of the Orient did penetrate and influence a number of African kingdoms. Religion, as such, made the people submissive and obedient, all the more so if their ruler was given a superhuman role such as kinship with the gods and the protecting ancestors.

Ancient religion, on the other hand, gave birth to science and learning, art and engineering, and architecture – the resources for a national economy and political control – as well as being the mother of history, writing, music, the healing art, song and dance. The first historians in fact were professional storytellers and travelling singers. Both recounted the deeds of leaders, important events such as wars and migrations, and how and by whom the society or state was founded. Poetry and music were the creations of the people in general, and, like dance, came so easily that they seemed to be a natural heritage of everyone. As the various musical instruments and singing told a story, the dance also recorded a message, appealing for spiritual aid from God and ancestors, expressing joy for successful harvest, hunting and victories in war or forms of prayer to ward off evil spirits.

AFRICANS INVENTED WRITING: MORE THAN THE NEED TO COMMUNICATE

The development of writing, as such, is not explained by the simple statement "the need to communicate". The idea of permanence seemed to motivate the drawing of pictures and symbols which were man's first step toward the art of writing. Significantly the scribes arose in holy temples. Ancient Greek scholars in fact referred to the completion of their education in Ethiopia with pride, and as a matter of course. So much has been built up against the black race, according to Williams, since those far away times that it will be difficult for many people today to realize that the whites of the ancient world did not seem to regard the question of Ethiopia as the principal centre of learning as at all feasible.

Williams then turns specifically to Egypt, and, thereby, to Ethiopia.

RECONNECTING WITH EGYPT: THE RISE AND FALL OF BLACK CIVILIZATION

Western Kingship versus Southern Chieftainship

As such we go back to the pre-dynastic period of about 4500BC. Many writers refer to this as the "kingless" periods before centralized states appeared with the rule of nobles, oligarchies or hierarchies. From the beginning, Williams says, Westerners applied Western (our North-western) concepts to quite different African institutions. Later they described the same kind of "Southern" societies as "stateless". They did not understand the African constitutional system, as we shall later see, of real self-government by the people through their representatives, the Council of Elders. In fact the Western concept of kingship was foreign to traditional Africa. What the West called “king" was the senior “elder" who had to be elected and presided over the Council of Elders.

Again, the "royal family" concept was unknown to traditional Africa where the chief or “king" was the chief representative of the people before God and man, and at once the personification of the people's dignity and the instrument for carrying out their will. At the same time, Williams has continually referred to the African failure to employ the essentials of real nation-building. The glaring weakness in the unification of the Ethiopian empire, for example, was the absence of any national programme for the development of a national solidarity and a sense of national community and belonging that aimed at overcoming the greater local or tribal loyalties. In other words, African states all too often failed to evolve from their original commonwealth, through an emergent regime to take this forward, followed by an integral administration, and thereafter competent leadership.

An almost fierce spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood prevailed in all tribal states. The work of expanding this spirit as the nation expanded was rarely undertaken.

The Writing on the African Wall

That said, as Williams emphasizes, it is the Africans who invented writing, and their system of writing was very different from the Egyptian. It was simpler and had vowels, whereas Egyptian had none. Moreover, as early as 3000bc, iron smelting and toolmaking got under way on a vast scale in Ethiopia at a most crucial period for Africa. Its centre was Meroe, in today's Sudan, and the biggest iron works were in this capital city of what was then Upper Egypt. This development was at a crucial period because it was the period of increasing migration from the heartland and the scattering of groups all over Africa.

They carried their knowledge of this great technological revolution wherever they went. Forgetting the names of some of these ancient centres of importance was nothing in comparison, for Williams, to the tragedy of the Blacks in almost completely forgetting the very art of writing they invented. This was one of the most tragic losses to be suffered by a whole people. In fact "key people" amongst Blacks at the time eagerly grasped Arabic, French, Portuguese, English or German as the best route to status in a new civilization. Here we speak of the period from the 6th century ВС to the 4th century of the Christian Church in Ethiopia, and then we turn to the "Arab storm".

 
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