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Guest blog: Africans are rising – we can hold our leaders to account and build a better kind of future


Guest Blog from Kumi Naidoo. Kumi is the launch director of Africans Rising. He is a South African human rights activist and previously the International Executive Director of international environmentalist group Greenpeace. After battling apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s through the Helping Hands Youth Organisation, Naidoo led global campaigns to end poverty and protect human rights. He has served as the secretary-general of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. He was Secretary General of Civicus, an international alliance for citizen participation, from 1998 to 2008. This is republished from the Guardian

Red is the colour of the launch, primarily to commemorate the blood that was spilt for the freedom of the peoples of Africa (and reminding our leaders that what is asked of them today is much less than what was asked from leaders in our anti-colonial struggles). Secondly, red signifies that Africa is bleeding its wealth on a daily basis through illicit financial outflows. Thirdly, we want to remind all Africans that whatever our beliefs and origins, we all have the same blood and, we have to work together for peace and justice.
Africans Rising is a catalysing movement and the launch will amplify existing struggles. If you are addressing violence against women for instance, you can use #25May2017 to advance your demands or other struggles at local or national level.
On the evening of 25 May, we’re calling on people to switch off their lights between 7pm and 8pm and to light a candle. This is for two reasons. One is to recognise there are still millions of Africans living in absolute energy poverty, which has consequences for education, health and economic activity. Even though Africa is blessed with some of the best renewable energy resources, we have hardly begun to harness these to lift our people out of energy poverty and create decent jobs. Secondly, the candles are a signal to our leaders, who do not have the political courage to lead in the way that we need them to, that we will not allow them to destroy the futures of current and forthcoming generations.
 Kilimanjaro declaration and pledge that: “We are Africans and we are rising for justice, peace and dignity”.
At the launch events all over the continent on 25 May, people will read out the
Young people are at the centre of Africans Rising, and were the majority at the conference in Arusha, Tanzania that gave birth to the movement. We are one of the youngest continents in terms of our demographic profile but we have some of the oldest leaders. If political leaders were honest with themselves many would acknowledge that they’ve been in power for far too long. They’ve run out of fresh ideas. We need to make way for younger people who have new perspectives on the problems facing the world.
We are building pan-African solidarity. When there is a crisis of humanity in Africa, either through manmade or natural disasters, the first people to step forward and offer solidarity often are people from outside the continent. Valued though those expressions of solidarity are by the victims of injustice, this allows our governments to cry imperialism and foreign interference.
There are devastating human rights violations happening in many countries including Zimbabwe, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon and in my own country, South Africa. While we have a wonderful constitution for which so many people gave their lives, we still see protesting workers killed.
Africans Rising is about deepening solidarity across the continent. We must step up and be the first to speak out against human rights violations.
Even though we have not yet formally launched, Africans Rising has already responded to crises with a solidarity mission to the Gambia, after the long-serving president refused to accept electoral defeat and a fact-finding mission to Cameroon to investigate a brutal state crackdown on protests by minority Anglophone communities.
We are committed ethically as well as tactically to peace. The Kilimanjaro declaration explicitly commits us to non-violent means of resisting injustices. But we believe peaceful civil disobedience is the right of citizens when governments refuse to listen or to act in the interests of the people. 
That doesn’t mean we won’t engage in conventional dialogue with governments. We will, but we won’t do so believing that merely meeting with government is going to deliver the changes we need, quickly enough to improve the lot of our people.
We are building a movement that aims to finish the journey of true African liberation, for which so many people laid down their lives in the struggle against colonialism and since. We refuse to accept that all that blood was spilt for the difficult lives people live every day on the continent. The struggle continues!
Follow @kuminaidoo and @AfricansRising on Twitter.

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