But I also came to tell you that there are in you, youth of Africa, two legacies, two wisdoms, two traditions that have struggled with each other for a long time: that of Africa and that of Europe.
I came to tell you that this African part and European part of yourselves form your torn identity.
I did not come, youth of Africa, to lecture you.
I did not come to preach, but I came to tell you that the part of Europe that is in you is the fruit of a great sin of pride of the West, but that this part of Europe in you is not unworthy.
Because it is the call of freedom, of emancipation and of justice and of equality between women and men.
Because it is the call to reason and to the universal conscience.
The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history. The African peasant, who for thousands of years have lived according to the seasons, whose life ideal was to be in harmony with nature, only knew the eternal renewal of time, rhythmed by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.
In this imaginary world where everything starts over and over again there is no place for human adventure or for the idea of progress.
In this universe where nature commands all, man escapes from the anguish of history that torments modern man, but he rests immobile in the centre of a static order where everything seems to have been written beforehand.
This man (the traditional African) never launched himself towards the future. The idea never came to him to get out of this repetition and to invent his own destiny.
The problem of Africa, and allow a friend of Africa to say it, is to be found here. Africa’s challenge is to enter to a greater extent into history. To take from it the energy, the force, the desire, the willingness to listen and to espouse its own history.
Africa’s problem is to stop always repeating, always mulling over, to liberate itself from the myth of the eternal return. It is to realise that the golden age that Africa is forever recalling will not return because it has never existed.
Africa’s problem is that it lives the present too much in nostalgia for a lost childhood paradise.
Africa’s problem is that too often it judges the present in terms of a purity of origin that is totally imaginary and that no one can hope to achieve.
Africa’s problem is not to invent for itself a more or less mythical past to help it to support the present, but to invent the future with suitable means.
Africa’s problem is not to prepare itself for the return of misfortune, as if that is supposed to repeat itself indefinitely, but to want to give itself the means to combat misfortune, because Africa has the right to happiness like all the other continents of the world.
Africa’s problem is to remain true to itself without remaining immobile.
Africa’s challenge is to learn to view its accession to the universal not as a denial of what it is but as an accomplishment.
Africa’s challenge is to learn to feel itself to be heir to all that which is universal in all human civilisations.
It is to appropriate for itself human rights, democracy, liberty, equality and justice as the common legacy of all civilisations and of all people.
It is to appropriate for itself modern science and technology as the product of all human intelligence.
Africa’s challenge is that of all civilisations, of all cultures, of all peoples that want to protect their identity without isolating themselves because they know that isolation is deadly.
Civilizations are great to the extent that they participate in the great mix of the human spirit.
The weakness of Africa, which has known so many brilliant civilizations on its soil, was for a long time not being able to participate fully in this great engagement. Africa has paid dearly for its disengagement from the world and that has rendered it so vulnerable. But from its misfortunes Africa has drawn new strength by re-engaging with itself. This re-engagement, regardless of the painful conditions of its origin, is the real force and the real chance for Africa at the moment when the first global civilisation is emerging.
The Muslim civilisation, Christianity and colonisation, beyond the crimes and mistakes that were committed in their name and that are not excusable, have opened the African heart and mentality to the universal and to history.
Youth of Africa, don’t let your future be stolen by those who only know how to combat intolerance with intolerance and racism with racism.
Youth of Africa, don’t let your future be stolen by those who want to deprive you of a history that also belong to you because it was the painful history of your parents, of your grandparents and those who went before.
Youth of Africa, don’t listen to those who want to remove Africa from its history in the name of tradition because an Africa where nothing changes anymore will again be condemned to servitude.
Youth of Africa, don’t listen to those who want to prevent you from taking your part in the human adventure, because without you, youth of Africa, who are the youth of the world, the human adventure will not be as wonderful.
Youth of Africa, don’t listen to those who want to deprive you of your roots and of your identity, want to erase all that is African, all the mystique, the religiousness, the sensitivity, the African mentality. Because in order to exchange it is necessary to have something to give, to talk to others, it is necessary to have something to say to them.
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