Unity and resistance to imperialism drive the West African People’s Conference

Political parties, trade unions and people’s movements across West Africa are meeting in Ghana to develop a common understanding of the challenges facing the region and to devise strategies to resist imperialism

December 10, 2022 by Prasanth R.
Kyeretwie Opoku of the Socialist Movement of Ghana gives the inaugural address of the West African People's Conference in Winneba, Ghana. Photo: Prasanth R.

150 people from political parties, trade unions, community-based organizations, women’s groups, and other social movements across West Africa are gathering in Winneba, Ghana from December 8-10 to chart a joint strategy for struggle at a crucial time for the region.

The West African People for a New World Conference seeks to be a forum to share the demands and aspirations of the people in struggle in the region. The conference is being held at a time when there has been an upsurge of anti-imperialist sentiments across the region, as well as severe economic crises due to neoliberal policies. The bulk of the delegates hail from the 16 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) but there are also participants from organizations from other parts of the continent.

At the inaugural session of the conference, Philippe Noudjenoume of the Communist Party of Benin and head of the Interim Preparatory Committee of the conference, invoked the spirit of Ghana’s first Prime Minister and icon of Pan-Africanism, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who had once said that the independence of Ghana was meaningless until it was linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.

Noudjenoume recalled the history and dream of Pan-Africanism and the attacks on it by imperialist forces, including ongoing destabilization efforts by NATO and jihadist violence which he declared is a result of said efforts. The dream of unity, however, remains alive, he said, stating that the conference was a key step to realizing African unity.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch ahead of the conference, Kwesi Pratt Jnr., General Secretary of the Socialist Movement of Ghana, said that the delegates would be examining factors that have led to the underdevelopment of the region, as well as ways to mobilize the West African people to ensure that they can control their own resources.

He noted that the meeting was taking place at a time when the capitalist metropolis was trying to provoke Russia and China into a thermonuclear war which would have devastating consequences. In this context, he said, the conference would stand in solidarity with the victims of imperialism and seek to strengthen the peace movement.

The resistance to imperialism is a central theme at the conference at a time when the region has seen increasing militarization. Kyeretwie Opoku, Convenor of the Socialist Movement of Ghana, pointed out that the wave of neo-colonialism has run its course and imperialism is attempting a direct control of west Africa by military means, if necessary. He cited the largest drone base in the world being located in the Sahel region and the fact that major European powers have soldiers stationed in West Africa, as signs of the rising imperialist assault. The “multilateral capitalist system” has served as an instrument of direct colonialism, he pointed out.

Confronted with this direct attack, the people of West Africa have responded with mass protests against French military presence in countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso and in others, strikes and agitations against the policies of international financial institutions such as the IMF.

In this context, the West African People’s Conference seeks to build bonds of solidarity between organizations and attempts to build a shared analysis of the current situation. Opoku said that the process of construction of this conference has been going for years. Organizers have made a concerted effort to reach out to political parties, trade unions and people’s movements in an effort to build a platform which strengthens anti-imperialism and Pan-Africanism in the region. The platform and constitution of a new organization will be finalized during the conference.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, Theorora Pius of the National Network of Small-Scale Farmers Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA) said the conference was significant as it was a demonstration of the power of living solidarity and internationalism in the context of analyzing the common issues facing the people of the region and the continent. At the inaugural session, delegates such as her who gave greetings to the conference emphasized the need for joint efforts and continuing resistance.

Diplomats from Palestine, Western Sahara, Algeria, Iran and Russia, among others, were also present at the inaugural conference.

On Thursday December 8, the eve of the inaugural address, delegates and participants paid tribute to SMG leader Justice Akkufo-Henaku who recently passed away. Justice, a historian, was the head of the SMG’s International Relations Department and played a vital role in conceptualizing and organizing this conference. In his honor and memory, the organizing team of the conference has been named the Justice Henaku Brigade.