Ghanaian architect of UK’s Black History Month honoured by prestigious British university

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HE is an unsung hero of contemporary Pan-Africanism. Self-effacing. Unassuming. But with a steely determination, he has worked hard over the years to project Africa’s image. He is widely acknowledged as the brains behind the establishment of the month of October as a celebration of Black culture and history in  the UK, known as Black History Month.

Akyaaba Addai-Sebo’s substantial contribution to Pan-African activism was formally recognised by University of London’s renowned School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), which conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Literature on him in London on December 9.

In its citation, SOAS mentioned Addai-Sebo’s  role in ‘developing the recognition of October as Black History Month in the UK and his numerous publications including Our Story: A Handbook of African History and Contemporary Issues, which he co-edited with Ansel Wong CBE.’ The book was published following the first Black History Month in  the UK.

From 1992 to 1997, Addai-Sebo acted as a Special Peace Envoy for International Non-Governmental organisation, International Alert, where he facilitated and brokered peace between warring factions first in Liberia and then in Sierra Leone to help bring both wars to an end.

Following this period, Addai-Sebo became Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) during its transition to become the African Union (AU). He also conceived and helped to establish the AU’s Eminent Persons Advisory Panel (EPAP), which is now known as the Panel of the Wise.

Akyaaba was also the Senior Policy Advisor to the former London Strategic Policy Unit where he advised on key policy areas surrounding education, social welfare for young people, gender, the traveller community and for refugees and migrants advancing the ethos that the refugee is a human being first.

In 2014, Akyaaba was the Executive Producer of the documentary film, One Humanity, which recounts the global solidarity campaigns to end the apartheid regime in South Africa leading to a free democratic state with Nelson Mandela as its first president in 1994.

He is currently an independent consultant on preventive diplomacy and cultural synchrony in international development.

In his rousing acceptance speech*, Addai-Sebo said: ‘I accept this Award for our world to respond to the urgency of decolonisation based on history and not on the science and public policy of human classification.’

He added: ‘Colonialism is a dehumanising construct that has to be deconstructed in all areas of human learning and national life. This is the challenge, I place before SOAS and the university. I appeal to the University through its colleges, faculties, departments and research institutions to lead the way to reconstruct our common humanity; our common humanity free from the ravages of racism. Racism is what tells the non-white person that he or she is expendable.’

Akyaaba rounded his speech with the refrain: Decolonisation is humanisation, and for Africa to develop in its own image and interest, Africa must decolonise, whipping up the whole auditorium into a massive chorus: ‘DECOLONISE TO HUMANISE!!!  DECOLONISE TO HUMANISE!!! DECOLONISE TO HUMANISE!!! DECOLONISE TO HUMANISE!!! )’

*Excerpts of Addai-Sebo’s acceptance speech will appear in an op-ed on Africa Briefing this week. Stay tuned.

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