Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the diplomat, medical doctor, educator, and much-sough-after public speaker certainly can command a room, as she demonstrated this past Friday, Feb. 21, at Harlem’s National Black Theater.
Part of the reason why could be her no-holds-barred statements such as: “We need to come together. We need to first decolonize the Black mind. We need to take time to sincerely inventory who we are and how we were colonized, otherwise the battle is going to be lost.”
She was ousted last year from her position as the African Union’s U.S. Ambassador to the USA, her supporters say, by the political shenanigans of in-the-shadow operatives who opposed her calls to investigate and eradicate deep rooted colonial policies––and continuous theft of big money, and every resource of Africa’s 55 nations with their control of every economy and each and every industry.
“The colonists never left,” Ambassador Chihombori-Quao told the Amsterdam News in an exclusive interview. “There are various factors really if you were to talk about why Africa is the way Africa is today. The reality is the colonizers have never left. They are still very much involved in everything we do, and until we realize that when we got our independence in the ’50s and ’60s we only got political independence.
“Even that is limited because they still dictate and control who becomes the next president in the country.”
The December 12th Movement International Secretariat (D12), the Brooklyn-based human rights group and United Nations non-governmental organization hosted the standing-room-only Black History Month event, “Lift Illegal Sanctions off Zimbabwe” a Pan African community forum.
D12 set the tone with the statement of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), “expressed solidarity with Zimbabwe, and called for the immediate lifting of the sanctions to facilitate socio-economic recovery in the country,” in their August 2019 Summit. Thus, on the 55th commemoration of the assassination of Malcolm X, February 21, 2020, Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, was the keynote speaker.
As master drummer Jerome Jennings blessed the awaiting audience, the Ambassador granted the Amsterdam News an interview in which she noted that Africa was still very much in the struggle to free itself from the brutal yoke of European colonialism. “We never got our economic liberation that they kept away from us. How did they do that? You can imagine that in an average African country the economy is controlled by businesses that are owned by individuals from the former colonial masters,” she said. “So if you look at former English colonies we still have a lot of English companies in these countries, and they are the ones that run and employ a majority of the population. So, because of that, that limits the president’s ability to really make decisions that they need to make because of the consequences, should those who control the economy become upset with them, and so economic liberation is what we need, and until we have economic liberation Africa will continue to struggle.”
A holder of several degrees, businesswoman Ambassador Chihombori-Quao, CEO and founder of Bell Family Medical Centers, was a dedicated medical doctor in the United States for 29 years before in 2017, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma made a completely unexpected request of her––that she represent the interests of Africa’s 55 countries.
Yet, after gaining her reputation of challenging unchecked French––and colonial, in general-political and economic influence on the African continent, she was unceremoniously removed from her position on October 7, 2019, reportedly by letter from the new chair of the African Union Moussa Faki Mahamat. The international backlash against the AU’s decision was immediate.
Ambassador Chihombori-Quao has since gained superwoman stance in the international activist community.
Self-evident of the admiration she inspired as one woman standing up to the colonial leaders and their surrogates plays well in the anti-oppressive circles; a petition demanding her reinstatement gathered over 100,000 signatures. The AU denied that they succumbed to colonial pressure to remove Chihombori-Quao. “This is normal diplomatic practice for political appointees everywhere,” said Ebba Kalondo, AU chair spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, asked if she was surprised by the global response, the ambassador said, “Absolutely, I was absolutely surprised. I did not see it coming. It was somebody who sent me the petition and I just saw it like everybody else and I was really shocked. I did not realize that the work that I had been doing had reached that far. I was just a mother, a grandmother, who happened to be a diplomat speaking our truth. But also I felt that I had been given a platform to represent 1.27 billion people on the planet and 250 million within the Americas and that if I did not speak up about the evils and the ills I see every day, I saw every day, and continue to see every day, then that would mean the 1.27 billion people on the continent and the 250 million in the Americas will be voiceless. That is not something I was willing to do.”
A native of Zimbabwe, the ambassador cites the source of her inspiration as the story her father told that when he was a 13 year old boy, whites came to throw their family off the land they had lived on for eons. “My father remembered the British coming and torching the entire village and everyone just scattering all over, grabbing whatever they could carry and just running and being told to ‘go in this direction, go past this river your land is not yours.’ They even left behind their livestock….and no sooner as they settled, here comes another. So, he remembered how all the land was taken and how brutal it was. But he always says these people are thieves and one day we are going to defeat them. So I grew up believing that the British are thieves and they are just there to be defeated. There was always that fighting spirit in me, and my father always knew that someday we were going to defeat them, and I am glad that he lived to see us take our land back.”
The Land Reclamation policy of the now late President Robert Mugabe led the West to impose deadly sanctions on Zimbabwe. The AmNews asked if this caused other nations to tread lightly.
“Well, it is not just Zimbabwe,” replied the ambassador, “there is a whole lot of other stuff going on throughout the continent. Different countries are dealing with different forms of sabotage, instability. In a nutshell, really, our continent is under siege and it is my humble opinion that the only people who can really free the continent are the African diaspora.”
As she touts diaspora-wide engagement and actionable plans through her speeches and her www.OurADDI.com website, the ambassador forcefully encourages acts of self-determination and African-controlled and centered economic, social, educational, cultural and economic unity. She recognizes and says she does not regret the stance she took as the AU ambassador. “I was the only one who was given this platform in the Americas to represent Black people in Africa and in the Americas, so if I shut up that meant that many people would shut up,” she told the Amsterdam News. “Say for example the ambassador of any African country they can only speak on behalf of those people in that country. I was given a platform to speak on behalf of the 1.27 billion and 250 million in the Americas. At that time I was also the only one who was given that privilege to do so. So if I chose to be quiet, like many others do, I just could not do that.”