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International Publishers
Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood
Relations Between Africans, African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans
The Sixties
Living in America: An Introduction for Foreigners
Africa and America in The Sixties: A Decade That Changed The Nation and The Destiny of A Continent
Africa and America in The Sixties....(2)
Africa and America in The Sixties...(3)
Tanzania: The Land and Its People
Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done
Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman
Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood
Black Conservatives in The United States
African Countries: An Introduction
Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities
Kenya: Identity of A Nation
Investment Opportunities and Private Sector Growth in Africa
South Africa in Contemporary Times
My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings (1)
My Life as an African.... (2)
My Life as an African....(3)
Author Profiles
Ethnicity and National Identity in Uganda: The Land and Its People
Tanzania and Its People
An Introduction to South Africa
Kenya and Its People
South Africa: The Land, Its People and History
An Introduction to Tanzania
The Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Product of The Cold War?
South Africa and Its People
African Immigrants in South Africa
British Cities
Great Britain: A General Introduction
The United States and Its People
Great Britain: The Land, The People and The Culture
Botswana and Its People
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood
ISBN-10: 0620355409
ISBN-13: 978-0620355407


A NUMBER of individuals including African leaders, academics and journalists especially in Africa, helped to make this work possible. Their contribution is acknowledged with full attribution in the text where they are cited for documentation.

I cannot name them all. Therefore naming a few would not do justice to the rest and others who have also contributed to the success of this book in different ways but which drew its greatest inspiration from Africa itself.

I must, however, mention three individuals whose contribution is clearly evident in my work. One is Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan journalist and political commentator who interviewed former Ugandan president, Dr. Milton Obote, not long before Obote died. He also interviewed former Zambian president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.

The interviews were published in a Ugandan newspaper, The Monitor, and I have used parts of those interviews in this book to complement my analysis of the events which have taken place in Africa since independence in the sixties. I must express my profound gratitude to them all for using this material.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Haroub Othman of the University of Dar es Salaam for some of his material I have used in this book as Appendix I, and for his cogent analysis of the evolution of the imperial presidency, an institution that dominated the African political landscape since independence.

Also special thanks must go to Ikaweba Bunting, an African American living in Tanzania who interviewed former Tanzanian president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, almost one year before Nyerere died. The interview was published in the New Internationalist and it is reproduced as Appendix II in this book. I am equally grateful to the New Internationalist for using the interview which constitutes a very important part of this book as do the rest.

As an African born and brought up in Africa, I approached this study from an African perspective which has not in any way been distorted by my years of study and living in the United States. It is from the same vantage point that I continue to look at Africa and write about our successes and failures as an African people. By doing so, I am making my humble contribution to finding solutions to our problems and trying my best to help outsiders get a better understanding of our diverse and complex continent.

Some of the people who have shown great interest in learning about Africa are African Americans with whom I have interacted for more than 30 years I have lived in the United States. There is also a large number of Africans living in the United States who play an important role in disseminating information and educating Americans of all races about Africa. African immigrants and their children constitute what Professor Ali Mazrui calls "American Africans" to distinguish - not to separate - them from African Americans, the descendants of African slaves who were taken to America in chains.

My background as a news reporter in Tanzania helped me to approach the subject not only as an African but also as someone who is trying to report and help interpret some of the events which have taken place in Africa through the years. And for that I am deeply grateful to Tanzania in a very special way as the land of my birth and upbringing.

All what I am today in terms of perspectives and awareness, and the way I think, is because of what I was taught and learned in Africa when I was growing up in what was then Tanganyika, and thereafter in what became Tanzania. And I have never regretted a minute of it.

I must also express my profound gratitude to the African countries I have focused on in this analysis. They constitute the core of this work as case studies whose relevance is continental in scope.

Whatever mistakes may be found in this book are entirely mine. All credit goes to Africa as the source of inspiration for my work. I could not have paid higher tribute.


AFRICAN COUNTRIES emerged from colonial rule mostly during the sixties, only to be confronted with an array of problems which proved to be more formidable than the struggle for independence itself.

The biggest problems were poverty, ignorance, and disease. As President Julius Nyerere stated in September 1963, although the people of Tanganyika had won the right to international equality when Tanganyika became independent, a man who was ignorant, who could not produce enough food for himself, or who suffered from disfiguring diseases could not really stand on terms of equality with fellow men not in his condition.1

He was entitled to dignity as a fellow human being but was accorded none. People who beg are not respected, a harsh reality even today more than 40 years after independence for millions of Africans on what has now become a continent of paupers, although Western culpability and direct involvement in compounding Africa's plight cannot be ignored.

But soon after independence, none of those problems could be tackled without first consolidating the nation-state. As a creation of the imperial powers who partitioned and colonized the continent, the newly independent countries were no more than a hodge-podge of different ethnic groups or tribes with conflicting interests, many of whom were at each other's throat. And they still are today, as the history of Africa since the sixties sadly demonstrates.

That is one of the main reasons why many African countries have been wracked by civil wars through the years. It is an endless struggle for power between competing ethnic groups and individuals who exploit ethnic differences and rivalries to get power and perpetuate themselves in office while fanning flames of ethnic hatred to keep their opponents weak and divided.

National unity remains an elusive goal because nationhood is a nebulous concept in the African context of polyethnic entities where tribalism is probably the most potent force in national life in most countries across the continent. It transcends nationalism. To millions of Africans, their tribe or ethnic group is their nation; the modern nation-state no more than an abstract concept.

And I use the term tribe here, not in a derogatory sense typical of the attitude of the colonial masters who ruled and despised us and others who despise us just as much even today. I use it to demonstrate one simple truth: as long as we talk about the existence of tribalism in Africa and the devastating impact it has on the lives of millions of people, we cannot avoid acknowledging the existence of tribes, although the term "ethnic groups" is preferable in this context and does not have the derogatory connotation the term "tribe" has. But that is an entirely different subject and which I have not addressed in this book.

What is critical to our understanding of the events which have unfolded in Africa since independence is that nations did not really exist on the continent when our leaders assumed power. Colonial boundaries defined and shaped those "nations." Instead, the creation of states - institutions of authority over a given territory - preceded the creation of nations in Africa, while the reverse was the case in Europe. It is in that context that the leaders of the newly independent countries set out to forge unity out of diversity no matter what the cost.

Unfortunately, their pursuit of such a noble goal entailed suffocation of dissent leading to the institution of dictatorship under one-party rule which was justified in terms of national interest: the young African nations composed of different ethnic groups or tribes needed unity in order to survive and develop. In most cases, strong leadership meant dictatorship. The alternative was anarchy and national disintegration, too ghastly to contemplate. As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah stated:

"Even a system based on social justice and a democratic constitution may need backing up, during the period following independence, by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind. Without discipline, true freedom cannot survive."2

Nkrumah, for instance, invoked authoritarian powers to suppress separatist tendencies among the Ashanti in central Ghana, the Ewe in the east, and among other ethnic groups in the north.

Regional loyalties predated colonialism. Before the advent of colonial rule, the area of what is Ghana today comprised a number of independent kingdoms: the Ashanti in the central region, the Gonja and Dagomba in the north and the Fanti states along the coast. The British further strengthened ethnoregional loyalties when they established different administrative regions reflecting ethnic identities.

The coast region of the former independent Fanti states became the colony of the Gold Coast. The kingdom of Ashanti also became a colony, and The Northern Territories, a region north of the Ashanti kingdom, became a protectorate. And the UN Trusteeship territory of Togoland which the British acquired after Germany lost the colony during World War I became an administrative entity linked to the Gold Coast, a name that eventually came to encompass the entire area under British colonial rule.

Therefore the Gold Coast was not fully integrated as a single colonial unit and did not become a highly centralized state until Nkrumah rose to power and did everything he could to neutralize regionalism.

However, regional tendencies continued to pose a threat to national unity even under his leadership even in what was once the British UN-mandated territory of Togoland, which is predominantly Ewe, although the people of this former British colony voted in a UN-sponsored plebiscite in 1956 to become part of the Gold Coast which became Ghana at independence on March 6, 1957.

Other African leaders including Dr. Milton Obote of Uganda and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia resorted to the same measures - only in varying degrees - during the sixties to maintain their territorial integrity with strong central authority under a unitary state.

The biggest threat to central authority under Obote in Uganda came from the Buganda kingdom. And in Zambia, Barotse province, also known as Barotseland, in the western part of the country with its own king and the southern province dominated by the Ilunga and the Tonga ethnic groups caused a lot of problems for President Kenneth Kaunda when he tried to consolidate power at the centre in order to maintain nation unity. Although his slogan, "One Zambia, One Nation," resonated well across the country, he still faced a lot of resistance to his efforts to establish a unitary state. The Bemba, the country's largest ethnic group out of 70, also challenged his authority.

And the fact that his parents came from Nyasaland (renamed Malawi), although he himself was born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), did not help him among some people in spite of the fact that he came to be acknowledged as the father of the nation after he led his country to independence from Britain in 1964.

But it was used against him years later when President Frederick Chiluba, his nemesis and to whom he lost the election in 1991, stripped him of his citizenship in the late 1990s simply because his parents were not born in Zambia. However, he regained his citizenship and Chiluba became a discredited figure even among many of his former supporters.

By targeting Kaunda that way, Chiluba used divisive tactics reminiscent of what the colonial rulers did to facilitate imperial rule.

There is no question that the colonial rulers employed divide-and-rule tactics to consolidate their position and perpetuate themselves in power. They exploited ethnic differences and even encouraged hostilities in many cases to keep Africans divided and prevent them from forming a united front against colonial rule.

But it is also true that ethnic and regional loyalties were already strong and existed across the continent long before Europeans came. For example, in the case of Rwanda and Burundi, the Belgian colonial rulers have been accused of being largely responsible for creating a climate of hostility for ethnic conflicts between the Hutu and the Tutsi through the years especially since independence because they favoured the Tutsi minority in employment and education over the Hutu majority. And it is true that they did that.

But what is sometimes ignored is the fact that Ruanda-Urundi, what became two countries known as Rwanda and Burundi at independence, was already a hierarchical society stratified along ethnic lines long before the advent of colonial rule. The Tutsi conquered and subjugated the Hutu about 400 years before Europeans came.

Whatever peace existed during all those years did not eliminate the inequalities between the two ethnic groups which eventually led to bloodshed years later after independence; and even before then in the case of Rwanda where there was a mass uprising of the Hutu against the Tutsi aristocracy in November 1959 not long before the country became independent on January 1, 1962.

There was latent hostility towards the Tutsi among the Hutu because of their subordinate position and the injustices perpetrated against them. They lived in vritual servitude under the Tutsi for centuries.

What the Belgians did was accentuate the cleavages which already existed in this stratified society dominated by the Tutsi and virtually glorified the Tutsi as the natural rulers whom they said were also more genetically endowed, physically and intellectually, than the Hutu. And that was a recipe for disaster of catastrophic proportions as was clearly demonstrated by the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which about one million Tutsis were massacred by the Hutu in about 90 days.

It is these kinds of problems of ethnicity and regionalism which the independence leaders were worried about when they came to power. And they did everything they could to keep the countries united even at the expense of democracy by neutralizing dissent regardless of whether or not government critics provided constructive criticism. Even such criticism was seen as a threat to national unity which, according to this rationale, could only be maintained under a highly centralized unitary state.

Federalism was anathema to their nationalist sensibilities. They saw it as a step in the wrong direction towards secession or national disintegration; which explains why Dr. Nkrumah in Ghana strongly resisted any attempts by the Ashanti to have a federal constitution for Ghana, and why Dr. Obote swiftly deposed Kabaka (King) Frederick Edward Mutesa in 1966 when the Buganda kingdom tried to secede after it failed to achieve its goal of federation for Uganda.

But in spite of the determination by African leaders to hold different ethnic groups together by coercive means in pursuit of noble goals, unity and progress, it was clear as early as the sixties that the modern African state was structurally flawed. It remained essentially colonial in terms of power distribution and institutional orientation.

Power was centralized, and the same institutions the colonial rulers used to suppress and oppress Africans were now being used by African leaders to do exactly the same thing, some times with even more vigour and brutality. Yet that was its very weakness, in spite of the illusion of strength as an oppressive apparatus.

Even the bully pulpit of the presidency was not as secure as it seemed to be, as the spate of military coups and counter-coups across the continent soon after independence clearly showed. The coups became a ritual of African politics through the decades. More than 150 African presidents and prime ministers were overthrown or assassinated from the sixties to the nineties.

Even the dawn of the second millennium witnessed a military coup on the continent. It took place on Christmas Eve in 1999, ironically, in a country that had been one of the most peaceful in Africa since independence: the Ivory Coast. And within two years, the country was divided into two.

The north was controlled by northern rebels and their supporters, mostly Muslims, who complained about discrimination and marginalization at the hands of southerners who are mostly Christian and who had dominated the government since independence in 1960; and the south, with the nation's capital and most of the country's wealth, was dominated by government supporters who were mostly Christian.

The impasse seemed to have no end as it continued beyond 2005 amidst threats of renewed fighting between the two sides, prompting the United Nations and the former colonial power France to send peacekeeping forces which created a buffer zone between the two sides.

The rebels threatened secession and a military coup if their demands were not met. But the national leaders in the south refused to meet the rebels' demands, as threats escalated on both sides, and in spite of the fact that the government came perilously close to being overthrown more than once.

The first casualty of a military takeover in Africa was President Sylvanus Olympio of Togo. He was assassinated on January 13, 1963, at the gates of the American embassy in the nationa's capital, Lome, by a group of Togololese soldiers led by a 25-year-old sergeant, Etienne Eyadema who later changed his name to Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Part Three:

Africa After Independence:

Realities of Nationhood

IT HAS BEEN more than 40 years since most African countries won independence. But their independence was and in most cases remains more apparent than real.

Attributes of sovereignty and nationhood were not and could not have been derived from a constitutional text simply because the colonial rulers transferred power to Africans at independence. They had to be given concrete expression, which was by itself a herculean task compounded by the unwillingness of the former imperial powers to totally relinquish control of their former possessions.

When most African countries won independence in the sixties, the former colonial powers wanted to maintain close ties with their former colonies for a number of reasons: economic control; political domination; strategic interests; Cold War imperatives; and national prestige. They still considered their former colonies as their property. Colonialism was transmuted into neocolonialism but in essence it remained the same as a system of political domination and economic exploitation through indirect rule.

The most glaring example of such hegemonic control was France. To hang on to their colonies, the French formed the French Community in 1958. That was the same year when France granted internal autonomy to all her colonies. It was also the same year in which Guinea demanded and won full independence and pulled out of the French Community.

But the Community collapsed two years later in 1960 when all the French African colonies attained sovereign status. The French Community was formed to replace the imperialist French Union formed in 1946 and which was more brazen in its operations and pursuit of its imperial goals.

The notion that the former colonies would be satisfied only with internal self-government - granted in 1958 - and let the French formally control their defence, foreign policy, finance, communication and other vital matters, was contrary to the nationalist aspirations for full independence; although that is exactly what almost all of them allowed to happen except Guinea which voted for independence in 1958, and Mali among countries which won independence in 1960, as well as Algeria which became independent in 1962.

Tunisia and Morocco, which won independence in 1956, also did not submit to the dictates of France although her influence in both countries was still substantial even after they won independence mainly because of their economic ties with the former imperial power.

But they all publicly expressed a strong desire for independence, partly to gain credibility especially among other Africans as genuinely nationalist countries - the former French colonies have through the years been known for their subservience to Paris - and France was aware of that.

So when Mali, led by the militant Pan-Africanist leader Modibo Keita, demanded full independence in 1960, France, determined not to repeat the mistake she made with regard to Guinea in 1958 when that country refused to bow to her wishes, acceeded to that demand. And she proceeded to dismantle the entire Community apparatus in the same year in order to grant independence to almost all her colonies.

However, the decision by France to fulfill Mali's demand for independence infuriated Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the leader of the Ivory Coast and an unabashed Francophile, who also went on to demand independence for his country, succumbing to nationalist agitation among his own people who did not want to remain under French rule, contrary to his wishes and belief that his country was not ready for independence.

Houphouet-Boigny was so subservient to France that even years after his country won independence, he refused to attend meetings of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) claiming that he was afraid of flying. Yet he did not show any fear when he flew to Paris every year.

Another leader, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, also refused to attend OAU meetings because he saw them as useless, as did Houphouet-Boigny although he was not as blunt as Dr. Banda was on the subject, and went on to forge links including diplomatic ties with the apartheid regime of South Africa in defiance of OAU resolutions against any relations with the white minority government.

The Ivory Coast under Houphouet-Boigny also established ties with South Africa, although the Ivorian leader was not openly defiant as Dr. Banda was. And his capitulation to demands for independence among his people in the Ivory Coast had domino effect, as did Mali's demand for full independence. Other French African colonies followed suit. Houphouet-Boigny's hostility to full independence demanded by Mali in 1960 was also evident two years earlier when Sekou Toure pulled Guinea out of the French Community after 95 percent of the electorate1 endorsed his demand for total independence.

The Ivorian leader took sides with France and even fuelled her hostility towards Sekou Toure because of Guinea's demand for full independence. But the French did not need to be urged, exhorted or prompted by Houphouet-Boigny to adopt such a hostile attitude and try to destroy Guinea. They were already furious on their own because Guinea refused to be a satellite in the French orbit by remaining under the neo-colonial umbrella of the French Community.

However, that does not exonerate Houphouet-Boigny from what he did or justify his anti-pan-African stance against Sekou Toure. As Professor Fred Greene, although he overstates his case about Houphouet-Boigny's role, states:

In the 1958 vote all but Guinea chose to stay in the (French) Community, and the French, at the urging of Houphouet-Boigny, influential leader of the Ivory Coast, adopted a hostile attitude to that recalcitrant state.2

The French burned government files, severed communication links to the outside world and within the country itself, and cleaned out the treasury before leaving Guinea, not because Houphouet-Boigny urged them to do so, although he was obviously delighted; they did that, and tried to cripple Guinea, because they were infuriated by what they saw as Sekou Toure's defiance of their wishes when he refused to be subservient to the metropolitan power.

Therefore, they would have done what they did - anyway. When Sekou Toure pulled Guinea out of the French Community, they took that as an insult and saw it as a challenge to their authority over their empire, a dangerous precedent they feared others would follow by also withdrawing from the "French" family of nations which were no more than clients of Paris.

The French may have been the most brazen in exercising control over their imperial possessions. But they were not the only ones who were openly determined to stay in Africa as masters of their sphere of influence.

In order to perpetuate imperial control over their possession like the French did through the French Community, the Belgians also formed a nominal, formal union with their huge colony, the Belgian Congo, which was the size of Western Europe. They also devised a network of financial and defence agreements to bind the Congo to Belgium after the country won independence in order to perpetuate their hegemonic control over this vast expanse of territory in the heart of Africa.

But all those arrangements and the union itself were disrupted when the Congo slid into anarchy immediately after independence and the two countries severed diplomatic ties. However, because of Belgian intervention during the Congo crisis ostensibly to help stabilize the situation but in reality to dismember the Congo and take full control of the country's mineral resources in Katanga Province, the weak government of Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula resumed diplomatic relations with the former colonial power in 1962.

Adoula's government had no national following. Nor did Adoula himself have his own power base of loyal supporters or a strong regional backing which would have given him some clout and leverage.

His position was in sharp contrast to that of the other Congolese leaders such as President Joseph Kasavubu who had a strong backing among his people, the Bakongo who also constitute the largest ethnic group in the country; Moise Tshombe based in the mineral-rich secessionist Katanga Province and who was related to the royal family of the Lunda, one of the largest ethnic groups in the Congo; and Albert Kalonji who in 1962 declared himself King of South Kasai dominated by his people, the Luba, also one of the largest ethnic groups in the entire country.

The appeal to ethno-regional loyalties and sentiments was strong throughout the whole country. And all the leaders mentioned - with the exception Patrice Lumumba who was assassinated on January 17, 1961 - exploited those differences and conflicting interests to pursue their partisan agendas and helped fuel the Congo debacle in the sixties.

Although the Congolese had their own problems and conflicting ethnic and regional interests, the Congo crisis itself was engineered by Western powers - led by the United States and Belgium - who intervened in one of Africa's biggest and richest countries to secure their economic and geopolitical interests - vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and China - at the expense of the Congolese and other Africans in general.

Just as the Congo crisis was a significant event in the history of post-colonial Africa with far-reaching consequences for many years, the end of colonial rule in Africa from 1951 when Libya won independence from Italy until 1968 when most African countries had won independence was one of the most contentious periods during the Cold War era.

Western powers, apprehensive of their declining influence on the continent because Africans had won their freedom, did everything they could to keep the Russians and the Chinese out of there. On the other hand, the Soviet Union and her satellites in the Eastern bloc, as well as the People's Republic of China, saw in that "vacuum" - created by decolonization - opportunities for penetration and even counter-mischief against the West.

In the midst of all this were the Africans themselves who, determined to maintain their newly-won independence, forged links with both the East and the West in the areas of trade, education, diplomatic representation, and technical assistance. But whenever they tried to assert or demonstrate any degree of independence from both power blocs, they were either threatened or thwarted by one side or the other.

The greatest threat came from Western countries which, having ruled Africa, felt that they had the first and final say on what Africans were supposed to do. And that intensified the Cold War between the two ideological camps. African countries, weak and caught in the middle right on their own continent, could only remonstrate or try to play one power bloc against the other.

But their desire and determination to remain independent and keep the Cold War out of Africa was evident from the beginning as soon as they emerged from colonial rule. As one Nigerian scholar, Dr. Okon Udokang, stated:

By the 1960s, a period that witnessed the unprecedented proliferation of independent states on the continent of Africa, there arose a powerful upsurge of pro-nonalignment sentiments in Afro-Asian countries. It is significant that this development coincided with the period when the Cold War seemed to have reached its apogee, and in certain regions of the world was already taking on an explicit and pronounced military character, as in Vietnam and the Congo.

It was indeed fashionable for the leaders of the new African states to argue that in the Cold War African states belonged to neither camp, but only to Africa. President Nyerere of Tanzania, one of the more perceptive leaders of contemporary Africa, declared that the fledgling African states 'must struggle all the time to stay out of the great power competition.' This sentiment was echoed in the capitals of nearly all the new African states, as their governments attempted to consolidate their individual domestic political base, while grappling with the taxing problem of economic and social reconstruction.3

And as Nyerere stated about two years earlier on December 19, 1961, just ten days after he led Tanganyika to independence from Britain, Africans wanted to be friendly with countries in both ideological camps and in the Third World: "(But) we have no desire to have a friendly country choosing our enemies for us."4

Nyerere's commitment to non-alignment and his determination not to submit to ideological dictates from either the East or the West was tested in 1964 when West Germany demanded that the newly-formed United Republic of Tanzania should not allow East Germany to establish a diplomatic mission on her soil; to which Nyerere responded:

When our people united to win independence...they wanted to have a government responsible to them, so that it would consider their interests and not the interests of people thousands of miles away who had a separate government....The case in which this principle was most openly challenged was the one relating to the recognition of East Germany....

The West Germans...put heavy pressure on the Government (of Tanzania). When diplomatic pressure failed to move Tanzania,...the West German Government unilaterally and without notice, broke a five-year training and aid agreement relating to the new air wing, and returned all their technicians overnight. They went further, and threatened to cut all their aid if we continued with our declared policies.5

The actions taken by West Germany because of Tanzania's determination to maintain her political independence remind us of what the French did to Guinea in 1958 when Guinea refused to be a client state and pulled out of the French Community. Had Guinea succumbed to pressure from Paris, her independence would have been compromised and rendered meaningless; so would have Tanzania's, had Tanzania bowed and capitulated to West German demands.

The Cold War had entered Africa with a big chill and the world was watching with interest if Tanzania, one of the the first test cases on the continent during the early years of independence, would be able to withstand it. As Nyerere explained:

The choice before Tanzania was then clear; we could either accept dictation from West Germany and continue to receive economic aid until the next time we proposed to do something they did not like, or we could maintain our policies and lose the aid immediately. In effect, therefore, we had to choose whether to become a puppet state of Germany in return for any charity she cared to give us....

East Germany wanted Tanzania to give diplomatic recognition to her, and West Germany wanted us to ignore the existence of the German Democratic Republic and pretend there is no such administration over the Eastern part of Germany....As a result of our decision West Germany withdrew some types of aid and announced that other aid was under threat if Tanzania did not change her policies. Tanzania refused to do this and told the West Germans to withdraw all their federal government aid.6

In this diplomatic confrontation, Tanzania as the weaker country was supposed to back down, given the harsh realities of realpolitik where power means everything, and morality nothing. Tanzania's insistence on asserting her independence was perceived by some observers and others as recklessness and not in the best interest of the nation desperately in need of help; power politics is not the kind of game weak nations play. And Nyerere was aware of such criticism. But the issue was bigger than that, more than just bread and butter. As he put it in perspective:

It has been suggested that the Government made a mistake by telling the Germans to withdraw all their aid, without waiting for them to do this on their own. Yet even in this regard the Government had little alternative if it was to uphold the dignity of our independent country. For there is no doubt that had we simply maintained our policy and waited for the Germans to react by withdrawing aid as and when they liked, they would have been misled into believing that economic pressure would eventually make us change our minds, and there would have been a great deal of intrigue designed to undermine the unity of the country. It is also clear that only by taking this very strong stand could our determination to defend our independence be recognized - both by the Germans and by others.7

Guinea faced a similar situation, although the parallels are not exact. After the former French colony severed ties with France in 1958, it sought and obtained economic assistance from the Communist bloc, mainly from the Soviet Union. But gradually, Guineans became disillusioned by Communist attempts to interfere in their affairs and, in December 1961, Sekou Toure expelled the Soviet ambassador, a move which suprised those who considered Guinea to be a Soviet satellite or a strong ally of the Soviet Union.8

In 1964, Tanzania also expelled some diplomats from a major power, the United States. Tanzania was also involved in another diplomatic wrangle with the United States for her involvement in an attempt to overthrow the Tanzanian government. As Nyerere stated:

We have twice quarrelled with the US Government, once when we believed it to be involved in a plot against us, and again when two of its officials misbehaved and were asked to leave Tanzania....The disagreements certainly induced an uncooperative coldness between us.9

Attempts by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to undermine, destabilize and overthrow the Tanzanian government in the mid-sixties were an integral part of a global strategy by the United States during the Cold War intended to install a puppet regime which would dance to the tune of Washington and the West in general; Nyerere was fiercely independent and took an uncompromising stand on matters of principle even if such a stance offended world powers, as it always did.

And the conflict between Tanzania and West Germany over East Germany's diplomatic representation demonstrated the intensity of the rivalry between East and West and which both camps were more than prepared to wage on African soil by proxy if they cound find surrogates on the continent. After all, it was on German soil that the Russians had built the Berlin Wall dividing that city in East Germany between East and West, a move that threatened to trigger a nuclear confrontation between the two super powers.

The Berlin crisis of 1961 which started when the Berlin Wall was built in August in the same year was later linked with the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. In both cases, the rest of mankind looked with apprehension at how the two super powers were determined to secure their interests even at the risk of a major military conflict which could have escalated into a nuclear conflagration engulfing the whole world.

That Africa, the world's weakest and poorest continent could be converted into a theatre of conflict between the two ideological camps showed not only how intense but also how reckless the competition was. Aware of the gravity of the situation, African countries and other Third World nations tried to diffuse tension between the two super powers when the Belgrade Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in 1961 sent Modibo Keita, President of Mali, to Washington, and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to Moscow.

But as leaders of weak countries, they could only count on moral appeal to influence the leaders of the two super powers. Their role was only peripheral because of their weakness as leaders of weak countries and both were ignored by President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in their attempts to resolve the Berlin crisis. As President Kennedy told Modibo Keita:

Are you finished? Well, let me tell you that I, on behalf of the people of the United States, subscribe 100 percent to the objectives of the conference (of Non-Aligned Nations) in spite of the tone of the language....I support your views. Now you have a much harder job - you go and sell this to Chairman Khrushchev in Moscow. Is there anything further you want to say?10

President Modibo Keita was accompanied by President Surkano of Indonesia. As Richard Reeves states in his book President Kennedy: Profile of Power:

Two of the neutrals came to Washington on September 12 (1961): President Surkano of Indonesia, short and volatile, and President Keita of Mali, a tower of dignity almost seven feet tall. Their mission was to inform Kennedy of the results of the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, just completed in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.11

The marginal role played by Modibo Keita and Dr. Nkrumah in power politics during the Berlin crisis painfully underscored one harsh reality about power because of the weakness of Africa in the international arena: If you are weak, no one pays you any attention, and you are always wrong because might is right and morality means nothing.

Professor Oran Young also describes in similar terms the two African leaders as peripheral actors in the conduct of international diplomacy during the Berlin crisis. As he states in his book The Politics of Force: Bargaining During International Crises:

Informal and often rather indirect means of communication appear to have played a somewhat greater, though frequently ambiguous, role during the 1961 crisis. Some contacts of this kind were largely perfunctory and therefore relatively inconsequential. This seems to be the most reasonable assessment...of the September missions of Nehru and Nkrumah to Moscow and Surkano and Keita to Washington....

The Belgrade Conference clearly demonstrated the new-found concern of the nonaligned states about the dangers of the Berlin crisis, but it also emphasized both the peripheral quality of their deliberations on the subject and the limitations on their abilities to influence the behavior of the great powers.12

Although Keita and Nkrumah, two of Africa's leading statesmen, played only a marginal role during the Berlin crisis, their role in the Congo crisis was different even if most of the time it was more symbolically than qualitatively substantive in terms of influencing events and the outcome of what transpired in the Congo.

The Congo crisis thrust them and other African leaders as well as the entire continent into the international spotlight precisely because they could not keep the major powers out of the Congo due to their weakness; painfully aware as they were of the danger power politics posed to the security of Africa. As Dr. Nkrumah stated in his speech to the UN General Assembly on March 7, 1961, just two months after Lumumba was assassinated, Africa had the right to know what the United Nations was doing in the Congo and demanded accountability for its actions:

Unless at this juncture the United Nations acts in full consultation with the African states and in accordance with the needs of Africa, the same results will flow from the United Nations' intervention in the Congo as flowed from the intervention of the great powers in African affairs.13

To Nkrumah and other African leaders such as Nyerere, the Congo imbroglio was a chilling reminder of what the imperial powers did almost a century earlier at the Berlin conference (November 1884 - February 1885) which led to the partition of Africa. During the sixties, in the second half of the twentieth century, the big powers were competing for control of the Congo; while during the latter part of the nineteenth century, the colonial powers competed - during "the cold war of those days" as Nkrumah put it - for colonies in Africa.

The Congo during the early sixties was a tinder box which could have ignited and blown up into global warfare due to super-power competition. It was a major international crisis, demanding immediate attention and direct intervention by a large number of UN forces and was therefore more than just an African problem.

But it was during the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 that the world came perilously close to nuclear war and went through one of its most dangerous periods in history, a debacle that was inextricably linked with the super-power rivarly over Berlin.

In their book, The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow, quote President Kennedy as he ominously warned his colleagues about the consequences of any conflict between the two super powers and on what would happen if the United States invaded Cuba. They would have to be ready for a forceful response from Khruschev and his colleagues in the Kremlin:

He'll grab Berlin, of course....I'm not so worried about the air. But the atomic bombs, they can get a couple of them over on us anyway....

If we attack Cuban missiles, or Cuba, in any way, it gives them a clear line to take Berlin....If we do nothing then they'll have these missiles and they'll be able to say any time we ever try to do anything about Cuba, they'll fire these missiles....If we go in and take them out on a quick air strike, we neutralize the chance of danger to the United States of these missiles being used....On the other hand, we increase the chance greatly, as I think - there's bound to be a reprisal from the Soviet Union, there always is - (of) their just going in and taking Berlin by force. Which leaves me only one alternative, which is to fire nuclear weapons - which is a hell of an alternative - and begin a nuclear exchange....

They can't let us just take out, after all their statements, take out their missiles, kill a lot of Russians ( in Cuba) and not do anything....The problem is not really so much war against Cuba. But the problem is part of this worldwide struggle with the Soviet Communists....

If we invade Cuba, we have a chance that these missiles will be fired on us....When you talk about the invasion, the first (point), excluding the risk that these missiles will be fired, (is that) we do have the 7 or 8,000 Russians there....Ambassador Thompson (to the Soviet Union) has felt very strongly that the Soviet Union would regard, will regard the attack on these SAM sites and missile bases with the killing of 4 or 5,000 Russians as a greater provocation than the stopping of their ships. Now, who knows what?....We are going to blockade Cuba.14

But few people, including advisers to President Kennedy such as Defence Secretary Robert McNamara, knew how close the world came to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. And even today, most people still don't know.

After the end of the Cold War, Fidel Castro said in 1992 and later that had the Americans attacked Cuba, the Soviets would have fired the Cuban-based missiles which had already been targeted at the United States. McNamara himself was shocked when he learnt this after the collapse of the Soviet Union and when he attended a conference in Cuba on the Cold War.

Had it not been for Kennedy's and McNamara's restraint - as opposed to the hawkish attitude and the recommendation of most of his advisers including the joint chiefs of staff who favoured an air strike and an outright invasion of Cuba - the Cuban missile crisis would have ended in a nuclear exchange between the two super powers with dire consequences for the rest of the world.

The Americans had also - despite their intelligence capability and constant surveillance over Cuba - grossly underestimated Soviet strength on the Cuban island and the Russians' resolve to use nuclear weapons already on the island if the United States launched an invasion. Had the United States known the actual number of Soviet combat troops and technicians, and Soviet nuclear capability on the island, they probably would never have contemplated an air strike against the missile sites. As Professor Jorge G. Castaneda states in his book Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara:

It is now known - because Soviet participants insinuated as much at the Moscow meeting of 1989, and Fidel Castro stated so categorically at the Havana conference of January 1992 - that twenty of the forty-two Soviet missiles deployed in Cuba were armed with nuclear warheads. And six tactical missile launchers, loaded with nine missiles with nuclear tips, were ready to be used in the event of a US invasion....Arthur Schlesinger and Robert McNamara, who both attended the Havana conference, almost fell off their seats when they heard this.

Furthermore, the number of Soviet troops sent to Cuba was much larger than the Americans suspected. They estimated 4,500 in early October, 10,000 at the height of the crisis, and 12,000 to 16,000 at its end. In reality, 42,000 soldiers entered Cuba, disguised with winter clothing and even snow skis. Castro confirmed this figure, also put forth by Alexeiev and Mikoyan.

In other words, the Soviets were able to deploy missiles, atomic warheads, troops, and sophisticated antiaircraft equipment in Cuba before American intelligence caught on. So much so that Walt Rostow, then a State Department adviser, reported to President Kennedy in a 'top-secret and sensitive' memorandum dated September 3, 1962 - less than a month before the crisis - that 'on the basis of existing intelligence the Soviet military deliveries to Cuba do not constitute a substantial threat to US security'....

The problem was not keeping the missiles secret, but what the Soviets were willing to do with them once they had been introduced into Cuba....Soviet military officers in the field were authorized to launch the missiles with nuclear the event of a US invasion; and the U-2 (American) spy plane shot down over Cuba on October 27 was attacked under instructions from the Soviet base in Cuba - not Moscow.15

Although Soviet prestige around the world may have suffered in what some people perceived to be capitulation to American demands to withdraw Russian missiles from Cuba, in exchange for a pledge by the United States not to invade the island, Kremlin leaders knew that in some areas - especially in a number of Third World countries including African - their reputation was not, for historical reasons, as bad as that of the West.

Western countries were identified with colonialism. By remarkable contrast, the Soviet Union never had colonies in Africa or anywhere else in the Third World. Western countries were also identified with imperialism in developing countries which they continued to dominate even after those countries won independence. Such domination included exploitation of the Third World by western conglomerates which has now reached its peak in this era of globalization, with globalization itself being dictated by Western countries which dominate the global economy under capitalism.

Countries dominating Africa and other parts of the Third World included the United States, the leading Western power, which also had and still has the largest number of corporations with tentacles extended to all corners of the world. As Americans say, what is good for General Motors is good for America; and for the world, they might as well add, as some of them probably do, since the United States dominates the world economy.

But as a super power itself, the Soviet Union was not entirely blameless. Together with the United States, the Soviet Union had twice pushed the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust: over Berlin in 1961, and during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the most dangerous crises since World War II. And coincidentally during the same period was the Congo crisis, which became a major international crisis right in the heart of Africa, again involving the two nuclear giants and other world powers.

While the Berlin and Cuban crises were eventually contained, although not entirely resolved (the United States continued in its attempts to undermine Castro surreptitiously through surrogate forces and more brazenly by economic means including imposition of an embargo on the island nation), the Congo crisis continued to pose great danger to Africa and threaten world peace. The threat continued at least until the mid-sixties when the West finally gained the upper hand over the Soviets and the Chinese in that troubled African country.

Because of their weakness, the other independent African countries could not do anything about Western imposition of its will on the Congo. It was Western powers led by the United States which ousted and assassinated the popular Congolese prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, installing Colonel Mobutu in his stead. When he was working under Lumumba, Mobutu was already on the CIA payroll.

However, the Soviets never gave up on Africa despite the setbacks they had suffered in the Congo. Western countries also, because of their history of colonialism in Africa, and even of American enslavement of millions of Africans earlier during the slave trade, all of which tarnished the West, feared that the Soviets had great advantage over them in winning friendship among Africans during the Cold War since the Soviet Union had never owned any colonies anywhere on the African continent.

Compounding the problem for Western countries was continued colonialism and white minority rule in the countries of southern Africa and Portuguese Guinea (Guinea-Bissau) in West Africa. The colonial powers were Western, and the racist minority regimes were also Western in origin and ideological orientation. All that worked to Soviet advantage, as did the intransigence of the white minorities in relinquishing control of the countries they dominated.

Not all African countries had won independence during the sixties or even the seventies and eighties; not even the early nineties. The last African countries to win their freedom were Zimbabwe in 1980; Namibia ten years later in 1990; and finally South Africa in 1994. They all had been under white minority rule.

Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the West was still tarnished in the eyes of many Africans because of the continuing racist policies of its strongest ally on the continent, apartheid South Africa, which during white minority rule had always been an integral part of the Western world and the main custodian of Western values and traditions on a continent many Westerners considered to be "backward and uncivlized."

The Congo crisis also tarnished the West among Africans because of its involvement in the murder of Patrice Lumumba and its support for the secession of Katanga Province which had in fact been engineered by the West. The Soviets tried to exploit that, showing that they were on the side of Africans and the nationalist forces opposed to Katanga's secession.

But Africans did not want to exchange one master for another and wanted both sides - East and West - out of the Congo. Instead, they supported UN intervention to keep the Cold War out of Africa.

Among all the colonial powers, France maintained the strongest and most pervasive influence in her former colonies not only during the early years of independence but also all the way through the years until the 1990s when that influence began to decline in a few of those countries.

One of the countries under very strong French influence - and with a presence of no fewer than 40,000 Frenchmen - was the Ivory Coast which also considered itself to be the leader of Francophone Africa; although Senegal, especially under its Francophile President Leopold Sedar Senghor, also claimed that "eminent" status and mantle of leadership.

When the Mali Federation formed in 1959 and comprising Mali and Senegal - it collapsed the following year after Senegal pulled out - demanded and won independence in 1960, Ivorian leader Houphouet-Boigny became furious. He wanted all the French African colonies to remain under French tutelage. However, because the French had acquiesced in the Federation's decision to become independent, Houphouet-Boigny - as a protest against France but mainly because of pressure exerted on him by his own people who wanted to end colonial rule - also demanded independence for his country in the same year. And together with Dahomey, Niger, and Upper Volta - all of which also won independence in 1960 as did most of the other French African colonies - Ivory Coast formed a weak association known as Counseil de l'Entente.

France's enormous influence over the Ivory Coast was clearly visible even to a casual observer. For example, in 1965 - and thereafter - more than 120,000 Frenchmen were living in Abidjan alone, in the nation's capital. They led the army and the police, ran the country's administration and even occupied ministerial positions in the cabinet including the most influential ones. Like most of the former French African colonies, Ivory Coast was independent in name only. As Henry Tanner stated in his report from the Ivory Coast published in The New York Times on March 25, 1962:

The most striking anachronism to the radical African nationalists is that M. Houphouet-Boigny has practically abdicated sovereignty in the military field. The Ivory Coast has only a small force for internal security. And even this force has French officers. The French army assures the external defense of the country. It has been asked to do so, M. Houphouet-Boigny says, because 'we wish to devote our modest means to economic and social development.'16

It was that kind of subservience which prompted Dr. Nkrumah to describe the former French African colonies as "client states," with the exception of Guinea under Sekou Toure, Mali under Modibo Keita, and Algeria under Ben Bella later under Boumedienne. The former vice president of Kenya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, also articulated the same sentiment about his country in his book Not Yet Uhuru which he wrote after he fell out with Kenyatta during the late sixties. Nyerere wrote the introduction to the book.

Odinga went on to form an opposition party, the Kenya People's Union (KPU), and accused the Kenyan leadership of ignoring the interests of wananchi (the people) and of selling the country to the imperialists.

But he did not last long as a political force. His party, formed in March 1966, was effectively neutralized within two years and banned shortly thereafter. And that ended an illustrious political career of a leader of continental stature who was also one of the most prominent figures in the struggle for African independence and one of the strongest advocates of African unity.

Ironically, independence for the largest number of the African colonies came first to the least nationalistic and pan-African-oriented countries, those of Francophone Africa, which cherished their ties with the metropolitan power, "mother" France, more than they did their natural ties with their African brethren in other African countries.

Another irony was that the French-speaking African countries which also had a reputation as the least militant in pursuit of continental unity were also among the first to forge links among themselves although they were also, individually and collectively, institutionally linked to "mother" France; thus casting serious doubt on their commitment to African unity. For example, their common currency (CFA) and airline (Air Afrique), were not formed on their own initiative but France's in order to enable the former colonial power - which never left - to perpetuate her domination over her former colonies.

Therefore soon after independence, there was an effort, however lukewarm, by different African countries to pursue the goal of African unity even if such pursuit meant forming different regional and sub-regional groups which were mutually antagonistic; hardly a path towards continental solidarity which had to be achieved even before the idea of unity could be seriously considered. In spite of all that, they proceeded along that path nonetheless.

In 1960, the same year they won independence, twelve of the former French African colonies formed what came to be known as the Brazzaville Group. They were tied to the franc zone and received financial, technical, and military assistance from France. The group was named after Brazzaville, the capital of Congo-Brazzaville where the group was formed and had its headquarters.

The Brazzaville Group, also known as the UAM or the Union of African and Malagasy states, went on to establish - on French initiative - a common currency, the CFA; a common bank, common monetary policy, telecommunication links, and an airline, Air Afrique. But they refused to form a federation. The original members were Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Dahomey, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Malagasy Republic, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta. They were later joined by Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, but French-speaking nonetheless, which won independence in 1962.

Another Pan-African group that was formed was the Casablanca Group with a reputation as a group of radical states. It was formed in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1961 and was the most diverse in ts composition - racially, historically, linguistically, and even ideologically - among all African groups; a microcosm, in terms of diversity, of what was yet to come only about two years later when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, in May 1963.

The Casablanca Group was composed of the most militant states with the exception of one member. The member-countries were Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, and Algeria even before Algeria won independence in 1962 after one of the bloodiest liberation wars in colonial history which cost an estimated one million lives, mostly Algerian.

Morocco was the least militant member except for her support of the Algerian independence struggle, a position which made the conservative North African Arab state as "militant" as the rest of the members in the group. Ghana was, of course, also an oddity as the only Anglophone member in a Francophone group and the least-Muslim country. Not only were the rest all French-speaking but also overwhelmingly Muslim.

And racially, of course, the Casablanca Group was "split" in half. Three member-countries, Ghana, Guinea and Mali were mostly black; and the other three - Egypt, then officially known as the United Arab Republic (UAR), Morocco and Algeria, were predominantly Arab with a population of Berber "minorities" especially in Algeria and Morocco. However, Mali also provided a bridge between the two racial groups.

Unlike the other two black members, Ghana and Guinea, Mali has a large number of its citizens, especially in the northern part of the country bordering Arab North Africa, who are Berber and Arab. About 5 percent of Malians are Tuareg and Moors; 6 percent Songhai, and a smaller percentage Arab. The first three groups are mainly Berber mixed with Arabs. Tuareg nomads alone in northern Mali constitute a substantial population of more than 700,000.

Yet, in spite of its diversity, the Casablanca Group was also one of the most cohesive. It was also one of the most influential because of its leaders such as Nkrumah and Nasser who were formidable political personalities of international stature.

Later in the same year, 1961, when the Casablanca Group was formed, the Brazzaville group joined Nigeria, Liberia and other moderate states to form the Monrovia Group, later known as the Lagos Charter Group, in order to formulate plans for the establishment of an All-African organization on continental basis.

The Casablanca Group, which was militant, refused to attend meetings of the Monrovia Group - formed in Monrovia, Liberia - and talked about continental unification, a radical proposition in pan-African rhetoric and diplomacy even today. The group even proposed formation of an African High Command for continental security.

The Monrovia Group considered such propositions by the Casablanca group not only as too radical but also as too dangerous for Africa. In reality, the Monrovia Group was politically weak. It even failed to take a firm stand on the Algerian war of independence which lasted for seven years at an enormous cost of one million Algerian lives. By contrast, the Casablanca Group fully supported the Algerians in their struggle against France.

Yet, in spite of its weakness and moderate stand, it was the Monrovia Group which laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It also proposed that African heads of state and government should meet every three years; sought to establish a permanent secretariat and headquarters for the organization, and a permanent supervisory council of ministers. The group also proposed the creation of an African common market and a permanent tribunal for conflict resolution among African countries with the mandate to settle both intra- and inter-state disputes.

The quest for African unity under one government as advocated by the Casablanca Group of radical states - all of which were in West and North Africa - got a boost from another part of the continent, East Africa, when in June 1963, Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika agreed to form an East African federation before the end of the year. President Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika, Prime Minister Milton Obote of Uganda, and Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, issued the following statement in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 5, 1963:

We, the leaders of the people and governments of East Africa assembled in Nairobi on 5 June 1963, pledge ourselves to the political Federation of East Africa.

Our meeting today is motivated by the spirit of Pan-Africanism and not by mere selfish regional interests....Within this spirit of Pan-Africanism and following the declaration of African unity at the recent Addis Ababa conference (from May 22 - 25, which led to the establishment of the Organization of African Unity - OAU), practical steps should be taken wherever possible to accelerate the achievement of our common goal. We believe that the East African Federation can be a practical step towards the goal of Pan-African unity...and wish to make it clear that any of our other neighbours may in future join this Federation.17

But it never materialized. Nationalism won over Pan-Africanism. An even bigger federation including Ethiopia, Somalia, Zanzibar, and Nyasaland, was also discussed. But it also got nowhere.

The failure of the East African Federation and other attempts elsewhere on the continent showed that African countries were more willing to cooperate in the economic and technical fields than they were to form political unions under regional governments, let alone under one government on a continental scale.

Still, the quest for unity remained a perennial ambition. But the mere fact that African countries formed regional groupings or continued to maintain regional institutional structures formed during colonial times showed that they were all aware of the imperative need for unity even if it did not mean forming regional governments.

It is also worth noting that the groups they formed after independence were not strictly regional. The Casablanca Group was formed by North and West African states. The Brazzaville Group - admittedly, more of a neo-colonial than a pan-Africanist institution inspired by France - spanned Francophone Africa, all the way from West Africa to the island nation of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean in East Africa.

The Lagos Charter Group, better known as the Monrovia Group, was also continental in scope and in inspiration. As Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the governor-general of the federation of Nigeria, stated in his speech to the Lagos conference of African heads of state and government on January 25, 1962:

The main reason for convening this conference is to exchange views among African leaders at the highest possible level for the unity of the political entities comprising the continent of Africa.

There have been conferences of this nature in the past, but this particular conference is very significant because it is the first time in African history that so many heads of state and government have assembled to confer among themselves for the future security and stability of African countries....

The Lagos Conference looks at the continent of Africa as a miniature United Nations....At Monrovia, in May, 1961, the participants of this conference evolved a modus vivendi for African states....The principles enunciated in Monrovia include...the right of African states to federate or confederate with any other state or states."18

Tanganyika, which won independence on December 9, 1961 - shortly after the Monrovia Group was formed in May the same year - and which was among the first African countries to win independence, attended the Lagos conference of the Lagos Charter Group held in the Nigerian capital in January 1962. So did the only other independent East African country, Ethiopia.

Therefore the group was not restricted to West or North African countries which constituted the largest number of the independent African countries during that period.

But Tanganyika, which became increasingly radical taking a militant stand on a number of issues especially on the Congo crisis and the liberation struggle in southern Africa, did not attend subsequent meetings of the Lagos Charter Group. Her increasing militancy led her to identify with the members of the Casablanca Group who together - with the exception of Morocco - even constituted their own group within the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to pursue common goals. As Jorge Castaneda states in his book Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara:

Moise Tshombe was despised by the leaders of the OAU, especially its most radical ones - the so-called Group of Six, consisting of Nasser, Ben Bella, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sekou Toure of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and Modibo Keita of Mali - who still blamed Tshombe for Lumumba's death....According to Ben Bella, - in an interview with the author in Geneva, on November 4, 1995 - these leaders had a group of their own within the OAU; they regularly consulted and conspired among themselves.19

Even before independence, African nationalists from different countries forged links to pursue common goals. For example, in 1958 they attended the Accra Conference convened by Kwame Nkrumah to formulate a strategy for coordinating the independence struggle across the continent. The conference was attended by independent African countries - there were only a few then: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, Ghana, and Guinea - and by representatives from the countries still under colonial rule. It was held in December and was chaired by Tom Mboya from Kenya, who was then 28 years old. He was one of the most prominent leaders in Africa and was assassinated ten years later in Nairobi, Kenya, in July 1969. He was 39.

One of the organizations which played a critical role in laying the foundation for the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was PAFMECSA: the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa. It was preceded by PAFMECA - the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East and Central Africa - which was the original group founded at its first meeting in September 1958 in the town of Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria in what was then Tanganyika under the stewardship of Julius Nyerere. PAFMECA was an umbrella organization for thirteen African nationalist parties in Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Ruanda-Urundi, the Belgian Congo, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland.

It lasted until February 1962 when it was replaced by PAFMECSA after the umbrella organization was extended to the countries of southern Africa still under white minority rule. Nelson Mandela addressed a conference of PAFMECA delegates in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February 1962, where he asked for assistance for the liberation struggle in South Africa after he secretly left the land of apartheid to attend the meeting. The African National Congress (ANC) was invited to conference and Mandela led the ANC delegation to Addis Ababa. As he stated in his speech:

The delegation of the African National Congress, and I particularly, feel specially honored by the invitation addressed to our organisation by the PAFMECA to attend this historic conference and to participate in its deliberations and decisions.

The extension of the PAFMECA area to South Africa, the heart and core of imperialist reaction, should mark the beginning of a new phase in the drive for the total liberation of Africa - a phase which derives special significance from the entry into PAFMECA of the independent states of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan.

It was not without reason, we believe, that the Secretariat of PAFMECA chose as the seat of this conference the great country of Ethiopia, which, with hundreds of years of colorful history behind it, can rightly claim to have paid the full price of freedom and independence. His Imperial Majesty, himself a rich and unfailing fountain of wisdom, has been foremost in promoting the cause of unity, independence, and progress in Africa, as was so amply demonstrated in the address he graciously delivered in opening this assembly.

The deliberations of our conference will thus proceed in a setting most conducive to a scrupulous examination of the issues that are before us.

At the outset, our delegation wishes to place on record our sincere appreciation of the relentless efforts made by the independent African states and national movements in Africa and other parts of the world, to help the African people in South Africa in their just struggle for freedom and independence.

The movement for the boycott of South African goods and for the imposition of economic and diplomatic sanctions against South Africa has served to highlight most effectively the despotic structure of the power that rules South Africa, and has given tremendous inspiration to the liberation movement in our country.

It is particularly gratifying to note that the four independent African states which are part of this conference, namely, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Tanganyika, are enforcing diplomatic and economic sanctions against South Africa.

We also thank all those states that have given asylum and assistance to South African refugees of all shades of political beliefs and opinion. The warm affection with which South African freedom fighters are received by democratic countries all over the world, and the hospitality so frequently showered upon us by governments and political organizations, has made it possible for some of our people to escape persecution by the South African government, to travel freely from country to country and from continent to continent, to canvass our point of view and to rally support for our cause.

We are indeed extremely grateful for this spontaneous demonstration of solidarity and support, and sincerely hope that each and every one of us will prove worthy of the trust and confidence the world has in us.

We believe that one of the main objectives of this conference is to work out concrete plans to speed up the struggle for the liberation of those territories in this region that are still under alien rule. In most of these territories the imperialist forces have been considerably weakened and are unable to resist the demand for freedom and independence - thanks to the powerful blows delivered by the freedom movements.

Although the national movements must remain alert and vigilant against all forms of imperialist intrigue and deception, there can be no doubt that imperialism is in full retreat and the attainment of independence by many of these countries has become an almost accomplished fact.

Elsewhere, notably in South Africa, the liberation movement faces formidable difficulties and the struggle is likely to be long, complicated, hard, and bitter, requiring maximum unity of the national movement inside the country, and calling for level and earnest thinking on the part of its leaders, for skilful planning and intensive organisation.

South Africa is known throughout the world as a country where the most fierce forms of colour discrimination are practiced, and where the peaceful struggles of the African people for freedom are violently suppressed.

It is a country torn from top to bottom by fierce racial strife and conflict and where the blood of African patriots frequently flows.

Almost every African household in South Africa knows about the massacre of our people at Bulhoek, in the Queenstown district, where detachments of the army and police, armed with artillery, machine-guns, and rifles, opened fire on unarmed Africans, killing 163 persons, wounding 129, and during which 95 people were arrested simply because they refused to move from a piece of land on which they lived.

Almost every African family remembers a similar massacre of our African brothers in South-West Africa when the South African government assembled aeroplanes, heavy machine-guns, artillery, and rifles, killing a hundred people and mutilating scores of others, merely because the Bondelswart people refused to pay dog tax.

On 1 May 1950, 18 Africans were shot dead by the police in Johannesburg whilst striking peacefully for higher wages. The massacre at Sharpeville in March 1960 is a matter of common knowledge and is still fresh in our minds. According to a statement in parliament made by C R Swart, then Minister for Justice, between May 1948 and March 1954, 104 Africans were killed and 248 wounded by the police in the course of political demonstrations.

By the middle of June 1960, these figures had risen to well over three hundred killed and five hundred wounded. Naked force and violence is the weapon openly used by the South African government to beat down the struggles of the African people and to suppress their aspirations.

The repressive policies of the South African government are reflected not only in the number of those African martyrs who perished from guns and bullets, but in the merciless persecution of all political leaders and in the total repression of political opposition. Persecution of political leaders and suppression of political organizations became ever more violent under the Nationalist Party government.

From 1952 the government used its legal powers to launch a full-scale attack on leaders of the African National Congress. Many of its prominent members were ordered by the government to resign permanently from it and never again participate in its activities. Others were prohibited from attending gatherings for specified periods ranging up to five years. Many were confined to certain districts, banished from their homes and families and even deported from the country.

In December 1956, Chief A J Lutuli, President-General of the ANC, was arrested together with 155 other freedom fighters and charged with treason. The trial which then followed is unprecedented in the history of the country, in both its magnitude and duration. It dragged on for over four years and drained our resources to the limit.

In March 1960, after the murderous killing of about seventy Africans in Sharpeville, a state of emergency was declared and close on twenty thousand people were detained without trial.

Even as we meet here today, martial law prevails throughout the territory of the Transkei, an area of 16,000 square miles with an African population of nearly two and a half million. The government stubbornly refuses to publish the names and number of persons detained. But it is estimated that close on two thousand Africans are presently languishing in jail in this area alone. Amongst these are to be found teachers, lawyers, doctors, clerks, workers from the towns, peasants from the country, and other freedom fighters. In this same area and during the last six months, more than thirty Africans have been sentenced to death by white judicial officers, hostile to our aspirations, for offences arising out of political demonstrations.

On 26 August 1961 the South African government even openly defied the British government when its police crossed into the neighboring British protectorate of Basutoland and kidnapped Anderson Ganyile, one of the country's rising freedom stars, who led the Pondo people's memorable struggles against apartheid tribal rule.

Apart from these specific instances, there are numerous other South African patriots, known and unknown, who have been sacrificed in various ways on the altar of African freedom.

This is but a brief and sketchy outline of the momentous struggle of the freedom fighters in our country, of the sacrifice they have made and of the price that is being paid at the present moment by those who keep the freedom flag flying.

For years our political organizations have been subjected to vicious attacks by the government. In 1957 there was considerable mass unrest and disturbances in the country districts of Zeerust, Sekhukhuniland, and Rustenburg. In all these areas there was widespread dissatisfaction with government policy and there were revolts against the pass laws, the poll tax, and government-inspired tribal authorities.

Instead of meeting the legitimate political demands of the masses of the people and redressing their grievances, the government reacted by banning the ANC in all these districts. In April 1960 the government went further and completely outlawed both the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress.

By resorting to these drastic methods the government had hoped to silence all opposition to its harsh policies and to remove all threats to the privileged position of the Whites in the country. It had hoped for days of perfect peace and comfort for White South Africa, free from revolt and revolution. It believed that through its strong-arm measures it could achieve what White South Africa has failed to accomplish during the last fifty years, namely, to compel Africans to accept the position that in our country freedom and happiness are the preserve of the White man.

But uneasy lies the head that wears the crown of White supremacy in South Africa. The banning and confinement of leaders, banishments and deportations, imprisonment and even death, have never deterred South African patriots. The very same day it was outlawed, the ANC issued a public statement announcing that it would definitely defy the government's ban and carry out operations from underground. The people of South Africa have adopted this declaration as their own and South Africa is today a land of turmoil and conflict.

In May last year a general strike was called. In the history of our country no strike has ever been organized under such formidable difficulties and dangers. The odds against us were tremendous. Our organizations were outlawed. Special legislation had been rushed through parliament empowering the government to round up its political opponents and to detain them without trial.

One week before the strike ten thousand Africans were arrested and kept in jail until after the strike. All meetings were banned throughout the country and our field workers were trailed and hounded by members of the Security Branch. General mobilization was ordered throughout the country and every available White man and woman put under arms. An English periodical described the situation on the eve of the strike in the following terms:

'In the country's biggest call-up since the war, scores of citizens' force and commando units were mobilised in the big towns. Camps were established at strategic points; heavy army vehicles carrying equipment and supplies moved in a steady stream along the Reef; helicopters hovered over African residential areas and trained searchlights on houses, yards, lands, and unlit areas. Hundreds of White civilians were sworn in as special constables, hundreds of white women spent weekends shooting at targets. Gun shops sold out of their stocks of revolvers and ammunition. All police leave was cancelled throughout the country. Armed guards were posted to protect power stations and other sources of essential services. Saracen armored cars and troop carriers patrolled townships. Police vans patrolled areas and broadcast statements that Africans who struck work would he sacked and endorsed out of the town.'

This was the picture in South Africa on the eve of the general strike, but our people stood up to the test most magnificently. The response was less than we expected but we made solid and substantial achievements. Hundreds of thousands of workers stayed away from work and the country's industries and commerce were seriously damaged. Hundreds of thousands of students and schoolchildren did not go to school for the duration of the strike.

The celebrations which had been planned by the government to mark the inauguration of the republic were not only completely boycotted by the Africans, but were held in an atmosphere of tension and crisis in which the whole country looked like a military camp in a state of unrest and uncertainty. This panic stricken show of force was a measure of the power of the liberation movement and yet it failed to stem the rising tide of popular discontent.

How strong is the freedom struggle in South Africa today? What role should PAFMECA play to strengthen the liberation movement in South Africa and speed up the liberation of our country? These are questions frequently put by those who have our welfare at heart.

The view has been expressed in some quarters outside South Africa that, in the special situation obtaining in our country, our people will never win freedom through their own efforts. Those who hold this view point to the formidable apparatus of force and coercion in the hands of the government, to the size of its armies, the fierce suppression of civil liberties, and the persecution of political opponents of the regime. Consequently, in these quarters, we are urged to look for our salvation beyond our borders.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that world opinion against the policies of the South African government has hardened considerably in recent years. The All African People's Conference held in Accra in 1958, the Positive Action Conference for Peace and Security in Africa, also held in Accra in April 1960, the Conference of Independent African States held in this famous capital in June of the same year, and the conferences at Casablanca and Monrovia last year, as well as the Lagos Conference this month, passed militant resolutions in which they sharply condemned and rejected the racial policies of the South African government.

It has become clear to us that the whole of Africa is unanimously behind the move to ensure effective economic and diplomatic sanctions against the South African government.

At the international level, concrete action against South Africa found expression in the expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth, which was achieved with the active initiative and collaboration of the African members of the Commonwealth. These were Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanganyika (although the latter had not yet achieved its independence). Nigeria also took the initiative in moving for the expulsion of South Africa from the International Labor Organisation.

But most significant was the draft resolution tabled at the fifteenth session of the United Nations which called for sanctions against South Africa. This resolution had the support of all the African members of the United Nations, with only one exception. The significance of the draft was not minimized by the fact that a milder resolution was finally adopted calling for individual or collective sanctions by member states. At the sixteenth session of the United Nations last year, the African states played a marvelous role in successfully carrying through the General Assembly a resolution against the address delivered by the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Eric Louw, and subsequently in the moves calling for the expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations and for sanctions against her.

Although the United Nations itself has neither expelled nor adopted sanctions against South Africa, many independent African states are in varying degrees enforcing economic and other sanctions against her. This increasing world pressure on South Africa has greatly weakened her international position and given a tremendous impetus to the freedom struggle inside the country.

No less a danger to White minority rule and a guarantee of ultimate victory for us is the freedom struggle that is raging furiously beyond the borders of the South African territory; the rapid progress of Kenya, Uganda, and Zanzibar towards independence; the victories gained by the Nyasaland Malawi Congress; the unabated determination of Kenneth Kaunda's United National Independence Party (UNIP); the courage displayed by the freedom fighters of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), successor to the now banned National Democratic Party (NDP); the gallantry of the African crusaders in the Angolan war of liberation and the storm clouds forming around the excesses of Portuguese repression in Mozambique; the growing power of the independence movements in South-West Africa and the emergence of powerful political organizations in the High Commission territories - all these are forces which cannot compromise with White domination anywhere.

But we believe it would be fatal to create the illusion that external pressures render it unnecessary for us to tackle the enemy from within. The centre and cornerstone of the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa lies inside South Africa itself. Apart from those required for essential work outside the country, freedom fighters are in great demand for work inside the country.

We owe it as a duty to ourselves and to the freedom-loving peoples of the world to build and maintain in South Africa itself a powerful, solid movement, capable of surviving any attack by the government and sufficiently militant to fight back with a determination that comes from the knowledge and conviction that it is first and foremost by our own struggle and sacrifice inside South Africa itself that victory over White domination and apartheid can be won.

The struggle in the areas still subject to imperialist rule can be delayed and even defeated if it is uncoordinated. Only by our combined efforts and united action can we repulse the multiple onslaughts of the imperialists and fight our way to victory. Our enemies fight collectively and combine to exploit our people.

The clear examples of collective imperialism have made themselves felt more and more in our region by the formation of an unholy alliance between the governments of South Africa, Portugal, and the so-called Central African Federation. Hence these governments openly and shamelessly gave military assistance consisting of personnel and equipment to the traitorous Tshombe regime in Katanga.

At this very moment it has been widely reported that a secret defence agreement has been signed between Portugal, South Africa, and the Federation, following visits of Federation and South African defence ministers to Lisbon, the Federation defence minister to Luanda, and South African Defence Ministry delegations to Mozambique. Dr Salazar was quoted in the Johannesburg Star of 8 July 1961 as saying: 'Our relations - Mozambique's and Angola's on the one hand and the Federation and South Africa on the other - arise from the existence of our common borders and our traditional friendships that unite our Governments and our people. Our mutual interests are manifold and we are conscious of the need to cooperate to fulfill our common needs.'

Last year, Southern Rhodesian troops were training in South Africa and so were Rhodesian Air Force units. A military mission from South Africa and another from the Central African Federation visited Lourenzo Marques in Mozambique, at the invitation of the Mozambique Army Command, and took part in training exercises in which several units totaling 2,600 men participated. These operations included dropping exercises for paratroopers.

A report in a South African aviation magazine, wings (December 1961), states: 'The Portuguese are hastily building nine new aerodromes in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) following their troubles in Angola. The new 'dromes are all capable of taking jet fighters and are situated along or near the borders of Tanganyika and Nyasaland'; and gives full details.

Can anyone, therefore, doubt the role that the freedom movements should play in view of this hideous conspiracy?

As we have stated earlier, the freedom movement in South Africa believes that hard and swift blows should be delivered with the full weight of the masses of the people, who alone furnish us with one absolute guarantee that the freedom flames now burning in the country shall never be extinguished.

During the last ten years the African people in South Africa have fought many freedom battles, involving civil disobedience, strikes, protest marches, boycotts and demonstrations of all kinds. In all these campaigns we repeatedly stressed the importance of discipline, peaceful and non-violent struggle. We did so, firstly because we felt that there were still opportunities for peaceful struggle and we sincerely worked for peaceful changes. Secondly, we did not want to expose our people to situations where they might become easy targets for the trigger-happy police of South Africa. But the situation has now radically altered.

South Africa is now a land ruled by the gun. The government is increasing the size of its army, of the navy, of its air force, and the police. Pill-boxes and road blocks are being built up all over the country. Armament factories are being set up in Johannesburg and other cities. Officers of the South African army have visited Algeria and Angola where they were briefed exclusively on methods of suppressing popular struggles.

All opportunities for peaceful agitation and struggle have been closed. Africans no longer have the freedom even to stay peacefully in their houses in protest against the oppressive policies of the government. During the strike in May last year the police went from house to house, beating up Africans and driving them to work.

Hence it is understandable why today many of our people are turning their faces away from the path of peace and non-violence. They feel that peace in our country must be considered already broken when a minority government maintains its authority over the majority by force and violence.

A crisis is developing in earnest in South Africa. However, no high command ever announces beforehand what its strategy and tactics will be to meet a situation. Certainly, the days of civil disobedience, of strikes, and mass demonstrations are not over and we will resort to them over and over again.

But a leadership commits a crime against its own people if it hesitates to sharpen its political weapons which have become less effective.

Regarding the actual situation pertaining today in South Africa I should mention that I have just come out of South Africa, having for the last ten months lived in my own country as an outlaw, away from family and friends. When I was compelled to lead this sort of life, I made a public statement in which I announced that I would not leave the country but would continue working underground. I meant it and I have honored that undertaking. But when my organisation received the invitation to this conference it was decided that I should attempt to come out and attend the conference to furnish the various African leaders, leading sons of our continent, with the most up-to-date information about the situation.

During the past ten months I moved up and down my country and spoke to peasants in the countryside, to workers in the cities, to students and professional people. It dawned on me quite clearly that the situation had become explosive. It was not surprising therefore when one morning in October last year we woke up to read press reports of widespread sabotage involving the cutting of telephone wires and the blowing up of power pylons. The government remained unshaken and White South Africa tried to dismiss it as the work of criminals.

Then on the night of 16 December last year the whole of South Africa vibrated under the heavy blows of Umkhonto we Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation). Government buildings were blasted with explosives in Johannesburg, the industrial heart of South Africa, in Port Elizabeth, and in Durban. It was now clear that this was a political demonstration of a formidable kind, and the press announced the beginning of planned acts of sabotage in the country.

It was still a small beginning because a government as strong and as aggressive as that of South Africa can never be induced to part with political power by bomb explosions in one night and in three cities only. But in a country where freedom fighters frequently pay with their very lives and at a time when the most elaborate military preparations are being made to crush the people's struggles, planned acts of sabotage against government installations introduce a new phase in the political situation and are a demonstration of the people's unshakeable determination to win freedom whatever the cost may be.

The government is preparing to strike viciously at political leaders and freedom fighters. But the people will not take these blows sitting down.

In such a grave situation it is fit and proper that this conference of PAFMECA should sound a clarion call to the struggling peoples in South Africa and other dependent areas, to close ranks, to stand firm as a rock and not allow themselves to be divided by petty political rivalries whilst their countries burn. At this critical moment in the history of struggle, unity amongst our people in South Africa and in the other territories has become as vital as the air we breathe and it should be preserved at all costs.

Finally, dear friends, I should assure you that the African people of South Africa, notwithstanding fierce persecution and untold suffering, in their ever increasing courage will not for one single moment be diverted from the historic mission of liberating their country and winning freedom, lasting peace, and happiness.

We are confident that in the decisive struggles ahead, our liberation movement will receive the fullest support of PAFMECA and of all freedom-loving people throughout the world.20

After the Addis Ababa conference, PAFMECA was transformed into a larger organization, PAFMECSA. And it was not long before an even larger organization came into being, replacing PAFMECSA which existed until 1963. It was replaced by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) formed in May the same year in Addis Ababa, embracing the whole continent.

Right from the beginning, PAFMECSA was unique in one respect in the sense that it was composed of nationalist political parties from both colonial and independent countries, while PAFMECA was at first an umbrella organization composed of political parties only from colonial territories, until December 1961 when Tanganyika became independent and the only independent country represented in the organization before its demise in February 1962.

Uganda would have become another independent country as a member of the organization but it did not win independence until October that year when PAFMECA had already been replaced by PAFMECSA.

In the case of some of the independent countries, such as Tanganyika after she won independence in 1961, it was actually the government rather than the local political party or parties which were represented in PAFMECSA. And in independent countries which had a one-party system, the party was in fact the government.

At the PAFMECSA meeting held in December 1962 in Leopoldville, capital of the former Belgian Congo, the following independent countries were represented: Burundi, Congo-Leopoldville, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanganyika, and Uganda. Also delegates from the following colonial territories attended the conference: Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Kenya, Zanzibar, Mozambique, and Angola. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the nationalist movements of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) from apartheid South Africa.

Earlier on March 21, 1960, the Pan-Africanist Congress under the leadership of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, organized a demonstration against the pass laws which led to the massacre of 69 Africans in the township of Sharpeville. More than 180 were injured.

Most of those killed and injured were women and children after a group of black protesters converged on the local police station, offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books. Police opened fire on the crowd, triggering international condemnation of the apartheid regime for the massacre. It was a turning point in the history of South Africa and the massacre helped galvanize the struggle against apartheid.

The pivotal role PAFMECSA played in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as we have just seen was also acknowledged by Nelson Mandela in his book Long Walk to Freedom:

In December (1961), the ANC received an invitation from the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East, Central, and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA) to attend its conference in Addis Ababa in February 1962. PAFMECSA, which later became the Organization of African Unity, aimed to draw together the independent states of Africa and promote the liberation movements on the continent....

The underground executive asked me to lead the ANC delegation to the conference....The ANC had to arrange for me to travel to Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika. The flight to Addis Ababa would originate in Dar es Salaam....

Early the next morning we left for Mbeya, a Tanganyikan town near the Rhodesian border....We booked in a local motel (in Mbeya)....We were waiting for Mr. John Mwakangale of the Tanganyika African National Union, a member of parliament....

We arrived in Dar es Salaam the next day and I met with Julius Nyerere, the newly independent country's first president. We talked at his house, which was not at all grand, and I recall that he drove himself in a simple car, a little Austin. This impressed me, for it suggested that he was a man of the people. Class, Nyerere always insisted, was alien to Africa; socialism indigenous.

I reviewed our situation for him, ending with an appeal for help. He was a shrewd, soft-spoken man who was well-disposed to our mission....He suggested I seek the favor of Emperor Haile Selassie and promised to arrange an introduction....

Because I did not have a passport, I carried with me a rudimentary document from Tanganyika that merely said, 'This is Nelson Mandela, a citizen of the Republic of South Africa. He has permission to leave Tanganyika and return here.'21

Although PAFMECSA led to the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), as did the efforts by the Casablanca and Monrovia Groups, African countries did not - as a step towards African unity - retain the federal structures instituted by the colonial powers to consolidate their rule the way they had agreed to maintain the territorial boundaries they inherited at independence in order to avoid chaos. There were not many federations which had been established by the colonial rulers during their reign. But there were some and were big enough to have made an impact on the international scene had they emerged from colonial rule, intact, as supra-national states each under its own federal government. Only one did, as we will learn shortly.

The French colonial rulers formed two large federations on the continent. There was French Equatorial Africa in West-central Africa comprising Chad, the Central African Republic, French Congo - what is now Congo-Brazzaville - and Gabon. Its capital was Brazzaville. But the federation was dissolved in 1958 when the constituent territories voted to become autonomous republics.

In 1959, they formed a loose federation called the Union of Central African Republics. However, it was a union in name only. In 1960 they became fully "independent" as members of the French Community controlled and dominated by France as her neocolonial umbrella for her former colonies.

The other federation established by France was French West Africa comprising twice as many colonies: Dahomey, French Guinea, French Soudan, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta. Its capital was Dakar, Senegal. Guinea, as already know, pulled out of the French Community in 1958 when it became independent, the same year the constituent territories became autonomous republics within the French Community. But, like its sister federation of French Equatorial Africa, it, too, was dissolved in 1959.

In the same year, 1959, the colony of French Soudan, renamed the Sudanese Republic, joined Senegal to form the Mali Federation which became independent on June 20, 1960. But political differences shattered the federation. Senegal, led by Senghor, a Francophile, was conservative; Mali, led by Modibo Keita, an ardent Pan-Africanist, was a militant.

On August 20, 1960, Senegal declared itself independent and pulled out of the federation, dissolving it on the same day. The former French Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali on September 22, 1960, and withdrew from the French Community.

Therefore, none of the federations in Francophone Africa survived to form a basis for union of the member-countries under one government after they won independence. And prospects for unity got dimmer and dimmer through the years as the newly independent states jealously guarded their sovereign status. In fact, the sixties saw no concerted effort among the French-speaking African countries to form any kind of union, except for Guinea and Mali which formed a symbolic union with Ghana that was made impractical by geographical separation and other factors including lack of institutional mechanisms to make the union functional.

But even among Senegalese, who precipitated the dissolution of the Mali Federation when they pulled out, there were those who believed that there was an imperative need for unity transcending territorial boundaries. As Mamadou Dia, who before he became prime minister of Senegal served as vice premier of the short-lived Mali Federation, states in his book The African Nations and World Solidarity:

It would be a fatal error for the nations of the Tiers-Monde, especially those just recovering their freedom, to think that the struggle ends with the proclamation of independence....

Narrow nationalisms reflect a lack of historical perspective and surely ill-advised when they hope to guarantee the development of the economies they want to liberate by suddenly reversing their policies, by skillful maneuvering, or by changing partners.

The road to real African independence, constructed on a solid rock of a strong economy, lies not so much in neutralism as in large groupings that permit the concentration of poles, centers, and axes of development. That is why Mali (the Federation) will be an open nation that must expand to fulfill its role.22

The Mali Federation was the third and last one to collapse in Francophone Africa. However, the collapse of those federation was lauded even by the imperial Charles de Gaulle when he took a strong stand on the Nigerian civil war and eventually recognized the breakaway region of Eastern Nigeria as the independent Republic of Biafra. As Kaye Whiteman points out:

De Gaulle based his argument on self-determination, and on hostility to federations in general. All those he mentioned were British creations, including Canada, - where he equally applies the self-determination principle in Quebec - but the real analogy he is making is the two federations the French had created in West and Central Africa, which were systematically dismantled in the late 1950's as independence approached.

France at the time was accused of balkanization - of creating a host of unviable mini-states in order to maintain a neo-colonial influence over them, but of late the French have been emphasizing that their decolonization did at least avoid a Nigerian war. It is significant that wealthy Ivory Coast and Gabon were the 'Biafras' of these failed federations, and it has been claimed that De Gaulle may have been influenced by President Houphouet-Boigny towards Biafra rather than the other way round.23

As for the British, they left an enduring legacy in the continued existence of the Federation of Nigeria which is also the only federation - on the entire continent - formed during colonial times that has survived. But they also formed another one: the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland comprising three territories - Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland. It was formed in 1953, and its capital was Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia.

The British wanted to maintain the federation. But black Africans, fearing perpetuation of white domination like in South Africa without any hope of getting independence soon, were vigorously opposed to it. The federation was already dominated by the white settlers of Southern Rhodesia to whom the British transferred control, ostensibly to facilitate administration but in reality to perpetuate white domination over blacks.

The beginning of the end of the federation started in 1953 - the same year in which it was formed - when Nyasaland, which was almost all-black and hardly had any white settlers unlike Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia, was forced by the British into the federation. The Nyasaland African Congress founded in 1944 was opposed to the federation. Opposition continued through the years until the federation was dissolved on December 31, 1963.

However, one African leader with impeccable pan-African credentials was opposed to the dissolution of the Central African Federation as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was popularly known. He was Dr. Milton Obote. As Professor Ali Mazrui states:

Obote's stand on the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was the more interesting because, while he refused to recognize the present government of the Federation, he was nevertheless against the Federation's dissolution - a stand which put him almost in a class by himself among African nationalists.24

Given his pan-African inclinations, it is understandable why he was opposed to the federation's dissolution for the same reason many Nigerians - by no means all - and other Africans were opposed to the dissolution of the Nigerian Federation before and after independence. That is because it was possible to build a strong African macro-nation on the foundations inherited from the colonialists.

Had the Nigerian Federation been dissolved, there would be no Nigeria today, potentially one of the most powerful and richest black nations in the world. And had the Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland survived and emerged from colonial rule as a single political entity under one government, it would have been one of the most powerful and richest black nations in the world together with South Africa and Nigeria; the kind of potential the former Belgian Congo also has.

And had Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika formed the East African federation - taking advantage of the strong ties which already existed among those countries including a common currency and a common market facilitating the free flow of trade among them as members of the East African Common Services Organisation (EACSO) created by the British colonial rulers - the new supra-nation would have been "a power house," as Nyerere put it, as would have been any other macro-nations formed across the continent.

In fact, Nyerere was such a firm believer in the functional utility of an East African federation that he offered to delay the independence of Tanganyika if that would help facilitate the unification of the three East African countries. He said Tanganyika would wait so that all the three countries would win independence on the same day and form a federation under one government.

In one of his last interviews with the New Internationalist in December 1998, almost one year before he died in October 1999, Nyerere said that after independence, he and Ugandan President Milton Obote went to see Kenyatta and told him they should unite and asked him to be the president of the federation. But Kenyatta refused. The interview is reproduced in its entirety as an appendix in this book.

Therefore there has always been a strong sentiment for unity among many Africans especially Pan-Africanist leaders such as Nyerere and Nkrumah. And with regard to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, a case could indeed be made that an opportunity which could have been exploited by Africans, if the federation survived and emerged from colonial rule as a single political entity, was lost when it was dissolved. And that is probably what Dr. Milton Obote had in mind when he opposed its dissolution.

He saw a giant African state emerging out of that if the three British colonies of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland won independence as a collective entity under one government similar to what was envisaged in East Africa had Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika followed that path. And Africa would have benefited enormously, an achievement which would also have speeded up the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa which would have come face-to-face with a powerful and rich black independent nation as a neighbour; as opposed to Nigeria which is so far away, and Congo whose enormous potential - exceeding South Africa's wealth - was wasted during 32 years of Mobutu's kleptocratic rule.

Yet, there was also a perfectly legitimate reason against formation or perpetuation of such large federations by colonial powers: consolidation of white minority rule over vast expanses of territory inhabited by tens of millions of Africans left at the mercy of their imperial rulers. It was a fear the three East African leaders - Nyerere, Obote and Kenyatta - forcefully articulated in their declaration of intent to form the East African Federation which they signed in Nairobi in June 1963:

In the past century the hand of imperialism grasped the whole continent and in this part of Africa our people found themselves included together in what colonialists styled 'The British sphere of influence.' Now that we are once again free or are on the point of regaining our freedom we believe the time has come to consolidate our unity and provide it wth a constitutional basis (for an East African federation).

For some years we have worked together in PAFMECA (Pan-African Freedom Movement for East and Central Africa - later expanded to PAFMECSA to include Southern Africa) where we have accepted common objectives and ideas and created the essential spirit of unity between ourselves and among our people....For forty years the imperialists and local settler minorities tried to impose a political federation upon us. Our people rightly resisted these attempts. Federation at that time would quickly have led to one thing - a vast white-dominated dominion.26

Their fears were well-founded. The British imperial government even considered creating, not only an East African federation dominated by white settlers, but also a vast federation stretching from Kenya all the way to South Africa to include all their colonial territories in the region: Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, Basutoland, South Africa, and South West Africa. As George Bennett states in "Settlers and Politics in Kenya":

(There) was an announcement that a commission of the Imperial Government...would visit East Africa to consider federation....

If federation was a 'forced card' as Lord Olivier said, it was forced by two influences of which those in Britain who desired to create a Dominion in East Africa were the prime movers.

In Kenya Lord Delamere had opposed the idea in the 1920 elections, believing that Kenya should stand alone until it was self-governing and that its own problems should be digested first. By 1925, however, he was ready for Grigg's federation plans, and supported the idea of building a Government House at Nairobi to be a worthy centre for the newly established Governors's Conference.

He provided an unofficial background to the Governors' first meeting at Nairobi in 1926 by calling a conference, at Tukuyu in southern October 1925, of settler leaders from the whole area from Kenya to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia.27

Thus, while Africans opposed the imperial federation for good reasons, they failed to form their own - in this case the East African Federation - purely for their own selfish reasons. Not all of them were opposed to federation. In the case of Tanganyika, Nyerere was ready to make a sacrifice. Tanganyika was to be the first East African colony to win independence from Britain. Independence was scheduled for December 9, 1961, but Nyerere offered to postpone it for the sake of federation.

Obote also was in favour of federation but was thwarted in his efforts by separatist threats from the provinces. The greatest threat which almost plunged the country into civil war during the sixties came from the Buganda kingdom. But other provinces constituted enough of a threat, as well, to warrant serious attention from the central government. As Colin Legum and John Drysdale state in Africa Contemporary Record:

Although Buganda offered the toughest problem to the mordenising nationalists, it was by no means the only difficulty they had to face. Each of the other three kingdoms - Toro, Ankole and Bunyoro - and the princedom of Busoga had their own well-structured political systems; each was suspicious of the modern political centre at Entebbe. Also they had traditional rivalries - especially between Buganda and Bunyoro.28

Kenya, the most economically advanced of the three countries since it was favoured by the colonialists with its capital Nairobi virtually being the capital of East Africa, simply did not want to sacrifice her privileged status and lose many of her benefits - which she enjoyed at the expense of Uganda and Tanganyika - for the sake of federation with her poorer sister-countries.

And nationalism, of course, triumphed over the spirit of Pan-Africanism embodied in the declaration of intent for the East African Federation signed by Nyerere, Kenyatta and Obote. Had it not been for the nationalist sentiments and separatist tendencies in Uganda which prevailed over the leadership in Kenya and Uganda, the federation would have been consummated. Tanganyika was the only country which advocated federation the strongest among the three East African countries.

Ten years after Nyerere stepped down as president of Tanzania, ending 24 years of his stewardship of the nation, he stated that failure to form the East African Federation was his biggest disappointment. According to James McKinley of The New York Times who interviewed Nyerere for an hour in his home village of Butiama in northern Tanzania near the shores of Lake Victoria on September 2, 1996:

Mr. Nyerere said his greatest failure was that although he managed to form a federation with Zanzibar in 1964 to create Tanzania, he never managed to persuade neighboring countries to form a larger federation, a move he believes would have made the region a powerhouse. 'I felt that these little countries in Africa were really too small, they would not be viable - the Tanganyikas, the Rwandas, the Burundis, the Kenyas,' he said. 'My ambition in East Africa was really never to build a Tanganyika. I wanted an East African federation. So what did I succeed in doing?' he asked. 'My success is building a nation out of this collection of tribes.'29

The failure of the three East African countries to form a federation during the sixties was even more tragic because the three countries had some of the best institutional structures linking them together which could have provided a strong foundation for the establishment of a federation. They had been linked together in a common services organisation for years. And they emerged from colonial rule with the East African Common Services still intact.

The constituent parts of the Common Services includes a transportation network known as the East African Railways and Harbours Corporation; communication links collectively identified as the East African Posts and Telecommunications Services; a common airline under the aegis of the East African Airways Corporation; and the East African Scientific Research Institute.

In addition to the Common Services, the three East African countries also had a Common Market with a more or less uniform external tariff, "revenue sharing" rather than "protective" in intent. There was virtually a free flow of trade among the three countries both in goods imported from abroad and in goods produced within East Africa. They also had a common currency issued by the East African Currency Board, and no restrictions at all to the flow of money across territorial boundaries within the region.

After winning independence, they also established a single university system with each of the constituent colleges specializing in some areas to serve the manpower needs of East Africa.

The University College of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania had the largest faculty of law, in addition to other departments in various academic disciplines. Nairobi University College in Kenya was noted for its faculty of engineering and department of commerce, in addition to others. And Makerere University College in Uganda founded in 1922, one of the oldest and best on the continent and regarded as the "Harvard" or "Oxford" of Africa, had the school of medicine and other highly regarded departments including political science and economics among others.

The chancellor of the University of East Africa was Julius Nyerere, the president of Tanzania, himself a leading intellectual. Professor Ali Mazrui described him as the most intellectual leader among the East African presidents and the most original thinker among all the leaders in Anglophone Africa.

The three East African countries also established a common parliament, known as the East African Legislative Assembly, to deal with matters relating to the Common Market and Common Services. The legislators held their sessions on rotational basis in the three capitals of Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam. Most of the people in East Africa were also, as they still are, united by a common language, Kiswahili, known mostly to outsiders as Swahili.

Yet in spite of all those ties, the three countries failed to form a federation. However, the quest for unity was not a total failure in the region. After the three countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika failed to form a federation in 1963, Tanganyika and Zanzibar united the following year, on April 26, and formed one country called Tanzania.

But the union was not well-received by everybody, including prominent politicians in East Africa, ostensibly because Zanzibar was said to be under "Communist influence." As Ronald Ngala, Kenya's opposition leader in parliament who led the Kenya Democratic Union (KADU) which was opposed to a unitary state and favoured a federal structure for Kenya's provinces to protect the interests of smaller ethnic groups, stated upon hearing the news of the impending union:

I hope...that the overseas influence infiltrated into Zanzibar will not spread to Tanganyika in any malicious way.30

But probably Ngala himself and others in East Africa and elsewhere who were not well-disposed towards the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar would admit that the advantages of unity including regional integration even if not under a single government outweigh its disadvantages. That is why in East Africa itself, the leaders - including those opposed to federation under one government - went on to form the East African Community (EAC) as a vehicle for effective regional cooperation especially in the economic field despite their political differences.

The EAC was formed in 1967 and superseded the East African Common Services Organisation (EACSO) and restructured the Common Market to accommodate regional differences. The three countries no longer had a common currency - each went on to establish its own; they also instituted tariffs according to EAC guidelines to protect infant industries in Uganda and Tanganyika and restructure the imbalance in the flow of trade which favoured Kenya at the expense of her partners; and went their own separate ways in other areas but were united in their common desire to maintain economic links and facilitate regional cooperation through their membership in the East African Community (EAC) which they joined voluntarily.

The rationale for such regional cooperation and unification movements elsewhere across Africa is simple. As a developing continent, it is Africa itself which offers the best and safest market for African producers. And it is only regional integration or continental union which can stimulate and facilitate rapid economic growth.

Overseas markets cannot absorb all African exports even if they wanted to; other countries have their own products to sell or consume. They are also protectionist, erecting tariff barriers to insulate their own industries and producers from outside competition. And some of them are hostile to African countries including what they produce for different reasons such as political differences and outright prejudice. There could be no stronger reasons for African countries to forge links among themselves in order to establish a common market and trade among themselves.

Formation of the East African Community as an intergovernmental organisation underscored the need for such regional cooperation the three East African leaders - Nyerere, Obote and Kenyatta - had emphasized three years earlier in June 1963 when they signed the "Declaration of Federation by the Governments of East Africa":

Economic planning, maximum utilization of manpower and our other resources, the establishment of a Central Bank and common defence programme, and foreign and diplomatic representation are areas in which we need to work together.

Such approach would provide greater coordination and savings in both scarce capital, facilities for training and manpower. What is more we would have a total population of some 25 million people - a formidable force and a vast market to influence economic development at home, attract greater investment and enhance our prestige and influence abroad.31

The failure of the three East African countries to form a federation demonstrated the great difficulty even countries which have so much in common - for example in terms of economic ties and history as well as a common language as we have shown - are bound to face when they try to submerge their national identities in a supra-national body for the sake of unity under one government. Even the Arab countries of North Africa which are racially, culturally and linguistically homogenous and are virtually all-Muslim, failed to unite during the sixties around the same time the East African Federation failed.

Political differences and differences in territorial size contributed to the failure of federation or union government among the North African Arab states which tried to unite: the Maghreb states of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Algeria was militant, the other two conservative. Algeria was also seen as a threat because it is much larger and richer than Tunisia and Morocco. And as a nation born in war and bloodshed during its struggle for independence in which one million Algerians died in seven years of guerrilla warfare against the French, Algeria's militancy even before the country won independence was viewed with apprehension by the other two Maghreb states of Tunisia and Morocco.

In spite of all that, the three countries agreed to form a union nonetheless. But when Algeria won independence in July 1962, Morocco quickly claimed some border regions as hers and threatened annexation of Algerian territory. In October 1963, the two countries fought a brief but intense and bitter war over those claims, dashing any hopes of unity between the two countries in the near future.

Morocco alienated Algerians even further because of her neocolonial image as a client state of the West, especially of the United States and France. By contrast, the Algerian leadership took a very strong stand against neocolonial penetration of Africa, a position articulated by only a handful of countries on the continent during that time: Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, and Algeria itself. As Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella said in an interview with Maria Macciochi, a correspondent of L'Unita, an Italian daily newspaper, on August 13, 1962, in Algeirs:

I have declared that neocolonialism is our great scourge....Colonialism has been modernized. It has become more progressive, less crude. It understands that people can no longer be dominated by force, by machine guns, and by bloody repression. It seeks new ways of domination - an enlightened colonialism, so to speak - although based on a fictitious equality, a new form of slavery controlling the key positions in our society.

Either there is a revolution under way in the country and we will be able to pursue this course under our own power, or else Algeria will become a revised and improved version of other African governments which have accepted neocolonialism.32

Morocco's provocation of Algeria and her attempt to seize Algerian territory may have been interpreted in some quarters as part of a neocolonialist plot by the West to subvert the Algerian revolution. And it was. King Hussein of Morocco invaded Algeria on his own, but he was also encouraged and "pushed" by the French and American intelligence agencies to attack her neoughbour. The Algerian revolution and Ben Bella's ideological orientation were considered anathema to the West. And in September 1963, Moroccan troops captured several Algerian border posts, triggering the so-called War of the Desert.

However, the conflict between the two countries was not atypical on the continent. Although the sixties were euphoric times as Africans celebrated independence every year - until 1968 hardly a year passed without at least one African country winning independence - the decade was also one of crises in different areas, forcing the young African nations to face the harsh realities of nationhood. The problems were political and economic as well as military.

At independence, the new African nations lacked many attributes of social cohesion and political stability critical to tackling the arduous task of national development and forging political unity among diverse groups living within the same territorial boundaries. Ethnic diversity presented one of the daunting problems demanding political acumen and statesmanship of the highest calibre. African countries were and still are no more than a collection of different ethnic groups, many of them hostile to each other.

Also, the young African nations lacked trained manpower practically in all areas, resulting in poor performance. In almost all the countries, administrative and technical skills remained at a very low level all the way through the sixties. For example, the former Belgian Congo had only 16 university graduates at independence in 1960; Nyasaland, renamed Malawi, had 34 at independence in 1964; Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia, had 109 when it won independence in 1966; and Tanganyika had 120 at independence in 1961.

African countries won independence promising their people not only political freedom but also economic salvation and freedom from disease and ignorance. As Nyerere said in September 1963, although Tanganyikans had won the right to international equality when the country achieved independence, such equality was more apparent than real because a person who was ignorant and could not produce enough food for himself and suffered from disfiguring diseases could not really stand on terms of equality with all the others who were not in his condition.33

None of those problems can be solved without economic development. And economic development is impossible without modernization. Unfortunately even today, a modern industrial economy is beyond the reach of most African countries just as it was during the sixties. Yet, there is no alternative to economic development except perpetual misery. So the fundamental question which was asked then and is still being asked today is, "Which Way Africa?" especially for an underdeveloped and predominantly agricultural continent.

Many economists contend that Africans can develop more rapidly and with less strain if development programmes first emphasize agriculture which is the mainstay of African economies, extractive industry, roads, power plants and light manufactures. Many African countries tried that during the sixties. But they also realized that development of heavy industry seemed to be the sine qua non for economic independence. And it is one of the great features which separate developed countries from underdeveloped ones collectively known as the Third World.

Dr. Nkrumah was one of the African leaders who wanted and tried to take that route towards rapid economic development, placing great emphasis on industrialization including the acquisition of nuclear technology. As he stated at a ceremony launching the construction of Ghana's Atomic Reactor Centre at Kwabenya near Accra on December 16, 1964:

We must ourselves take part in the pursuit of scientific and technological research as a means of providing the basis of our socialist society. Socialism without science is void....We have therefore been compelled to enter the field of atomic energy because this already promises to yield the greatest economic resource of power since the beginning of man.34

Had he been able to achieve his goal, he would have paved the way towards industrialization for other African countries the same way he blazed the trail towards African independence when he led Ghana to become the first black African country to emerge from colonial rule. Unfortunately, shortly after he launched the construction of Ghana's Atomic Reactor Centre, he was overthrown about a year later on February 24, 1966, in a military coup engineered and masterminded by the CIA.

The ouster of Nkrumah was one of the most tragic events in the history of post-colonial Africa. Nkrumah was the strongest advocate of immediate continental unification, a stand which put him in a class almost by himself. He was also, together with leaders such as Nyerere, Obote and Sekou Toure, one of the strongest supporters of African unity in general and of the African liberation movements and an uncompromising opponent of inteference in African affairs by world powers and other external forces. And that made him an enemy of the West. He became prime target for the CIA:

Declassified National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency documents provide compelling, new evidence of United States government involvement in the 1966 overthrow of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah.

The coup d'etat, organized by dissident army officers, toppled the Nkrumah government on Feb. 24, 1966 and was promptly hailed by Western governments, including the U.S.

The documents appear in a collection of diplomatic and intelligence memos, telegrams, and reports on Africa in Foreign Relations of the United States, the government's ongoing official history of American foreign policy.

Prepared by the State Department's Office of the Historian, the latest volumes reflect the overt diplomacy and covert actions of President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration from 1964-68. Though published in November 1999, what they reveal about U.S. complicity in the Ghana coup was only recently noted.

Allegations of American involvement in the putsche arose almost immediately because of the well-known hostility of the U.S. to Nkrumah's socialist orientation and pan-African activism.

Nkrumah, himself, implicated the U.S. in his overthrow, and warned other African nations about what he saw as an emerging pattern.

"An all-out offensive is being waged against the progressive, independent states," he wrote in Dark Days in Ghana, his 1969 account of the Ghana coup. "All that has been needed was a small force of disciplined men to seize the key points of the capital city and to arrest the existing political leadership."

"It has been one of the tasks of the C.I.A. and other similar organisations," he noted, "to discover these potential quislings and traitors in our midst, and to encourage them, by bribery and the promise of political power, to destroy the constitutional government of their countries."

A Spook's Story

While charges of U.S. involvement are not new, support for them was lacking until 1978, when anecdotal evidence was provided from an unlikely source - a former CIA case officer, John Stockwell, who reported first-hand testimony in his memoir, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story.

"The inside story came to me," Stockwell wrote, "from an egotistical friend, who had been chief of the [CIA] station in Accra [Ghana] at the time." (Stockwell was stationed one country away in the Ivory Coast.)

Subsequent investigations by The New York Times and Covert Action Information Bulletin identified the station chief as Howard T. Banes, who operated undercover as a political officer in the U.S. Embassy.

This is how the ouster of Nkrumah was handled as Stockwell related. The Accra station was encouraged by headquarters to maintain contact with dissidents of the Ghanaian army for the purpose of gathering intelligence on their activities. It was given a generous budget, and maintained intimate contact with the plotters as a coup was hatched. So close was the station's involvement that it was able to coordinate the recovery of some classified Soviet military equipment by the United States as the coup took place.

According to Stockwell, Banes' sense of initiative knew no bounds. The station even proposed to headquarters through back channels that a squad be on hand at the moment of the coup to storm the [Communist] Chinese embassy, kill everyone inside, steal their secret records, and blow up the building to cover the facts.

Though the proposal was quashed, inside the CIA headquarters the Accra station was given full, if unofficial credit for the eventual coup, in which eight Soviet advisors were killed. None of this was adequately reflected in the agency's records, Stockwell wrote.

Confirmation and Revelation

While the newly-released documents, written by a National Security Council staffer and unnamed CIA officers, confirm the essential outlines set forth by Nkrumah and Stockwell, they also provide additional, and chilling, details about what the U.S. government knew about the plot, when, and what it was prepared to do and did do to assist it.

On March 11, 1965, almost a year before the coup, William P. Mahoney, the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, participated in a candid discussion in Washington, D.C., with CIA Director John A. McCone and the deputy chief of the CIA's Africa division, whose name has been withheld.

Significantly, the Africa division was part of the CIA's directorate of plans, or dirty tricks component, through which the government pursued its covert policies.

According to the record of their meeting (Document 251), topic one was the "Coup d'etat Plot, Ghana." While Mahoney was satisfied that popular opinion was running strongly against Nkrumah and the economy of the country was in a precarious state, he was not convinced that the coup d'etat, now being planned by Acting Police Commissioner Harlley and Generals Otu and Ankrah, would necessarily take place.

Nevertheless, he confidently - and accurately, as it turned out -predicted that one way or another Nkrumah would be out within a year. Revealing the depth of embassy knowledge of the plot, Mahoney referred to a recent report which mentioned that the top coup conspirators were scheduled to meet on 10 March at which time they would determine the timing of the coup.

However, he warned, because of a tendency to procrastinate, any specific date they set should be accepted with reservations. In a reversal of what some would assume were the traditional roles of an ambassador and the CIA director, McCone asked Mahoney who would most likely succeed Nkrumah in the event of a coup.

Mahoney again correctly forecast the future: Ambassador Mahoney stated that initially, at least, a military junta would take over.

Making it Happen

But Mahoney was not a prophet. Rather, he represented the commitment of the U.S. government, in coordination with other Western governments, to bring about Nkrumah's downfall.

Firstly, Mahoney recommended denying Ghana's forthcoming aid request in the interests of further weakening Nkrumah. He felt that there was little chance that either the Chinese Communists or the Soviets would in adequate measure come to Nkrumah's financial rescue and the British would continue to adopt a hard nose attitude toward providing further assistance to Ghana.

At the same time, it appears that Mahoney encouraged Nkrumah in the mistaken belief that both the U.S. and the U.K. would come to his financial rescue and proposed maintaining current U.S. aid levels and programs because they will endure and be remembered long after Nkrumah goes.

Secondly, Mahoney seems to have assumed the responsibility of increasing the pressure on Nkrumah and exploiting the probable results. This can be seen in his 50-minute meeting with Nkrumah three weeks later.

According to Mahoney's account of their April 2 discussion (Document 252), "at one point Nkrumah, who had been holding face in hands, looked up and I saw he was crying. With difficulty he said I could not understand the ordeal he had been through during last month. Recalling that there had been seven attempts on his life."

Mahoney did not attempt to discourage Nkrumah's fears, nor did he characterize them as unfounded in his report to his superiors.

"While Nkrumah apparently continues to have personal affection for me," he noted, "he seems as convinced as ever that the US is out to get him. From what he said about assassination attempts in March, it appears he still suspects US involvement."

Of course, the U.S. was out to get him. Moreover, Nkrumah was keenly aware of a recent African precedent that made the notion of a U.S.-organized or sanctioned assassination plot plausible - namely, the fate of the Congo and its first prime minister, his friend Patrice Lumumba.

Nkrumah believed that the destabilization of the Congolese government in 1960 and Lumumba's assassination in 1961 were the work of the "Invisible Government of the U.S.," as he wrote in Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, later in 1965.

When Lumumba's murder was announced, Nkrumah told students at the inauguration of an ideological institute that bore his name that this brutal murder should teach them the diabolical depths of degradation to which these twin-monsters of imperialism and colonialism can descend.

In his conclusion, Mahoney observed: "Nkrumah gave me the impression of being a badly frightened man. His emotional resources seem be running out. As pressures increase, we may expect more hysterical outbursts, many directed against US."

It was not necessary to add that he was helping to apply the pressure, nor that any hysterical outbursts by Nkrumah played into the West's projection of him as an unstable dictator, thus justifying his removal.

Smoking Gun

On May 27, 1965, Robert W. Komer, a National Security Council staffer, briefed his boss, McGeorge Bundy, President Johnson's special assistant for national security affairs, on the anti-Nkrumah campaign (Document 253).

Komer, who first joined the White House as a member of President Kennedy's NSC staff, had worked as a CIA analyst for 15 years. In 1967, Johnson tapped him to head his hearts-and-minds pacification program in Vietnam.

Komer's report establishes that the effort was not only interagency, sanctioned by the White House and supervised by the State Department and CIA, but also intergovernmental, being supported by America's Western allies.

"FYI," he advised, "we may have a pro-Western coup in Ghana soon. Certain key military and police figures have been planning one for some time, and Ghana's deteriorating economic condition may provide the spark."

"The plotters are keeping us briefed," he noted, "and the State Department thinks we're more on the inside than the British. While we're not directly involved (I'm told), we and other Western countries (including France) have been helping to set up the situation by ignoring Nkrumah's pleas for economic aid. All in all, it looks good."

Komer's reference to not being told if the U.S. was directly involved in the coup plot is revealing and quite likely a wry nod to his CIA past.

Among the most deeply ingrained aspects of intelligence tradecraft and culture is plausible deniability, the habit of mind and practice designed to insulate the U.S., and particularly the president, from responsibility for particularly sensitive covert operations.

Komer would have known that orders such as the overthrow of Nkrumah would have been communicated in a deliberately vague, opaque, allusive, and indirect fashion, as Thomas Powers noted in The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA.

It would be unreasonable to argue that the U.S. was not directly involved when it created or exacerbated the conditions that favored a coup, and did so for the express purpose of bringing one about.

Truth and Consequences

As it turned out, the coup did not occur for another nine months. After it did, Komer, now acting special assistant for national security affairs, wrote a congratulatory assessment to the President on March 12, 1966 (Document 260). His assessment of Nkrumah and his successors was telling.

"The coup in Ghana," he crowed, "is another example of a fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military regime is almost pathetically pro-Western."

In this, Komer and Nkrumah were in agreement. "Where the more subtle methods of economic pressure and political subversion have failed to achieve the desired result," Nkrumah wrote from exile in Guinea three years later, "there has been resort to violence in order to promote a change of regime and prepare the way for the establishment of a puppet government."35

Although he was overthrown, his influence and continental stature did not diminish. His ideas continued to have a major impact on political discourse on the future of Africa. And his advocacy of industrialization including development of heavy industry won him followers in different parts of Africa, and for good reason.

There is empirical evidence showing that heavy industry has given countries a quantum leap over others towards economic development and independence. It is true, as the advocates of the heavy-industry approach claim, that emphasis on capital goods production allows a greater rate of reinvestment and therefore fosters a rate of growth that is higher than a more balanced approach between heavy and light industry combined with agriculture.

Moreover, without their own industries, especially heavy industry, African countries cannot develop the other sectors of their economies, especially raw materials on which they heavily depend and will continue to be economic plantations of the West and the rest of the industrialized world including China which is destined to become another economic and military super power.

In addition to their underdeveloped status due to lack of manpower and industry, the young African nations were handicapped by their dependence on foreign aid soon after they won independence. And their demand that aid should be channelled through international agencies to avoid strings did not make much sense. All those agencies were and still are dominated by the very same countries, mainly Western, which offered aid. That was one of the harsh realities of nationhood Africans faced when their countries won independence.

Their demand made little sense for another reason. Only about 10 percent of economic aid was funnelled through multilateral institutions, a negligible amount. The bulk of it came directly from the donor countries themselves. And they called the tune. The only alternative was to reject aid as Tanzania did in 1964 when West Germany tried to dictate policy to her over East German diplomatic representation on Tanzanian soil. Otherwise donor countries have the final say.

But even Tanzania itself was still heavily dependent on foreign aid from other countries besides West Germany, as were all the other newly independent countries on the continent. As Adebayo Adedeji, the Nigerian economist who served as executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) stated:

We entered the international economy at a time when, in spite of the rhetoric, the rich countries were not as selfless as they pretended to be. Even in the 1960s and early 1970s, when aid was generous, it was usually tied, and because it was tied, it tended to distort the priorities of developing countries and delayed the implementation process.

The donor countries and institutions have the last word, rather than the (African) governments themselves, such as in the recent controversy between the IMF and Tanzania (in 1983). I think, in the final analysis, that the IMF won. This is the grueling reality of poverty. When you are poor, you can never be right. It is the rich country that is right, because it is the only one that can help you out.36

As African countries were contending with poverty and tackling the formidable task of economic development without sufficient capital and skills, they also had to deal with political and military conflicts which erupted in different parts of the continent during the sixties. Some of those conflicts were within the countries themselves. A look at some of the important milestones illustrates this point.

The year 1960, probably the most important milestone on the road towards African independence, saw not only the emergence in a single year of the largest number of African countries from colonial rule; it was also a turning point in the history of the Portuguese African colonies, the oldest on the continent.

African nationalists in those colonies, seeing the victory of fellow Africans who had just won their freedom, also felt that their time had come although, as events turned out, they were years off the mark. But they nonetheless drew great inspiration from their brethren who had just won independence in 1960 and thereafter in different parts of the continent.

In 1961, bloody uprisings erupted in Angola, the largest and richest of the Porutugese colonies on the continent. Guerrilla warfare had officially begun. It was also in the same year, 1961, that Tanganyika became independent, the first country in the region close to southern Africa to win independence.

Soon after independence, Tanganyika became a haven for refugees and training ground for freedom fighters from the white-ruled territories in southern Africa, the bastion of white minority rule on the continent. When the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May 1963, it chose Tanganyika to be the headquarters of all the African liberation movements under the auspices of the OAU Liberation Committee which was also based in capital Dar es Salaam.

1962 was another important milestone in the history of African liberation when Algeria won independence from France after waging the bloodiest war on the continent which lasted for seven years at a cost of one million Algerian lives.

In 1963, African freedom fighters succeeded in seizing control of parts of Portuguese Guinea, now Guinea Bissau, in West Africa in what came to be one of the most successful wars in the history of African liberation. The war went for ten years.

The year 1963 also turned out to be an important milestone in another respect in the history of African independence. That was the year in which President Sylvanus Olympio of Togo was assassinated in the first military coup in black Africa. The assassination of President Olympio started a trend of assassinations and military coups in Africa, as did Lumumba's in the Congo although in a somewhat different context since the Congo crisis was engineered by Western political and financial interests and turned the country into a theatre of rivalry between East and West during the Cold War.

Olympio's assassination showed not only how vulnerable African leaders were but also how precarious the existing order was, and how dangerous a recourse to violence could become to the continued stability of the modern African state.

The early sixties also witnessed some of the most successful campaigns against ethnic centres of power and traditional rulers who were reluctant to submit to central authority. In Ghana, President Nkrumah subdued the Ewe, members of an ethnic group who live on both sides of the border between Ghana and Togo. He also neutralized the power of the Ashanti kingdom in central Ghana and other traditional centres of power in the northern part of the country to maintain national unity under a unitary state.

In Uganda, Dr. Obote achieved the same goal in the kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro and Ankole and in the princedom of Busoga. And in Zambia, Dr. Kaunda was also able to contain separatist tendencies in Barotse Province, also known as Barotseland, in the west, and among the Tonga and Ilunga ethnic groups in the south which supported their native son, opposition leader Harry Nkumbula of the African National Congress (ANC).

In both Rwanda and Burundi, the Hutu and the Tutsi were virtually in a state of war all the way through the sixties. The tension between them even erupted into open warfare now and then through the decade costing thousands of lives.

Other conflicts on the continent had also been going on for years. Besides the Algerian war of independence which started in 1954, there was also the Sudanese civil war which began in 1955, a racial and religious conflict between blacks in the south and Arabs in the north. Fighting between the two sides went on throughout the sixties. And the conflict in the Congo which had been internationalized by the intervention of outside powers went on until 1965. About 100,000 Congolese died in the conflict. It was one of the bloodiest in post-colonial Africa up to that time.

The bloodiest conflict in the sixties besides the Algerian war of independence was the Nigerian civil war.

At least one million people died, and estimates go to up to two million. Most of those who died were Igbos in the secessionist Eastern Region of Biafra. A very large number of them were killed by Nigerian federal troops during the war itself. But the majority died from starvation which the federal military government deliberately used as a weapon to starve the secessionists into submission. It amounted to a policy of genocide.

There were also, during the sixties, tensions and border conflicts between Kenya and Somalia, Ethiopia and Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, Chad and Sudan, and between Chad and Libya; tensions between Malawi and Tanzania over political differences and Malawi's claims to parts of Tanzanian territory; territorial disputes between Malawi and Zambia arising from Malawi's claim to Zambia's entire Eastern Province; disputes between Rwanda and Burundi, Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville, and Congo with her neighbours when Tshombe briefly served as prime minister.

Tensions in varying degrees also strained relations and led to conflict in some cases between Morocco and Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania, and between Egypt and Sudan. But the only conflict of a military nature was between Algeria and Morocco when Morocco invaded Algeria and tried to annex some territory along the border between the two countries.

Political differences between Ghana dn Nigeria also led to strained relations between the two countries because of Nkrumah's Pan-African militancy which led to the denunciation of the Ghanaian leader - and of Nasser - as power-hungry politicians who wanted to dominate Africa. As Ali Mazrui states:

Nkrumah and Nasser were sometimes regarded as rivals for leadership in Africa. This, at any rate, was the assessment f the West African Pilot of Nigeria in one of its attacks against Nkrumah.

On the question of leadership in Africa, the newspaper taunted Nkrumah in the following terms: 'Until recently it was a tournament between Nasser and Nkrumah but Africa today contains many stars and meteorites, all of them seeking positions of eminence.'37

The taunt was published in The West African Pilot edition of May 18, 1961. A similar jab at Nkrumah was published in an edition of West Africa on May 6, 1961. Yet, in spite of the hostility to Dr. Nkrumah by the Nigerian leadership, many younger Nigerians highly admired him:

A strong, radically nationalist trend has existed within at least the younger generation of Nigerians.

Following the 1962 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference speculation in Britain started as to why the Nigerian Government, with all its pragmatism, rejected out of hand a proposal for associate membership in the EEC (European Economic Community). Walter Schwartz, speaking on the European Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in October 1962, suggested that 'Nigeria's Government, always open to attack from its own youth for being too lukewarm about its nationalism, simply finds it politically impossible to lag behind Ghana on this issue.'

Visiting newsmen to Nigeria once discovered at a special meeting with young Nigerians at Nsukka that most of the youth were strongly in favour of Nkrumah's brand of militant African nationalism, without by any means necessarily coupling it with hero-worship for Nkrumah. One reference to this meeting appeared in the The New York Times, 3 March 1962.38

In addition to the tense relations between Dr. Nkrumah and the Nigerian leadership, there were also territorial disputes between Ghana and Togo; political conflicts between Ghana and the West African French-speaking countries all of which, with the exception of Guinea under Sekou Toure and Mali under Modibo Keita who were also Nkrumah's ideological compatriots, accused Nkrumah of trying to overthrow them. Nkrumah denied the charge and even wrote a "letter to President Hamani Diori of Niger denying any link with the attempt to assassinate Diori."39

But there is no question that Nkrumah scornfully described all the former French African colonies as "client states" of the former colonial power and of the West in general. The only exceptions were Guinea and Mali which he believed were genuinely independent and pursued uncompromising Pan-Africanist policies.

And some opponents of the Francophile regimes in West Africa, for example in neighbouring Ivory Coast, found sanctuary in Ghana where Nkrumah was sympathetic to their cause. And he helped them try to undermine those regimes which themselves were highly critical of Nkrumah and his policies including his pursuit of socialism; he also interfered in East Africa to thwart attempts to form an East African federation, although that is not why the federation was not formed.

And in Francophone Africa, the Ivory Coast under Houphouet-Boigny was Nkrumah's biggest challenge in the economic arena and also his biggest political adversary.

Senegal and the Ivory Coast also denounced Guinean leader Sekou Toure for his "subversive" activities against their governments. Sekou Toure returned the charge and was vindicated a few years later when the people who invaded Guinea in 1970 in an attempt to overthrow his government included citizens of Senegal and the Ivory Coast. Both countries harboured Guinean dissidents and attempts to topple Sekou Toure dated back to the sixties. And both were deeply implicated in the plot. According to Africa Contemporary Record:

Relations between the two countries (Guinea and Senegal) had deteriorated abruptly after a plot in 1966 to overthrow President Sekou Toure, in which he suspected Senegal of being implicated. The Ivory Coast was also accused of complicity in the plot; but signs of possible detente with President Houphouet-Boigny in late 1967 did not lead to any concrete improvement in relations during 1968.40

There were also, during the early sixties, tensions between moderates - the Brazzaville and Monrovia Groups - and radicals of the Casablanca Group over the Congo crisis, the Algerian war of independence, and over ideological differences. But after the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in 1963, the Casablanca Group disbanded. And the Monrovia Group followed suit.

However, the Brazzaville Group of Francophone countries refused to disband and said it would eventually fuse with the OAU. And tense relations between the moderate states (which included conservative states such as the Ivory Coast and Malawi) and the militant states continued within the OAU. And outside powers skillfully exploited those differences.

But it was the Congo crisis which thrust Africa into the international spotlight and attracted the largest number of outsiders into African affairs.

It was also the Congo crisis which proved to be the most frustrating without the slightest hope of ever being resolved by the Africans themselves; unlike the Rhodesian crisis and the Nigerian civil war both of which drew direct involvement of the independent African countries leading to some positive results strictly on African initiatives.

The Congo crisis was also an exasperating experience for the African countries which showed greater interest in it than others on the continent because their assistance was squandered, and their political input largely ignored, by the very groups they were trying to help and which claimed to embody the ideals of the country's independence hero Patrice Lumumba.

The Congolese groups also fostered and thrived on one of Africa's worst nightmares: tribalism. And the Congo crisis itself ended up being the worst nightmare for Africa's most progressive states - Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Tanzania and Uganda - which, after Lumumba's assassination, tried to turn back the tide more than any other African countries which were less involved or did not want to get involved in the crisis.

Probably more than anything else, the Congo crisis demonstrated the weakness and fragility of the modern African state not only against external forces but also against its own internal weaknesses. As Nyerere stated in his speech to the Second Pan-African Seminar in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, in August 1961, about four months before he led Tanganyika to independence from Britain:

There were obvious weaknesses in the Congo situation, but those weaknesses were deliberately used in a scramble for the control of the Congo.

There are obvious weaknesses on the African continent. We have artificial 'nations' carved out at the Berlin Conference; we are struggling to build these nations into stable units of human society. And these weaknesses, too, are being exploited.

We are being reminded daily of these weaknesses. We are told tribalism will not allow us to build nations. But when we try to take measures to deal with tribalism, we are accused of dictatorship. Whenever we try to talk in terms of larger units on the African continent, we are told that it can't be done; we are told that the units we would so create would be 'artificial.' As if they could be any more artificial than the 'national' units on which we are now building!....Many (people) are deliberately emphasizing the difficulties on our continent for the express purpose of maintaining them and sabotaging any move to unite Africa....

So I believe that the second scramble for Africa has begun in real earnest. And it is going to be a much more dangerous scramble than the first one.41

That is what happened in the Congo. One of Africa's biggest and richest countries became a prime target for the big powers right in the heart of the continent. They wreaked havoc at will and the Congo crisis became a test case for Africa. It showed in a very painful and humiliating way how weak Africa was, unable not only to impose peace on herself but to resist foreign intrusion into the continent. Even collectively, African countries were impotent against external intervention by outside powers from both sides of the iron curtain during the Cold War. And they failed to redeem the honour of Africa in the Congo because of their weakness.

And not long after that, African countries were again humiliated during the Rhodesian crisis when they failed to intervene and oust the white minority regime which had unilaterally declared independence against the wishes of the African majority in Rhodesia and in defiance of the rest of the Africans across the continent who, together with the black majority in that British colony, demanded independence on the basis of majority rule.

The stubborn resistance of the white minority settlers in Rhodesia and their declaration of independence in November 1965 clearly showed that the independent African countries in the sixties were not in a position to help fellow Africans achieve their freedom in that British colonial outpost in spite of the successes they had in uprooting some of the last vestiges of imperial rule on the continent.

Thus, while the sixties was a decade of triumph over colonial rule, it was also a decade of trials and tribulations for Africans in a number of areas including internal conflicts, the worst of which was the Nigerian civil war. It was the bloodiest conflict on the African continent in that decade of independence.

And there are still many lessons to be learnt from those years. Many of the problems African countries have faced through the years have their origin in the wrong policies African leaders have pursued since independence the sixties....


Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood

ISBN-10: 0620355409
ISBN-13: 978-0620355407