Year XXIX, 1987, Number 2, Page 159
As early as the 1930s, various African intellectuals had perceived and raised the question of the “Balkanisation” of Africa. Thanks to their foresight, achieving African unity has always been one of the main objectives of the African movement for nationhood and independence. The hopes for unity were almost universal among those fighting for independence, though they did not reflect in detail on the form and implications of African unity. Only Nkrumah, Nyerere and Cheik Anta Diop adopted the “African federal State” formula, but the unity they sought at that time was no more than a hope and their support for it went no further than a few arguments of a historical and cultural nature.
The political Pan-African movement, which Nkrumah developed later, when Ghana had become independent, was simply an African version of the “Negro Renaissance” movement set up by Black Americans at the beginning of the century in the course of their struggle for racial emancipation in America. The American Negro origins of Pan-Africanism is demonstrated by the fact that the most significant writings were by American negroes since, with the sole exceptions of Nkrumah and Nyerere, the main leaders (Edward Blyden, Marcus Garvey, Georges Padmore, Ras Makonnen, Harold Moody, Duse Mohamed etc.) were all American negroes. It was no coincidence that the leaders of the Pan-African movement were African English-speaking intellectuals who had lived in the United States and in London, while those who, in Paris, developed the cultural movement of négritude, were intellectuals in direct contact with French colonialism.
Thus it was that the African nationalists led the struggle for independence of Africa in great ideological obscurity. The political idea of African unity had no organizational reference framework. There never was an African organization which established the goal of the creating and maintaining African federal institutions as its main objective. The timid efforts of Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Wallace Johnson, Peters Abrahams, Obafemi Awolowo — in organising the V Pan-African Congress in Manchester on October 15, 1945 — were never turned into any real constitution for a solid Pan-African organization. In practice, this Congress was the last political manifestation of the 1944 embryonic “Pan-Africa Federation” organization. In much the same way, Nkrumah’s visit to Paris in 1947 to establish contacts with French-speaking African intellectuals who supported négritude (Leopold Senghor, Lamine Grieye, Apithy etc.) gave no result.
In a nutshell, the nationalists negotiated the emancipation of colonial territories without any All-African programme, that only an African federalist political organization could have defined and defended. Their demands, therefore, were limited to the territories imposed upon them by the colonial system (the current states). Thus when the European governments, who had pursued colonial politics, decided to dismember their empire in Africa, no voice was raised in these nationalist African movements to oppose this policy. On the contrary, the facts demonstrate that the African elite was the accomplice of this territorial fragmentation and that they adapted to a situation from which they hoped to draw considerable benefit. Everywhere on the African continent flags were raised, national anthems rang out, constitutions were hastily drawn up to celebrate the arrival of “independent Africa”.
This independentist attitude of African nationalists, it could be argued, was justified as an extreme reaction to the politics of colonial powers of the time who seemed keen to form federations with their colonies. For the majority of African leaders, the “Euroafrican” idea was little more than afresh attempt by the European powers to contain the wave of African nationalism and their desire for independence. The conflict between what may be called the “Republican” and “Federalist” factions was simply an expression of this contradiction within the African nationalist movement. The failure of the “Eurafrican” project as a political entity may essentially be imputed to the governments of the time still under the influence of the colonial powers. Moreover, analysis of the different constitutional arrangements reveals that behind the planned para-federal structures lay a centralized state. In all objectiveness it was historically impossible to resolve the colonial problem with federalism, because colonialism, as it appeared in history, was incompatible with the principle of liberty, affirmed and guaranteed by federalism.
The failure of the federation projected by Senghor in 1958 between Senegal, Sudan, Upper Volta and Dahomey, the collapse of the Mali federation, the failure of Nkrumah’s attempts to call a Pan-African Conference in Accra in 1958, and his failed attempts to establish a rapport with Sékou Touré may all be imputed to the absence of an autonomous federalist initiative during the entire period preceding African independence. Only the Union of Tanganyka and Zanzibar (now Tanzania) succeeded thanks to Julius Neyrere’s skill. In actual fact, no political unification of Africa was possible without the prior establishment of a solid federalist African organization, which posed all issues of unity in all its aspects with the utmost clarity and which worked to achieve the proposed objectives unswervingly. This organizational framework did not exist in Africa at a vital moment in its history.
The full implications of the requirement of African unity was never grasped by African nationalists. The unity which they called for so wholeheartedly was only an ideal which they never managed to turn into practice. They did not see it as a necessity, blinded as they were by the winds of nationalism. Most of them believed that this issue needed to be discussed “after the nation had gained its independence”.
When an opportunity to achieve African unity did arise in Addis Abeba in 1963, the Heads of State meeting at this conference adopted a charter which laid down the political principles and the legislative rules for the new African unity. After long discussion, during which opinions were very clearly divided, the principles of “respect of the state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and the “inviolability of African frontiers inherited from colonialism” were proclaimed as a basis for the new unity. These principles were interpreted by most of the Heads of State as a charter for maintaining the territorial status quo inherited from colonialism. The conference saw the birth of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as an organization for inter-state co-operation. It definitively consecrated the failure of Pan-Africanism. The division of Africa into multiple state sovereignties was to be celebrated and codified, for the second time in history, with the great difference that, this time, the historical initiative came not from the outside but from the Africans themselves.
The constitution of the OAU marked an important turning point in the history of Africa. But it also entailed the affirmation of new African states modelled on the centralized, 19th century European nation-state. Nationalism, which has dominated in Africa for more than 25 years, has now placed the issue of federalism on the agenda in a particular sharp way and opens up a new period in the struggle for African federalism.
For these reasons, we are publishing a few paragraphs taken from the “founding fathers” of new Africa, in the hope that we can show that independence and federalism are closely linked ideas and that we need to pick up the struggle which has been interrupted starting from new premises. Africa will unite itself only if there is a political entity capable of taking up the struggle. We are inviting all those who wish to work for the African federation to join the group of young Africans who are currently creating the African Federalist Movement by writing to the Federalist’s editorial board.
Kwame Nkrumah. Continental Government for Africa.*
We have seen, in the example of the United States, how the dynamic elements within society understood the need for unity and fought their bitter civil war to maintain the political union that was threatened by the reactionary forces. We have also seen, in the example of the Soviet Union, how the forging of continental unity along with the retention of national sovereignty by the federal states, has achieved a dynamism that has lifted a most backward society into a most powerful unit within a remarkably short space of time. From the examples before us, in Europe and the United States of America, it is therefore patent that we in Africa have the resources, present and potential, for creating the kind of society that we are anxious to build. It is calculated that by the end of this century the population of Africa will probably exceed five hundred millions.
Our continent gives us the second largest land stretch in the world. The natural wealth of Africa is estimated to be greater than that of almost any other continent in the world. To draw the most from our existing and potential means for the achievement of abundance and a fine social order, we need to unify our efforts, our resources, our skills and intentions.
Europe, by way of contrast, must be a lesson to us all. Too busy hugging its exclusive nationalisms, it has descended, after centuries of wars interspersed with intervals of uneasy peace, into a state of confusion, simply because it failed to build a sound basis of political association and understanding. Only now, under the necessities of economic stringency and the threat of the new German industrial and military rehabilitation, is Europe trying — unsuccessfully — to find a modus operandi for containing the threat. It is deceptively hoped that the European Community will perform this miracle. It has taken two world wars and the break up of empires to press home the lesson, still only partly digested, that strength lies in unity.
While we in Africa, for whom the goal of unity is paramount, are striving to concert our efforts in this direction, the neocolonialists are straining every nerve to upset them by encouraging the formation of communities based on the languages of their former colonizers. We cannot allow ourselves to be so disorganized and divided. The fact that I speak English does not make me an Englishman. Similarly, the fact that some of us speak French or Portuguese does not make us Frenchmen or Portuguese. We are Africans first and last, and as Africans our best interests can only be served by uniting within an African Community. Neither the Commonwealth nor a Franco-African Community can be a substitute.
To us, Africa with its islands is just one Africa. We reject the idea of any kind of partition. From Tangier or Cairo in the North to Capetown in the South, from Cape Guardafui in the East to Cape Verde Islands in the West, Africa is one and indivisible.
I know that when we speak of political union, our critics are quick to observe an attempt to impose leadership and to abrogate sovereignty. But we have seen from the many examples of union put forward, that equality of the states is jealously guarded in every single constitution and that sovereignty is maintained. There are differences in the powers allotted to the central government and those retained by the states, as well as in the functions of the executive, legislature and judiciary. All of them have a common trade and economic policy. All of them are secular, in order that religion might not be dragged across the many problems involved in maintaining unity and securing the greatest possible development.
We in Africa who are pressing now for unity are deeply conscious of the validity of our purpose. We need the strength of our combined numbers and resources to protect ourselves from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms. We need it to combat the entrenched forces dividing our continent and still holding back millions of our brothers. We need it to secure total African liberation. We need it to carry forward our construction of a socio-economic system that will support the great mass of our steadily rising population at levels of life which will compare with those in the most advanced countries.
But we cannot mobilize our present and potential resources without concerted effort. If we developed our potentialities in men and natural resources in separate isolated groups, our energies would soon be dissipated in the struggle to outbid one another. Economic friction among us would certainly lead to bitter political rivalry, such as for many years hampered the pace of growth and development in Europe.
At present most of the independent African states are moving in directions which expose us to the dangers of imperialism and neocolonialism. We therefore need a common political basis for the integration of our policies in economic planning, defence, foreign and diplomatic relations. That basis for political action need not infringe the essential sovereignty of the separate African states. These states would continue to exercise independent authority, except in the fields defined and reserved for common action in the interests of the security and orderly development of the whole continent.
In my view, therefore, a united Africa — that is, the political and economic unification of the African Continent — should seek three objectives.
Firstly, we should have an over-all economic planning on a continental basis. This would increase the industrial and economic power of Africa. So long as we remain balkanized, regionally or territorially, we shall be at the mercy of colonialism and imperialism. The lesson of the South American Republics vis-à-vis the strength and solidarity of the United States of America is there for all to see.
The resources of Africa can be used to the best advantage and the maximum benefit to all only if they are set within an over-all framework of a continentally planned development. An over-all economic plan, covering an Africa united on a continental basis, would increase our total industrial and economic power. We should therefore be thinking seriously now of ways and means of building up a Common Market of a United Africa and not allow ourselves to be lured by the dubious advantages of association with the so-called European Common Market. We in Africa have looked outwards too long for the development of our economy and transportation. Let us begin to look inwards into the African Continent for all aspects of its development. Our communications were devised under colonial rule to stretch outwards towards Europe and elsewhere, instead of developing internally between our cities and states. Political unity should give us the power and will to change all this. We in Africa have untold agricultural, mineral and water-power resources. These almost fabulous resources can be fully exploited and utilized in the interest of Africa and the African people, only if we develop them within a Union Government of African states. Such a government will need to maintain a common currency, a monetary zone and a central bank of issue. The advantages of these financial and monetary arrangements would be inestimable, since monetary transactions between our several states would be facilitated and the pace of financial activity generally quickened. A central bank of issue is an inescapable necessity, in view of the need to re-orientate the economy of Africa and place it beyond the reach of foreign control.
Secondly, we should aim at the establishment of a unified military and defence strategy. I do not see much virtue or wisdom in our separate efforts to build up or maintain vast military forces for self-defence which, in any case, would be ineffective in any major attack upon our separate states. If we examine this problem realistically, we should be able to ask ourselves this pertinent question: which single state in Africa today can protect its sovereignty against an imperialist aggressor? In this connection, it should be mentioned that anti-apartheid leaders have alleged that South Africa is building a great military force with all the latest weapons of destruction, in order to crush nationalism in Africa. Nor is this all. There are grave indications that certain settler governments in Africa have already been caught in the dangerous arms race and are now arming themselves to the teeth. Their military activities constitute a serious threat not only to the security of Africa, but also to the peace of the world. If these reports are true, only the unity of Africa can prevent South Africa and these other governments from achieving their diabolical aims.
If we do not unite and combine our military resources for common defence, the individual states, out of a sense of insecurity, may be drawn into making defence pacts with foreign powers which may endanger the security of us all.
There is also the expenditure aspect of this problem. The maintenance of large military forces imposes a heavy financial burden on even the most wealthy states. For young African states, who are in great need of capital for internal development, it is ridiculous — indeed suicidal — for each state separately and individually to assume such a heavy burden of self-defence, when the weight of this burden could be easily lightened by sharing it among themselves. Some attempt has already been made by the Casablanca Powers and the Afro-Malagasy Union in the matter of common defence, but how much better and stronger it would be if, instead of two such ventures, there was one over-all (land, sea and air) Defence Command for Africa.
The third objective which we should have in Africa stems from the first two which I have just described. If we in Africa set up a unified economic planning organization and a unified military and defence strategy, it will be necessary for us to adopt a unified foreign policy and diplomacy to give political direction to our joint efforts for the protection and economic development of our continent. Moreover, there are some sixty odd states in Africa, about thirty-two of which are at present independent. The burden of separate diplomatic representation by each state on the Continent of Africa alone would be crushing, not to mention representation outside Africa. The desirability of a common foreign policy which will enable us to speak with one voice in the councils of the world, is so obvious, vital and imperative that comment is hardly necessary.
I am confident that it should be possible to devise a constitutional structure applicable to our special conditions in Africa and not necessarily framed in terms of the existing constitutions of Europe, America or elsewhere, which will enable us to secure the objectives I have defined and yet preserve to some extent the sovereignty of each state within a Union of African states.
We might erect for the time being a constitutional form that could start with those states willing to create a nucleus, and leave the door open for the attachment of others as they desire to join or reach the freedom which would allow them to do so. The form could be made amenable to adjustment and amendment at any time the consensus of opinion is for it. It may be that concrete expression can be given to our present ideas within a continental parliament that would provide a lower and an upper house, the one to permit the discussion of the many problems facing Africa by a representation based on population; the other, ensuring the equality of the associated states, regardless of size and population, by a similar, limited representation from each of them, to formulate a common policy in all matters affecting the security, defence and development of Africa. It might, through a committee selected for the purpose, examine likely solutions to the problems of union and draft a more conclusive form of constitution that will be acceptable to all the independent states.
The survival of free Africa, the extending independence of this continent, and the development towards that bright future on which our hopes and endeavours are pinned, depend upon political unity.
Under a major political union of Africa there could emerge a United Africa, great and powerful, in which the territorial boundaries which are the relics of colonialism will become obsolete and superfluous, working for the complete and total mobilization of the economic planning organization under a unified political direction. The forces that unite us are far greater than the difficulties that divide us at present, and our goal must be the establishment of Africa’s dignity, progress and prosperity.
Proof is therefore positive that the continental union of Africa is an inescapable desideratum if we are determined to move forward to a realization of our hopes and plans for creating a modern society which will give our peoples the opportunity to enjoy a full and satisfying life. The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart. These are the forces that we must enlist and cement for the sake of the trusting millions who look to us, their leaders, to take them out of the poverty, ignorance and disorder left by colonialism into an ordered unity in which freedom and amity can flourish amidst plenty.
Here is a challenge which destiny has thrown out to the leaders of Africa. It is for us to grasp what is a golden opportunity to prove that the genius of the African people can surmount the separatist tendencies in sovereign nationhood by coming together speedily, for the sake of Africa’s greater glory and infinite well-being, into a Union of African States.
Julius K. Nyerere. The nature and Requirements of African Unity.**
A new state.
The requirements of African Unity — the purposes of it — necessitate the establishment of a new international entity to replace the present small international entities which now exist in our continent. Until we have achieved that we shall not be in a position to utilize the resources of Africa for the people of Africa, and we shall not be free from fear of the rest of the world. A continent-wide state, single and indivisible, must be established, which cannot be broken up again because it is one unit and not a collection of units.
This does not mean that it has to be a unitary state, with a single all powerful government. It must have one united government which has over-riding and exclusive power in certain basic fields. In addition, there may well be other authorities, other governments, with lesser powers which might indeed also be exclusive and derived from a constitution, not from the central government at all. This is simply to say that the new Africa can be a federal state, with the division of powers between the centre and the constituent parts determined according to the wishes of the founders and future generations.
But there are certain things which must be exclusive to the central government. They include Foreign Affairs, Defence, Citizenship, Currency, Customs, Foreign Trade and Mineral Resources, as a minimum. There are certain other things in which the central government must have concurrent and over-riding powers in case of conflict, and these include other questions central to economic development as well as police, communications, health, education and so on. The stronger the central government, the greater the potential of Africa; for powers can be devolved in practice as necessary, but they are only with difficulty surrendered by a lesser authority-to a greater one. It is also important to realize that, once the decision to unify has been taken, it is the smaller and poorer nation-states which have most reason to support a strong centre; only in such a case is it possible to equalize benefits and burdens over the whole continent. This does not mean that the small states will find it easier to make the decision for unity in the first place. On the contrary, their fear of domination by the stronger and bigger powers may make them more suspicious and more difficult during the negotiations.
The constitution of the new unit will inevitably be an outgrowth of the political attitudes and the economic and social conditions now operative in all the different parts of Africa. There are only two things which are vital to its success.
Firstly, the new continental state must be able to attract and hold the direct loyalty of the people. It must therefore be based not just on the constituent states, but on the people themselves. In no other way can it hope to withstand the strains of its early years, and to develop the whole of Africa to its full potential. This does not exclude national loyalty too, but nation-state loyalty must be secondary to the identification with Africa. This means a reversal of the present trend in Africa; ten years ago an African asked for his nationality wrote “African, Tanganyika”; now he writes “Tanzania, Africa” — if he adds the continent at all.
Secondly, the executive of the continental state must have a feeling of responsibility to the whole of Africa, and not just to one part of it. And it must have the power to act and to fulfil the responsibilities involved. Individual liberty is not in Africa regarded as the opposite of communal authority; we shall never achieve the international political and economic breakthrough to which we aspire by surrounding our executive with “checks and balances” at the centre which paralyse all action.
The establishment of unity.
But all this is the goal. There is not likely to be a great deal of controversy about it as an objective; the practical problem arises in relation to the path which has to be followed, and the urgency of treading that path.
The first thing which has to be accepted is our present position. We have in Africa now thirty-six independent nation-states, varying in population from 300,000 to 40,000,000. Not only do these nations have different official languages and different inherited forms of administration, they have also adopted incompatible relationships with non-African powers. They have economies which are more competitive than complementary; their constitutions vary in form and in complexity; some have adopted a state religion while others are self-consciously secular. All these and many other conflicting differences come on top of deliberate and intensive national efforts to build up national loyalties centred on individual leaders, or on flags or other emblems of sovereignty. These are the nations which have to be incorporated in a United Africa.
This imposing list of difficulties and obstacles to unity is counterbalanced by the logic of Africa’s need for unity and by Africa’s united determination to free itself from colonialism and racial oppression. There is an emotion of “African-ness” which is a positive force. It has already enabled the establishment of the Organization of African Unity; it has already enabled many specialized commissions to begin work, and a Development Bank to be established. Africa has achieved more in the direction of unity than any other continent; its difficulties and its stumbling only serve to emphasize the path which is being trodden. But where do we go from here?
The ideal proceeding would be for each of the appropriate authorities in the thirty-six independent states to take the decision for unity, and then to send to a convention representatives authorized to work out the constitution for the United States of Africa. When they had done so a period for ratification, and then for continent-wide elections, would lead to the inauguration of the new state.
Ultimately, something of this procedure will have to be followed, for the decision for unity is a political decision which has to be taken. No alternative methods of economic co-operation or integration can replace that political act. They may lead towards it, but they cannot do more. Because power has to be surrendered by sovereign bodies, and surrendered finally with no possibility of recall and no time limit. This is in very essence a political action.
The government of the United Republic of Tanzania is ready to initiate this process in regard to our own country, and it is more than likely that the people of the Union would heartily endorse such action.
It would, however, be stupidity to pretend that every country or every government in this continent is at the present moment in a similar position. Discussions at All-Africa meetings, and the statements of different African leaders have made it quite clear that this is not the case. And there is no virtue in being ready, nor shame in being unready. We are all to a large extent the product of our own societies and our own histories. What we have to do is to accept this fact as well as the others; some African states are not at present willing to take this final step.
This does not mean, however, that the objective must be cast out. Certainly it becomes in some respects more difficult to attain the longer the delay in inaugurating it. But if the goal is lost it will be quite as much the fault of those who are now ready to plunge as it will be of those who wish to get nearer to it by functional co-operation or other means before taking the vital step.
In the meantime it is not necessary to drift backwards and away from each other. Instead we have to move more gradually in the direction of final unity. One way in which we can do this is by All-African cooperation up to the limit of agreement; the Organization of African Unity is an expression of such action in progress, and its importance lies in the principles it lays down and the machinery which has been established to facilitate further co-operation.
In addition, joint meetings of representatives of all the different states can, at international conferences, sometimes effect practical unity of approach. This is not always possible, but usually the differences are at least reduced. And more limited co-operation on specific problems which affect directly a smaller number of nation-states is very often effective; a serious examination of the procedures and treaties operating in the different regions would reveal the existence of a great amount of such functional co-operation.
The grave danger of limited functional co-operation is that it may adversely affect other parts of Africa, and complicate still further the final task of unification. This is particularly true as regards arrangements with non-African countries or groups, and the most obvious example, though not the only one, is the special relationship which some countries of Africa have with the European Common Market.
In some areas of Africa, however, a step can be taken which simplifies ultimate unity. There is no reason why the present nation-states should be regarded as the necessary units of unity. The merger or federation of any two or more of them into one new sovereign entity will have two effects. First, it will enable the area concerned to achieve quickly at least the benefits of greater unity, and greater strength. Secondly, it will reduce the number of states which have to sit down together and agree on the final forms of African unification. If it were possible for different areas of Africa, by voluntary agreement of all their people, to merge themselves into new federal states, the final unification conference might take place between ten or twelve representatives instead of between thirty and forty. If this were possible the final conference would certainly find it easier to reach agreement.
This was our objective in East Africa when Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika decided to federate. But the negotiations broke down and for the last eighteen months the three countries have continued in their endeavours to have a high degree of economic co-operation without taking the political step necessary to secure it. In consequence we have run into one difficulty after another, and in certain important respects we have less economic integration now than we had in 1963. This is not because any of the three states has begun to oppose unity; it is because the governments have each a first responsibility to achieve development for their own area and they have to take the steps necessary for that. In the absence of an authority which is responsible to the people of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and which can therefore act to ensure the development of all three, it is necessary for each of the governments concerned to take those actions which it believes to be essential to its own development. The result has already been an extension of the limitation on the free movement of goods between the three countries, and a large amount of blatant horse-trading in relation to necessary decisions — with many essential services suffering in the process.
For Africa the lesson of East African experience is that economic cooperation can go a long way without political integration, but that there comes a point when movement must be either forward or backward — forward into the political decision, or backward into reduced economic co-operation. This is inevitable when governments — like all those in Africa — have a purpose which demands their active participation in the economic life of the country.
The Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar shows a contrary development. Despite our proximity and ancient links, the two countries had developed different forms of government and administration, and different taxation and customs levels. Yet a political decision to merge has resulted in the ability to move towards uniformity in these respects in so far as the international sovereignty of the new unit is concerned. And while these administrative steps are being taken the dangers of divisive actions by neocolonialists have been obviated. Zanzibar cannot be used as a base for those hostile to Tanganyika, nor Tanganyika for those who oppose the revolution in Zanzibar. We are one people now; and as such we are ready and able to enter into further unity talks in Africa.
Arguments are advanced against the development of new federations in Africa. It is said, for one thing, that new local loyalties will be built up which will militate against loyalty to Africa. Yet it is hard to take this argument seriously. Over the past ten years our people have had to expand their tribal loyalties to encompass the nation. It will be much easier for them to feel a loyalty to “Africa” which does not divide their tribe, and which, in the sense of their own experience, is little more immense than their own nations frequently are. The introduction, through a federation, of another interim step to unity is no great complication; it might indeed prevent the growth of an insular nationalism which would later prevent a wider loyalty.
The suggestion that it would be impossible for a United Africa to be constructed on federations, because of making a “three tier federalism”, is equally facile. There are already federations in Africa; the problem has existed since Nigeria’s independence. But it is not beyond the wit of man to deal with this constitutional problem. There are many alternative methods which spring to mind.
The only argument against progress to unity through further political federations which has any validity at all is that federation will establish population groups and areas large enough to develop viable economies on their own, but which prevent the continent as a whole reaching its full potential. This possibility does exist; whether it becomes a real danger in practice depends upon the leaders of the new units, and upon the willingness of the other states to make definite steps in the direction of All-Africa Unity. But it is in any case rather peculiar to argue that African Unity will be served by the continued weakness of Africa. Our experience has already shown us that this is not the case. A country which is weak and small has to take succour where and when it can; if this involves, as it has done up to now, entering into economic and other relationships with non-African states, then the small country will do so. In consequence it will be carried along and tied ever tighter to groups outside our continent and it will not dare to cut or endanger the strings which bind it because of its knowledge that it cannot exist alone. If a federation can reduce this need for outside dependence, then it will make a great contribution to the possibility of ultimate unity.
Unity must be achieved.
The whole argument about whether unity is achieved through a “step by step” process or through political decision is in fact a futile one. Ultimately a political decision is necessary; without it unity cannot be achieved. But in the meantime, do we merely wait and hope for a miracle, leaving our development and independence for ever in jeopardy, or do we make what progress we can? Surely the answer must be clear; the African states must co-operate, and undertake common activities wherever they can, and for as many practical purposes as possible. Most of all they must each do everything which can be done to safeguard and build up the spirit and emotion of unity.
Because we finish where we started; it is only by agreement that a United Africa can be achieved. The twentieth century is littered with the wrecks of federations which have failed because they were not based on the will of the people involved, or because they were not strong enough to stand against the prevailing winds of international politics and economics.
And it must be quite clear to everyone that the achievement of unity will not itself solve the problems of Africa. It will merely enable them to be solved by Africa. At the beginning, the effectiveness of the All-African government will be limited; it will have more responsibility than power. It will have to inch forward, organizing and arguing every step of the way, and gradually growing in stature — just as the federal government of the United States is still growing in relation to the states’ governments because of the necessities of the people and the world. For the inauguration of the United States of Africa will not usher in the millenium for Africa’s people; we shall not on that day become as wealthy and powerful as the United States of America. But we shall be able to begin work, knowing that such a future is possible.
Yet, despite all these difficulties — indeed because of them — Africa must unite. And it must move forward as swiftly as is consistent with safety on this rocky mountain path. The people of Africa today, and particularly its leaders, have a duty to their ancestors and to their descendants which they must not fail to carry out. The man whose contribution merits a footnote in the history of United Africa will deserve more of the future, than he whose obstinacy, fear or pride, prevents or delays the day when that history can be written. I believe that the people of Africa will be worthy of their great opportunity.
Julius K. Nyerere. African Unity and World Government.***
…It is essential, therefore, that we in Tanzania, as a society, should recognize the need to take special steps to make our present situation a temporary one, and that we should deliberately fight the intensification of that attitude which would eventually nullify our social need for human dignity and equality. We have to work towards a position where each person realizes that his rights in society — above the basic needs of every human being — must come second to the overriding need of human dignity for all; and we have to establish the kind of social organization which reduces personal temptations above that level to a minimum.
The spreading of such attitudes and the introduction of such institutions must be an important purpose of the policies of the government of Tanzania. It is described as a socialist purpose, for the deliberate regulation of society for the purposes of equality and human well-being is a socialist doctrine. But we are “African Socialists”; we operate in Africa and the road to our goal will be determined in large part by the economic and social conditions which now exist in this continent. This is not to claim a special virtue in “African Socialism”; we adopt it because we have to move towards the socialist goal of human equality and dignity along the road which is appropriate to us. It is simply a recognition that if two people are going to India, one from Africa and the other from Japan, the former will move east and the latter will move south-west. The destination of all true socialists is probably the same, but the path will be largely determined by the starting point.
The need for international unity.
Indeed, even to talk of “African” socialism is something of a misnomer. As Africa has been organized into nation-states, and because these nation-states have been differently developed, there will even be variations of African socialism. For, although African nations are very artificial creations of man (indeed, of European men) sixty years of history means that they are the basic societies from which our development must now start. We have to recognize the existence of about forty separate sovereign states, separate societies which are linked together geographically, economically and — at the moment — psychologically, but are still separate. Each of these nations is, at present, the “society” within which these transformations have to take place.
This has very serious implications. For although there is no rationality in nation-states, they are the grouping within which society organizes itself and protects itself. Social rules of behaviour operate only inside these boundaries; only within them can it be enforced. This means that relations between these “societies”, and between individuals who are members of different societies, are regulated only by the self-interest of the respective groups. Each nation therefore feels it to be necessary to build a system of self-defence — by which it means defence of its own interests — and to spend time and money protecting itself from being used by other nations more powerful than itself.
Frequently indeed nation-states build their own internal unity by fabricating, or exaggerating, their division from other nations.
Thus we have in the world now a situation where a large number of different little societies are trying to pursue their own kind of social organization separate from, and even in opposition to, other social groups, while there is no universally accepted code of behaviour between groups. Internally each state tries to harmonize, or at least control, relations between its citizens and residents. Externally the law of the jungle operates, ameliorated only by considerations of long-term, as against immediate, benefit.
This is obviously absurd. The technology of the twentieth century straddles the world and yet we try to operate social relations as if national boundaries created impenetrable barriers between different peoples. It is essential that our concept of society be adapted to the present day; only then will any of our present social groupings really be free to pursue their own policies. Nations are now acting like individuals who have not formed a society; they resist the suggestion because they realize that to form a society means surrendering certain freedoms in order to gain others. Yet year by year the need for an organized society becomes clearer; the question which remains is whether it will be formed before disaster occurs.
At the moment the talk of a “World Government” — which is what a world society implies — is day-dreaming. It is very logical dreaming and very necessary. But it is not likely to become a reality soon. Throughout the world nation-states have been so successful in creating concepts of an exclusive internal unity that almost all peoples are now terrified by the thought that someone from “outside” will have power over them; they do not seem able to realize that they will also have power over others. This means that, necessary as it is, we are just not going to create a world government in this century — unless, of course, some unforeseeable event transforms present-day human attitudes.
We have therefore in this respect, as in others, to work up to the goal, starting from the present position. We have to rejoice in the very imperfect United Nations and have to work to strengthen it. At present it is faltering because of the inequalities between its members and because there has been no agreement by the members to give it independent strength. Yet it is an institution which can even now be built up, and just as it is the weaker men who in the short run gain most from the organization of human society, so too, in the short run, it is the small and weak nations who most urgently need the organization of a world society. It is therefore countries like Tanzania which must put in the extra effort which is necessary to make the United Nations succeed in its present endeavours, so that it can grow or be replaced later by a stronger body, as circumstances demand.
Yet there is more than one way in which the present-day African societies can reduce the dangers to themselves which come from the proliferation of nation-states. While we work towards world unity, we cancreate unity in our continent. Or, if African unity is still too big a step to take at once, then we can create greater African unity by unions, federations or mergers of the present nation-states, so that the number of sovereign societies in Africa is reduced.
These preliminary steps need not be day-dreaming. If we have courage and intelligence they can become reality in the immediate future. And certainly they are essential if the ordinary African citizen is ever really to overcome the poverty which at present grips him and if he is to increase his degree of personal safety. For this is, and must be, the purpose of greater unity in Africa as elsewhere. Not size for its own sake, but strength and power used to defend the real freedoms of the ordinary man and to help him progress in his freedom.
(Prefaced and edited by Fall Cheikh Bamba)