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10-08-2015, 22:51

Pan-Africanism and Nationalism: The Destiny of Africa

Like the leaders of the new states in South and Southeast Asia, most African leaders came from the urban middle class. They had studied in Europe or the United States and spoke and read European languages. Although most were profoundly critical of colonial policies, they ap- peared to accept the relevance of the Western model to Africa and gave at least lip service to Western democratic values. Their views on economics were somewhat more diverse. Some, like Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and General Mobutu Sese Seko (1930 –1998) of Zaire, were advocates of Western-style capitalism. Others, like Julius Nyerere (b. 1922) of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Sékou Touré (1922–1984) of Guinea, preferred an “African form of socialism,” which bore slight resemblance to the Marxist-Leninist socialism practiced in the Soviet Union and was more like the syndicalist movement in Western Europe. According to its advocates, it was descended from traditional communal practices in precolonial Africa. Like the leaders of other developing countries, the new political leaders in Africa were strongly nationalistic and generally accepted the colonial boundaries. But as we have seen, these boundaries were artificial creations of the colonial powers. Virtually all of the new states included widely diverse ethnic, linguistic, and territorial groups. Zaire, for example, was composed of more than two hundred territorial groups speaking seventy-five different languages. Some African leaders themselves harbored attitudes that undermined the fragile sense of common identity needed to knit these diverse groups together. A number of leaders—including Nkrumah of Ghana, Touré of Guinea, and Kenyatta of Kenya—were enticed by the dream of pan-Africanism, a concept of continental unity that transcended national boundaries and was to find its concrete manifestation in the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963 (see the box on p. 242). Pan-Africanism originated among African intellectuals during the first half of the twentieth century. A basic element was the conviction that there was a distinctive “African personality” that owed nothing to Western materialism and provided a common sense of destiny for all black African peoples. According to Aimé Césaire, a West Indian of African descent and a leading ideologist of the movement, whereas Western civilization prized rational thought and material achievement, African culture emphasized emotional expression and a common sense of humanity. The concept of a unique African destiny (known to its originators by the French term négritude, or “blackness”), was in part a natural defensive response to the social Darwinist concepts of Western racial superiority and African inferiority that were popular in Europe and the United States during the early years of the twentieth century. At the same time, it was stimulated by growing self-doubt among many European intellectuals after World War I, who feared that Western civilization was on a path of selfdestruction. Aimé Césaire compared the white world, appalling weary from its immense effort the crack of its joints rebelling under the hardness of the stars with that of the Africans, Those who invented neither gunpowder nor compass those who tamed neither steam nor electricity those who explored neither sea nor sky but those who know the humblest corners of the country suffering those whose only journeys were uprooting those who went to sleep on their knees those who were domesticated and christianized those who were inoculated with degeneration.2 The idea had more appeal to Africans from French colonies than to those from British possessions. Yet it also found adherents in the British colonies, as well as in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas. African American intellectuals such as W. E. B. Dubois and George Padmore and the West Indian politician Marcus Garvey attempted to promote a “black renaissance” by popularizing the idea of a distinct African personality. Their views were shared by several of the new African leaders, including Leopold Senghor (b. 1906) of Senegal, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya. Nkrumah in particular appeared to hope that a pan-African union could be established that would unite all of the new countries of the continent in a broader community.

 

 

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