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10-08-2015, 22:50


After World War II, Europeans reluctantly recognized that the end result of colonial rule in Africa would be African self-government, if not full independence. Accordingly, the African population would have to be trained to handle the responsibilities of representative government. In many cases, however, relatively little had been done to prepare the local population for self-rule. Early in the colonial era, during the late nineteenth century, African administrators had held influential positions in several British colonies, and one even served as governor of the Gold Coast. Several colonies had legislative councils with limited African participation, although their functions were solely advisory. But with the formal institution of colonial rule, senior positions were reserved for the British, although local authority remained in the hands of native rulers. After World War II, most British colonies introduced reforms that increased the representation of the local population. Members of legislative and executive councils were increasingly chosen through elections, and Africans came to constitute a majority of these bodies. Elected councils at the local level were introduced in the 1950s to reduce the power of the tribal chiefs and clan heads, who had controlled local government under indirect rule. An exception was South Africa, where European domination continued. In the Union of South Africa, the franchise was restricted to whites except in the former territory of the Cape Colony, where persons of mixed ancestry had enjoyed the right to vote since the mid-nineteenth century. Black Africans did win some limited electoral rights in Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe), although whites generally dominated the political scene. A similar process of political liberalization was taking place in the French colonies. At first, the French tried to assimilate the African peoples into French culture. By the 1920s, however, racist beliefs in Western cultural superiority and the tenacity of traditional beliefs and practices among Africans had somewhat discredited this ideal. The French therefore substituted a more limited program of assimilating African elites into Western culture and using them as administrators at the local level as a link to the remainder of the population. This policy resembled the British policy of indirect rule, although it placed more emphasis on French culture in training local administrators. It had only limited success, however, because many Western-educated Africans refused to leave the urban centers to live in the countryside. Others, who were exposed to radical ideas while studying abroad, rejected the prevailing forms of Western civilization and called for the restoration of national independence. The Nazi occupation of northern France had an effect on black Africans somewhat like that of the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia on Asians. In 1944, the Free French movement under General Charles de Gaulle issued the Brazzaville Declaration, which promised equal rights, though not self-government, in a projected French Union composed of France and its overseas possessions. After the war, a legislative assembly for the new organization was created, although its political powers were limited. At the same time, African representatives were elected to the French National Assembly in Paris. But even this new community of nations had separate categories of citizenship based on education and ethnic background, and decisions on major issues were still made in France or by French officials in French Africa.