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Power of Words: Some Attempts At Unification – Kwame Nkrumah

Power Of Words: Some Attempts At Unification – Kwame Nkrumah

The first step towards African political union was taken on 23 November 1958, when Ghana and the Republic of Guinea united to form a nucleus for a Union of African States. We established a system of exchange of resident ministers, who were recognized as members of both the government of Ghana and the government of Guinea.
The following year, in July 1959, the Presidents of Liberia and Guinea, and I, met at Sanniquellie to discuss the whole question of African emancipation and unity. At the end of our talks we issued a Declaration of Principles, in which we stated that the name of our organization would be the Community of independent African States. Members of the Community would maintain their own national identity and constitutional structure; and each member of the Community would agree not to interfere in the internal affairs of any other member. The general policy of the Community would be to build up a free and prosperous African Community for the benefit of its peoples, and the peoples of the world. The policy would be founded on the maintenance of diplomatic, economic and cultural relations, on a basis of equality and reciprocity, with all the states of the world which adopted positions compatible with African interests. One of its main objectives would be to help African territories not yet free to gain their independence.

Membership of the Community was declared open to all independent African states and federations, and any non­independent country of Africa was given the right to join the Community on attainment of independence. The motto adopted for the Community was independence and unity. On 24 December i9601 met President Sekou Toure of Guinea and President Modibo Keita of Mali at Conakry, with the result that a special committee met in Accra from 13 to 18 January i960 to formulate proposals for a Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union* The three of us had a further series of meetings in Accra from 27 to 29 April 1961, and agreed upon a Charter.


Our Union was named The Union of African States (U.A.S.) and was to form the nucleus of the United States of Africa. It was declared open to every state or federation of African states which accepted its aims and objectives. Articles 3 and 4 of the Charter contained the aims and activities of the Union, and I quote them below in full:

Article 3. The aims of the Union of African States (U.A.S.) are as follows:

to strengthen and develop ties of friendship and fraternal co­ operation between the Member States politically, diplomatically, economically and culturally; to pool their resources in order to consolidate their independence and safeguard their territorial integrity; to work jointly to achieve the complete liquidation of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism in Africa and the building up of African Unity; to harmonize the domestic and foreign policy of its Members, so that their activities may prove more effective and contribute more worthily to safeguarding the peace of the world.

Article 4. The Union’s activities shall be exercised mainly in the following fields:

a. Domestic Policy. The working out of a common orientation of the States

b. Foreign Policy. The strict observance of a concerted diplomacy, calculated to achieve closer co-operation.

c. Defence. The organization of a system of joint defence, which will make it possible to mobilize all the means of defence at the disposal of the State, in favour of any State of the Union which may become a victim of aggression. ‘

d. Economy. Defining a common set of directives relating to economic planning, aiming at the complete decolonization of the set-ups inherited from the colonial system, and organizing the development of the wealth of their countries in the interest of their peoples.
e. Culture. The rehabilitation and development of African culture, and frequent and diversified cultural exchange.

The Charter also provides for regular conferences between the Heads of State of the Union. In fact the supreme executive organ of the Union is the Conference, which meets once a quarter in Accra, Bamako and Conakry, respectively, and is presided over by the Head of State of the host country. At these conferences we exchange views on African and world problems, and see how we can best strengthen and widen our Union.

After the second summit conference of U.A.S. held at Bamako on 26 June 1961, we issued a joint communique in which we reaffirmed our determination to continue to support the African peoples in their struggle for national liberation, particularly in Algeria, the Congo, and Angola. On the problem of the European Common Market we agreed on a common policy, and decided to take joint action in order to establish an African Common Market. Our conferences have been characterized by an identity of view on most of the problems examined and an atmosphere of perfect understanding. They have been followed by meetings of official representatives from our different countries to examine ways and means for giving effective realization to our decisions, out of which recommendations are being made and action endorsed. This shows clearly the workability of union between African states. It is my great hope that the U.A.S. may prove to be the successful pilot scheme which will lead eventually to full continental unity.

The ultimate goal of a United States of Africa must be kept constantly in sight amidst all the perplexities, pressures and cajoleries with which we shall find ourselves confronted, so that we do not permit ourselves to be distracted or discouraged by the difficulties and pitfalls which undoubtedly lie ahead.

During 1961 sharp differences appeared between the so-called Casablanca and Monrovia groups of states. The Casablanca states, comprising Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Libya, Egypt, Morocco and the Algerian F.L.N. met from 3 to 7 January 1961 in the Moroccan capital. The delegations of Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Egypt were led by their Heads of State, the Algerian Provisional Government by Ferhat Abbas, and Libya by her Foreign Minister. Ceylon sent their ambassador in Cairo, M r A. C. Pereira, as an observer. The conference was convened by the late King Mohammed V of Morocco, who was chairman, and the then Crown Prince led the Moroccan delegation.

The central theme of the conference was the situation in the Congo, and the failure of the United Nations to deal with it by effectively enforcing its own resolutions. It was agreed that the states should withdraw their troops from the Congo unless the U.N. command acted immediately to support the central government; Mobutu’s army should be disarmed; all Belgians and others not under U.N. command should be expelled; and the Congo Parliament reconvened.
Among other important decisions reached were those concerned with Algeria, the French testing of atomic bombs in the Sahara, and the whole question of apartheid. In general, the conference reaffirmed, and undertook to implement, the decisions taken at the Bandung, Accra, Monrovia and Addis Ababa conferences, when it was agreed to impose transport bans and boycotts on South Africa.

But perhaps the most far-reaching result of the Casablanca Conference was the publication of the ‘African Charter of Casablanca’. This established a permanent African Consultative Assembly, and three permanent functional committees: the first, political, comprising Heads of State; the second, economic, comprising Ministers of Economic Affairs; and the third, cultural, consisting of Ministers of Education. A joint African High Command, composed of the Chiefs of Staff of the independent African nations, was also provided for in the Charter. They were to meet periodically ‘with a view to ensuring the common defence of Africa in case of aggression against any part of the continent, and with a view to safeguarding the in­ dependence of African states’.
The Charter ended:

We, the Heads of African States, convened in Casablanca from the 3rd January to the 7th January, 1961, reaffirm our faith in the Conference of Independent African States, held in Accra in 1958, and in Addis A baba in i960, and appeal to all Independent African States to associate themselves with our com m on action for the consolidation of liberty in Africa and the building up of its unity and security. We solemnly reaffirm our unshakeable adherence to the United Nations Charter and to the Declaration of the Afro-Asian Conference held in Bandung, with the aim of promoting co-operation among all the people of the world, and of consolidating international peace.

In my speech at the closing session of the conference, I warned against the dangers of delay in achieving unity:

I can see no security for African states unless African leaders, like ourselves, have realized beyond all doubt that salvation for Africa lies in unity . . . for in unity lies strength, and as I see it, African states must unite or sell themselves out to imperialist and colonialist exploiters for a mess of pottage, or disintegrate individually.

Certain sections of the foreign press gave great publicity to the Casablanca conference. Some saw in it a step forward on the way to unity; others seemed to take great delight in pointing out that only a handful of African states attended, and it could therefore not be regarded as truly representative of African opinion.

Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sudan, Togoland, Somalia, India and Indonesia were all, in fact, invited to the conference. French Community states, which coalesced round the meetings in Abidjan and Brazzaville at the end of 1960, were not asked. There seemed, therefore, some justification for the view that three different ‘blocs’ were emerging in Africa.

This view received added support when the Monrovia Conference took place in May 1961. The sponsors of the conference were Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria, and Togoland. Out of the twenty-seven independent African states twenty sent delegations and fifteen of them were led by Presidents and Prime Ministers. The President of Liberia was elected chairman.

The seven absentees were Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan and the Congo. The Congo had not been invited, because of the lack of settled government there.

Four main topics were discussed, namely, ways and means to achieve better understanding and co-operation and ways of promoting unity in Africa; threats to peace and stability in Africa; the establishment of special machinery to which African states might refer in case of disputes amongst themselves; and the possible contribution of African states to world peace. It was agreed that a technical commission should meet at Dakar to draw up plans for co-operation in research, communications, and so on; and principles for a permanent association were agreed. These included the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other independent states; the political equality of all independent African states; freedom to accept or reject political unions, and respect for the territorial integrity of all states.

In more detailed resolutions the conference condemned South Africa, supported independence for Algeria, pledged loyalty to the United Nations, offered assistance to the Angolan nationalists, and condemned all nuclear tests.

Both the Casablanca and Monrovia conferences resulted in meetings of experts to consider detailed plans for economic co­ operation among the respective members. Experts of the Casablanca countries, meeting in Conakry, recommended the ending of customs barriers over five years from 1 January 1962 and the ending of quota systems and preferential treatment from the same date. They also proposed the creation of a ‘Council of African Economic Unity’ (C.U.E.A.) and an African development bank; and suggested the formation of joint air and shipping lines.

Experts of the Monrovia group, meeting at Dakar, also dis­ cussed the setting up of an African development bank. They recommended the promotion of trade between African countries by regional customs unions, and the progressive establishment of common external tariffs. Among other suggestions were the harmonization of development policies, including investment codes and conventions, an investment and guarantee fund, the exchange of economic information, and the co-ordination of research programmes. It was agreed that a network of roads and railways should be built to link the countries together, and joint shipping and air-lines formed. They agreed, also, to co-operate in educational schemes and to adopt common standards.

The fundamental similarity of aims between those who met at Casablanca and Conakry and those who met at Monrovia and Dakar are apparent from a study of the resolutions passed and recommendations adopted. Both aim ultimately at some kind of unity. The Casablanca powers are convinced that political unity should come first, as the necessary prelude to the creation of the extended field for which integrated plans for development in the economic and social spheres can be worked out. Their belief in the importance of putting political aims first is strengthened by experience in their own countries, where political independence had to be achieved before economic reconstruction could be taken in hand.

There may be some significance in the fact that Monrovia, which has given its name to the group that attaches priority to economic associations, is the capital of the one country on the African continent which has not had to fight a battle for its political sovereignty. Nevertheless, Liberia has had ruggedly to hold its national integrity and viability against the territorial and economic encroachments of outside powers throughout its somewhat chequered history, and must many times have wished for the help that its colonialized neighbours were then unable to give.

In spite of the very real difference of approach between the two groups to the vital issue of unity, it cannot be said that there is a rigid division between us. On the contrary, every opportunity and means are used for cordial intercourse and useful discussion. For example, the Prime Minister of Nigeria enjoyed a very friendly visit to Guinea in December 1961. At about the same time, we welcomed to Ghana the President of Mauritania, a country which our Casablanca colleague, Morocco, did not then recognize.

In December 1960 His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, visited Ghana. In the communique issued at the end of the visit it was declared that the Heads of State of Ghana and Ethiopia agreed: ‘That a Union of the African States is a necessity which should be pursued energetically in the interests of African solidarity and security.’

President Abdulla Osman of Somalia expressed similar views on unity during his official visit to Ghana in October 1961. In a joint communique we reaffirmed our faith and belief in African unity as the most reliable safeguard against neo-colonialism and the balkanization of the African continent.
In a world divided into hostile camps and warring factions, Africa cannot stand divided without going to the wall. Patrice Lumumba, who had seen and suffered from the evils of disunity in the Congo, held this view very strongly when he came to Accra in August i960. It may not be generally known that he agreed then to work in the closest possible association with other independent African states for the establishment of a Union of African States.

There are bound to be differences between the independent states of Africa. We have frontier troubles, and a host of other inter-territorial problems which can only be resolved within the context of African unity.

At the Lagos conference of independent states, held in January 1962, North Africa was not represented at all. This was because the Algerian provisional government was not invited. The Casablanca powers, and the Sudan, also declined to go to Lagos for this reason. Nevertheless, with the Congo and Tanganyika taking the place of Tunisia and Libya, the Lagos attendance was as large as that at Monrovia, 20 of Africa’s 28 independent states being represented.

The conference agreed upon a whole new complex machinery for inter-African co-operation. It included a semi-permanent council of ministers, a biennial representative assembly, and a permanent secretariat of the African and Malagasy states. Among resolutions passed were those calling for a development bank, a private investment guarantee fund, an organization for health, labour and social affairs, an educational and cultural council, and certain other commissions to deal with various practical matters.

In the early flush of independence, some of the new African states are jealous of their sovereignty and tend to exaggerate their separatism in a historical period that demands Africa’s unity in order that their independence may be safeguarded. I cannot envisage an African union in which all the members, large or small, heavily or thinly populated, do not enjoy legal equality under a constitution to which all have laid their hand. But the insistence on not wanting to cede certain functions to a central unifying political authority in which all the members will have an equal voice is unrealistic and unfounded. On the other hand, an association of a confederate or even looser nature, which does not give effective powers to a central authority and determine those to be left to the sovereign states, can leave the way open for the domination of the smaller and weaker members by larger and stronger ones.

Ghana has declared her stand in no uncertain terms. We have provided in our republican constitution for the surrender of our sovereignty, in whole or in part, in the wider interests of African unity. Guinea has made the same provision. So have Mali, Tunisia and the United Arab Republic. Every African must judge for himself which view is the more progressive and realistic; which is dedicated fully to the practical needs and interests of Africa, unrestrained by fear of external pressures; and which reflects the true voice of Africa.

Power of Words: Some Attempts At Unification – Kwame Nkrumah