By Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Accra, June 4, 1962 Speech
FELLOW FREEDOM FIGHTERS, COMRADES AND FRIENDS,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to Accra and to this conference of African Freedom Fighters and supporters of the growing movement for Africa’s liberation and unity. It is good for our cause to have a periodic meeting of this kind, to examine our position in the great struggle to rid Africa completely and forget of imperialism and its hand-maidens, colonialism and neo- colonialism. It gives us the opportunity also to review our Strength as well as that of the enemy and to reorganize our forces and our strategy in order to carry the Struggle forward to victory.
We have shaped a destiny for ourselves, and no one can alter the course of that destiny. It is the destiny of complete freedom for Africa – the total liberation of our continent and its political and economic unification. We have achieved some measure of success in this Struggle for human freedom and dignity, but we still have a great task ahead. We can only know the extent of our task and our own strength when we have examined and ascertained that of the enemy.
We are meeting here in Accra to perform precisely such a task, namely, to survey the forces at our disposal, to our position at this time, to assess correctly, the enemy’s forces and to plan our strategy and battle tactics for the final phase of the struggle for Africa’s emancipation.
WHO IS THE ENEMY
The enemy is imperialism, which uses as its weapons; colonialism and neo-colonialism. Let us be very clear about this. Let us also not lose sight of the real object which is the liquidation of colonialism and imperialism in all its forms — political, economic and ideological and the political unification of Africa.
What is imperialism and what are the forms it has taken and what other masks is it likely to put on?
Modern imperialism arose when capitalism had achieved both industrial and financial monopoly and the competition for raw materials and markets had made it imperative for the advanced industrialized countries to expand into the less advanced parts of the world. This phenomenon led to the partitioning of the world among the great powers. Asia and Africa were divided up among them.
Some of us think that because Asia has forced itself free of colonial control and much of Africa has done so too, the nature of imperialism has perhaps undergone a kind of changes. This thought is misleading, for the present devices of neo-colonialism and new imperialism has perhaps undergone a kind of change. This thought is misleading, for the present devices of neo-colonialism and the new imperialist form that follows in the wake of African independence, give clear evidence of the continued active operation of imperialism in Africa.
At the end of the First World War, the victorious powers rearranged their spheres of influence in Africa. Re-division of boundaries was just as arbitrary as the original frontiers, and imperialism remained as impressive as ever, even though some of the masters had changed, the thing that has not changed was the extending arm of finance-capital, which was expanding its monopoly in ever-widening circles. Trading Corporations had begun to emerge and soon created themselves into giant monopoly companies [corporations]. Great mining companies [corporations] were linked up with banking capital in London, New York, Brussels, Paris and Hamburg. All of them were intently milking Africa’s resources, believing that the judge profits they were making would continue for a long time. How could they think otherwise, when it was possible to take up 99-year concessions on land and mines almost for nothing?
But one great thing had happened in Europe which was having, and was to continue to have, its repercussions upon subsequent history throughout the world. That was the October Revolution of 1971 in Russia, which spread rapidly throughout the Czarist Empire and, overcoming the imperialist intervention, gave birth in 1922 to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Beginning with four republics, it has risen from a war-tom, undeveloped, largely agrarian land into a vast union of sixteen national republics, forming the second industrial state of the world.
The most far-reaching outcome of the consolidation of the Soviet Union was that, it removed from the capitalist-imperialist orbit, one-sixth of the earth’s surface. The withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the capital world retired what might well have become a very profitable sphere of investment for finance-capital.
There was a renewed fever for colonial expansion, which led to Mussolini’s war on Ethiopia and West’s backing off Japan’s war in Korea, Manchuria and China, the spoils of which they looked forward to sharing. A reconstructed Germany was also looking enviously at her former colonies in Africa.
Fellow Freedom Fighters and Friends: the colonial struggle develops unevenly. It has to press forward wherever it was strongest to create a break in the international imperialist chain. Thus this breaking of the imperialist chain at certain weak links has undermined the whole of the colonial system in Africa, the independent states that have emerged first have acted as a beacon light for the others, on whose behalf there- have been charges with responsibility of striking a blow. In this way, African nationalist thinking has been adjusting to internationalism within the continent, the developing process that must lead to the political unification of Africa.
TRIBALISM AND DIVISIONS
But the objective of African unity can be seriously undermined by tribalism, which provides one of the happiest hunting grounds for the colonialist and neo-colonialist enemies of African independence and unity. The Congo is a typical example of how a country can be turned to the use of imperialist vested interests to subvert independence and lever off a most valuable part of the country for continued neo-colonialist exploitation.
In my view, unless we take this problem of tribalism very carefully in hand, it can undo all our valiant efforts to bring real independence to Africa. We all know the evils of colonialism, but there are some of us who do not appreciate the malevolent possibilities for infinite disruption, and even chaos, of uncontrolled tribalism, which can make havoc of our hopes and aspirations.
We know that the colonialists are past-masters in the policy of divide and rule. They are quick to seize on tribal differences which they discover among us and use these to pit one group against the other. Soon these superficial differences become exaggerated into serious political factions which sometimes lead to tragic fratricidal struggles within the same territory. You who are in the thick of the struggle in Angola, Mozambique, Portuguese Guinea and elsewhere know this game too well. You must guard against it, by forging a common united front against the enemy. The dangers it opens up and the manipulations to which it can be put are too numerous and too threatening for us to ignore its urgent demands for critical and constructive attention. Failure in this task would only risk all the effort and sacrifices that we have made so far in our common cause and place in utter jeopardy, the future peace and development of this continent. l therefore charge you to place it high on your agenda and give it your most thoughtful and creative consideration.
ILLITERACY AND POVERTY
Colonial rule has left a high degree of illiteracy among our people, and we all know that in conditions of ignorance and superstition, it is easy enough to fan internecine feuds. This menace can be met by unity among the leaders and the creation of a nation-wide, firmly knit political organisation, receiving the most complete loyalty and devoted service from all its members, especially its officers and organizing officials in the field. But it is imperative for the problem to be seized and dealt with, and for everyone of us to be on our guard against its creeping insinuations and menacing possibilities.
Colonial rule has also left the masses of our people poverty-stricken and disease-ridden, while enormous quantities of mineral and agricultural wealth were drained out of Africa year in and year out. From the labours of our people, vast profits have been wrung for industrial and financial monopolies. In the Portuguese colonies, in the Belgian Congo, in the Union of South Africa, in the Rhodesias, Nyasaland, Kenya and other settler areas, forced labour and slave conditions are the lot of millions of Africans, whose lands have been expropriated in imposing hut and poll taxes and bending the customary traditions of communal service to the needs of settler farmers, mining companies, and land concessionaries. Legislation has turned many millions of Africans into helots in their own land. It will take all the tricks of expurgation and the greatest manipulation of truth ever fashioned to wipe out of the pages of history, the dreadful things and monstrous wrong that have been inflicted on our people by those who came here, so they said, to bring their civilizing mission to this vast and great continent. There is not one of us who has not, in a minor or major degree, felt the oppressive heel of colonial rule. I am not making this point merely in order to harrow you with ugly memories. Many of you have been confronted only too recently with the shocking actualities of calculated oppression to be able at this moment, to push them out of mind. l raise the point so that it will stay in your minds when you may be tempted by the seductive promises of neo-colonialism to forget the real character of colonialism, and be persuaded away from your own true interests and those of Africa.
For today, we must each see ourselves as part of Africa in order that we may face colonialist-imperialism and its new form, neo-colonialism, on a continent-wide front. When the first All-African People’s Conference met here in Accra in December of 1958, l pointed out that:
“Our deliberations must be conducted in accord and our resolution must flow out of unity. For, unity must be the keynote of our actions. Our enemies are many and they stand ready to pounce upon us, and exploit our every weakness. They tell us that this particular person or that particular country has greater or more favourable potentialities than the other.
They do not tell us that we should unite; that we are all as good as we are able to make ourselves, once we are free. Remember always that you have four stages to make:
- the attainment of freedom and independence;
- the consolidation of that freedom and independence;
- the creation of unity and community between the free African states;
- the economic and social reconstruction of Africa
What has happened since, in one way invalidates these assumptions. In the face of recent and present events, they have, in fact, a greater urgency than ever.
When the first conference of independent African states assembled in Accra in April 1958, there were eight independent African states. Today, we have increased our number to nearly thirty, with more on the way; but the problems which plagued us then still remain: how to maintain the hard-won independence of those of us who are free and, at the same time, assist the burning struggle of our brothers still fighting for their independence on this continent. The answer too, is the same. We must unify ourselves in policy and in action, both between all of us who are independent, and between the independent states and the still unliberated millions on this continent.
We have it truly recorded in the pages of contemporary history, signal success in the continuing struggle for human freedom and dignity. But there still remains the gigantic task ahead of redeeming from the grinding heel of colonialist imperialism; the parts of Africa still under its yoke. Africa is for Africans and unless those within our gates can accept the rule of the majority, they must either pick themselves up and go or be forced to surrender to our just demands.
We do not, for instance, accept the South African argument that the land it occupies was no man’s land when the first settlers came and met it unoccupied. This is Africa and the land they settled upon is African land belonging to Africans whether they were there or not upon the settlers’ arrival. Africa is not an extension of Europe and if Europeans want to develop a separate nation, then they must find a place on their own continent to do so. They cannot expect to remain here, to live upon and lord it over an African majority in a master-slave relationship that deprives our fellow Africans in the South of every human right and dignity.
Nor do we countenance the Central African Federation, forced upon seven million Africans for the benefit of three hundred thousand Europeans, determined to extend the arrogant assumptions of racial superiority over wider stretches of our continent. We have no time for the platitudes about aim at continuing a jack-boot system which will keep the Africans at the hewer-of-wood and drawer-of-water level.
We are equally opposed to the sham constitutions that are being foisted on Swaziland and Bechuanaland, the British protectorate enclaves in South Africa, which are nothing but a sop to the popular demand of democratic government in preparation for independence. The traditional elements are being favoured as administrative instruments for the obstruction of progress to full independence. In Basutoland, the third British protectorate in South Africa, the intent is apparent in the neglect to transfer any kind of power to the people. It is easy to understand that the South African Union could not tolerate three completely independent African States within the very borders of what she claims to be her territory.
The hurricane of change that is raging through Africa and razing to the ground many of the bastions of colonialism is a warning that we Africans mean to be masters on our own continent. But we should be doing ourselves a great disservice, if we were to sink into smug complacency and take it for granted that time is all on our side and that, because history is with us, the total independence of Africa will fall into our hands like a ripe mango. This is decidedly not the case. The forces arrayed against us are (and I use the word most carefully) formidable. They are entrenched and powerful. They are, as I have taken some pains to explain, the forces of imperialism acting through their instruments, colonialism and neo-colonialism, ably assisted by the agents of the cold-war. They operate in worldwide combinations at all levels: political, economic, military, cultural, educational, social and trade; and through intelligence, cultural and information services. They operate from European and African centres, using agents who I am ashamed to say, are often unpatriotic sons of Africa, buying personal satisfactions with the betrayal of their countries’ safety and integrity. They seduce leaders of the African political trade union and people’s organisations, thus creating rifts and quarrels within the national fronts.
On the broader fronts, they are massing their forces in a determined effort to stay the advance of African liberation and the march to unity. It is not accidental that the countries of the European Common Market are those spearheading the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the imperialist powers who have brought in the vassals, Spain and Portugal have in fact, since the wars of the Spanish succession, 1700-1714 been a protectorate of Britain, which has enjoyed special trading and concessionary rights in both Portugal and Portuguese territories for over two hundred years. It is not difficult to understand, therefore, why Britain has not raised her voice against the atrocities in Angola and the other Portuguese territories, and actually supported Portugal’s preposterous claim that Goa, in India, was an integral part of the metropolitan country.
The arms and troops that are pouring into Angola cannot be regarded in isolation from the international organisations of imperialism and the cold war militarism with which they are most definitely linked. It is absurd to think that Portugal, one of the poorest countries in Europe, could support so large an army so well equipped as that which is defending her colonial possessions in Africa without the active aid she must be receiving from the North Atlanta Treaty Organisation.
Nor can we look upon the way in which South Africa is busily building up an armed force equal to any held by the nations of Europe without scenting the international implications that are obviously involved. She has, we hear, a secret military pact with Portugal. And the interlocking imperialist interests collected in Congo and the Rhodesians, Angola and Mozambique, which are also linked with the great mining and financial combines operating in South Africa, create a chain of allies which seriously threatens both the fight for extending African emancipation from colonialism and the independence of the new states.
Now that African independence has been achieved over a large part of the continent and the national consciousness of Africans from north to south, from east to west, is adding momentum to the struggle for independence, every kind of means is being used by the colonialists to arrest its progress and defeat its objective. They are attempting many methods, some sinister, some beguiling, to wreck our efforts. They strike antipathetic postures. On one side, they perform acts calculated to strike fear; on the other, they try to hoodwink us with fictitious gifts which superficially pander to our hopes and aspirations. They are the frenzied attempts to deflect our purpose, to weaken our determination.
Of late, atrocities of the worst possible kind have been perpetrated against Africans. The horror of Portuguese atrocities appalls all right-minded people. The massacres, at Dembos, Gulungo Alto, Ambaca, Dondo, Cacuso, Libolo and others, will be to the eternal shame of the present Portuguese regime. Troops drafted into Baixe de Cassange to shoot down Africans demonstrating against abusive practices, killed over eight thousand innocent people. Planes bombed unarmed, defenceless men and women. The Portuguese record in Angola, in Mozambique, Guinea, Sao Tome and Principle is a long, repetitive story of murder, robbery and active persecution of Africans. The intensity of the new repression is illustrated by recent flight of more than eighty thousand persons into the Congo.
On the other hand, it is interesting to note the latest solicitude of those responsible, for the Sharpville massacre for the “national rights” of a South African tribe singled out for the favour of racial independence, as the settler rulers of the Union are pleased to call it. This is segregated government by chiefs of the Pondoland tribe within its circumscribed reserve makes a pitiful mockery not only of the meaning of freedom, but of the dignity of the Africans compelled to accept this travesty of independence. It is difficult to believe that world opinion will be hoodwinked by what is nothing more than a thinly disguised trick to prove that South Africa is not against African freedom within segregation; but that she is only against African independence that will assure the democratic right of the indigenous majority to rule an alien minority. In any event, it is an extraordinary division of independence which could only have been devised by a people too blind to see its impossibility against the activities of mid-twentieth century developments, political, industrial, economic and social. The theory that a minority of settlers can continue to subjugate, to dominate, rob and enslave millions of Africans has no reality in our present world of expanding nationalism and more and more technical means of production. And the idea that the Union can continue to exist within its own frontiers for any length of time on the output of extractive industries, plantation farming, and a ramshackle industrial machine, run by near-slave labour, is very much open to question.
I must again urge the United Nations to see to it that its own declaration on the liquidation of colonialism is given practical effect without further delay. So long as colonialism exists in Africa. Africans cannot help talking the way we do now and mankind cannot escape the constant threat of war. Africa therefore appeals to the United Nations to live up to its reputations as the greatest bastions of world peace, and demands that a meeting of this year’s United Nations session should be devoted to the problem of colonialism in Africa. Furthermore, the United Nations should make a firm declaration calling upon the Colonial Powers to quit Africa by 31st December, 1962. The Freedom Fighters Assembled in this historic conference must also call upon all the Colonial Powers to withdraw from Africa by the same date. It is in their interest and in the interest of world Peace that this should be so.
It is folly for the colonialists to think that they can hold back forever the progress of history. The process of change is inherent is the interplay of social, economic and political forces. It is true that these can be hindered and impeded, and even bent to different purposes: but not forever. How, we who are concerned with the immediacy of African independence and unity are not prepared to wait upon the evolution of history. We are determined to give history a revolutionary push, or if I may boast a little, to push rather harder the revolutionary wheel that we freedom fighters have already turned a considerable way across Africa.
The instruments of slaughter, the harshness of the repressions, the intensification of the oppression being brought against Africans as independence advances over our continent, all these devices place a heavy obligation upon us who are independent to move our forces forward and make it plain to the colonialists and imperialists that we are adamant in our purpose to destroy colonialism in Africa. No lukewarm approach will avail. We must bring all our battalions into array to match the skill of our enemy. We must adopt a positive all-out anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist attack and this quickly, for we cannot afford the luxury of delay. Time acts for the enemy, no less than for ourselves.
Let us, therefore, examine our position seriously and objectively, to see how well we have managed so far, and evaluate our points of weakness and the necessary remedies. Let us determine what modifications are needed to adjust our strategy to counter the movements of the enemy and overcome him.
These require some plain speaking, and for the sake of Africa, let us speak plainly.
As I see it, our greatest danger stems from disunity and the inability to see that the realization of our hopes and aspirations, the realization of our objective of total African independence, and of our future progress and prosperity, is inextricably bound up with the necessity to unify our policy and actions in connection with the continuing struggle for independence and the greater task of economic and social reconstruction beyond it.
We need unity within the ranks of the independent states, unity within the ranks of the freedom fighters still struggling to achieve independence; and unity between the already independent states and the freedom fighters.
I do not think that too much stress can ever be laid upon this need for unity. It is our unity that the imperialist agencies are trying by every means to obstruct and sever. It is the idea of African Unity that they fear most. It seems only intelligent, therefore, for us to close our ranks and compact our forces.
If we independent states were unified in a political and economic union, having a common foreign and defence policy, controlling a unified military command, we should be in a much stronger position to assist the territories, still struggling for independence. An over-all economic plan, covering unity on a continental basis, must increase our total industrial and economic power; hence, our combined strength, reinforced by a common purpose would add enormously to the united front which we could turn against the enemy. So long as we remain disunited, so long as we remain balkanized, whether regionally or in separate national units, we shall be at the mercy of imperialism and neo-colonialism.
We must therefore face the issue of African Unity now; for only unity will make the artificial boundaries and regional demarcations imposed by colonialism obsolete and superfluous. African Unity will thus provide an effective remedy for border disputes intemecine troubles. In a united Africa, there would be no frontier claims between Ethiopia and Somalia or between Zanzibar and Kenya, Guinea and Liberia or between Togoland and the Ivory Coast, because we would regard ourselves as one great continental family of Nations.
Among the new states in Africa are some which, through fragmentation, have been left so weak economically, that they are unable to stand on their own feet. This is the result of a deliberate policy of withdrawing colonial powers, who have created in Africa several small, feeble and unstable and unviable states, in the hope of ensuring their continued dependence upon the former colonial power for economic and technical aid. Indeed, the intention goes farther than that, and is more insidious. It is to produce a political atmosphere as dangerous to the safety and progress of African independence as that which followed the establishment of the many friable nations which were created in Eastern Europe by the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815). The underlying design is to induce national jealousies and rivalries such as nourished the outbreak of the First World War. At worst, it must present tough obstacles to the movement for total African freedom and African unity. This is the inner plan of neo-colonialism, the instrument of imperialism. While relinquishing political rule, it contrives to control the foreign and internal policy in the states it still dominates through the bestowal of material aid.
In effect, only the outward forms have changed, but the substance of colonialism remains. Foreign imports are still protected, local development is clamped down, social progress is retarded, and fiscal policy is controlled from the metropolitan capital. The impact of these semi-independent states on the liberation of Africa is calamitous. Bound up as they are with the policies of their sponsors, they are unable to take a determined independent line on issues involving the colonialists and the still enslaved peoples on this continent. Some of the leaders, it must be confessed, do not see the struggle of their brother Africans as part of their own struggle. Even if they did, they would not be free to express their solidarity. Thus rifts are consciously created by the imperialists between African’s which they can sit back and watch with sly satisfaction, as well as contempt for those who fail to see how they are being used against Africa’s best interests. Regrettably, those states include some who were among the freedom fighters of yesterday and who, having won their independence, are willing to drop it for some token aid, and thereby deny to those still-struggling for freedom even their moral supports. Here is a phenomenon against which all African freedom fighters must be on their guard and resist to the utmost.
Even though I appreciate the difficulties facing us, I must admit I find it strange to watch some of us returning willingly to the colonialist fold. This time, they don’t even have the excuse of being forced to subject themselves to foreign domination. It makes one wonder why so much effort and sacrifice, and so many lives, were given up to the achievement of independence in the first place, if it can be so quickly and easily surrendered. Unhappily for us, colonialism creates in some, intellectual allegiances which are not served at the moment of independence, but remain to condition loyalties away from Africa towards the metropolis which draws them. They are unable, it would appear, to accept the idea that Africans can get together to make a viable and going concern of a combined African continent, but rather see their salvation in coming together in associations like the Franco African Community mooted recently at Bangui.
Although there are many here who speak English, French, Spanish or Portuguese, nevertheless we are all African — Africans fighting for Africa’s independence, Africa’s unity, Africa’s future.
I have said that I understand the difficulties of these states which are drawing away from the African community back into that Europe. Faced with the demands of their people for rising standards of living and better social conditions, but charged within an economy that can hardly meet the recurrent expenses of administration and maintenance, they are in a dilemma. And standing at their elbows are the neo-colonialist agents, beckoning them back with a smile into the web of imperialism, though it may have a new look this time and offer the irresistible bait of immediate help will be far outweighed, as they will experience with no great loss of time, by the knots into which their economies will be tied by the Euro-African association. Imperialism does not change its nature; it only changes its front. It still needs colonial appendages, whether in name or in fact, to exploit and, at the same time, to support its cold war strategy.
In the face of the serious threat to our economy and independence in Africa, we must begin to build immediately our own continental Common Market, for it is easy for anyone who studies the Common Market Organisation closely to realise that the Common Market is aimed at harnessing the Africa countries to satisfy the profit-lust of the imperialist bloc and to prevent us from following an independent neutralist policy. It is also easy to see that the imperialist and colonialists are determined to retain the African countries in the position of suppliers of cheap raw material.
If we do not resist this threat, and if we throw in our lot with the Common Market, we shall doom the economy of Africa to a state of perpetual subjection to the economy of Western Europe. This will of course hinder the industrialisation of our young African states. It is impossible to think of economic development and national independence without possessing an unfettered capacity for maintaining a strong industrial power. The activities of the Common Market are therefore fraught with dangerous political and economic consequences for the Independent African States. The organization constitutes an attempt to replace the old system of colonial exploitation by a new system of collective colonialism which will be stronger and more dangerous than the old evils we are striving to liquidate from our continent.
There is an alternative to the Euro-African association, with its deadly implications for Africa’s independence and progress. It is an African Economic Community, in which we can all pool our production and our trade, to the common advantage. It is not difficult to imagine that the neo-colonialists will describe this as a pooling of poverty. It is, however, too simple a distortion of fact. Africa is rich and not poor, as the great wealth that has been taken out of our continent over five centuries of despoliation and extortion very well proves. Africa has immense actual and potential wealth, Gold, Diamonds, Copper, Manganese, Bauxite, Iron, Ore, Uranium, Asbestos, Chrome, Cobalt, a host of other minerals, our essential agricultural produce, have all been drained away by colonialist-imperialism, Africa is far from being poor. It is Africans who are poor, because of the uncounted profit that has been made out of the exploitation of their labour and their lands. If we are being baited to enter a European Community, we must have something that community needs — and needs badly, when it pretends to offer a bonus by way of aid. When Greeks come bearing gifts, should we not look them well in the mouth, if l may mix my metaphor? But I am sure you get my meaning. When we new untried inexperienced states are flattered into European alliances, we enter not as equals, but as suppliers of primary products at the generosity of industrial converters. How generous they can be, we have learned from our sad experience over a good long time. Who fixes prices? Who can play off one against the other by allowing the goods of associates in free of tariff and placing a tariff on others? As long as it is possible to deal with it singly, we are at the mercy of the imperialists rather than their generosity. And we shall find ourselves in the same old cleft stick of receiving the lowest possible prices for our raw materials, while those of us who are obliged to buy their manufactured goods, because of being members of their associations, will pay for them through the nose. These same states will find themselves tied up in knots which will prevent their going into an open market for their needs of goods and capital investment. And, above all, they will lose their option of non-alignment and find themselves dragged into the diplomacy of imperialist cold war politics which will operate against the independence and intrinsic interest of Africa. Those of us who cannot see through these implications can only be suffering from an intense myopia.
Within our African Community, our pooled production will place us in a position to bargain for higher prices, and so secure greater revenues, out of which we can invest in our development. At the same time, we can trade freely among ourselves and buy from overseas in the cheapest markets. We can turn for aid to those sources which will give us the most suitable terms while leaving us free to follow our own internal and external policy. But more even than this narrow co-operation, we need the wider continental economic plan, which will allow us, within unity, to exploit Africa’s tremendous resources for our common welfare and greater African development and progress.
If we are really sincere on our desire to see the end of imperialism in African we should turn away from any form of association with Europe which, through its neo-colonialist control of our policies, will help rather to sustain that imperialism than undermine it. It is bad enough that our economies, as a legacy of colonial rule, are imperialist-controlled, and that we have to strive by every means to rid ourselves of this economic imperialism and secure our development and progress on solid African Foundation. This is another reason why we should come together in a unified African economic plan, which, operating on a continental scale, can make a solid attack on imperialist domination in Africa.
We should, without delay, aim at the creation of a joint African military command. There is little wisdom in our present separate efforts to build up and maintain defence forces which, in any case, would be ineffective in any major conflict. If we examine this problem realistically, we would ask, which single African state could protect itself against an imperialist aggressor? And how much more difficult this will be when some states are allowing the imperialists to maintain bases on their territories? I have already referred to the military force which South Africa is raising and the danger it poses for the new African states and the struggle of those still in chains. Only our unity can provide us with anything like adequate protection. If we do not unite and combine our military force, South Africa, along with her allies, or any other colonialist-imperialist power, can pick us off one by one. Not only that some of us out of a sense of insecurity, may be drawn into making defence pacts with the imperialists which will endanger the security of all of us.
It follows that, if we set up in Africa a common economic planning organisation and a joint military command, we shall have to work out and adopt a common foreign policy to give political direction to our continental development and our continental defence.
Fellow Freedom Fighters, you may perhaps wonder why I have dwelt at some length with these problems of the unity of independent African States and what relevance they have to your immediate problems of how to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of your own struggle for independence. I think I have answered any such questions by pointing out the dangers to the whole subject of your fight for freedom in the fragmentary state of Africa at this present time. Moreover, the moment you have achieved your independence, you will be faced with the practical problems of protecting that independence and securing your viability in order to lay the foundations on which to build up economic and social development. You must know where you are going, what avenues of support await you, which will contribute to your real consolidation and protection and meet the problems that will confront you.
These problems can best be met within a unified Africa, and it should be possible, in the higher reaches of our endeavour, to devise a constitutional structure which will secure the objectives I have outlined and yet preserve the sovereignty of each of the countries joining the union. Countries within the union will naturally maintain their own constitutions and continue to use their national emblems and national anthems and other symbols and paraphernalia of sovereignty.
Regional association and territorial groupings can only be other forms of balkanization, unless they are conceived within the framework of a continental union. There are existing models which we can modify or adapt into our pattern.
The United States of America, the Soviet Union, India and China have proved the efficacy of unions embracing large stretches of land and population. When the first thirteen states of America tried to promote the idea of a United States, this was ridiculed as an empty dream and vigorously resisted by many. Today, America is the foremost industrial country in the world, and the states within her union now number fifty. And who would have thought that almost a hundred different peoples at various levels of economic, social and political development could have been welded into the mighty state which the Soviet Union has become in such a short space of time.
The example of Europe, which is left in confusion after centuries of mutually destructive economic warfare and competition, because it failed to build a sound foundation for common political action and understanding, should be a lesson for us all. But with the exigencies created by the shrinking of empires, the growing socialist world and the needs generated by the greater production capacities inherent in present-day techniques, even Europe is now beginning to seek its common associations. lt is paradoxical, therefore, that some African states should be turning away front their proper African affiliations to those of another continent. Rather, we should all be working ceaselessly to bring to tuition the fond hope of African unity to which we all give lip service and to which most of us are resolutely dedicated.
Let me here say a few words about the development in what looked like a hopeful move towards the unity of the Caribbean islands. We regard West Indians as our brothers, for they have strong ties of kinship with us here in Africa. They, like us, have suffered and are still suffering the iniquities of colonial oppression. l think it is only right that we should show concern over any development which tends to undermine their solidarity and progress, and have indeed been saddened by the failure of the attempt at federation. How can these little islands hope to stand by themselves in the future any better than they have done in the past.
When the trend is towards the creation of bigger units of economic viability, it is most distressing to find that some of our brothers across the Atlantic seem to be unaware of the vital need of widest possible federation, drawn together by a central government with sufficient powers to make the principle of unified progress a working possibility. It would be tragic, not only for West Indians, but also for Africans and other people of African descent, if the islands of the West Indians were to remain apart. For we have reposed so much hope and faith in the emergence of the Caribbean isles as united states, free and progressive, federated in strength and purpose, and contributing substantially to the total success of all our peoples. l hope that West Indian leaders, who are men of learning and progress, will see the folly and danger of this disuniting development and arrest the process for the good of all concerned.
Here is Africa, the increasing activity of freedom fighters all over the continent is one of the most hopeful signs of the victory that must crown our efforts. Many have lost their lives. Many — far too many — have been mown down. Let their sacrifices spur us on to ever greater effort, to add to the great achievements that have already marked our struggle. Let us now stand in silence for one minute in homage to those who have fallen in battle for Africa’s freedom. After seven long years, the French Government has made a standstill agreement with our Algerian brothers, and we pay our tribute to the heroes of the Algerian Liberation Front. Many thousands have died in order that a true and progressive Algeria might live. The great self-restraint which the people of Algeria have shown in face of extreme provocation by the European Secret Army Organisation — the O.A.S — is evidence of their national maturity and balanced political judgment. The obvious objective of these attacks is to nullify the Evian Agreement by inciting the Algerian people to hit back en masse and create sympathy for the O.A.S. cause. It is reassuring that the Algerian people, by the large, have remained calm in the face of extreme and wanton provocation, thus defeating the main purpose of the vengeful attacks of the O.A.S.
It is, however, becoming increasingly questionable whether the truce, in the face of the obvious inability or, perhaps we might call it refusal, of the French to deal effectively with the subversive actions of the counter-revolutionary organisation in Algeria, can continue. To the Algerian Provisional Government, we extend our esteem of the high sense of leadership they have exhibited before the temptations of retaliatory action, and assure them once again that all true and genuine sons of Africa stand resolutely by them in any course of action they may take to ensure the final victory of an utterly independent Algeria.
The gains that the freedom fight in Africa has made in a few years are astounding. No one would ever have believed that country after country could so rapidly have gained their independence. Not long ago — not yet ten years away — certain African leaders were still shy even of using the word “independence.” They talked about “decolonization”, about “self-government”, about “self- determination”, etcetera. In fact, it was only at the Cotonou conference of the P.R.A. in August, 1958, that the word “independence” came out into the open in French West and Equatorial Africa. And even then, certain leaders tried to soft-pedal it as though it were indecent to give it forthright expression.
Popular pressure in the African lands is determining the question of independence, as it will determine African unity. Unfortunately, some of our leaders are eagerly attempting to demonstrate their affinity with the European cultures and philosophies, from which they can cut off only with harmful results to our African destiny.
Africa’s interests are in Africa. That is why bellow the leadership throughout the independent states and within the freedom struggle that is going on in the unliberated parts of the continent, there is a surge towards unity which, if properly guided, can bring about the desired objective. The slogan of African unity is today on every lip. But there are those who have it only on their lip as a means of concealing their links with foreign interests and to hoodwink the millions of African workers and peasants who look eagerly forward to an upward change in their poverty-stricken lives.
It is doubtful whether this facade can long deceive the people, for it breaks faith with them. And after all, if the principle is maintained that sovereignty is rooted in the people, they must use this sovereignty to secure governments wedded to Africa’s true interests in genuine independence. Freedom Fighters of Africa must therefore closely watch the unfolding scene of African independence and development and make sure that no government shall deceive the rightful aspirations of the people and remain in power. Imperialist plans must be frustrated by making it impossible for neo-colonialism to recruit agents and retain them in the seats of power. This is no small task, but it is a task which we must tackle in the supreme interest of Africa. It is part and parcel of the greater task of achieving Africa’s total independence and unification, the plan for the winning of which we are here to determine.
In the prosecution of this task, we must endeavour to eliminate all those trends that will hamper our victory, and number and enlist all those forces that can support and join our struggle for colonialism’s final overthrow in Africa. Some of these l have already dealt with; others I shall be coming to. First of all, we must recognize and acknowledge that our struggle is in Africa and that the brunt must fall upon us Africans. After all, it is our struggle. It is a struggle against the strongest combination of forces the world has ever seen: twentieth century imperialism in the epoch of the cold war. Despite their outward expressions of sympathy and understanding, we must discount any likelihood of real help in our struggle from the interested powers. They are, as we know busily carrying on their neo-colonialist intrigues behind their hypocritical protestations. Against this, we can counter the expansion of the non-aligned states, whose pressure at the United Nations has secured a certain response to the demand for an examination of the slave conditions in the Portuguese and South-west African territories, and in Ruanda Urundi and the Central African Federation.
While we cannot rely entirely upon United Nations action as a determining factor in the struggle, yet as we intensify our activities, the organisation can be utilized as an increasingly effective deterrent in connection with the more outrageous forms of colonial oppression. Whether we shall ever be able to secure its intervention actively on the side of the struggle in the event of open attack from the heavily armed colonial powers, will depend very much upon the unity of policy and action between the African States, and the support they can mobilise in the Security Council.
Though, as I say, we do not look for help among the imperialist governments in the struggle for independence and unity, yet there are many people within their countries whose sympathy and moral support we know we have. I know that fighters have also received their active and material help in a number of ways. But as these friends cannot influence their governments, there is no possibility of our depending upon them to move their support to the battleground of Africa.
However, we must not overlook the struggle which some sections of the European working class and intelligentsia are bringing out into the open against colonial governments in Africa. Here there is a definite link between our struggle and the working class battling for democratic rights liberties, against the metropolitan colonial governments. Both struggles are aimed at the same target: the destruction of colonialism and repressive administration. The simultaneous assault in the colonies and the metropolis helps to weaken the colonial power through the division of the forces it must deploy at both ends. It is possible that our struggles could be joined, on the absolutely clear and accepted understanding that we shall brook no interference with our right to independence.
Our other forces are within Africa, and they are within the independent states and the remaining colonial territories. They reside in the people and their organisations. They are in the Trade Unions, the farmers and peasants associations, the cooperatives, the youth movements, the women’s organisations, the political parties, in fact, in every unit of nationalist endeavour.
The farmers of Africa have initiated their continental union, which joins not only members from the independent countries but also from the still dependent territories. We cannot keep fighting on empty stomachs, and our farmers have a great duty to keep us reasonably fed for the struggle. Their wisdom in coming together to form a union of African farmers gives hope sand confidence to all of us that a significant step has been taken in African unity.
The African Trade Unions have a particularly pressing responsibility to discard antiquated ideas about the separation of trade union activities from politics and to constitute themselves into an active vanguard in our political operations. Credit, therefore, must go to those who have joined the All-African Trades Union Federation — the A.A.T.U.F. It is time for Africa to have her own independent, continental Trade Union apex body, which will owe allegiance to Africa’s struggle for independence and economic and social reconstruction. The international Confederation of Free Trade Unions (the I.C.F.T.U), represents the ideology of the capitalist countries. The World Federation of Trade Unions (the W.F.T.U), represents the ideology of the socialist countries. We in Africa, who are committed to a policy of non-alignment, can only steer clear of extra-African entanglements by raising our own continental trade union organisation with its own ideology and freedom from external pressures. The I.C.F.T.U has been at considerable pains and gone to considerable expense to infiltrate the African Trade Union Movement and to seduce African Trade Union leaders away from an African stand and viewpoint. Within the context of the anti-colonial struggle, the very organisation of a Trade Union is a political act, as those who remember the history of the Chartist movement in England will understand. And in the tasks of reconstruction after the attainment of independence, they have a special role to play in rallying the working class around a programme aimed at raising the standard of life of the mass of people. ‘Where the government is a popular government, the African Trade Union Movement is identified with the government programmes, and thereby becomes its ally in securing its implementation. The Trade Union Movement in Africa has already proved itself in the independence struggle, and our All-African Trade Union Federation can be of inestimable aid in pushing these last stages to final victory. Its job is to cement the bonds of solidarity and union between the workers in all the territories and give its active support against the brutal exploitation of our comrades in the dependent territories.
One of the remarkable phenomena of our times is the way in which the colonial youth and women have accepted the challenge of the independence struggle and play their active part in it. All the way through the Algerian war, during our own militant activities here in Ghana, and as far as l can judge, in all the territories where the fight has erupted into open battle, whether short or prolong, our young people and women have aided their fathers and brothers, their husbands and sons, in all manner of ways. They have acted as messengers, as sentries, as watchdogs, as providers and purveys of food and succour. They have even acted as spurs to push their hesitant men folk into the thick of the struggle.
Today, our youth organisations are interpreting their enthusiasm and aspirations into activities which support the fight for freedom and unity in Africa. Always the most oppressed, the slavery and misery of colonial oppression stung our African women into action, and they still remain in the front line of the battle in ever increasing numbers. Here in Ghana, women played a most important part in the attainment of independence. They are now seriously engaged in our national reconstruction, and are dedicated to the cause of African Unity. African womanhood in general is dedicated to the cause of liberation from colonialism, and Freedom Fighters should do everything to encourage our women to bring their effective efforts to the cause.
Fellow Freedom Fighters, we have told the world in clear terms, at every conceivable opportunity, that Africa has a vested interest in peace. We sincerely believe that others also cherish a similar interest in peace and that generally, the world abhors violence. We must make it crystal clear, however, that we do not subscribe to the principle of peace at any price. It is true that we are prepared to pay an unbelievably high price for peace. We recognize the dangers of war implicit in the chain of events on this continent which has brought a high degree of armament to West, Central and South Africa, and which are linked with our struggle for independence and unity. Yet we are not prepared to retreat from the struggle one inch. On the contrary, we are firmer than ever in our determination to carry it forward to a triumphant conclusion, whatever the cost. For we are resolved that this continent shall not continue half-free, half-slave, not only because the independence of our states is threatened so long as a single colonial territory remains, but because we must help to win for our brothers their inalienable right to determine their own destiny. Moreover, the liquidation of imperialist-colonialism in Africa is in itself a profound act of peace, while the unity of this continent will constitute a great bulwark for the positive stabilisation of world amity and concord. For it will eliminate those causes of conflict tied up in the scramble for spheres of influence, and controlled sources of raw materials and markets.
We can endure the exasperation of protracted constitutional devices, calculated to delay independence and sovereignty. We can even submit to the process of the piecemeal granting of freedom to us, accepting the ridiculous judgment of those who have set themselves umpires of our progress, and who invariably proclaim our unripeness for self-government. But we shall not tolerate the application of violence against us simply because we demand our freedom.
There are several effective ways in which we shall resist, and these we shall discuss and resolve. But I want to make it quite clear that the aggressors are the imperialist-colonialists, first because, they are the alienators of our lands to which we do not admit their right, whatever they are determine among themselves; and second, because they are the prime users of force, and if their international law was objective and not framed simply to legalise their loot, there would be no need for it. We are not out to make what is not ours, but we have a perfect right to fight for the birthright of freedom and the ownership of our land that has been filched from us and is being illegally withheld.
In as much as our struggle for independence and our subsequent national and continental development is bound up with the question of peace, since our very survival hangs upon the decisions of the great nations, we once more put forward our appeal to them. Immeasurable quantities of money, not to talk of the futile waste of energy, brains and productive capacity, are put into the manufacture and explosion of the most lethal weapons of destruction that man has ever bent his ingenuity to devise. It is a fair comment on the state of Western civilization that this should be regarded as its highest pinnacle of achievement, while millions of the world’s populations in Asia and Africa, yes, even in Europe and America, exist on the fringe of bare subsistence. We still call upon the powers who hold the fate of mankind in their hands, to turn away from the productions of these appealing means of mass destruction and to devote to peaceful uses, the harnessed power of the atom. How excellent it would be if, instead of preparing for the destruction of mankind, one barest part of the means financing it, could be used in the rapid development of the less developed parts of the world, and thus destroy colonialist-imperialism forever. It is a sad reflection on the leadership of these nations that they should have within their reach the power for doing good and yet refuse to adjust themselves to the opportunity of making effective their ability for doing this good. I hope that before long, sanity may prevail and that mankind will receive the benefits of the uncountable wealth now being catapulted into the atmosphere.
The question of peace, particularly as it affects African independence and development had related to the United Nations, the great world organization which despite all its shortcoming, is the international repository of the world’s hopes. Some time ago this organisation showed such nervousness in the implementation of its own decisions and resolutions over the Congo that the small nations began to wonder whether it could be effective in their protection and if confidence should be reposed in it. Its vacillations caused the death of one of our bravest fighters our brother, Patrice Lumumba.
The Congo is perhaps one of the most glaring examples of how the neo- colonialists use the most Machiavellian means to continue their imperialist depredations, by turning to their contrivance the ambitions of power-thirsty politicians and tribal divisions. Belgium, we know, never prepared her colonies for independence, and when she transferred power to the Congolese people, it was obvious that it was never intended that independence would be genuine. Because of the lack of political organisation in the Belgian Congo as a result of the colonial policy forbidding it, and the hurried attempts to forestall nationalist cohesion by encouraging tribal associations, the ground was well set for the interfering tactics of the imperialist and cold war interests that entered Katanga to guard their investments and sever it from the jurisdiction of the central government.
If we need an illustration of the use to which tribalism can be put by the divide and rule tactics of imperialism and its African puppets, the Congo provides it most graphically. Unfortunately, Patrice Lumumba was not allowed time to complete his unifying policy and was put out of the way precisely in order that he might not do so. Everything that followed from the neo-colonialist and cold war strategy in the Congo and the manipulation of strings in the United National by the same interests is testimony to the crying need for African unity everywhere and in everything that is done in Africa.
I am glad that at the time Ghana did not withdraw her troops from the Congo, like so many other nations, as this would have left the way wide open to the interventionists who were only waiting for the opportunity to be left alone to take over this enormous territory for themselves.
Now l come to the task directly of the fighters who are in the front rank of the struggle. Unity, fellow Freedom Fighters, must be the watchword of those who are leading the masses into the battle for independence in the many parts of Africa which, alas, are still under the dragging yoke of colonialism. You must close your ranks and stand firmly together. You must forget your theoretical differences and minor political polemics. The forces that are massed against you, as I have explained, are mighty indeed, and though they have their differences in many things, they are united in their determination to keep Africa as their rich economic province. Division among us is a luxury we cannot afford. Our open squabbles are the advantages which the enemy loses no time to exploit and thereby decimate our forces, and undermine our purpose. This is an aspect that we must examine most seriously so as to find means of clearing away such differences as we have, and coming together in a solid phalanx, to meet the enemy on a common front.
Moreover, the sectionalism of separate organisations within a single territory, for instance, apart from its fissional dangers, is wasteful in the extreme. The endeavour to enlist mass support for a multiplicity of organisations avowedly dedicated to the attainment of independence can only lead to tribalist and religious communalism, on which so many good intentions have foundered. It provides greater opportunity for the employment of imperialist divide and rule tactics. It creates a diffusion of much needed organizational manpower, which could be more tactically deployed if encompassed within a single organisation.
Furthermore, a single organisation could embrace the whole popular support and channel its enthusiasm around one programme, instead of dividing its attention and its allegiance to the disadvantage of the struggle. Sometimes, the impression is created that in certain places, the struggle is for leadership per se and not so much for independence. This is unfortunate, and I say it with grief and reluctance. It is regrettable when some leaders appear to be more concerned with being leaders than with understanding what we are leading for and what we are leading against.
I hope that I have made clear to you here the nature of the struggle as I see it. As I have said, it is our African struggle, and it is taking place here in Africa. Many of our Freedom Fighters have been forced out of their countries as a result of the militant part they have played in the struggle, and they are continuing to play their part in many different ways. But they will understand me when I say that the struggle for the independence of each territory will, in the final analysis, be fought out within that territory. Therefore, the freedom fighters outside must keep their links with those at home and be guided to some extent by the closer knowledge of the state of things of those who have been left to carry on behind. Moreover, they must not be surprised, if other new leaders are thrown up in the course of battle, as it will not always be convenient for those at home to wait upon the word from the exiled leaders. What you have to do here is to examine all the aspects of your struggle and forces within and without and plan for the final assault. The struggle may be long. It will certainly not be easy, and you must not allow yourselves to be deflected by such extraneous issues as border differences and other contentious disputes which can have no relevance as long as your independence is in doubt, and which will disappear within a unified Africa. What you must be prepared to defeat are the designs of the colonial powers to divide up your territories so as to deprive you of portions that are essential to your viability and economic development. It is a common practice for the colonial powers before they finally transfer power to look around for some means of partitioning the subject territory, in order to weaken it and force it back under their neo-colonialist wing. You must be prepared to meet all such devices, just as in the course of battle you must look for and learn to recognize the agents and the provocateurs whom the enemy sends out to infiltrate your ranks as a fifth column. There may be among us spies and informers for the enemy, betraying their own people for a mess of pottage. Worse than these are the agents who come to us with honeyed words to weaken our discernment in discriminating the true purpose behind the facade of friendship.
We must be prepared for many dissembling of this kind and others. You will be warned against this and independent state. You will be flattered, cajoled, denigrated, and lauded. They will put you against each other, against the independent states. They are already classifying your enemies and your friends among us by dividing us into the Casablanca and the Monrovia states.
Speaking for myself, I must state that this classification is insidious and – designed by the neo-colonialists to crystallize a permanent division in the ranks of African leaders. They identify the Casablanca group as radical and militant, and the Monrovia group as moderate and reasonable. This division is a vicious thrust at African unity and the sooner we realise its danger and counteract it, the better it will be for all of us.
Let us tell the colonialists, and neo-colonialists, that moderate or radical, militant or reasonable, Africa is Africa, one and indivisible. It is not their business to categorise our attributes. That is for our African masses to do, and they will do it in a manner that will spell unity and not division.
We must quickly throw a bridge across this and other artificial openings which the imperialists are trying to create between us. We cannot do this by fulfilling the parts assigned to us by them or by associating with our ex-colonial masters in a rider-horse relationship. It is for us to bring nearer the day when we shall be able to refer to ourselves simply as the African power and give to our detractors and traducers evidence of our determination to be rid of imperialist classification and nomenclature.
This is all part of your task, fellow Freedom Fighters, as it is ours, the already independent states. The destiny of our people, the fate of our great continent, lies in your hands. You have to your credit a most impressive list of successes in the grim struggle for independence. The face of Africa is changing, physically, socially, and mentally. Before you, Comrades, lies the task of putting the finishing touches to complete the picture of a fully liberated Africa, united, strong and forward-looking.
May the deliberations of this conference of nationalists Freedom Fighters place the final nails in the coffin of colonialism and neo-colonialism in all their forms and manifestations, and imprint the seal of freedom, unity, progress, peace and prosperity on our people and on Africa. Keep aloft, Freedom Fighters, keep aloft the fighting banner. Africa demands that we keep on fighting until victory is won. Now is the time to fight. Now is the time to win. Long Live African independence! Long Live African Unity! Long Live African Freedom Fighters!