Press Release


Report Outline
Conflicting Ties of Tribe and Nation
By Wöri Nyagriba

Dec 10, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —— Stormy events of the past few months in the Congo have emphasized a complication in the transition of African lands from colonial status to independence that has not been present, at least in comparable form, at the birth of new nations on other continents. The complication in the former Belgian Congo, and in other parts of Africa, is the existence of tribal loyalties and customs that compete with national loyalties and aspirations.

Jubilation over attainment of their independence has been strong among African peoples, but the tribal ties and rivalries that prevail among them seem to be acting as a divisive influence, partly because tribal boundaries frequently do not coincide with national boundaries. Tribal attachments consequently interfere with getting some of the newly independent countries firmly headed toward a stable nationhood. African tribal customs and the political forms of democracy are in many ways poles apart. The passage from tribalism and a colonial status to national independence and representative government is therefore bound to be halting and difficult, and it may well follow courses which at times exasperate and puzzle people in the more advanced nations of the free world.

Obstacles to Unity in New African States

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Norman F. Lord, former editor of Paraclete, a Catholic monthly, stressed the point last spring that “One of the greatest obstacles to unity in an African nation is the rivalry among the many tribes of an area.” Lord observed that “each tribe wants to be the ruling tribe” and that “one tribe is envious of the progress of another and attributes it to favoritism on the part of the government.”1 It is only the relatively few Africans who have received a higher education who think of themselves primarily as citizens of an African state. Most Africans give first loyalty to one of the more than a thousand tribes found on the Dark Continent.

African political leaders are inclined to believe that patriotism may be more successfully aroused on a regional than on a national basis. Three hundred of those leaders, assembled at an All-African People’s Conference at Accra, capital of Ghana, in December 1958, denounced tribalism as “an evil practice” and a “serious obstacle” to “the unity…and political evolution” of the continent. President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana has consistently advocated formation of a union of all West African states. In East Africa, Julius Nyerere, prime minister of the trust territory of Tanganyika, favors a federal union with Kenya, Uganda, and Zanzibar when the four countries become independent.

Clashes of Tribalism and Nationalism in Congo

Two days after King Baudouin of Belgium proclaimed the independence of the Congo last June 30, rioting broke out between members of the Bakongo and Bayaka tribes in the capital city of Leopoldville, and between members of the Lulua and Baluba tribes in the provincial city of Luluabourg. While Congolese troops quickly put down those outbreaks, the army itself was rent by tribal divisions.2 Disgruntled by low pay, resentful of their Belgian officers, and divided by conflicting tribal loyalties, the 25,-000 soldiers mutinied, and rioting threw the entire country into chaos.

The 13.6 million Congolese, suddenly called upon to form a nation, had not been politically prepared for the task by the Belgians. Scattered over 900,000 square miles of bush and equatorial jungle, and led by native politicians who, with the exception of Patrice Lumumba, were no more than tribal leaders, most Congolese were more interested in local interests than in national unity. Moise Tshombe, president of Katanga province, announced on July 11 that that area, rich in minerals, was seceding from the Congo. Then, on Aug. 9, Albert Kalonji, chief of the Baluba tribesmen, proclaimed the independence of a part of Kasai province, adjoining Katanga, under the name of the Mining State or South Kasai. Tshombe and Kalonji declared soon thereafter that a loose federal system would be set up to link the two breakaway provinces.

Premier Patrice Lumumba, leader of the National Congolese Movement, sought to hold the country together by any means available, including Soviet aid. Although a member of the little-known Batetela tribal confederation, Lumumba was the only politician trying to operate on a national rather than tribal scale. However, his national ambitions upset the uneasy balance between the tribal powers in the provinces. Military action ordered by him against forces in secessionist Kasai and Katanga provinces uprooted thousands of Congolese from their homes and normal pursuits, with the result that there are now 250,000 tribal refugees in the Bakwanga region of Kasai province alone. Faced by a prospect of total anarchy, President Joseph Kasavubu on Sept. 5 accused Lumumba of having “plunged the nation into fratricidal war” and declared him relieved of the premiership.

Lumumba’s fall from power did not, however, stop the tribal warfare. Thirty-five Baluba tribesmen were killed and 14 wounded fighting the Lulua on Sept. 16 in Kasai province. Further fighting took place in Katanga province in consequence of a Baluba feud with the Balenda and the Lunda tribes. The Balubas had been looking for a chance to get even ever since the Lunda subjugated them about 80 years ago. The Belgians, conquering the area before the turn of the century, had stopped all tribal fighting and frozen the Baluba as subjects of the Lunda.3

When Col. Joseph D. Mobutu established military rule in mid-September, the situation in the Congo became momentarily more stable. However, the prospects of fully unifying the country remain remote. Kalonji and Tshombe are still avowed separatists. Kasavubu, moreover, announced shortly before independence was granted that he would seek to establish a semi-autonomous Bakongo state within a federal Congo.4 It is thought likely that Kasavubu, a man acutely conscious of tribal traditions, will push at an appropriate moment for a loose federal union of the six Congo provinces regardless of the effect on Congolese national unity.

Tribal Divisions in the New Nigerian Federation

Nationalism as opposed to tribalism is a question of overwhelming importance in the newly independent Federation of Nigeria. Although Nigeria’s external boundaries are artificial, 60 years of British rule, development of nation-wide institutions, a unified economy, a national transportation system, and wide use of the English language have made the frontiers real for the multitude of tribes they enclose. At the same time, the internal boundaries of the federation, dividing the country into Eastern, Northern and Western regions, are as real to the inhabitants of the separate regions as the borders which set off Nigeria from neighboring countries.5

The Northern Region is predominantly a preserve of the powerful Moslem sultans and emirs who have ruled there for a thousand years. It is peopled by Hausa and Fulani tribesmen. The Eastern Region is dominated by the Ibo tribe, and the Western Region is the land of the Yoruba, the most “westernized” of Nigeria’s people and the most advanced economically. Arch Parsons, Nigerian specialist for the Ford Foundation, wrote in a recent magazine article:

The idea of creating a single political unit out of this diverse trio of tribes was originally a British, concept. For centuries, this was the scene of inter-tribal warfare touched off by the demand for slaves.…The name Nigeria was born in a London newspaper only in 1897, and it was not until 1914 that the entire territory was merged into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.…Nigeria today faces two alternatives. Should anyone decide to leave the three-member manage, Nigeria would become merely another victim of “Black Balkanization,”…another example of a, growing African phenomenon that can only lead to violent rivalries and continental strife.…Its political leaders appear to realize the alternatives.6

Nigeria’s leaders have compromised political differences to reach agreement on a series of progressive constitutional reforms. The problem has been to nourish national unity and loyalty without destroying regional loyalties. The words of the new Nigerian national anthem emphasize that “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand, Nigerians all, and proud to serve our sovereign motherland.”

The Nigerian Minorities Commission, established to protect the rights of small tribal units, reported in August 1958 that “a real body of fear exists…in every region” that the government of an independent Nigeria would be “based on a tribal, or in the North a religious, majority.” To allay such fears, the commission recommended that no police units be placed under purely regional control. As a result, the police force of the new state was unified and is today an independent body under the control of a council which includes representatives of both regional and federal governments. However, control of the federal police force, whose tribal composition remains a continuing source of concern to Nigerian politicians, is a key political issue.

The three political parties of Nigeria are based on tribal associations. The Action Group, whose main strength is in the Western Region, is the only one approaching any semblance of a national party. Headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, it won 73 of the 312 seats in the federal House of Representatives at Lagos.7 The group led by Nnamdi Azikiwe, American-educated leader of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon, captured 89 seats, and the Northern People’s Congress, headed by the Sardauna of Sokoto, won 142 seats.8 Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Ealewa, a northerner and a Moslem, is one of the few Nigerians held in respect by the people of all three regions. While the delicate balance of Nigeria’s tribal-regional system of federalism threatens the country’s unity, it may also help to assure observance of democratic principles.

Tribes and the Democratic Process in Uganda

African nationalists have made little headway in parts of British eastern and southern Africa where tribal traditions have remained dominant—notably the Protectorate of Uganda and the three southern territories of Bechuanal and, Basutoland, and Swaziland.9 In Uganda, tribal loyalties find well organized political expression while the forces of African nationalism are weak and scattered. There are, in fact, two Ugandas—the large, rich, medieval Kingdom of Buganda, occupying one-fourth of the country, and the remainder of the country, occupied by many tribes and kingdoms loosely coordinated under the British protectorate government.

Britain’s goal in Uganda has been to establish a fully democratic parliamentary system which would fit the country for internal self-government in a short time. British Colonial Secretary Ian Macleod opened a new Legislative Council on Sept. 18, but the “parliament” was boycotted by Mutesa II, 34-year-old, Cambridge-educated Kabaka (king) of Buganda. Buganda has its own Lukiko (legislative council), which voted on Sept. 24in favor of secession from Uganda. However, the Kabaka’s court has not yet approved the vote. Because the Kabaka’s government is by far the strongest political force in Uganda, it is in position to block development of a strong central government.10

A statement by Buganda authorities last Feb. 12 asserted that they had “always advocated a federal form of government for Uganda.” They distrusted the trend toward a “unitary form of government” which might endanger Buganda’s “traditional institutions.” The Kabaka, who is a god-king to 1.7 million of Uganda’s 5.8 million people, has been fighting a delaying action against changes which threaten to undermine his ancient feudal powers, Milton Obote, leader of the Uganda People’s Congress, most powerful of Uganda nationalist movements, has labeled the Kabaka’s court “reactionary.”

Britain’s insistence that Uganda have a strong unitary government has given the Ankolo, Bunyoro and Toro tribes, as well as the Kabaka, an issue on which they are united—tribalism. Strong tribal allegiance and the resulting preference for federalism are not confined to Buganda. Tribal chiefs fear that the nationalist parties, such as Obote’s, will undermine their chiefdoms. But the smaller tribes are suspicious of the Kabaka and refuse to accept his leadership in any form.

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Role of Tribes in African Development

Cultural differences were pronounced among the various African tribal civilizations before the advent of the European powers. British explorers were amazed when they first came upon the Kabaka of Buganda, ruler of a highly civilized and well-governed kingdom amid surrounding Stone Age cultures. Even today, Africa remains a continent of great contrasts. Sudanese, Hottentots, pigmies, Masai warriors, and Baluba tribesmen are as different from one another as English from Chinese or from American Indians. The tribes on the east coast are organized into pastoral societies and those on the west coast into farming societies. Some tribes have highly complex, well-integrated social systems, others are no more than loosely associated groups of hunters. Contact between the various tribes has been limited; the difficulties of transport isolated nearly all of them.

Early African Kingdoms and Tribal Empires

In many now underdeveloped parts of the African continent, civilization once flourished under relatively centralized tribal empires. From the fourth century A.D., when the Kingdom of Ghana was established, to the penetration of Africa by European slave traders, colonizers and explorers, stable kingdoms existed which could be favorably compared with those of contemporary Europe.

At the time of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England, Ghana, then ruled by the Sarakole tribe, was unquestionably the most powerful state in West Africa. The Arab geographer al-Bakri wrote in 1067 that “The King of Ghana can raise 200,000 warriors, 40,000 of them being armed with bows and arrows.” Mali, the kingdom of the Mandingo people, was founded in the seventh century and lasted for 1,300 years. Its great emperor, Mansa Mussa, made a state pilgrimage to Mecca by way of Cairo in 1324 with a retinue of more than 60,000 men.11

At the time America was discovered, Mohammed Askia, a Negro general, overthrew the last representative of the Songhoi dynasty, which had existed for eight centuries on the middle Niger, and established the powerful and progressive Songhoi empire. During his reign, from 1493 to 1529, Askia extended his power to the frontiers of modern Algeria on the north and to the frontiers of Egypt on the east. He organized collective farming, reorganized the trades, arts and crafts, and was a patron of literature. Leo Africans, a Moroccan traveler to Timbuktu, cultural seat of this 16th century empire, wrote:

There are numerous Judges, doctors, and clerics in Timbuktu. All are receiving good salaries from the King. He pays great respect to men of learning. There is a big demand for books in manuscript.…More profit is made from the book trade than from any other line of business.

The Kingdom of Benin was another powerful West African state which flourished before the arrival of the Europeans. Benin City, capital of this Nigerian kingdom, covered more than six square miles. Broad, straight avenues crossed the city from gate to gate. There a complex civilization perfected the techniques of bronze casting to produce articles of a beauty and workmanship equaling those of the bronzes produced by Italians of the Renaissance.

Benin had an elaborate centralized government. The power of the Oba, or king, was limited only by his ability to impose his will through force or religious sanctions.12 Although advised by a council of palace chiefs, the Oba had final executive, legislative and judicial authority throughout his kingdom. After nearly five centuries of unbroken native rule, British troops invaded the kingdom in 1896, but its capital city was captured only after nearly a year of fighting.

Tribal Allegiance and Political Development

Elspeth Huxley, British authority on East African tribalism, has pointed out that “Africans have lived in tribes for thousands of years and in nations for less than a century.” 13 The early states in Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Uganda, Ethiopia and elsewhere were primarily tribal and pan-tribal associations whose political organizations remain a force in Africa today. Julius Nyerere said last Feb. 17 at Wellesley College:

The traditional African community was a small one and the African could not think of himself apart from his community. He was an individual; he had a wife—or wives—and children, so he belonged to a family, but the family merged into a larger “blood” family tribe. Thus lie saw himself, all the time, as a member of a community. But he saw no struggle between his own interests and those of his community—for his community was, to him, an extension of his family.

The tribal family looks after its needy and afflicted members. Criminal acts are rare.14 In many areas, tribe members still give absolute allegiance to their chief, who is obeyed without question. Anyone who challenges the chiefs authority is expelled from the tribe.

The chief, sometimes hereditary, sometimes elected, embodies the will of the tribe, but he does not impose his own will upon it. He is assisted by a council of elders who discuss important issues with great candor. Various points of view are expressed, and sorcerers, medicine men, and astrologers may be called in for advice. The chief ultimately hands down a decision, often without a vote having been taken in the council. The decision once made, no further discussion is allowed; it is treasonable to question the chief’s wisdom.15

The tribal structure was shaken by European efforts to introduce parliamentary government in Africa. A system of universal suffrage, under which young men have an equal voice with their elders, and women with men, was wholly inconsistent with the traditional leadership of chiefs and councils of elders holding their posts by reason of age, heredity, or like qualifications.16

Although tribalism in Africa is in process of being replaced by elected councils, parliaments, and national assemblies, the ancient tribal loyalties are still strong.17 Many of the modern political parties in Nigeria, the Congo, and elsewhere are based on tribal organizations. Because individual tribesmen tend to vote more to satisfy tribal pride than to favor the best candidate in an electoral contest, the tendency is to perpetuate the rule of tribes making up a majority of the people.

Powerful tribal groups, fearful that they may be submerged in large unitary states, turn to federalism as a means of expanding their influence without sacrificing either their group security or their identity. Attempts to impose extreme centralism have tended to deprive the traditional groups of the meaningful role they now play. Elspeth Huxley has said:

It would be a tragedy for Africa if tribalism were so to weaken as to leave the mass of people with no feeling of unity, of security, of belonging to a group. It has inspired all of Africa’s arts.…Despite its crudity, it is a spiritual force as well as a remarkably successful way of living in a society and handling family affairs. For his tribe a man will endure great hardships, even sacrifice his life.…It gives him his mother tongue and the pride that lifts him above the status of a rootless person.18

In Liberia a compromise solution, giving tribal chiefs of the inland areas local jurisdiction, has been worked out. The government oversees tribal life through district and provincial commissioners to whom the chiefs are responsible. Operation of tribal law is sanctioned as long as it does not interfere with national programs or policies. However, national law is clearly supreme over tribal law. The tribal chiefs help to administer government policy by collecting taxes, transmitting instructions to members of the tribes, and carrying out other duties imposed by programs formulated in the capital of Monrovia.

Diversity of Political Forms in African States

Millions of Africans have departed from the traditional ways of tribal life and are adapting themselves to western forms of society. Although some inhabitants of the newly independent countries harbor resentment against Europeans and the political institutions they established, the dissidents are in a minority. Most of the new African states have adopted constitutions based on democratic principles, have continued the administrative, judicial and military institutions established by the Europeans and are cooperating with, their former overlords.19

A large variety of political systems, ranging from medieval monarchy in Ethiopia to virtual oligarchy in Liberia and experimental democracy in Nigeria, is currently to be found in Africa. A system that works out successfully in one country may be inappropriate in another. Gyasi-Twum, lecturer at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, observed last year that the people of West African lands apparently had a choice of four political systems:

  1. Democracy with universal adult suffrage, free elections, and an officially recognized opposition in the western tradition.
  2. Guided or limited democracy with universal suffrage and free elections but a limited opposition.
  3. Democracy with universal suffrage and free elections but only a single political party.
  4. Democracy in combination with tribalism, modified to suit modern conditions.20

Many of the new African nations are not ready for parliamentary democracy. Whereas in Europe and America political education started long before the majority of the people were enfranchised, in Africa many tribesmen who have had no political training have been given the vote. Western observers are often puzzled when an opposition leader walks out with his followers after defeat on some question by the votes of the majority. The explanation is that under tribal tradition decisions are made only when debate has brought unanimity. African scholars have remarked that it is difficult to democratize the chieftancy. They mistrust the present tendency to copy European democratic institutions.

Numbers of West Africans think the solution lies in “guided democracy” along the lines of Lenin’s “democratic centralism.” They argue that economic and social conditions in Africa are so backward that it is impossible to tolerate opposition groups which might hamper the drive for modernization. New leaders, such as Nkrumah of Ghana and Sekou Toure of Guinea say that the rate of progress can be accelerated only if they and their colleagues are given as free a hand as possible in the choice and execution of national policies.

The concept of decisions by majority vote, with recorded minority votes and with free criticism of government policies by the political opposition and the press, is considered unwise in relatively undeveloped societies where individuals may abuse their new freedom. In Guinea, for example, it is contended that responsible African democracy may best be expressed within the confines of a single political mass movement,21 This is essentially the way in which Communist countries, including the Soviet Union, are now governed. However, because communism is advocated by white men from the North who seem intent on gaining a foothold on the African continent, most of the new states have been openly suspicious or non-responsive to Soviet overtures.

Separatist and Unifying Forces in Africa

Leaders of some of the new African states are confronted fay threats of secession on the part of tribal groups or other elements with special interests, while areas still under colonial rule are having difficulty uniting sectional interests.22 At the same time, social scientists have noted that intertribal barriers are gradually falling before advances in education and increased population mobility. Douglas Williams, colonial attaches at the British Embassy in Washington, pointed out in Baltimore on Oct. 5 that local government was being developed in Africa by building on councils and tribal organizations’ already in existence. He said that cooperative societies and labor unions were being fostered as substitutes for tribal organizations.

Sources of Separatism on African Continent

William A. Lewis, principal of the University College of the West Indies, said at the University of Chicago on May 12 that the major sources of separatism in West Africa were: 1) division of the area into British and French spheres of influence, 2) lack of education, which helps to maintain that division, 3) tribal conflicts which menace the stability of every new state, and 4) unsettled frontier questions.

The frontiers of colonial Africa were established by the colonizing European powers without regard to local tribal boundaries. William R. Baacom, professor of anthropology at Northwestern University, has said there is probably not “a single international boundary in Africa south of the Sahara which does not divide ethnic groups into two or more parts, each of which may be administered according to different principles of colonial rule, taught different European languages, and proselytized by competing missions.”23 A patchwork of what might be called “European tribalism,” with all its cultural differences, thus was superimposed on the already complex pattern of African tribal groupings.

Most of the new states retain ties with the colonial powers through membership in the British Commonwealth or the French Community, while Belgium and Belgian business interests appear loath to sever all connections with the Congo. All these influences tend to perpetuate past divisions. There is virtually no cultural communication between “French” Africans and “British” Africans. The French African intellectual knows what is happening in Paris, both on the Bourse and at the Opera. The Anglicized African is familiar with the London Stock Exchange, Parliament, and cricket. But neither knows what is happening in the neighboring capital of the other.

Lack of national homogeneity in countries like Cameroon, the Congo, Nigeria and Togo is another support to separatism. In each of these nations there is a mixture of tribes, history, and languages and no sense of common history. Such great diversity, combined with regional economic inequalities, stands in the way of developing a strong feeling of nationalism that would contribute to stability.24 Tribal political associations, pan-tribal movements, and kinship societies are all potential separatist influences.

Some of the new countries are too poor to support themselves, and others are go small that political independence may never have real meaning. Adlai E, Stevenson said last spring that the small states could “hardly survive without free association with a wider group.” 25 A conference late in October at Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, of representatives of most of the new states which had been French colonies produced talk of an economic and monetary union and ultimate confederation of the 70 million people of former French Africa. Whether such plans can surmount present separatist tendencies may become clearer after a second meeting of the group scheduled for Brazzaville in mid-December.

Recent Disintegration of the Mali Federation

Breakup of the short-lived partnership of Senegal and the former French Sudan in the Mali Federation affords a case history of the separatist pressures to which African political federations are currently subject. Leaders of four French West African states—Dahomey, Senegal, Sudan and Upper Volta—met at Bamako in the Sudan in December 1958 to discuss formation of a Mali Federation, reminiscent of the empire which flourished between the 11th and 12th centuries. Dakar was to be the capital and French the official language. A constitution was drafted, but on Feb. 28, 1959, both Dahomey and Upper Volta withdrew, partly because they feared submergence in an over-centralized union and partly because of anti-federalist pressure exerted by the Ivory Coast.26

Senegal and the Sudan went ahead with plans for union, but the Mali Federation, which came into being lastJune 20, lasted only two months. The Senegalese, who viewed the federation as a sort of fraternal organization, were suspicious of Mobido Keita, Sudanese leader and federation premier who pressed for tight political partnership. When Keita, as head of the federal government, on Aug. 19 ousted the Senegalese prime minister from his federal posts of Minister of Defense and Minister of Internal Security, the Republic of Senegal pulled out.

Senegal feared that the Sudan, with a larger population and Marxist leanings, would override the attachment of the Senegalese government to democratic principles. Keita is known to be convinced that socialism is the only practical system for development of the Sudan; he believes that his country’s tribal life can be more readily adapted to a system of communes than to any form of organization based on free individual choice. But for the Sudan, which has now proclaimed itself the Mali Republic, the federation offered badly needed economic benefits. The Mali Republic is both landlocked and bankrupt, while Senegal, bordering on the Atlantic, has a profitable fishing industry and a developing phosphate industry and is the world’s largest exporter of peanuts.

Concern Over Arbitrary Nkrumah Rule in Ghana

Some of Africa’s newly independent states maintain internal unity through “strong-man” rule. One-party rule now prevails, for example, in Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Mali. The major non-economic problem facing all these countries is how to achieve both political stability and freedom. The various political factions were united against colonial rule, but independence has freed them to follow separate ways and has produced large numbers of splinter factions.

In Ghana, some opposition leaders have been seriously disturbed by the exercise of arbitrary and dictatorial power by Kwame Nkrumah and his Convention People’s Party, To meet the threat posed by the tribal despotism of the Asantehene, leader of the 900,000 Ashanti people, one of Nkrumah’s first moves was to restrict the Asantehene’s role to ceremonial functions. He then imprisoned or deported all active oppositionists, limited freedom of the press, established the death penalty for treason, and changed the constitution to allow amendment of the basic law by a simple legislative majority and without regional ratification. Nkrumah thereafter abolished the regional assemblies and put through a Preventive Detention Act which gave the government authority to arrest and imprison for five years without trial any person considered likely to endanger the security of the country.27 Such dictatorial practices have stirred fear and resentment among other African national leaders to whom Nkrumah has been preaching Pan-African union.

Nkrumah’s Pan-African Aims: Backing and Dissent

At the Accra conference in 1958 the African nations voiced their resolve “to promote understanding and unity among the people of Africa” and “to develop the feeling of one community among the peoples of Africa with the object of the emergence of a United States of Africa.” Many West Africans see unification of their respective countries in one large, multi-national state as a culmination of racial aspirations. Attendants at the East-West-Central African Conference in Addis Ababa last February cautioned, however, that “Pan Africanism must not introduce black imperialism in place of white imperialism; that is, it must not be a mere object of ambition.” 28

Kwame Nkrumah has been in the forefront of those urging Pan-African unity. Nkrumah assailed Col. Mobutu of the Congo in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 23, presumably because he believes that Patrice Lumumba, the deposed premier, would be more sympathetic to his Pan-African ambitions. Justin M. Eomboko of the Congo replied in New York, Sept. 29, by asking “Why does Nkrumah suppress his own domestic political opposition?” Eomboko went on to say that “Nkrumah tells us that we should select Lumumba as our leader. We don’t want dictatorship in the Congo. There are many Congolese competent to lead.”

Pan-Africanists face opposition from tribal, political, and economic interests in the separate states. Many of the new nations want to work out some of their own problems before joining a federation approaching continent-wide proportions. The government of Nigeria pledged itself on Oct. 3 to “inter-governmental cooperation with a view to raising the standard of living throughout West Africa,” but it has paid no heed to proposals for political federation of West African states put forward by Nkrumah.

Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa said in Lagos, Oct. 1, that Nigeria “would strongly oppose any attempt by any nation to force political association between her and another nation.” Although Sekou Toure of Guinea said in May 1959 that his country had “chosen independence, not for the profit of Guinea, but for that of Africa,” his enthusiasm for closer union with Ghana has diminished as his country’s financial situation has improved. Rivalry between Toure and Nkrumah, differences in language and thinking, regional and economic loyalties, all have prevented formation of a binding federal union.

Establishment of large political and economic units in Africa may depend on the example set by Nigeria. If a solid Nigerian nation can be welded out of the diverse Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba nations, then other African countries may consider it advantageous to accommodate their individual differences through the framework of a loosely organized federal union.


[1] Letter of March 25 to Chairman J. W. Fulbright (D Ark.) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Shortly before Nigeria became independent, Oct. l, the country’s Northern Province was the scene of fighting between tribesmen whose weapons were spears and bows and arrows. Cattle-raiding feuds between Bahutu and “Watusi tribesmen have occurred recently in Ruanda. Urundi, and cannibalism is said to have accompanied tribal warfare in the Congo.

[2]  A problem the former Belgian commanders Bought to solve by never stationing a soldier in the area of his own tribe.

[3] The tribal warfare was an expression also of Baluba. antagonism to Katanga’s Tshombe, who is the son-in-law of a. Lunda chief and therefore a blood enemy of every Baluba.

[4] Kasavubu is leader of the Abako, a tribal unit of the Eakongo people. Congolese Bakongo would like to unite with Bakongo of Portuguese Angola and the (French) Congo Republic in a single tribal state.

[5] David Williams, “Nigeria on the Eve of Independence,” World Today, March 1960 p. 107.

[6] Arch Parsons, “Nigeria; Contrast to the Congo,” New York Times Magazine, Oct. 2, 1960, p. 10.

[7] Awolowo has attempted to overcome the ingrained particularism of the Yoruba people of the Western Region of Nigeria, who have had a long history of intratribal conflicts, by welding them together behind a political party that would serve their common interests.

[8] Eric Sevareid asserted in an article published by the Washington Post, Sept. 18. that the Sardauna (king) of Sokoto was “as iron-fisted a Boss Tweed as I have ever run across,” He “will never stand southern rule and neither of the southern regions, more westernized, more educated than the north, would tolerate a northern monopoly of the federal machinery.”

[9] See “Power Struggles in Colonial Africa. E.R.R., 1959 Vol. I, p. 281.

[10] “Uganda’s Rival Parliaments,” London Economist, Oct. 8, 1960, p. 136.

[11] Willis N. Hugging, An Introduction to African Civilizations (1937), p. 128.

[12] Onwonwu Dike, “The Medieval Kingdom of Benin,” Panorama, Winter 1958, p. 22.

[13] Article in Washington Post, July 24, 1960, condensed from article in Virginia Quarterly Review.

[14] African police commissioners attending a meeting of the International Criminal Police Organization in Washington, D. C., Oct. 11, reported that murder, robbery, and violence occurred infrequently in their countries. Police Commandant Mohammed Abscir of the Republic of Somali said there was no hold-up of any kind in the past fiscal year in Somalia; violence resulted mainly from squabbles, between nomadic tribes over srazing and water rights.

[15] John Scott, Africa (Foreign Policy Association Headline Series, May 1959), p. 26.

[16] Amonjr the Masai of Kenya, each boy at the age of 16 or 17 is circumcised at elaborate initiation rites and introduced with his fellow initiates into a group of men. The members of this Group, whose ages vary within a range of about ten years, live in n separate compound until married and stick together for life. Known as a manyatta, the group is the combination of a society, a community and a military battalion. The members act in concert under a leader and carry out numerous obligations to the tribe at large. First, they are junior warriors, then they become progressively senior warriors, junior elders, senior elders, and finally retired men, past the time of leadership. Walter Goldsehmidt, The United States and Africa (1958), p. 169.

[17] For example, tribal rulers like the Fulani emirs of Northern Nigeria are becoming Betty constitutional monarchs whose rower is passing into the hands of councils elected by the entire tribe. These councils are modern in outlook, more interested in buying bulldozers or arranging student scholarships than in carrying on tribal warfare.

[18] Elspeth Huxley, “Africa’s First Loyalty,” New York Times Magazine, Sept. 18.

[19] All of the new states have national legislatures elected by popular suffrage. The All African People’s Conference at Accra in 1958 resolved that “universal adult franchise be extended to all persons in Africa regardless of race or sex.”

[20] K. Gyasi-Twum, “West Africa’s Prospects of Democratic Rule,” Africa Special Report, June 1969.

[21] Chairman Fullbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on March 16: “I sometimes wonder whether we do not do a disservice to a community that is struggling to establish a workable government by always being critical of anything less than democracy.”

[22] For example, in Kenya, the two largest tribes, the Kikuyu and the Luo, disagree on many questions and in turn face the hostility of smaller but still powerful tribes.

[23] William B. Bascom, “Obstacles to Self-Government,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 1356, p, 65.

[24] Nigeria has more than 260 tribal groups speaking 400 different languages and dialects. Fourteen million of its 35 million people are Moslems, 7 million Christians, and 14 million “pagans,”

[25] Adlai E. Stevenson. “The New Africa,” Harper’s Magazine, May 1960, p. 52.

[26] Subsequently, both Dahomey and Upper Volta joined the Ivory Coast and Niger in the much looser Council of the Entente.

[27] Leonard S. Kenworthy, “Ghana: Problems and Progress,” Current History, July 1959, p. 21.

[28] “Pan-Africanism seeks the attainment of government of Africans by Africans for Africans, with respect for racial and religious minorities who desire to live in Africa on a. basis of equality with the black majority.”—George Padtnore Pan-Africanism or Communism? (1956), p. 21

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