The shaping of post-war British decolonisation.
Inasmuch as I agree with the Agbor et al attempt to provide a game-theoretic modelling of causes and forms of the de-colonisation process, I can see that this may seem borne out by some the material we have covered to date.
Usefully Agbor et al offer a note thus: "The Eurocentric school basically argues that: the colonisers themselves sought to withdraw from empires because it was no longer in their economic or political interest to continue colonial rule, while the Afrocentric view argues that the colonisers were forcefully evicted from empires by elite-led nationalist movements."
But against these 'independent variable' explanations it is suggested that the process may not be that simple and that we have to explore an historical complex of forces and trade-offs between african and european players.
Agbor et al seem to argue that whilst the passage from French colonialism to independence was relatively smooth;
that in British territories was not... and furthermore
any supportive relationship between the former British colonial powers and the colonised was, post-independence,
But Agbor et al explain this by processes of internal formation of nationalist consciousness or otherwise...and that to me, seems wrong. Furthermore, it seems to me that Agbor et al have not explained how mass support for independence is either held at bay or stimulated. We need that connection between leaders and the masses - of social mobilisation.
Perhaps the story goes more like this:
And we have to see the whole process as a .....dialectic! That is to say a process of interaction and disjunction between what the Africans (elites and masses) were up to and what the colonial representatives and their home government were up to...
The colonising process late 19thC endorsed by Berlin
Conference among the European powers.
And then after imposition of some admin structure relatively civilised (
we see after the WWI the very slow moves towards anti-colonial activism and further on, independence movements.
According to Mazrui:
The struggle for political sovereignty in colonial
a) the phase of pre-Second World War élite agitation for greater autonomy.
b) There was then the phase of popular involvement in the struggle against Nazism and fascism.
c) thirdly, non-violent popular struggle for full independence after the Second World War.
d) Finally, there was armed engagement for the political kingdom - the guerrilla wars against white minority governments especially from the 1960s onwards.
(Ali Mazrui, p.106, General History of Africa, vol. VIII)
Before 2nd WW:
Between the two world wars a variety of
ethnic and kinship unions developed in different colonies - partly inspired
by a sense of solidarity among migrant workers in cities, and partly because of
the wider sense of African alienation in conditions of colonial exploitation.
The range of kinship organizations which emerged was from the Kikuyu Central
In May 1935 there were African strikes and riots on the copper belt in
Alakoro Union Women's Trading C o . 1939
Farina W o m e n Sellers' Union 1940
Taxi Drivers' Association 1938
Palm Wine Sellers' Association 1942
Other cultural and élite organizations among
Africans and people of African ancestry were formed abroad. Pan-Africanism was also entering a new phase. Leopold Sedar Senghor and Aimé Césaire founded L'étudiant
In war-time: consciousness of International struggles:
And Bonny Ibhawoh (2007) has an interesting take on the paradoxical
effect of supporting
"War propaganda strengthened the African
sense of belonging to the
....experiences in mass mobilization and information dissemination strengthened
the ability of the nationalist groups to mobilize mass action. Political parties such as
Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party in the Gold
Coast and Obafemi Awolowo’s
Action Group Party in
This point connects to my earlier point that Agbor et al fail to offer explanations of mobilisation - which cannot come from internal mechanisms of an alienated elites (copper's nark thesis) (from the masses) or indeed from traditional Chiefs compromising with the colonial power to maintain their status (British territories) but rather that we need to link up the emergence of a new nationalist non-traditional elite unquelled by some suitable negotiating position with the colonial regime.
Perhaps the new elite needed
and outside inspirations
based in sometimes surprising radicalising non-african sources
rooted in political experience and connections/movements outside - in the wider world
that they can bring back to their people and agitate and disseminate (propaganda)
International Principles localised?
The Atlantic Charter, a common declaration of purpose concerning the Second World War issued by Roosevelt and Churchill in 1941 declared that both leaders respected the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live and that they wished to ‘see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.’ (Clause 3 of AC)
The Atlantic Charter reinforced a dominant
theme in colonial war propaganda – that the war was not simply a fight for
In West Africa, as elsewhere in the continent, public discussion over the Charter centred on its famous third clause which affirmed ‘the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.’ This statement excited the hopes of West African nationalists who saw it as an unequivocal affirmation of their right to self-determination.
The Atlantic Charter was idle talk among Western powers that held no promise of self determination for Africans and other colonized people. However, the prominent Nigerian nationalist and editor of the West African Pilot, Nnamdi Azikiwe, urged Africans to prepare their own charters of rights and freedoms rather than rely on those who were too busy preparing their own. Like other West African nationalists, Azikiwe, who later became the President of Nigeria, effectively used the Atlantic Charter to advance their demands for independence. (Zik, 1945)
And Goldberg argues that faced with pressure to extend the principles
of the Atlantic Charter to the colonies, the British Foreign Office urged the
Colonial Office to consider producing a Colonial Charter, along the lines of
the Atlantic Charter, outlining British post war intentions for the colonies. All
these forced local colonial administrators to make important political
concessions to West African nationalists and undertake major political reforms.
thus more readiness on the part of colonial administrations to engage with educated Africans who had long been shut out of the British system of
indirect rule in preference for local Chiefs.
After war: raising of anti-colonial consciousness as an International political factor:
The birth of the United Nations in 1945 also contributed to the
process of decolonization worldwide. As the world body became more truly representative
of the human race, colonialism became less and less legitimate. Almost every
new member of the United Nations following
Post-war forms of culture based resistance
Mau Mau -
Mau freedom-fighters challenged the British as late as the 1950s - but on the basis of Kikuyu values of warrior-hood and related religious beliefs, with all the symbolism of indigenous combat cultures The movement was 'primary' in this cultural sense.
Missionary schools helped to promote not just Christian spiritual ideas but also Western secular ideologies.
African radical nationalists who emerged from Christian missionary schools included such towering figures as Julius Nyerere, Tom Mboya, Eduardo Mondlane, Robert Mugabe, Leopold Sedar Senghor as well as Nkrumah.
Nkrumah said of himself: 'I am a Marxist-Leninist and a non-denominational Christian - and I see no contradiction in that'.
Pacifist strategies of
resistance such as those of Gandhi had appealed to future leaders such as Nkrumah
and Kenneth Kaunda (
Interesting point is that, at least in the
opposition to armed struggle was also evident at the All-Africa Peoples'
Conference held in independent
But the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 put paid to all that pacifist approach.
Intellectual Elite basis of African nationalism and a vision of post-Independence politics - re: British colonialism.
Occasional initially inspired and noticed for their seeming ability by missionaries, and travel and are educated in European or US universities and through making contacts, acquire anti-Imperialist ideas of de-colonisation 1930s/40s (not considered by Agbor et al)
Of activists under British rule, Agbor all too vaguely notes: "Western education was indirectly responsible for creating a group to whom access into the highest levels of the bureaucracy was denied and who constituted the core of the early nationalist movement on the Gold Coast. It was this minority of professional lawyers and intelligentsia who supplied the leadership of nationalist activities throughout most of the colonial period".
have links to political forces on the (radical even marxist/communist)
Take Nkrumah (future President of God Coast/Ghana)
Initially taught by missionaries, Nkrumah showed promise and trained as a teacher and came under the influence of the Deputy Head of a school where he was doing his teaching practice. Columbia-educated deputy headmaster Kwegyir Aggrey exposed him to the ideas of Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois. Aggrey, taught that there should be close co-operation between the races in governing the Gold Coast, but Nkrumah, echoing Garvey, soon came to believe that only when the black race governed itself could there be harmony between the races. Equally he heard Azikiwe (future President of Nigeria) speak and this reinforced Nkrumah's emerging idea of Black nationalism
He then went to the
"After twelve years abroad pursuing higher education, developing his political philosophy, and organizing with other diasporic pan-Africanists, Nkrumah returned to Gold Coast to begin his political career as an advocate of national independence."
God had ordained that certain among the African race should journey westwards to equip themselves with knowledge and experience for the day when they would be called upon to return to their motherland and to use the learning they had acquired to help improve the lot of their brethren. ...I had not realized at the time that I would contribute so much towards the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Kwame Nkrumah, The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah
So...I am sympathetic to Agbor thesis about importance of education as a feature of independence movements BUT it does not seem that it can be sustained in its connection with the road to independence if we merely view it as a home-gown phenomenon
Equally we might consider the role of inter-war organisations such as WASU - West African Students Union
In a rather fawning way, Dotse (2009) says of it and of Nkrumah's role in it:
1920s, many West African students in
remaining closely connected with WASU, Nkrumah established connections with
other organisations such as the Pan-African Federation and the World Federation
of Trade Unions. He also became involved in the organisation of the 1945 fifth
Pan-African Congress in
Labour Party as Internationalists: support for African independence
In World War 2 the Labour Party pressed its anti-imperialist
image, especially in relation to
the 1920s African nationalists movements in
of the Elliot Commission on
Higher Education in
In an interesting paper, Nwaubani argues a radically different case suggesting that despite surface appearances the Labour Party has as a matter of policy a dismissive and paternalistic view of 'the native african'.
"....the Party not
only saw the colonial administrator as a foster parent, but also had a very a
rudimentary curriculum for “educating and preparing” Africans to take care of
themselves. This concept continued to inform the Party’s definition of
(See the first 3 paras in the section of the paper: The Labour Government and Political Change in Africa, 1945-1951 - very useful on the basic politics of devolved legislative powers 'gifted' to the African by the British colonial power (esp. on the Gold Coast)
BUT... constitutions were given
to the Gold Coast in 1950 and
The train carrying the
chiefs and their retinue as well-subsidised bearers and
inheritors of colonial authority h d to be shunted for the fast express of nationalism.
This also meant jettisoning the pretence of building up
The jettisoning of the traditional form of African power in relation to the colonial power namely the Chiefs was in effect to give an enhanced sense of power to the new nationalist elites
but their representations on legislative councils that were being introduced post-war did not always stabilise into a majority. Where European settlers were a significant economic power therewith the latter prevailed:
"In December 1945, an official paper was issued on closer union for
Rather depressingly, as
late as 1948 under
the Labour Government, the African colonies were turned into outright chattels,
“dollar earners”, as their production levels of cash crops were systematically
expanded to overcome the economic crisis that overwhelmed
At recent meetings there has been general support for the view that the development of Africa’s resources should be pushed forward rapidly in order to support the political and economic position of the United Kingdom ... [This policy] could, I suppose, be said to fall within the ordinary definition of ’Imperialism’. And, it might be presented as a policy of exploiting native [sic] peoples in order to support the standards of living of the workers in this country.
Nwaubani concludes that: "It is an exaggeration to suggest or even imagine that Labour’s refrain on “institution-building” implied an intention to unscramble the African Empire by creating “modernised” societies ripe for sovereign status. On the contrary, the rhetoric was a hard-headed realism that masked British self-interest through colonial control."
We need to explain the emergence of, as well as the oppotunities for a 'nationalist consciousness' - its leaders - intellectual/activists - motivations and sources and migration (back) into the politics and populations under colonial rule.
The French way to de-Colonisation - the Agbor explanation:
The French colonising powers created a compliant educated black elite, alienated from their fellow citizens to help run the colony
Unlike French colonial education, the preservation of the indigenous patterns of thinking and traditions were a key priority of British colonial education ideology
Moumouni (1968) described French colonial education as: "cut rate, designed to secure subordinate officials by impoverishing their spiritual life and detaching them completely from their own people, and that it produced an anti-national, bureaucratic neo-bourgeoisie".
This created an elite that was least inclined to entering into violent
Senghor in Senegal states: "What I fear is that, in the future,
under the fatal pressure of African liberation, we might be induced to leave
the French orbit. We must stay not only in the French Union but in the
and then the British way to de-colonisation (according to Agbor)
Unlike French colonial
education, the preservation of the indigenous patterns of thinking and
traditions were a key priority of British colonial education ideology... it is
arguable that the most important un-intended consequence of the British education
policy of "strengthening the solid elements of the countryside", was
the formation of an anglophone elite that was
independent in thought and less dependent on the colonial bureaucracy for its
livelihood. Based on the foregoing, two important inferences can be made about
British colonial education practice in black
And British colonial education contributed in reinforcing the traditional and cultural ties of the elites with their countrymen, implying that anglophone elites were less likely to face serious collective action problems in rallying the support of the general population in rebellion against the British.