Private Eyes in the Sky
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Since we achieved our independence, several distinguished foreigners have visited our young Republic, and among the many questions they have asked have been those concerning our approach to Pan Africanism, our views on policies intended to keep Africa free of the restrictive forces of the cold war, and the measures we would suggest to implement our policy of neutrality. In the lines which follow we will endeavor to answer these significant questions.
There can be little doubt that there is a present need for coöperation among the newly independent African states, that a working arrangement, at least on a regional basis, is overdue. Unfortunately the situation inherited from the colonial powers, while making plain the necessity for such agreement, has tended to hinder it. Within each nation there are serious discontinuities arising from the existence of different ethnic groups, language differences, disparities in ideological orientation and basic economic conceptions. At the same time national boundaries were artificially drawn to meet external political requirements. Today we find that tribes are split in two, cities are divided and people of the same language and cultural traditions are separated into two and sometimes three different nations.
To resolve this last issue, so prominent in the minds of many African leaders, Pan Africanism has been put forward as an all-embracing remedy. (Some people call the same idea African Unity.) Apart from the proposition that few real-life problems are so simple that they possess only one solution, no two African states can agree on a single interpretation of the terms. To discuss the common heritage and institutions of Ghana, the Belgian Congo and Ethiopia is clearly unrealistic. More important, however, are the character and complexity of the problems facing us at home. To speak of African Unity in the face of existing economic and social disunity is to avoid the central task to which we are committed-the earliest possible economic and social betterment of our people. This task has as one important aspect the unification of disparate socio-economic groups toward common economic goals. Accomplishment of this objective in turn requires much honest work on the part of African leaders and their people. It requires also collective leadership, for through collective leadership the multiple interests of the African people can best be expressed.
In their struggle against the colonial powers the new African states, arbitrary and unrealistic as their original boundaries may have been, managed at last to mobilize the will of their citizens toward the attainment of national independence. Achieved at great sacrifice, such a reward is not to be cast away lightly; nor should the national will, once unified, be diluted by the formation of nebulous political units. Even if tribal, ethnic and linguistic loyalties begin to reassert themselves-and this is less likely to be true with the present trends of development in Africa -there is little to support the theory that international groupings would be more effectively represented by a supranational political organization than by a national one. In fact, the reverse seems quite evident. Furthermore, few serious governments would be willing to relinquish their hard-won seats in international councils, seats which permit them to be heard and which grant them the moral security provided by access to world opinion.
It should be added that existing governmental units are in an administrative sense workable and that it would be a grave mistake to undercut at this early date the frail but growing roots which sustain them. In our present stage of development it is necessary for us to build both workable administrative organizations and responsive political mechanisms to transmit the interests and needs of our people to their leaders. Thus we must retain the principle of national sovereignty already enshrined in the struggle of African states for their independence.
This alone, however, is not enough to strengthen the ties between us. We suggest as an alternative to Pan Africanism the homely word coöperation, knowing that in building a house one starts with a foundation, not a roof. It is our opinion that an active policy of coöperation in good faith will bring the African people the most beneficial results. Such a policy does not begin in over-all political amalgamation but rather in freely given agreement concerning matters of economics and commerce. In this realm urgent action is required, and in this realm coöperation will be most acceptable to the parties concerned.
By breaking up Africa into economic and commercial compartments the colonial powers did their greatest harm. The effect of their policy has been the economic isolation of peoples who live side by side, in some flagrant instances within a few miles of each other, while directing the flow of resources to the metropolitan countries. For example, although I can call Paris from my office telephone here in Lomé, I cannot place a call to Lagos in West Africa only 250 miles away. Again, while it takes a short time to send an airmail letter to Paris, it takes several days for the same letter to reach Accra, a mere 120 miles away. Other problems are more serious. Trade is the most effective method of creating good will among nations, but in Africa trade barriers are legion. Railroads rarely connect at international boundaries, and where they do, differences in gauges necessitate transloading. Highways have been constructed from the coast inland, but very few connect at economic centers of trade. The productive central regions of Togo, Dahomey and Ghana are as remote from each other as if they were on separate continents. These are the problems which we must tackle first. Then we will be on the way to true African Unity.
Fortunately some concrete action has already been taken which leads in the desired direction. The Monrovia Conference last spring opened the way to international coöperation while preserving the national sovereignty of African states. It was laid down at this conference that all the countries of Africa should work together irrespective of their size, ideology, system of government or economic structure. No state, however powerful or large, should interfere in the internal affairs of others; territorial boundaries must be respected. These are wise rules of conduct and if pursued should strengthen our will to coöperate.
In the economic sphere, the 20 states pledged that coöperation should take the form of reductions in trade and monetary restrictions and the development of international transportation and communication networks. It was further proposed that a study be made of problems relating to the creation of a customs union among the African states. Finally, the conference pledged its members to further cultural, scientific and technical coöperation through the exchange of experts and the establishment of permanent committees. To these principles and to the method of agreement which occasioned their approval the Republic of Togo has heartily subscribed.
Before turning from the subject of Pan Africanism, American readers might well consider the struggle of their own country's founding fathers in deciding between the principles of state sovereignty, confederation or federation, and the strong economic, cultural and geographic forces which eventually caused federation to prevail. In the case of African governments, political leaders emerged from within indigenous cultures, and many of their constituents maintain even today diverse and separate traditions, tracing their customs to ancestors who lived at the dawn of history. To these people their land is their fathers' land and their country the country of their forebears. To them even the national government is but an arbitrary and incomprehensible authority. It will be many years before a higher power will be able to maintain a really acceptable authority over these traditional peoples. In the meantime their lawful governments must tackle the problems at hand-education, the introduction of better health and living conditions, and increased productivity in agriculture and industry.
The newly independent African states are now beginning to have an impact on world affairs. Their presence in the great councils of the United Nations is bringing international publicity to their views and preoccupations. Because of this new-found status, the two world blocs generally referred to as East and West are making efforts to attract or keep the African states in their spheres of influence. This struggle of the power blocs is leading to the introduction of the cold war into Africa, which until recently has succeeded in keeping out of it.
Our duty in this matter is clear. We cannot afford to be involved in the cold war with all its consequences. The African states are at the lowest stage of economic growth and should wisely devote all their energies and resources to the development of their peoples. To make a success of this task we are largely dependent upon the capital and technicians which only more advanced nations can supply. It is understandable that some of these nations wish to be assured that the African states will employ their assistance to the best advantage, but this must be resolved through practical planning, not political domination.
Our dependence upon external assistance carries with it certain dangers which the African states must recognize if they are to prevent further cold- war intrusions. It is by now a commonplace to refer to Africa as the land of rising expectations. The danger of which I speak is that certain African leaders will encourage these expectations too far, that they will overestimate their capacity to transform our traditional economies into modern industrial states. Let there be no mistake in my meaning. This is a job which can and will be done, but it must be done with careful attention to our needs and a realistic appraisal of the capital that will be available to meet them. The African leader who seriously overestimates his country's capacity for growth will soon find that he is forced to rely on foreign aid to maintain his political position, and it will be then that the temptation to turn to one or the other power bloc will be greatest. The political leader who promises his people a new highway network or a hundred new schools may find that he has promised too much, that he will at best be voted, and at worst forced, out of office unless he can fulfill his promises. At that moment he may well revert to the dangerous policy of making external political commitments, and this policy may be multiplied by its effects upon neighboring states; for these, anxious to preserve their sovereignty, may turn to the other power bloc.
African leaders must also beware of pushing their peoples too far. The mechanism of national government is new, and our people must be taught its meaning before they will accept its dictums. Those leaders who propose to finance their projects by broad and heavy taxation should consider whether their people are yet ready to accept it, whether preliminary programs of education with moderate increases in living standards are not more meaningful at this stage than vast programs of public works. The leader who rules with a heavy hand, assuming that his desires are the desires of his people, will eventually be forced to take drastic measures of repression to safeguard his power. Then again stability will be endangered and peaceful government threatened.
To counter these difficulties we must first assess the resources of our countries, then estimate the capital which will be made available to us from abroad. In this manner African leaders will not find themselves forced to make the choice between unwanted foreign commitment and domestic instability. For their part, the developed nations must never forget that until very recently the African states were subjected to colonial rule, a rule which did severe harm to their institutions. We have struggled for many years to attain the privilege of self-government and are wary of any association which may suggest a new bondage.
Thus we have chosen to be neutral in all issues concerning world blocs. As a practical matter Togo's size and geographic location also dictate a policy of neutrality. This policy has implications which extend beyond East- West differences. For one thing it signifies plainly that in her relations with former colonial powers Togo shall negotiate as an independent, sovereign nation, that ties of the past are not to be construed as ties for the present or future, that choice of preferences will be made by Togolese representatives on the basis of agreements which will most benefit our people's development. For another, it signifies our desire to remain clear of all groups which seem designed to perpetuate divisions on racial, linguistic or ideological grounds. In Africa today there are signs that some states are regrouping to form African blocs. In this connection there has been much talk about the Yaounde Group, the Brazzaville Group and the Casablanca Group. This is to be regretted because these new moves can only make much-needed coöperation more difficult if not impossible. We think, as noted above, that agreement among freely associated sovereign states can do much to halt this deplorable segmentation.
Concerning bilateral and multilateral aid, I believe that specific types of assistance are more effectively suited to specific sources of aid and that it is our responsibility to match our needs with the external agency or government most capable of meeting them. This policy requires that development projects in our country be evaluated on the basis of their expected social and economic impact and not on the political position of the donor or creditor nation. If the wealthy nations of the world are sincere in their desire to develop the natural and human resources of the African states, they must approach this task pragmatically and be willing to do the job at hand rather than digress into political manoeuvering. In the long run there is little doubt that effective developmental policy will help the cause of peace and stable democratic government. The European and American powers who promise to see progress in Africa should thus accept the desires of African states to remain neutral. Their offers of help should be without strings. Otherwise the African continent will soon be divided into the familiar East and West groupings with a resulting intensification in the cold war.
The wealthy nations of the world must also regard our determined efforts with respect. We know that we can improve the living conditions and productivity of our countries, and we are certain that with help we can do it more rapidly than was done in the past. The gains made in method and knowledge over recent decades in the social and productive sciences are not to be wasted. Modern technology and planning techniques must be applied flexibly and with the conviction that obstacles can and will be overcome. Experts arriving in our countries should not expect that plans will be as neatly executed as they have been in their home countries, that the last refinement in information will be available. Too many foreign experts forget this; too many fear what seems to them to be impossible. The technical expert assigned to work in an African state is rightly an agent of change. He must be willing to innovate, and he must bring with him the will to work.
We should consider, finally, the United Nations organization and the role we are to play in it. I may say that from our viewpoint this has been a cornerstone of foreign policy since independence. The United Nations has much to offer the newly independent countries, and they in turn can accomplish a great deal through active and responsible participation in the organization. The Republic of Togo is particularly aware of the advantages to be gained from such participation because of our history of association with the United Nations through the Trusteeship Council.
Today the United Nations can be of particular assistance in the administration of foreign aid. We are not opposed to bilateral agreements, but in our opinion more aid should be channeled through the international organization. This would solve the problem of how to grant technical and financial aid without strings and would demonstrate to the African states the good faith of donor and creditor nations. It would also reduce the very real temptation of the African states to play off the big powers one against the other, a temptation which can easily develop from unrealistic planning or irresponsible leadership. Lastly, it might help to solve a problem which is increasing in magnitude with the growth in new foreign aid programs and the revision of old ones-that is, the coördination by the donor nations of the destinations, kinds and amounts of assistance to be offered. Presently there is needless and costly duplication in the administration of these programs, and the multiplicity of agencies, restrictions and delays makes it difficult for recipient nations to allocate rationally the assistance granted.
In spite of its shortcomings, the United Nations can and should play an important role in this period of transition while the economies of the African states are progressing from colonial dependence to self- sufficiency. It can be used as an effective instrument to prevent wars between states and in some instances civil wars within them. The United Nations should strive to instill in these young countries the ideals of its Charter, then guarantee their territorial integrity. If this guarantee is forthcoming, the new nations will be free to devote a major part of their resources to economic and social development and will tend in time to reduce their dependence on external aid. In this respect I feel certain that most new African states would welcome a strong and effective United Nations. Such strength can endure only as long as member states respect the principles of the Charter and refrain from using the organization as an instrument for securing political power. The machinery of the United Nations is essentially democratic, and herein lies its value to the less powerful nations of the world: the assurance that their expectations, desires and fears can be brought to the attention of world opinion.
The Congo operation should be regarded as a useful experience which, far from weakening the United Nations, has made it more mature. It should also indicate to any leaders striving for the political unity of Africa the difficulties lying in their path. Indeed, no African leader can afford to neglect the lessons which have been taught by this chapter in the history of our continent.