American Power After Afghanistan
How to Rightsize the Country’s Global Role
The recent division of West Africa into what often appear to be two quite unreconcilable groups of independent states has seemed to justify the worst fears of those who have held that personal rivalries and cold-war issues would destroy African hopes for unity of outlook and action. Today the "Casablanca" group, with Ghana and Guinea among its most active members, and the larger, looser association of "Monrovia" countries, with Nigeria in the lead, do indeed appear to be at odds. Yet curiously, on some of the most important issues, their viewpoint is very much the same. For example, almost on the same day, in July, experts of the Casablanca group, meeting in Conakry, and experts of the Monrovia group, meeting in nearby Dakar, announced plans for economic coöperation which were startlingly similar.
The Conakry meeting recommended ending customs barriers between the Casablanca countries over a five-year period beginning January 1, 1962, and ending quota systems and preferential treatment on the same date. It also proposed creation of a Council of African Economic Unity (C.U.E.A.) and an African Economic Development Bank. These will be further discussed at Tangier in November, and formation of a joint air and shipping line will be taken up at a later conference.
The meeting at Dakar was called to examine in detail the list of subjects agreed on at Monrovia in May. The discussions were so detailed that they even included the possibility of a common form of driving test. An African development bank was considered, with the objective, among others, of encouraging foreign investors. In the end the conferees did not go as far as the Casablanca group had done at Conakry: it recommended promotion of trade between African countries by regional customs unions and the progressive establishment of common external tariffs, harmonization of development policies, including investment codes and conventions, an investment and guarantee fund, exchange of economic information, and harmonization of economic research. It is apparently intended that coöperation should even go as far as to include common policies on prices paid to farmers for export crops-a measure designed to discourage smuggling.
The Casablanca countries now include Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Mali, the U.A.R. and the Algerian provisional government; Libya was present at the meeting last January which gave the group its name but appears to have dropped out, and instead met with the Monrovia governments represented at Dakar. The Monrovia group of states, of which Nigeria is the most important, include all other independent African states except the Sudan and the former Belgian Congo; Ethiopia, strongly represented at the Monrovia meeting last May, sent nobody to Dakar.
The Dakar conference's recommendations cover the whole field of coöperation: a network of roads, a joint shipping company, amalgamation of existing airways, joint educational schemes and institutions, standardization of medical practices, definition of minimum qualifications, and the establishment of veterinary training institutions. Even when the Casablanca states have not made identical recommendations, there is nothing they need reject. Virtually all independent Africa is, therefore, committed to detailed schemes of coöperation.
Why, then, if the thinking of these countries is so similar in the important economic field, are there two groups? They even make the same assumptions about the possibility of increasing intra-African trade, though that now represents only some I percent of the external trade of African countries.
There is, it is true, a theoretical difference of approach. To the Casablanca states, and particularly to Ghana, Guinea and Mali, political coöperation is the important thing; the rest, they think, will follow. The Monrovia states consider that coöperation in practical matters comes first; political unity should follow, but may never reach the point of integration. But is there any reason why this difference of approach should preclude coöperation, say, in improving telecommunications?
In any case, relations between individual states in the two groups are often close and cordial. M. Houphouet-Boigny, President of the Ivory Coast, will visit Mali and Guinea in November, and the President of the Ivory Coast National Assembly has declared that there are no political differences between Mali and his country. Nigeria and Ghana speak with a common voice on more things than is generally realized. Almost immediately after the Monrovia conference, where the Voltaic Republic was strongly represented, President Yameogo was entertained in Accra by Dr. Nkrumah, and as a result of their discussions during an exchange of visits, the frontier between their countries was ceremoniously demolished by the two leaders, who declared that henceforth movement between them would be entirely free.
Yet the division in West Africa cannot be overlooked. On occasion, bitter words have been exchanged. Is this, however, a fundamental split, which will govern in future the relations among the 27 independent African states, and their relations with the world?
To understand the present position it is necessary to go back to the independence of Ghana in 1957. The excitement with which that event was greeted all over the world is difficult to remember now. We know today that it was only the beginning of a movement toward independence throughout the continent, but it did not really seem so then. Independence was scarcely discussed in French Africa; the date of Nigerian independence was not fixed; Sierra Leone's independence seemed very far away; for Tanganyika and Kenya it seemed even further. When Ghana became independent, she seemed to be not only a pioneer but, to a large extent, to be isolated in her independence. This has had a very important effect on Dr. Nkrumah and his colleagues. Dr. Nkrumah has always been a Pan-Africanist, but the fact that Ghana became independent at a time when independence was exceptional in Africa meant that he always attached very great importance to independence for other countries. If Ghana had become independent only recently, after most Africans were already self-governing, independence for other countries would not have become such an important issue in the thinking of Ghana's leaders. But as it is, some of them find it difficult to appreciate fully that independence is not any longer an issue over the greater part of the continent.
If one looks at the Ghana White Paper on the Republican constitution, it can be seen that in the government's view there no longer exist, for practical purposes, any internal politics; the job is to get on with modernizing the country and with preparing it to play its proper role in international affairs. The energies of politicians are released for external affairs. The constitution even allows Ghana to surrender sovereignty to a union of African states and territories-a provision that is probably unique. It also allows peoples outside Ghana to join Ghana "in an integrated state."
The constitution, in short, makes it plain that the Ghana Government's political interest is now largely in external affairs, and this produces a much more militant approach than that of a country, like Nigeria, later come to independence and still largely occupied with internal affairs, or the Ivory Coast, which became independent not as the result of a popular campaign but through almost personal negotiations between its leaders and President de Gaulle.
From a very early stage, Dr. Nkrumah, a Secretary of the Manchester Pan- African Congress of 1946, has sought to further the organization of a united Africa. The first conference of independent African states was held in Accra in April 1958, to be followed by the first All-African People's Conference-a gathering of political parties-in the same capital later in the year. Both conferences were successful from Dr. Nkrumah's point of view, as they brought to Accra a more representative African gathering than any seen before. There were, nevertheless, signs of what is, in the last analysis, the real obstacle to West African unity-an obstacle which the fluid and to some extent arbitrary groupings of Casablanca and Monrovia partly conceal. That obstacle is simply the British and French heritages that divide the West African countries. Without this, the natural and inevitable personal and political incompatibilities which develop between rulers of new states could not have the same adverse effect on the growth of African unity.
There is a rather sad example of the significance of this division. Last February a plebiscite was conducted to decide the future of the British Cameroons. In remoter parts of the Northern Cameroons it was extremely difficult to explain to people what the plebiscite was about, and some political parties, having failed, decided that all that the voters could be asked was: "Faranza or Ingresa?"-that is, "Do you want to join France or England?" To these people the newly independent countries of Cameroun or Nigeria meant little; British and French rule, however, they knew.
Dr. Nkrumah fully recognizes, and is naturally resentful of, this division. He has protested on more than one occasion against the attempt to describe Africa in terms of French-speaking and English-speaking. That is one reason why to him the Ghana-Guinea-Mali union-whatever its practical content-and his agreement with the Voltaic Republic seem so important. They represent a break-through into former French Africa, showing that the linguistic and cultural division can be overcome.
But are Mali and Guinea merely the exceptions that prove the rule? There are 12 other countries of the former French West and Equatorial African Empire, and small and poor though they are, from Dr. Nkrumah's point of view they represent a formidable obstacle to Pan-Africanism-not because they are in theory opposed to Pan-Africa but because their links with France remain so strong.
It must be emphasized that it is not the internal political systems of the new French-speaking states which define their relations with Ghana or any other African territory. They present no uniform pattern, democratic or non- democratic. The Ivory Coast, for example, is really a one-party state; in the Niger Republic, also, one party holds all the seats in the legislature; Senegal, which is pervaded by a highly democratic spirit and where politics are very sophisticated, still has virtually a one-party legislature. But Togo, although its President, M. Olympio, is a towering figure in such a small country, has three parties represented in its legislature. The Cameroun Republic, where for years there has persisted an armed uprising of a very bitter and bloody kind, still manages to avoid single-party government. In Dahomey, parties have tottered in and out of government almost at the speed they used to in France.
Thus it is their relationships with France and not their internal régimes which differentiate these countries from the other independent African nations. Nobody would now confidently define the French Community, except, perhaps, in terms of its link to the person of President de Gaulle, a man of immense prestige in much of Africa south of the Sahara. The Community is, in theory, as voluntary an association as the Commonwealth; but no more than the Commonwealth does it exist in the shape of institutions. In recent years so many types of association between French Africa and France have been worked out, tried, abandoned, improved and altered that it is impossible to list them. But all the time these have represented relationships between the African leaders and de Gaulle. Yet the more permanent links-and these are stronger than those between Commonwealth countries and the United Kingdom-have been unaffected, or in some cases have been strengthened, by the disappearance of some of the formal institutional links.
The first link is obviously the cultural one, and there is something of a mystery here. Highly educated French-speaking Africans are much more like Frenchmen than highly educated English-speaking Africans are like Englishmen. For example, if you are in a bar in Dakar and people are speaking French behind you, you do not know whether they are Frenchmen or Africans; with very rare exceptions, this is not the case when Africans are speaking English. The cultured French African is typified by the President of Senegal, M. Léopold Senghor. But it is he who invented the concept of négritude and the African mystique that goes with it. Yet at the same time he found it entirely consistent to be the leading champion of close cultural association-and even political links-between Africa and France. The cultural links between French-speaking Africans and France seem to be stronger than those between English-speaking Africans and Britain. Négritude seems to have far less political content for men like M. Senghor than "the African personality" has for Dr. Nkrumah and those in Nigeria who extol this concept.
A more tangible link is the substantial aid France gives to these territories-on a scale far beyond anything the British have dreamed of giving to their former colonies. This French aid still continues and applies even to offsetting recurrent budget deficits-an idea repellent to the United Kingdom Treasury.
Another concrete link is trade. It has always been French custom to bind colonies to the metropole very closely in trade, far more closely than the British have done. In some cases it has been really impracticable to disentangle trade from the existing colonial network when the country becomes independent. In Senegal particularly, the French have for so long subsidized the price of peanuts, while in return receiving preferential treatment for consumer goods, that, independence or no independence, disengagement of the economy of Senegal from that of France seems almost impossible. And while one talks rightly of the importance of the European Common Market to the French African territories associated with it, what matters to them more than preferential treatment in European markets or the development aid received from the Rome Treaty countries is French bulk buying and long-term contracts for their produce. A recent example of such a contract was the one with Mali for peanuts, signed even after Mali had given every indication of breaking away from the Community. Here again, in spite of "Commonwealth preferences/' the link is much stronger than that between Britain and her former possessions.
Defense in the former French territories is a subject on which it is difficult to get concrete information. But whereas the independence of Ghana or Nigeria did not really create any security problem, because in each case there already existed a local military headquarters and a local army, this situation had no parallel in French Africa; there was only the French Army, and though its racial components might have been similar to those in the British territories, it nevertheless was French. Independence came so quickly to the French territories that some have still not created their own local forces. To a large extent, therefore, former French territories depend at the least on French organization for their security arrangements. This is a subject of complaint by Dr. Nkrumah and others, who use it to call in question the reality of their independence.
If links with France are so strong, why, one asks, should Guinea have broken away so completely? But did Guinea mean to break away just as it did? Was it not rather the French who broke away? General de Gaulle's West African record has otherwise been so remarkable as largely to offset the misgivings of French-speaking Africa about his policies elsewhere. But it is difficult to believe that when, in 1958, he gave these territories the opportunity of saying whether or not they wished to belong to the Community, he meant the offer to be taken literally. The only one of them which did take it seriously was Guinea; it voted against the Community, not because any real decision had been reached by the people to that effect but because M. Sekou Toure, so powerfully in command even before independence, wanted them to. Actually it was the French who then broke the links with Guinea. Among other things, all the French officers both of the army and the police disappeared, and President Sekou Toure had to recall from Algeria the senior Guinean officer, then a captain, to become chief of staff. The Guinea Government had no doubt been under the impression that links with France would continue, with the difference that it would not be tied to French international policies. Although Guinea felt herself driven to make arrangements with Eastern Europe, the only newspapers you could buy in Guinea long after independence were from Paris.
The really extraordinary phenomenon to be noted about the independence of the ex-French colonies-and this includes Guinea and Mali, which since its separation from Senegal has given some indications of breaking away from the French connection-is that it was achieved without any campaign of the kind we had seen in Ghana. For them, independence has never been a popular political issue so much as a matter for negotiation between African and French leaders. In Ghana there was nationalism without a nation; in the ex- French territories they have to build nations without nationalism. For example, President Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast has in his time supported almost every kind of association or non-association with France, but this has had no effect on his internal political position. In the ex- French territories, it seems, politics have been personal to a much greater degree than in ex-British territories, where personalities certainly played an important part but always with regard for the popular desire for increased self-government and, ultimately, independence.
There is nothing more exciting than a political "meeting" (the word they use) in Senegal, with Wollof women singing and dancing and the crowds stretching as far as the eye can see. But the issue at such meetings has seldom been freedom or independence; it has been a local or a personal issue, perhaps the price of peanuts. It is dangerous to generalize, especially when one is talking about so many countries and peoples, but broadly speaking the issue of independence in the French-speaking countries has never produced a campaign. The independence of the original Mali Federation of Senegal and Soudan was casually announced by General de Gaulle at Saint-Louis, in Senegal, as a result, it seems, of a dinner-party conversation with Mali leaders. It was the first that officials in Paris heard of the project, and did not really seem of first importance either to de Gaulle or to the Mali leaders. Would not things go on much as before?
It is still uncertain whether, when the present generation of leaders disappears, these French-speaking countries will have the necessary national identity to keep social discipline or even to maintain their independence. The very fact that they attained independence without a struggle arouses skepticism in the leaders of Ghana-and in the minds of more Nigerians than is generally realized.
At the time of the Casablanca meeting, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Somalia, Togo and Tunisia were outside any "grouping/5 Why did these countries join the states closely linked with France (often called the Brazzaville group) in the Monrovia meeting rather than see in the Casablanca group the basis of African unity?
It is tempting to explain this in terms of the rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria. But did Nigeria decline to seek membership in the Casablanca group because of Ghana's prominent position in it? Or was it because her cautious but determined leader, Sir Abubakar Balewa, found the policies of the Casablanca powers on the Congo, for example, too thoroughly "committed" for his taste? Dr. Nkrumah declined to go to the Monrovia conference and seems to have persuaded Guinea and Mali to decline also, even though they had been among its original sponsors. Was this because he disliked something in which Nigeria was taking the lead? Or was it because he believed that the conference had had insufficient preparation, would be attended largely by leaders of the second rank and should, in any case, wait until meetings arranged to work out decisions of the Casablanca conference had made their recommendations?
Certainly, though the meeting took place in Liberia and President Tubman devoted himself wholeheartedly to making it a success, it was Nigeria that was mainly responsible for its being held. There is no doubt that Sir Abubakar expected the Casablanca powers to attend; nor did he regard their leaders with hostility; nor would he have expected them to embrace the majority of the ex-French West African states. The independent states which previously belonged neither to the Casablanca powers nor the Brazzaville group (which now included Sierra Leone) did not accept the invitation of Sir Abubakar and President Tubman because they were anxious to join an "anti-Casablanca" group. Indeed, it probably was not until a short time before the Monrovia conference actually opened that most of the participants realized that the Casablanca countries (and the Sudan, which did not attend because of Mauritania's presence) would not be there. There was no question, therefore, of a new grouping being consciously established at Monrovia to oppose the one formed at Casablanca. And since then Dr. Nkrumah's new relationships with the Voltaic Republic and Dahomey, and the new position of Tunisia in relation to France, have softened the apparent rigidity of the division.
While there is considerable difference of approach between the leaders of Nigeria and Ghana on matters such as French policy in Algeria and British membership in the European Common Market, they, along with Sierra Leone, are much closer to each other than Nigeria is to most of her associates in the Monrovia group. Both Ghana and Nigeria maintain close links with Israel, too, in spite of what some of Dr. Nkrumah's Casablanca partners may think of this association. Both Dr. Nkrumah and Sir Abubakar really believe, too, in the value of the Commonwealth relationship, particularly now that South Africa has been expelled, largely through their efforts.
But if we say that there is nothing necessarily permanent in the Casablanca- Monrovia division, do we mean that all independent African states-even those of West Africa-can easily join a single association? Politics apart, simple difficulties of administration and organization will probably make that impossible for a long time. The Casablanca group can be militant in its declarations and policies partly because its numbers are limited. The Monrovia conference produced a number of valuable resolutions, but only at the expense of evading various divisive issues. Nor does there seem to be any immediate hope of overcoming the main division in West Africa, that between the former French and former British territories-this despite whatever success the Ghana-Guinea-Mali union may attain. It is possible to envisage very close relations and common policies on a wide range of matters between Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone; but on many of the most urgent external problems facing Africa, it is much more difficult to see a common policy between Dr. Nkrumah and the leaders of those African states which remain closely linked with France. Whatever pressure these may bring to bear on Paris in private, they will not lend themselves to public condemnation of French policies in other parts of Africa.
These are still the very early days of African independence. For the leaders of the new countries, independent responsibility in foreign relations is entirely new. To see in the groupings which have so far arisen among them anything resembling the world division between "East" and "West," or the beginning of a new "scramble for Africa," is to pin old and already shabby labels onto a new continent.