Term Paper: Decolonization of the British Empire in Africa

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Decolonization of the British Empire in Africa

Of the numerous and complex surrounding the decolonizing of the British empire in Africa, the influence African states under the British had on one another throughout the process is of particular interest, because it is a subject that has not been widely explored to date. Perhaps the reason for that is that the process of decolonizing the British African states was a painfully long process, during which time many a British conservative and liberal alike had much to say about the direction the British colonies should take as independent nations, and, as was always the case of the British during their rule over the African nations, they simply did not give the indigenous population opportunity nor credit for self-determination. For that reason, this essay will attempt to examine the extent to which the former British African colonies influenced one another, independent of British leadership.

In order to keep the discussion on the subject coherent and to cover important points, this essay focuses on just two of the former African colonies under the British Empire; Kenya and Zimbabwe. During the rule of the British Empire over these countries, Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia, and will be referred to as such in this essay until the point where it became official decolonized and known as Zimbabwe.

Background major reason as to why Pan-Africanism has not received more attention as it regards decolonization is because until the Fifth Pan-African Congress held in Manchester, England in 1945, there had not been extensive continent representation in that congress by Black Africans from the African continent, except Liberia. Liberia, a nation created by former black slaves from America, was very active in the anti-slavery and anti-colonialism movement, but from the time of its creation was an independent African nation.

Also, the term "Pan-Africanism" is one that is fluid in definition, changing in accordance with who uses the term, and how it is being used. "Not surprisingly, there is still no agreement on what it is all about. Explanations that some African scholars and politicians give often differ from those suggested by African descendants abroad. Sometimes the continental Africans themselves advance conflicting interpretations."

At the meeting in Manchester, England, for the first time there was activity as well as discussion going on about the decolonization of the British Empire in Africa, and elsewhere. In attendance at the Manchester conference was Jomo Kenyatta from Kenya; who would assume leadership of that country after its decolonization in, and other black African continent representatives. In fact, the conference was purposefully limited to representatives from the British colonies, except for the very outspoken W.E.B. Dubois, who was a guest speaker and link to the Trans-Atlantic Pan-Africanism movement. This is one reason that this congress was different and historically significant in terms of decolonization.

Also represented in this congress were officials of the trade and labor unions from the continental and from British colonies in the Caribbean. Obafemi Awolowo, J.E. Appiah and Dr. Hastings Banda attended the conference, and these individuals, as well as Kenyatta, would be significant players in the shaping of an independent Africa.

At the same time that the Manchester Pan-Africanism congress was meeting, British political leaders were discussing the role of the British Empire in Africa. It was the opinion of conservative and liberal leadership alike that the indigenous peoples of Africa were not capable of their own governance, and that they lacked the business experience and capabilities and skills necessary to successfully manage Africa countries like Kenya and Rhodesia.

However, there was a Pan-African move afoot by indigenous Africans to take control of their countries. Unfortunately, because of the stark opposition by conservative members of the British government, white colonists - who agreeably had much to lose by decolonization - and because the process of decolonization was a complex one and one that went on from the post World War II period through the 1960s; the end result was with but a few exceptions, disappointing.

Some of the significant dates in the decolonization process are the September 9, 1948 African Conference in London; the 1953 Nigerian Constitution Conference in London, the creation in 1953 Central African Federation; the 1954 Nigerian Constitution Conference in Lagos; in 1956 the Defferre introduces loi-cadre for Black Africa; 1957 Ghana declares independence; 1958 the fall of Todd in South Rhodesia; 1958 Accra Conference of African States; October 2, 1958, the independence of Guinea; December, 1958, African People's Conference in Accra; July 1, 1960, independence of Belgian Congo; July 1, 1960, Nyasaland Constitution Conference; August, 1960, break of Mali Federation and the creation 10 new independent African states; October 1, 1960, independence of Nigeria; February, 1961, new Southern Rhodesia Constitution; Conservative revolt North Rhodesia; March, 1961, South Africa withdraws from the British Commonwealth; April, 1961, Sierra Leone declares independence; December, 1961, Tanganyika declares independence; 1962, Uganda declares independence; December, 1962, Rhodesia Front wins election in Southern Rhodesia and UK accepts Nyasaland's right to secede; December, 1963, Kenya declares independence; December, 1963, dissolution of Central African Federation.

Self-Determination

Although there is little information arising out of the documented meetings between the black African leaders who attended conferences during the decolonization process, it is known that most of the African countries colonized under British rule did come together to talk about their futures. These would have been tenuous meetings to some extent, since there existed differences that would result in the breaking of states as decolonization proceeded along a very slow course. Authors and researchers Ryan Goodman and Derek Jinks (2004) suggest that there are choices that are made in regime change, and that those choices are influenced by the conditions that exist at the time within the state, as well as the influence of the surrounding states on the one experiencing the change. Three mechanisms that influence the behavior of the state undergoing regime change are: coercion, persuasion, and acculturation. "Several structural impediments preclude effective implementation of coercion and persuasion-based regimes in human rights law, yet these models of social influence inexplicably predominate international legal studies."

What the African colonies needed were leaders who had a sense of national pride, but not a nationalistic thinking that closed those countries to the diversity that existed in those countries, especially since the countries were largely populated by tribal peoples whose traditions and tribal customs were often found to be very different in nature from one tribe to another, as well as a large number of people of other nationalities who immigrated under British rule in Africa. For instance, Kenya had a large population of Muslims, while Uganda had a large population of Asians, both groups served to bridge the social gap and barriers between the white colonists and the indigenous black African peoples.

The meeting in Manchester, in 1945, brought together an African continental Black leadership united in the call for self-determination of the African colonies, and for indigenous black leadership in those colonies. Aside from an agreement on self-determination, not much else is known about the workings of the meeting. Several working papers were produced for the meeting, including one by Jomo Kenyatta.

Unfortunately, for some of the colonies, the extreme differences between white settlers, descendants of colonists, and black Africans kept them from coming together in favor of an independent state and as a state unified instead of divided in government.

For Kenya, the picture was not bleak for the civilians as it was in other colonies, like Uganda, which came under the rule of the despot dictator Idi Amin. "Many, like Corporal Waruhiu Itote, returned with memories of inter-racial comradeship as well as of discrimination, keen appreciation of the value of military order and discipline, and a new sense of solidarity with their fellow subjects; not all went on, as Itote did, to join trade unions or political organizations like the Kenya African Union.."

An important milestone for Pan-Africanism was in 1958, when the All African Peoples Conference was held in Accra. Kenya's minister for Economic Planning and Development, Tom Mboya, was in attendance. The meeting was also attended by members of other East African countries whose own policies of economics and politics could have serious implications in the economic and political policies of Kenya. Discussion of the benefits of a Pan-African federation were discussed, and while this led to discussions along the lines of enlarging railway systems and connecting major cities between the individual nations, the actual federation of African states never came into being because of the perceive inequities of the give and take between the countries.

Nonetheless, dialogue on the subject served to open discussions as to the relevant issues that existed between the countries, and of the colonial and eventually post-colonial commonalities that existed between the countries. There were also issues of healthcare, education, and civil service support structures that were discussed.

The dynamics of decolonization for each of the African colonies was very different in nature. There were, over the years preceding and following decolonization, numerous occasions when black Africans came together,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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