- Category: Archives
- Created on Tuesday, 22 December 1959 21:02
- Written by Time Magazine
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The placards cried "Freedom!" or "Ne Touchez Pas l'Afrique," and the torrent of anticolonialist oratory at the All African People's Conference in Accra last week seemed to have no end. "Whereas, 72 years ago the scramble for Africa started," said young (28) Conference Chairman Tom Mboya of Kenya, "from Accra we announce that these same powers must be told in a clear, firm and definite voice: 'Scram from Africa.' "
One by one, in hot wool suits, in shirtsleeves, in spangled caps and long white robes, the delegates trooped to the platform to give thumbs-up salutes, hands-up salutes, and to cry, "Africa! Africa! Africa!" One gentleman from little Dahomey delivered a speech while waving three placards at once. Regrettably, one of the most colorful heads of delegation was not heard. He went by the name of Cissé Zakaria, and called himself Crown Prince of Mauretania and General of the Liberation Army, but an alert Accra hotel clerk quickly tagged him as the deadbeat who had run up a £79 bill on previous visits to Accra, and he was advised to leave town by the earliest possible plane.
A message from Vice President Nixon was mysteriously held up in red tape for five days, but from the opening day, claques cheered greetings from Khrushchev, Chou En-lai and the "Prime Minister of North Korea." When a "fraternal delegate" from Red China stalked out of the meeting because the Nationalist Chinese flag was flying, Chairman Mboya ordered the offending flag removed. Mboya himself kicked up a bit of a fuss by repeating the charges he recently made in London that a leading witness against the convicted Mau Mau leader, Jomo Kenyatta, had perjured himself in return for a British Colonial Office bribe of a two-year scholarship in England, free air travel, a grant to his family, and the guarantee of education for his two sons if he himself should be killed by the Mau Mau in reprisal. Next day the conference dutifully took up the cry: "Free Jomo Kenyatta Now."*
But beneath the fraternal exuberance, the 250 delegates from 28 nations seemed determined to keep the ultimate union of Africa safely in African hands, though they were not yet clear on just how this could be done. The conference host himself, Ghana's Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, solemnly warned: "Do not let us forget that colonialism and imperialism may come to us in a different guise, not necessarily from Europe." When asked what he thought about the Africans from Cairo, Mboya bluntly declared that "they don't represent Kenya." As the conference went on half a mile away, Nkrumah whisked ratification for his union with the former French colony of Guinea† through his obedient Parliament, but unimpressed delegates from the Federation of Nigeria—itself on the edge of independence within the British Commonwealth—observed that the Ghana-Guinea union of 7,000,000 Africans would hardly be a realistic basis for a larger union of the 60 million people of French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa, the Cameroons, Togoland, Sierra Leone, Gambia and the Federation of Nigeria.
In the end, the delegates seemed to have learned more from their disagreements than from their rantings against the colonialists. They decided to start a sort of permanent African GHQ of agitators to carry on their work, but always mindful of Nasser's muscle flexing; they set the next meeting of the conference in Tunis, an Arab capital now quarreling with Cairo. They recommended five regional federations, but these, they added, should be only between independent states and subject to the will of the people. More militantly, they called vaguely for the establishment of an "African Legion" composed of volunteers and talked of a labor boycott of the Union of South Africa, but they neatly adopted a middle course between the "nonviolent" revolution advocated by Nkrumah and the fiery call to arms by some of the Algerians. And as for Tom Mboya's big "Scram," no time limit was even mentioned. The delegates were obviously mindful of another "scramble for Africa," and not all of it homegrown.
* Kenyatta, having served less than six years of a seven-year sentence, is due to go free next spring.
† Which last week became the 82nd nation in the U.N.