Nationalism and Vision
Early nationalism and unrest
In 1919 in Egypt, demonstrations and strikes were followed by the arrest of the nationalist leader Sa'ad Zaghul. Three years later, the British gave into the strength of nationalist feeling and after some considerable tension granted Egypt independence. Elsewhere there were strikes in different parts of the continent.
Sudan - Tramwaymen On Strike
Nigeria - Strikes Of Inspectors Threatened
South Africa - Strike At Krugersdorf
Political organisations sprung up, often regional in outlook and driven by a determination to have more control in the running of the colonies. One of the most important of these was the National Congress of British West Africa, the NCBWA.
In East Africa, Jomo Kenyatta was already in the 1930s emerging as an immensely articulate and convinced anti-colonialist.
"The African is conditioned, by the cultural and social institutions of centuries, to a freedom of which Europe has little conception, and it is not in his nature to accept serfdom for ever.
He realises that he must fight unceasingly for his own complete emancipation; for without this he is doomed to remain the prey of rival imperialisms, which in every successive year will drive their fangs more deeply into his vitality and strength." - Jomo Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya.
A number of professional and welfare associations were formed, firstly among civil servants and teachers. Cocoa traders also formed their own associations. All these people were ambitious for their children and increasingly insistent that they themselves should be paid the same and treated the same as their European peers.
Africans for Europeans
The range of skilled labour changed. Leather and metal working went into decline, but bicycle repairing and car maintenance increased. The importation of the sewing machine created a huge class of tailors all over the continent. In terms of leisure and fashion, European clothes, films and music were popular. In West Africa, the middle class took what interested them from Western culture and mixed it with African fashion and custom.
In Senegal the principle figure championing the rights of Africans was Blaise Diagne who was elected to the French Chamber of Deputies in 1914. Later he ws criticised for serving the interests of the French at the expense of the Africans.
In Dahomey, Louis Hankerin was a key political figure during the early twenties when prices for palm kernels were low and taxes were high. Hankerin wrote in the American as well as French press and set up local branches of the Ligne des Droits de L'Homme and the Comite de la Defense de la Race Negre.
The people and the kings
For example, in Basotholand (modern Lesotho) a Council of Commoners was formed in 1919, influenced by the South African Communist Party. It criticised the chiefs for driving round in big cars and taxing the people.
In Uganda, The Young Baganda Association turned against the Baganda Kabaka (king) and chiefs, accusing them of being disorganised and immoral. Three of its leading lights were imprisoned in 1922 for publishing an attack against the king.
In the case of Ethiopia, the Italian invasion in 1935 only served to strengthen the people's loyalty to Emperor Haile Selassie. Unable to resist the Italians, he was forced into exile in 1936. The case of Ethiopia or Abyssinia, as it was then known, provoked a great deal of sympathy.
"Abyssinia Relief Fund (Ondo Branch)... Public meeting convened by the Rev. Canon M.C. Adeyemi, the Rev. T.O. Dedeke, and the Chief Seriki Akinrosotu... the chief object of the meeting was to discuss ways and means of assisting our brothers and sisters who were suffering as a result of the aggressive war waged on them by the Italians... Mr. D.L. Akinola gave a good lead by paying at once into the fund; on the whole, the meeting was very successful." - Daily Times of Nigeria, 5 Dec 1936.
The Pan-African Vision
In Africa, there was a general assumption on the part of colonial powers that Africans must wait patiently for limited political concessions and better career opportunities. Ex-servicemen and the educated urban classes became disillusioned and were only too willing to listen to socialist ideas based on concepts of equality and a new world order.
In London, the Socialist Club attracted a wide audience of people who felt marginalised - Africans, Irish Nationalists and German Jews. Drury Lane was the site of a club exclusively for black soldiers.
"They had been disillusioned with the European war, because they kept on having frightful clashes with English and American soldiers, besides the fact that the authorities treated them completely differently from the white soldiers.
I was working at that time in London in a communist group. Our group provided the club of Negro soldiers with revolutionary newspapers and literature, which had nothing." - Letter from Jamaican writer and socialist, Claude McKay to Trotsky in 1922.
1919 - The first pan-African congress
1921 - The second pan-African congress
"England, with all her Pax Britannica, her courts of justice, established commerce, and a certain apparent recognition of Native laws and customs, has nevertheless systematically fostered ignorance among the Natives, has enslaved them, and is still enslaving them, has usually declined even to try to train black and brown men in real self-government, to recognise civilised black folk as civilised, or to grant to coloured colonies those rights of self government which it freely gives to white men." - The London Manifesto.
The one dissenting voice was that of Blaise Diagne who, although African, was effectively a French politician, representing Senegal in the French Chamber of Deputies. He thought the declaration dangerously extreme and soon abandoned the idea of Pan Africanism.
1923 - The third pan-African congress
1927 - The fourth pan-African congress
1945 - The fifth pan-African congress
There were thirty three delegates from the West Indies and thirty five from various British organisations including the West African Students Union. W.E.B. DuBois, the man who had organised the first Pan African Congress back in 1919, was there too at the age of 77.
Despite the turnout, this conference scarcely got a mention in British press. There were many resolutions passed, including one calling for racial discrimination to be made a criminal offense. The main resolution decried imperialism and capitalism:
"We are unwilling to starve any longer while doing the world's drudgery, in order to support, by our poverty and ignorance, a false aristocracy and a discredited imperialism.
We condemn the monopoly of capital and the rule of private wealth and industry for private profit alone.
We shall complain, appeal and arraign. We will make the world listen to the facts of our condition. We will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy and social betterment."
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