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Women and Pan-Africanism  

Hakim Adi

Women played a central role in the development of Pan-Africanism. It can even be claimed that it was a woman, the South African Alice Kinloch, who initiated the modern Pan-African movement at the dawn of the 20th century. In the early 21st century it has become fashionable, mainly in some academic circles in the United States, to use the term “Black Internationalism” as an alternative to Pan-Africanism. This phrase was also first coined by a woman, Jeanne Nardal, an influential and important Martinican writer in Paris in the 1920s, who used the term internationalisme noir to refer to the growing links between “Negroes of all origins and nationalities.” There is no doubt that she also used the phrase to refer to the growing Pan-Africanism of the period, and therefore it is difficult to see what distinguishes the two terms. There has never been one universally accepted definition of exactly what constitutes Pan-Africanism. It has taken different forms at different historical moments and geographical locations. What underlies the manifold visions and approaches of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Africanists is a belief in the unity, common history, and common purpose of the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora and the notion that their destinies are interconnected. In addition, many would highlight the importance of the liberation and advancement of the African continent itself, not just for its inhabitants but also as the homeland of the entire African diaspora. Pan-Africanist thought and action is principally connected with, and provoked by, the modern dispersal of Africans resulting from the trafficking of captives across the Atlantic to the Americas, as well as elsewhere. The largest forced migration in history, and the creation of the African diaspora, was accompanied by the emergence of global capitalism, European colonial rule, and anti-African racism. Pan-Africanism evolved as a variety of ideas, activities, organizations, and movements that, sometimes in concert, resisted the exploitation and oppression of all those of African heritage; opposed and refuted the ideologies of anti-African racism; and celebrated African achievement, history, and the very notion of being African. Pan-Africanism looks forward to a genuinely united and independent Africa as the basis for the liberation of all Africans, both those on the continent and in the diaspora. However, it should be made clear that historically there have been two main strands of Pan-Africanism. The earlier form emerging during and after the period of trans-Atlantic enslavement originated from the African diaspora and stressed the unity of all Africans and looked toward their liberation and that of the African continent. The more recent form emerged in the context of the anti-colonial struggle on the African continent in the period after 1945. This form of Pan-Africanism stressed the unity, liberation, and advancement of the states of the African continent, although often recognizing the importance of the diaspora and its inclusion. The continental focus of this form of Pan-Africanism can be seen in the orientation and activities of such organizations as the Organisation of African Unity and the African Union. The more recent continental form of Pan-Africanism is likely to include the peoples and states of North Africa, while the earlier form sometimes does not. Although women such Alice Kinloch and Jeanne Nardal have played an important role in the emergence and development of the modern Pan-African movement and its ideologies, there have been few studies devoted solely to women’s involvement with Pan-Africanism. Some significant organizations such as the Pan-African Women’s Organisation, founded in 1962 and still in existence, have no written history and have therefore been excluded from many accounts. It is evident that women were generally less prominent than men in the Pan-African movement, but also that the literature has often overlooked, underestimated, and sometimes ignored the role of women.

Article

Socialist Regimes and Economic Planning  

Bonny Ibhawoh

Between 1950 and the mid-1980s, several African countries adopted socialist systems of government. In the first decades of independence, socialism appealed to some African leaders both as a political ideology and as an economic system. Socialism represented the promise of a new anti-imperial, revolutionary, and independent path to national and continental development. The socialist policies adopted in African countries included centralized state control of the economy, collectivization of land and agriculture, the nationalization of key sectors of the economy, and public sector–led social development. From Ghana to Algeria, and from Tanzania to Egypt, these socialist policies brought significant economic and social changes with mixed results. The end of the Cold War in the 1990s, and the wave of pro-democracy movements that followed, signaled the end of socialist experimentation in Africa. However, the legacies of socialist economic planning persist across the continent.

Article

Socialist Politics in Lusophone Africa  

Michael G. Panzer

From the 1950s through the 1970s, several liberation movements emerged in Lusophone Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the Cape Verde Islands) that fought for independence from Portugal. One of the most significant ideological frameworks that informed the political orientation of these movements was socialism. In Lusophone Africa, several liberation leaders gravitated toward the economic and political potentialities inherent in the discourses and practices of pan-Africanism and Afro-socialism. The liberation movements in Lusophone Africa that most identified with a socialist paradigm were the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA of Angola); Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO of Mozambique); Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands); and Comité de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe (CLSTP—later, MLSTP—of São Tomé and Príncipe). These groups suffered the burden of Portuguese colonialism and actively fought for independence from colonial rule. Although several other liberation movements also emerged in the Lusophone colonies, these four movements most espoused the hallmarks of Afro-socialism to challenge Portuguese colonial rule. All four liberation movements maintained networks with international actors opposed to colonialism, as well as diplomatic connections with sympathetic socialist and communist nations. Most notable among these bases of support were the Conferência das Organizações Nacionalistas das Colónias Portuguesas (CONCP) and the governments of Tanzania, Egypt, Guinea, the People’s Republic of China, East Germany, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and Cuba.

Article

Nationalism and Decolonization in the Gold Coast  

Paul Nugent

Gold Coast nationalism cannot be approached solely through the prism of decolonization. Debates about what constituted the building blocks of the nation go back to the start of the 20th century, drawing on renditions dating back a further half-century. A fundamental contention was that the coastal populations had entered the Gold Coast Colony through active consent, and that the sovereignty that had been conceded to the British was limited. And it was asserted that while Asante had been conquered, and the Northern Territories had been added through treaty, southern populations had been partners in the process. A second contention was that the Gold Coast nation was constituted by the sum of its traditional parts, which were necessarily of unequal size and complexion. Although the British acted on the basis of a different reading, this version enjoyed hegemonic status. It was repeated by the chiefs themselves but was most clearly articulated by the coastal intelligentsia. In the 1920s, the formation of the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) signaled a shift in which the educated elite across British West Africa combined to demand greater political rights and sought to pursue economic liberation in association with the black population of the Americas. In the 1930s, in the wake of the Great Depression, cocoa farmers were pitted against the European buying firms, and there was a proliferation of youth associations that took up causes such as the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Meanwhile, the injection of ideas derived from international socialism added a more radical inflection to Pan-Africanism. However, this momentum was halted by the outbreak of the war. As the Gold Coast Youth Conference (GCYC) looked to the future in the early 1940s, it abandoned Pan-Africanism and socialism. It continued to emphasize economic freedom but paid more attention to gaining political concessions. After 1947, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) sought to pursue this agenda in alliance with the chiefs. The notion that Kwame Nkrumah, who led the breakaway of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949, effected a radical rupture—even a revolution—is no longer tenable. Like his opponents, Nkrumah placed politics first and merely wanted self-government to come more quickly. After the 1951 election, the CPP governed in close alliance with the British. While it won the elections of 1954 and 1956, it singularly failed to attract mass support at the polls. Finally, while Nkrumah revisited older ideas derived from international socialism and Pan-Africanism, his real focus was on consolidating his grip on power in the Gold Coast—to the exclusion of addressing the concerns of border populations. After 1954, the CPP faced a coalition of parties that advocated a federal solution to the national question. Nkrumah, supported by Governor Arden-Clarke, insisted on a unitary state and toyed with drastically curtailing the powers of the chiefs. In the end the first was achieved, but Nkrumah backed away from a more radical overhaul. The conception of the Ghanaian nation as the sum of its traditional parts, and the assumption that the reach of the state is limited, was therefore further entrenched and remains fundamental to the social contract to this day.

Article

Early Factionalism in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle  

Brooks Marmon

The course of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle was fundamentally shaped by tensions among competing nationalist factions. The impact of this dynamic is typically observed from 1963, when Zimbabwe’s long-serving ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)-Patriotic Front, was founded following a fissure in the liberation movement. Earlier instances of intranationalist competition in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) have generally escaped scholarly attention despite their pioneering contributions to the dynamics of political pluralism in Zimbabwe and the presence of noted political figures amidst their leadership. In 1961, the Zimbabwean nationalist movement experienced its first significant split with the formation of the Zimbabwe National Party (ZNP) which broke away from the National Democratic Party. The ZNP, in turn, experienced its own rupture a year later when the Pan-African Socialist Union (PASU) was formed. Although these were the two only two nationalist challengers of note in the early 1960s prior to ZANU, several other short-lived Black-led political parties emerged at this time in settler-dominated Southern Rhodesia. The ZNP and PASU appealed to rising grievances with the prosecution of the anticolonial liberation struggle. They were also a consequence of the changing geopolitics wrought by Africa’s decolonization. The two parties sought to consolidate their position by appealing to the emerging cohort of African anticolonial leaders across the continent. These efforts induced extensive backlash from the main wing of the nationalist movement, then led by Joshua Nkomo. Both the ZNP and PASU were short-lived, effectively collapsing by 1963. While neither party was able to effectively overcome these intense assaults, their comparatively fleeting existence shaped the political environment by influencing tactics and providing a template for subsequent nationalist contenders seeking greater longevity.

Article

African Feminist Thought  

Amina Mama

African feminist thought refers to the dynamic ideas, reflections, theories and other expressions of intellectual practices by politically radical African women concerned with liberating Africa by focusing women’s liberation, and as such cannot be easily defined or captured. However, the conditions out of which Africa’s feminist movements form, and the intellectual labor that they carry out in the pursuit of women’s rights and freedoms can be explored and discussed. African feminist thought is the potentially limitless product of movements that are themselves constantly in the making, succeeding in changing the conditions of their formation by their very existence. African feminist political thought can be traced to the world’s women’s movements that formed in the context of transnational liberal and emancipatory political discourses of the late 19th and 20th centuries of European empire. Out of these liberal emancipatory reformist, international labor, communist, socialist revolutionary, and Pan-African Diasporic and African nationalist movements were all formed. However, following the flag independence of over fifty nation-states, women who joined the anti-colonial freedom movements have had to pursue further struggles in independent nation-states, because Africa’s new states often hesitated or reverted to conservative patriarchal views when it came to extending freedom and equality to African women. It is as citizens of new nations that 20th century African women have formed independent feminist movements that continue to demand freedom, equality and rights, for example, by seeking freedom of movement, political representation, educational and economic equality, and perhaps most commonly of all, freedom from sex and gender-based violence. Contemporary publications and writings by African feminists are the primary sources consulted here, because of the need to correct the spurious mis-representation of African feminism as “un-African,” a position that hinges on the definition of feminism as exclusively Western. This view is advanced by conservative African men and women who seek the restoration of pre-colonial cultures, as well as in some of the early scholarly literature on the subject. African feminism is a radical proposition: it refers to the liberatory political philosophies, theories, writings, research and cultural production, as well as the organizing work of the transnational community of feminists from Africa. These respond to objective conditions of global systemic inequality that have led African women to resume the struggle for freedom and liberation. African feminists in 2019 identify with earlier generations of women freedom fighters but enunciate visions of a future in which the women of Africa will be afforded human rights and freedoms, on a continent liberated from a global neoliberal capitalist system that continues to marginalize the vast majority of the world’s peoples and exploits natural and human resources to a degree that now threatens planetary survival.