Articles, Transcripts and Legacies
Julius Kambarage Nyerere, “The Dilemma of the Pan-Africanist” - 1966
In 1966 Julius Kambarage Nyerere was President of the Republic of Tanzania. When President Kenneth Kaunda of neighboring Zambia became the first Chancellor of the University of Zambia when it was inaugurated on July 13, 1966 he invited Nyerere, also the Chancellor of the University of East Africa, to attend the ceremony and give an address to the assembled audience. President Nyerere used the occasion to describe the possible conflict between African nationalisms and Pan-Africanism.…Your Excellencies, we have achieved many things in Africa in recent years, and can look back with some pride at the distance we have travelled. But we are a long way from achieving the thing we originally set out to achieve, and I believe there is a danger that we might now voluntarily surrender our greatest dream of all.
For it was as Africans that we dreamed of freedom; and we thought of it for Africa. Our real ambition was African freedom and African government. The fact that we fought are by area was merely a tactical necessity. We organized ourselves into the Convention People’s Party, the Tanganyika African National Union, the United National Independence Party, and so on, simply because each local colonial government had to be dealt with separately.
The question we now have to answer is whether Africa shall maintain this internal separation as we defeat colonialism, or whether our earlier proud boast—’I am an African’—shall become a reality. It is not a reality now. For the truth is that there are now 36 different nationalities in free Africa, one for each of the 36 independent states—to say nothing of the still under colonial or alien domination. Each state is separate from the others: each is a sovereign entity. And this means that each state has a government which is responsible to the people of its own area—and to them only; it must work for their particular well-being or invite chaos within its territory.
Can the vision of Pan-Africanism survive these realities?
I do not believe the answer is easy. Indeed I believe that a real dilemma faces the Pan-Africanist. On the one hand is the fact that Pan-Africanism demands an African consciousness and an African loyalty; on the other hand is the fact that each PanAfriCani5t must also concern himself with the freedom and development of one of the nations of Africa. These things can conflict. Let us be honest and admit that they have already conflicted.
In one sense, of course, the development of part of Africa can only help Africa as a whole. The establishment of a University College in Dar es Salaam, and of a University in Lusaka, means that Africa has two extra centres of higher education for its 250 million people. Every extra hospital means more health facilities for Africa; every extra road, railway or telephone line means that Africa is pulled closer together. And who can doubt but that the railway from Zambia to Tanzania, which we are determined to build, will serve African unity, as well as being to the direct interest of our two countries?
Unfortunately, however, that is not the whole story. Schools and universities are part of an educational system—a national educational system. They promote, and they must promote, a national outlook among the students. Lessons are given on the Government, the geography, and the history, of Tanzania, or of Zambia. Loyalty to the national constitution, to the elected leaders, to the symbols of nationhood—all these things are encouraged by every device.
This is not only inevitable; it is also right. None of the nation states of Africa are ‘natural’ units. Our present boundaries are—as has been said many times—the result of European decisions at the time of the Scramble for Africa. They are senseless; they cut across ethnic groups, often disregard natural physical divisions, and result in many different language groups being encompassed within a state. If the present states are not to disintegrate it is essential that deliberate steps be taken to foster a feeling of nationhood. Otherwise our present multitude of small countries—almost all of us too small to sustain a self- sufficient modern economy—could break up into even smaller units—perhaps based on tribalism. Then a further period of foreign domination would be inevitable. Our recent struggles would be wasted.
Let me repeat; in order to avoid internal conflict and further disunity each nation state is forced to promote its own nationhood. This does not only involve teaching a loyalty to a particular unit, and a particular flag, although that’ is serious enough. It also involves deliberately organizing one part of Africa economically, socially, and constitutionally, to serve the overall interests of the people of that part of Africa, and (in case of conflict) not the interests either of another part, or of Africa as a whole.
Thus, each state of Africa devises for itself a constitution and a political structure which is most appropriate to its own history and its own problems. In Tanzania for example, the overwhelming support for our nationalist movement, and the complete absence of a rival to it, meant that from the beginning of independence we had in effect a one-party state. But the continued existence of a political structure which assumed a two-party state meant that we were unable to harness the Party organization, and the enthusiasm of our people, for the new tasks of fighting poverty. There was also some danger that the Party leaders might get out of touch with the people they led because they were able to shelter their own personal shortcomings under the umbrella of the Party. So we worked out a new constitution which acknowledged the sole existence of one Party, and within that framework ensured the people’s democratic control of their Government. It is a new arrangement and so far it seems to be working well. But—and this is my point—it has marked a further differentiation between the political organization of Tanzania and that of other parts of Africa, including that of our neighbours. And the more the people of the United Republic become involved in this system, and the more the peoples of other African nations become involved in the systems they work out for themselves, the greater becomes the division among us.
In economics too, the same thing applies. Each national government of Africa has to work for the development of its own country, the expansion of its own revenues. It must do this. it cannot be content with the development of Central Africa, or of East Africa; it must work for the development of Zambia, or of Tanzania. In certain circumstances the result is not only a failure to grow together; it can be reduction in unity. For example, each East African country is now moving over to its own currency instead of maintaining one common currency. In the absence of a Federal Government this was necessary if each of the governments was to meet its responsibilities to the people who elected it. But it is undoubtedly a move towards nationalism and away from African super-nationalism. Or again, each African government has to work for domestic industrialization; it can only agree to a common super-national industry being sited in another country if there is a clear and obvious compensating advantage in its own favour in another industry, or in some other developmental factor.
Our nationalisms may compete with one another and grow away from one another in international matters too. All of the states of Africa need to attract capital from outside, and all of us wish to sell more of our goods to countries abroad. So we 36 little states each spend money to send our delegations to the wealthy countries, and our representatives to trade talks. Then each one of these national representatives is forced to prove why investment should be made in his country rather than in another, and forced to offer some advantages to the wealthy country if it will buy his goods rather than those emanating from another part of Africa. And the result? Not only worse terms for each of us in relation to aid or trade, but also a kind of fear of each other—a suspicion that the neighbouring country will take advantage of any weakness we have for its own benefit. And my point is that this neighbouring country will do that; it has little choice in the matter. However much it may sympathize with our difficulty, only in rare cases will this sense of ‘oneness’ be able to transcend the hard necessities of its own economic need.
All that I have been saying so far amounts to this: the present organization of Africa into nation states means inevitably that Africa drifts apart unless definite and deliberate counteracting steps are taken. In order to fulfill its responsibilities to the people it has led to freedom, each nationalist government must develop its own economy, its own organizations and institutions, and its own dominant nationalism. This is true however devoted to the cause of African unity the different national leaders may be. For while it is certainly true that in the long run the whole of Africa, and all its peoples, would be best served by unity, it is equally true, as Lord Keynes is reported to have said, that ‘in the long run we are all dead’. The willingness of the people of Africa to make sacrifices for the future is without question; the development plans of our different nations prove this. But the people of this continent have been suffering the effects of poverty too long. They need to see some immediate attack being made on that poverty. They could not, and would not, agree to stagnation or regression while we pursue the goal of unity.
And the truth is that as each of us develops his own state we raise more and more barriers between ourselves. We entrench differences which we have inherited from the colonial periods and develop new ones. Most of all, we develop a national pride which could easily be inimical to the development of a pride in Africa. This is the dilemma of the Pan-Africanist in Africa now. For although national pride does not automatically preclude the development of pride in Africa, it is very easily twisted to have that effect And certainly it will be deliberately bolstered by those who are anxious to keep Africa weak by her division, or those anxious to keep Africa divided because they would rather be important people in a small state than less important people in a bigger one. Kenyans and Zambians will be told—in- deed, are already being told !—that Tanzania is communist and under Chinese control, or that it is so weak that it is the unwilling and unwitting base for Chinese subversion. Tanzanians, on the other hand, are told that Kenya is under American control and Zambia hostile to it because of its policy on Rhodesia. And so on. Everything will be done and said which can sow suspicion and disunity between us until finally our people, and our leaders, say—’Let us carry on alone, let us forget this mirage of unity and freedom for the whole of Africa’. And then, in 150 years’ time, Africa will be where Latin America is now, instead of having the strength and economic well-being which is enjoyed by the United States of America.
But there is another factor which is inimical to an advance to Pan-Africanism through, and after, the development of our separate nationalisms. For good reasons or bad, some African countries are, and will be, wealthier and more powerful than others. It may be the accident of minerals existing in one place and not another, it may be a history of peaceful development in one country and internal divisions and difficulties in another. It may simply be that some of our African states are of a size to become economically viable, while others will never sustain more than a low level of existence. But the net result will be that one state will be more successful than another. And then who makes the move towards unity? If it is the bigger and wealthier, there will be talk of a new imperialism, an attempt to ‘take over’ the small state. If it is the small nation, there will be talk of betrayal and lack of patriotism. Which of those leaders will then be able to overcome his inhibitions enough even to mention the idea of union? Which of them could risk rebuff? The more genuine their separate desire for real unity on the basis of human equality, the more difficult it is for either of them to make the move.
Yet if to develop our separate nations is to invite the slow dying of our dream of unity, what is the alternative?
Clearly we must first accept the facts which I have outlined. It is no part of transforming dream into reality to pretend that things are not what they are. Instead we must use our present situation to serve us and achieve our purposes. We must face up to the dangers which exist, and overcome them by one means or another.
It is not impossible to achieve African unity through nationalism, just as it was not impossible for various tribal associations or tribally based parties to merge themselves into one nationalist movement. It is difficult, but it can be done if the determination is there. The first thing for Africa, therefore, is to determine that it shall be done. But platitudes are not enough; signatures to the Charter of the Organization of African Unity are not enough. Both these things help, because they maintain the atmosphere and the institutions of unity. But they must be combined with a realization that unity will be difficult to achieve, and difficult to maintain, and that it will demand sacrifices both from nations and from individuals. To talk of unity as though it would be a panacea of all ills is to walk naked into a den of hungry lions. In its early stages unity brings difficulties—probably more than it disposes of. It is in the longer term, after fifteen or twenty years, that its overwhelming benefits can begin to be felt. Determination that unity shall come must start with a psychological acceptance of its requirements. The African nations, and particularly the African leaders, must be loyal t each other. It is inevitable that some leaders will have a personal liking and admiration for particular other leaders; it is equal inevitable that they will dislike, and perhaps disapprove others. I do not imagine that all my Regional Con in Tanzania like and admire each other—I hope they do, but I would not guarantee it! But however much they may argue in private, they do not attack each other in public. They - think a particular individual has invited trouble, but if it coma they do not rejoice. They rally round to try and minimize the effect of that trouble on the nation. And African leaders do likewise for Africa It is more difficult in that we do n have one common superior body, but it can still be done.
This does not mean that there could be, or indeed that there should be, identical internal or external policies for all Africa states. While we are separate we can take account of differences circumstances in different parts of Africa. Take, for example differences which exist between some of the policies of Tanzania and Zambia. Both our Governments are concerned to secure control of the national economy and to bend it to serve the masses. But the techniques which are appropriate in Tanzania where we start almost from scratch, with no inherited industry or mining—would not be right for Zambia, which has to maintain its copper output and use the industry in the transformation of the economy.
Then there is also the question of Rhodesia, and the fact that Tanzania, but not Zambia, has broken diplomatic relations with Britain in the course of this dispute. Naturally, some our opponents have tried to suggest that this reveals deep-seated differences between the TANU and the UNIP Governments such a belief by either of us would damage Africa’s cause to an incalculable extent. But it is not true, and fortunately both of us know that it is not true. Both of our Governments have one purpose and are equally dedicated to it. That purpose is the ending of the illegal Smith regime and its replacement by majority rule and then independence for Zimbabwe. But Zambia is a landlocked country with an inherited pattern of trade and communications which made it impossible for her immediately to impose a complete boycott of Rhodesian goods. Tanzania has ports, communications with the north, and never in fact had much trade with Rhodesia. Do such different conditions call for the same reactions to events in Southern Rhodesia? It would be absurd either for Zambia to act as Tanzania does, or for Tanzania to act automatically as Zambia does. What must happen instead is that our two countries must work together, in the closest co-operation and understanding. And in particular Tanzania has a responsibility to do whatever is humanly possible to help Zambia free itself from these inherited chains to the South. Perhaps I could use this opportunity to say this is being done, and will be done, with the wholehearted support of the whole Tanzania people.
But it is not enough for African states to co-operate in dealing with particular problems. We must deliberately move to unity. To the fullest extent possible we must co-operate in our economic development, our trade, and our economic institutions. We must do this, despite our separate sovereignties, although we have to recognize that there is a limit to the possibilities of economic integration without political union. When that point comes, then we shall either have to stand still—and thus damage our real hopes for Africa—or we shall have to take the plunge into a merger of our international sovereignties.
In some parts of Africa political union will be possible even before there has been great economic integration. It is my firm belief that African states should make such opportunities, or seize them whenever they occur of themselves. The difficulties will remain; Acts of Union do not undo decades or centuries of administrative and political separation. But a government which is responsible to the whole area can deal with difficulties, and elements of separatism, with fairness to all at the same time as it develops new unifying factors. The differences not disappear if they are left alone; as I have said the’ will grow. Thus, for example, it is true that the two component parts of the United Republic of Tanzania are not yet fully integrated. But—and this is the point—there is no question about their being much more integrated than they would have been had two separate Governments merely tried to co-operate Neither is there any doubt about the benefit which all our people are already feeling as a result of this Union. Certainly no one in Tanzania has any doubts upon this subject. We are now one whole; and as we grow we are growing together.
Political union of neighbours is not, however, always an immediate or possible answer. And economic co-operation is often limited in the short term by lack of communications or other factors. Yet we can still decide whether to go forward to unity or backward to separation. For example, it is entirely Africa’s decision whether or not there shall be internal African national disputes. We, the separate states, may be misled about events elsewhere, or we may feel provoked. But it is we who decide what to do in such circumstances. It is Africa which will decide whether to make unclear boundaries an occasion of disunity, or whether they will be settled by conciliation or by law. It is Africa which will decide whether to abandon the only possible base for national boundaries—that is the colonial boundaries— and allow itself to become the plaything of international politics And in the same way Africa itself can, if it wishes, choose to follow a policy of ‘good neighbourliness’, and show in actions that the talk of African unity is meaningful.
Talk of co-operation between states, and of good neighbourliness, with resort to courts or arbitration in case of disputes does not sound very exciting. The heart leaps at the words ‘Union Government’, and not at these other things which demand patience, self-discipline, and dogged hard work. But if the one thing is impossible—and it is impossible while all African states are unready to surrender their sovereignty to a new body—then this is the only way in which we can move forward instead of backward. It was in recognition of these facts that the Organization of African Unity in 1963 stated its first purpose to be ‘to promote the unity and solidarity of the African States’. This was a realistic acceptance of both the facts and the goal. But we must recognize that the statement will not of itself bring the result we need. Only if the OAU is deliberately supported, and strengthened, and only if the spirit of its Charter is honoured in positive action will we begin the long road forward.
And it may be a long road; how long will be settled by our courage and determination. Certainly in the last few years there have been some important advances towards greater cooperation in Africa. But there have also been many setbacks— some of which threaten the very existence of the OAU. And the saddest, and most dangerous of all, is the new tendency to treat the OAU, and all talk of Pan-Africanism, as matters of form—motions which have to be gone through while the serious business of building up states is continued. This would be fatal to Africa. For only through unity will Africa be able to achieve its potential and fulfill its proper destiny.
Mr. Chancellor, those who would like to advocate complete concentration on national interests, and those who would demand the sacrifice of all national interests to the cause of African freedom and unity, both have an easy road to tread. The one can appeal to ‘realism’ and ‘pragmatism’, and can appear to be devoted to the practical interests of the people. The other can appeal to the hearts of men, and can appear courageous, self-sacrificing, and revolutionary. But both would lead Africa to disaster—the one to early stagnation and alien economic domination, and the other to chaos and disintegration of the units already existing. No; we must undertake a new and hard way forward and upward. We must avoid the road which goes round the mountain range and leads into the swamp lands; we must avoid also the excitement of the climb up the rock-face, for that cannot be negotiated with the load we must carry. Instead, our task is to cut a road up the side of the mountain to the highlands, and cut it gently enough for all our people to travel, even if with difficulty and help over the steep parts. In more realistic language—perhaps more appropriate to the task ahead—we must keep in front of us at all times the goal of unity; we must recognize the danger that without positive action we shall be diverted from it; and we must take that positive action at every possible point. For African unity does not have to be a dream; it can be a vision which inspires us. Whether that is so depends upon us.
Mr. Chancellor, I have not spoken of this dilemma facing the Pan-Africanist without regard to the occasion. I have deliberately chosen this subject because I believe that the members of this university, and of other universities in Africa, have a responsibility in this matter. We present leaders of Africa are grappling with serious and urgent problems within our own states; and we have to deal with dangers from outside. The time available to us for serious thinking about the way forward to Pan-Africanism is limited in the extreme—and when we take steps in this direction we are always assailed for ‘wasting money on conferences’, or being ‘unrealistic’ in our determination to build roads or railways to link our nations. Who is to keep us active in the struggle to convert nationalism to Pan-Africanism if it is not the staffs and students of our universities? Who is it who will have the time and ability to think out the practical problems of achieving this goal of unification if it is not those who have an opportunity to think and learn without direct responsibility for day-to-day affairs?
And cannot the universities themselves move in this direction? Each of them has to serve the needs of its own nation, its own area. But has it not also to serve Africa? Why cannot we exchange students—have Tanzanians getting their degree in Zambia as Zambians get theirs in Tanzania? Why cannot we share expertise on particular subjects, and perhaps share certain services? Why cannot we do other things which link our intellectual life together indissolubly? These are not things only for Governments to work out. Let the universities put proposals before our Governments and then demand from politicians a reasoned answer on the basis of African unity if we do not agree! ...
Sources: J. Ayo Langley, Ideologies of Liberation in Black Africa, 1856-1970 (London: Rex Collings, 1979).
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"We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant."
Julius Kambarage Nyerere, as quoted in David Lamb's The Africans, New York 1985.
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