From: Chambi Chachage
Subject: Nyerere vs Nkrumah on Pan-Africanism
The following quotations are extracted from an excerpt from the discussions between Bill Sutherland (BS) na Julius K. Nyerere (JKN) that took place sometime in the 1990s – they can be accessed from a book entitled ‘Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African Insight on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation in Africa’ that was/is edited by Bill Sutherland & Matt Meyer and published by Africa World Press, Inc of Asmara, Eritrea in 2000:
JKN: … My differences with Kwame were that Kwame thought there was somehow a shortcut, and I was saying that there was no shortcut. This is what we have inherited, and we’ll have to proceed within the limitations that that inheritance has imposed on us. Kwame thought that somehow you could say, “Let there be a United States of Africa” and it would happen. I kept saying , “Kwame, it’s a slow process.” He had tremendous contempt for a large number of leaders of Africa and I said, “Fine, but they are there. What are you going to do with them? They don’t believe as you do – as you and I do – in the need for the unity of Africa. BUT WHAT DO YOU DO? THEY ARE THERE, AND WE HAVE TO PROCEED ALONG WITH EVERYBODY!” And I said to him in so many words that we’re not going to have an African Napoleon, who is going to conquer the continent and put it under one flag. It is not possible. At the OAU conference in 1963, I was actually trying to defend Kwame. I was the last to speak and Kwame had said this charter has not gone far enough because he thought he would leave Addis with a United States of Africa. I told him that this was absurd; that it can’t happen. This is what we have been able to achieve. No builder, after putting the foundation down, complains that the building is not yet finished. You have to go on building and building until you finish; but he was impatient because he saw the stupidity of the others.
BS: …You said that you and Nkrumah had one objective, but you differed on how to achieve it. When you thought about a united Africa, did you think that the present nation-states would emerge?
JKN: When I clashed with Kwame, it was when we were very close to a federation of East African states and Kwame was completely opposed to the idea. He said that regionalization – that’s what he called it – was Balkanization on a larger scale. I said “Look, Kwame, this is absurd.” I thought that historically there were grounds for different groupings of countries trying to come together. West Africans at one time -under the British – had a common currency. Basically, the French had two huge colonies – French Equatorial Africa and French West Africa. I thought it was possible to move towards unity by putting those areas together. But even that didn’t happen. I thought that these groups could come together naturally, within the OAU. Then there could be propaganda, an incentive, and the push for greater unity. Kwame thought that we all could just sit down together and come out as a United States of Africa. I think that Kwame was perhaps over-influenced by the way the US and the Soviet Union came together. You know the way the thirteen colonies came together, drafted a charter, and then declared the United States of America? I never thought it would work this way, because these African countries had become independent and the mistake was evident in East Africa. If we wanted to come together, we should have come together before independence, because if you wait until after independence it cannot be done. With four presidents, four flags, four national anthems, four seats at the UN – ahh! It’s extremely difficult!
BS: Didn’t you note, about the preamble of the OAU, that it says “We the heads of state” – it doesn’t even say “We, the People?”
JKN: No, what I said was that the UN Charter has its better: it says “We the People of the world,” whereas the OAU Charter says “We the heads of state.”.
BS: Did you not, at a certain time, just shake your head and say that there must be a devil in Africa?
JKN: I said that there is a devil in Africa. I went to Addis and it was an incredible meeting. Here is this continent of young nations coming from colonialism and so forth and the debate is awful, and really what provoked me was the French-speaking countries, you know. With all their French culture, training in rationalization – you can’t really argue with those fellows. And I discovered some of these fellows have their visas – THEIR VISAS – signed by the French ambassadors in their own countries! And I said, “Oh, but I thought you were fighting for freedom?” I had given up PAFMECA [Pan-African Movement of East and Central Africa]. PAFMECA was 1962, and in ’63 the North African and the West African countries had divided themselves between the Casablanca group and the Monrovia group, the radicals and conservatives – really absurd! So I welcomed the idea that we could all be together, rather than have a continent divided along ideological lines. After the OAU was established in 1963, I allowed PAFMECA to die out. I’m still quietly complaining, because PAFMECA was a movement of people. It was an organization of the liberation movements, and therefore could be a movement of people. “We the heads of state!”. When I hear the African heads of state talking like a bunch of colonials sent by France, of course I get livid! That’s why I said there is a devil in Africa, and that devil is still around. We are still fighting that blessed devil!
The choices are still the same today: Nyerere’s evolutionary way or Nkrumah’s revolutionary way?