Positive Action Conference For Peace And Security In Africa
Accra, April 7, 1960
It is a pleasant duty, on behalf of the people of Ghana, to welcome here today our distinguished guests who have come from all over this vast but turbulent continent of ours to confer together in this conference on Positive Action for Peace and Security in Africa. We welcome also the many fraternal delegates and observers who have come to join us in our deliberations at this historic conference.
Once again, it has fallen to me to play host to this gathering of dedicated sons of Africa, and, in welcoming you, fellow Africans, I would like to express my sincere appreciation of the promptness with which our invitations to this emergency conference was accepted.
As you are all no doubt aware, the beginning of the year 1960 has seen the climax of ruthless and concerted outrages on the peace-loving people of our continent. The explosion of an atomic device in the Sahara by the French Government and the wanton massacre just over a fortnight ago in the Union of South Africa of our brothers and sisters who were engaged in peaceful demonstrations against humiliating and repulsive laws of the South African Government, are two eloquent events in this climax, a climax which is a sign post to the beginning of the end of foreign supremacy and domination in Africa.
In spite of several protests to General De Gaulle by the whole African continent and the United Nations General Assembly against exploding an atomic bomb on our continent, the French Government arrogantly exploded this nuclear device on our soil. As a result of this callous and inhuman attitude, the Government of Ghana took immediate action by freezing the assets of French firms in Ghana. Other African leaders and Governments, indignant at this outrage, took other decisive measures against the French Government. I hope our reactions and protests will prevent the Government of France from exploding further atomic bombs on our continent.
Faced with this threat, the Government of Ghana, in consultation with other independent African states, have invited you to this conference; first, to discuss and plan future action to prevent the further use of African soil as a testing ground for nuclear weapons; secondly, to alert the people of Africa against the new forms of colonialism and its attempt to balkanise the continent and so prevent African unity. This conference is called, therefore, to plan concerted positive action for peace and security in Africa.
Fellow Africans, you all know that foreign domination in Africa effectively disintegrated the personality of the African people for centuries during which colonialism held sway over our beloved continent, colonialism imposed on the mind of Africans the idea that their own kith and kin in other parts of Africa were aliens and had little, if anything, in common with Africans elsewhere. It was in the interests of the colonial and settler rulers to perpetuate the subjection of us, the indigenous people, by pursuing a policy not only of "divide and rule," but also of artificial territorial division of Africa. It played upon our tribalistic instincts. It sowed seeds of dissension in order to promote disunity among us.
It is therefore with great pride and happiness that we note how resurgent Africa is witnessing today what is by no means a humble beginning of the process of re-integration of the African personality, and forging closer and stronger bonds of unity which are bound to bring us to our ultimate goal: the attainment of a union of African states and republics which, to my mind, is the only solution to the problems that face us in Africa today.
Fellow Africans and friends: there are two threatening swords of Damocles hanging over our continent, and we must remove them. These are nuclear tests in the Sahara by the French Government and the apartheid policy of the Government of the Union of South Africa.
It would be a great mistake to imagine that the achievement of political independence by certain areas in Africa would automatically mean the end of the struggle. It is merely the beginning of the end of the struggle. We must watch out for and expose the various forms of the new imperialism with which we, are threatened. Among these, we must mention nuclear imperialism that dawned upon Africa on a tragic day last February when the French Government exploded an atomic bomb on our soil. Winds carried the poisonous debris from the explosion to various parts of Africa, including Ghana, and thus confounded the confident forecasts by so-called meteorological experts of France who claimed that there was no wind that could carry radio-active debris more than 700 miles from the site of the explosion. From, the point of view of genetics these atomic tests are extremely bad and can have the most disastrous effects.
The French test last February resulted in a very substantial increase in radio- activity. This was proved by British and Canadian scientists who were manning our monitoring stations here in Ghana. Their observations were confirmed by a French scientist who was invited by us to Ghana to observe things for himself.
Fellow Africans: on this matter of the evil effects of atomic tests, we refuse to allow anyone to throw dust in our eyes. I must, emphasise that five eminent physicists — three Japanese, one American and one French, two of them Noble-Prize winners — have announced that more than one million people will die as a result of such explosions. They stated also, among other things, that "elementary calculation" showed that the fall-out from each "superbonds" provoked the birth of fifteen thousand abnormal children. How can we, in the face of these facts, keep quiet? We must all with one voice vehemently protest against the holding of any more nuclear tests in the Sahara.
In spite of world protests and condemnation of its first test, the Government of France has actually carried out its intention by exploding the second bomb in the Sahara. This is an act of stubborn and inhuman defiance that not only challenges the very conscience of mankind, but also undermines the United Nations.
The action of the French Government in defying world considered opinion and exploding these atomic bombs becomes more heinous when it is considered that at the present moment, the three leading world powers of atomic strength themselves, conscious of the grave dangers to human life of these tests, are leaving no stone unturned to arrive at an agreement to stop all tests and ultimately to abolish all nuclear weapons.
The Government of Ghana, as I have said, has already taken action by freezing all French assets until the extent of the damage to the life and health of her people becomes known. Since the explosion of the second bomb, she has also recalled her Ambassador to France. But a critical situation such as this calls for concerted action and it will: be for the committees of this conference to discuss what action can be taken to prevent further nuclear outrages in Africa. Another committee will discuss positive directive action to prevent further tests.
Last December and January, an international team consisting of representatives from Ghana and other parts of Africa, as well as members from Britain, the United States and even from France itself, attempted to enter the testing site at Reggan in the Sahara. They left Ghana under the leadership of the Reverend Michael Scott, but were prevented from proceeding beyond the Upper Volta border by armed guards under the direction and control of French authorities. In order to make further attempts impossible, their vehicles and equipment were seized and have been kept by the French authorities up to now. Although they did not reach Reggan, they aroused many people to the dangers of nuclear imperialism. The team brought home to us the fact that the victims of these bombs are not less human just because they would probably never be known.
Positive action has already achieved remarkable success in the liberation struggle of our continent and I feel sure that it can further save us from the perils of this atomic arrogance. lf the direct action that was carried out by the international protest team were to be repeated on a mass scale, or simultaneously from various parts of Africa, the result could be as powerful and as successful as Gandhi’s historic Salt March. We salute Mahatma Gandhi and we remember in tribute to him, that it was in South Africa that non-violence and non-co-operation was first practised in the struggle against the vicious race discrimination that still plagues that unhappy country. But now positive action with non-violence, as advocated by us, has found expression in South Africa in the defiance of the oppressive pass laws. This defiance continues in spite of the murder of unarmed men, women and children by the South African Government. We are sure that the will of the majority will ultimately prevail, for no government can continue to impose its rule in the face of the conscious defiance of the overwhelming masses of its people. There is no force, however impregnable, that: a united and determined people cannot overcome.
Future positive direction action against French nuclear tests might, for instance, take the form of a mass non-violent attempt to proceed towards the testing area. It would not matter if not a single person ever reached the site, for the effect of hundreds of people from every corner of Africa and from outside it crossing the artificial barriers that divide Africa to risk imprisonment and arrest would be a protest that the people of France, with the exception of the De Gaulle Government, and the world could not ignore. Let us remember that the poisonous fall-out did not, and never will respect the arbitrary and artificial divisions forged by colonialism across our beloved continent.
In my view, therefore, this conference ought to consider the setting up of a training centre where volunteers would learn the essential disciplines of concerted positive action. Such an establishment might also become the centre for such needed research into the philosophy and technique of positive action which, in the age of nuclear madness and apartheid arrogance, offers the greatest single hope for peace, security and brotherhood among mankind.
General De Gaulle is reported to have said recently that while other countries have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the whole world, France must also have nuclear weapons with which to defend herself I would say here, and no doubt you all join me, that Africa is not interested in such "defence" which means no more than the ability to share in the honour of destroying mankind. We in Africa wish to live and develop. We are not treeing ourselves from centuries of imperialism and colonialism only to be maimed and destroyed by nuclear weapons. We do not threaten anyone and we renounce the foul weapons that threaten the very existence of life on this planet. Rather, we put our trust in the awakening conscience of mankind which rejects this primitive barbarism, and believe firmly in positive non-violent action.
But while we consider the new forms of imperialism and colonialism, let us not forget its crude blatant forms that wreck havoc in parts of our continent such as Algeria, Angola, Kenya, Ruanda Urundi, Nyasaland and in South Africa. The passive sympathy of the African masses must be converted into active participation in the struggle for the total emancipation of Africa. Africa is too sacred a land to harbour hypocrites. Sooner or later, but sooner rather than later, our continent will be purged of all forms of colonialism, for the fire of intense nationalism is blazing all over Africa and burning to ashes the last remnants of colonialism. The civilised world stands aghast at the brutal massacre of unarmed Africans in South Africa. Yet this wanton outrage of the Government of South Africa is hardly more terrible than the explosion of French atomic bombs in the Sahara.
It is ironical to think that the rulers of South Africa call themselves Christians. If Christ were to appear in South Africa today, he would be crucified by them if he dared to oppose the brutal laws of racial segregation. Apartheid and nuclear weapons must shake the conscience of the Christian world. But what are the churches of the world doing about these very contradictions of Christianity?
Fellow Africans: it is a misconceived view that Africans are incapable of shouldering responsibility for their own affairs and that it is in the African’s own interest that European tutelage should continue. In the light of such artificial doubts and antiquated ideas about Africa and her people, the need for a dispassionate presentation of Africa’s case for complete freedom now cannot be over-emphasised.
The problem of peace and security on this our beloved continent of Africa, is not an academic question. Even while we deliberate today, men, women and children die daily as a result of military action or police massacre. The Algerian refugees are an ever present reminder of this grim tragedy. At the southern end of the continent, the defenders of apartheid, the worst form of racial arrogance, have not only boasted openly of the new military equipment they are assembling to intimidate Africans who resort to non-violent positive action against that iniquitous system, but they have recently unleashed the murderous fire of saracen tanks upon them, an action which has hit the conscience of the world. In Eastern and Central Africa, our heroic leaders and thousands of our freedom fighters suffer detention and banishment for daring to ask to be free.
Fellow Africans: the violence and threats of violence of the present day are but the continuation of a pattern which has been developing during the past ten years with an intensity both cumulative and alarming. The memories of the tragedy of Sakiet, and of the relentless harassment from ground and sky of the people of Kenya, are still vivid in our memory.
At this juncture, Comrades, I would like to ask you to stand up and observe two minutes silence for all those Africans who have been the victims of colonial and racial brutality.
We who are gathered here today wish to see all violent conflicts stopped; we wish to secure freedom and ensure security in Africa. In order to do so, we must mobilise all of the forces of peace for non-violent positive action in protest against these outrages, and for making the social and political changes which are necessary to prevent future conflicts. This is the sacred task to which all of us are devoted, and the sublime objective to which every true lover of Africa must be dedicated.
I have often stressed the fact that Africa is not an extension of Europe or of any other continent, and that the attempts to balkanise her is inimical to African unity and progress. We should not be so pre-occupied with the urgent problems of political independence as to overlook a scarcely less vital sphere the economic sphere. Yet it is here, more than anywhere else that we must look for the scheming of a politically frustrated colonialism. On the other hand, it is in the economic field also that we find the key to fruitful cooperation with other nations — at a functional level in the first instance but leading to full political as well as economic unity that could be built up over wide regions, to extend finally throughout the length and breadth of our beloved continent.
A striking instance of the new imperialism to which I referred earlier, is the inclusion of certain parts of Africa in common market and trade preference areas set up by industrial Europe, for example, the inclusion of Congo and the French Community states in the European Common Market. The main benefit of this is reaped not by the people of these parts of Africa, who cannot afford the expensive products of industrial Europe, but by European industry which is assured of cheap; tariff free raw material. Furthermore, the arrangement prevents the building up of industry in Africa which, to survive, needs protection in the early years of its growth from the unequal competition of the industrialised nations.
But Africa must be developed industrially, for her own sake and ultimately for the sake of a healthy world economy. This can only happen, if the artificial boundaries that divide her are broken down so as to provide for viable economic units, and ultimately a single African unit. This means an African common market, a common currency area and the development of communications of all kinds to allow the free flow of goods and services. International capital could be attracted to such viable economic areas, but it would not be attracted to a divided and balkanised Africa, with each small region engaged in senseless and suicidal economic competition with its neighbours. This international capital would more than offset any loss of capital from those who want to invest in Africa only when they can see quick and immediate profit in it for themselves, and who fear the industrial competition of a development Africa.
I believe that independent African States should be able, even before actual political union takes place, to enter into an African treaty organisation whereby experts can work out details of the measures and the fields in which co-operation can take place immediately, and the elimination of waste through harmful competition can be realised first, in the economic and social fields and later in others.
These measures cannot be put into force all at once. But a start could and should be made by the development, for instance, of better road and telegraphic communications between neighbouring African states and the setting up among the independent states of a common market in industrial products. This last may involve a little loss of revenue to any state but would certainly set the pattern for the whole future industrial development of Africa.
These questions may perhaps be raised among the matters to be discussed at the meeting of Heads of Independent States at Addis Ababa next June. The technical details would be for expert commissions to work out. It seems desirable, however, that the occasion of this meeting of Government representatives; political parties and other organisations throughout Africa, should not be allowed to pass without preliminary discussions on issues that so vitally affect the future of our continent. It is hoped that the discussions at this conference, by underlining the economic needs and problems that we face, will pave the way to future cooperation.
The cardinal principle upon which the peace and security of this continent depends, is the firm insistence that Africa is not an extension of Europe or of any other continent. A corollary of this principle is the resolution that, Africa is not going to become a cockpit of the cold war, or a marshalling ground for attack on either West or East, nor is it going to be an arena for fighting out the East-West conflict. In this particular sense, we face neither east nor west, we face forward.
For the last ten years, the tone of international politics has been set by the cold war. We understand the fears, on both sides that have led to this tragic polarisation, but Africans have no intention of becoming a part of it. We have seen what happens when small nations become involved in it. We have also seen, on the other hand, what can happen when the spirit of Bandung prevails and the powers who stand outside this conflict use their good offices as conciliators and mediators through the United Nations, as in the stopping of the Korean War.
That is the role which we Africans wish to play. I refuse to accept that dictum that, if you are not for me you are against me. Our slogan is "positive neutrality." This is our contribution to international peace and world progress. It is in this context that military pacts and defence agreements between African states and former colonial powers and non-African nations are ultimately inimical to the interests of the continent as a whole. Since there is no suggestion that any African state has aggressive intentions, such pacts and agreements can only draw the states concerned into the cold war strategy of the bigger powers. Furthermore, they introduce one more obstacle in the way of harmonising our policies towards the achievement of African unity.
There can be no peace or security in Africa without political freedom. So long as one inch of African soil remains under colonial rule, there will be strife and conflict. So long as any group on this continent denies the principle of one-man-one-vote, and uses its power to maintain its privilege, there will be insecurity for the oppressors and constant resentment and revolt on the part of the oppressed of ultimate disaster for them. These are the elementary facts of life in Africa today. No man willed this situation and no man can stem the tide or divert the "winds of change." We decry violence and deplore it. We are devoted to nonviolent positive action. Experience has shown that when change is too long delayed or stubbornly resisted, violence will erupt here and there — not because men planned it and willed it — but because the accumulated grievances of the past erupt with volcanic fury.
It is in this light that we must view these fortunately rare, but, no less tragic episodes which have confronted us — the Mau Mau war in Kenya, the costly war in Algeria, events in the Cameroons and occasional riots here and there. The defenders of colonialism and settler domination should have eyes to see and ears to hear. Unless they respond to the pressures of non-violent petition and protest, they will ultimately reap a harvest of violence that no one wants. Whereas in Algeria, the bloody struggle still proceeds, it would be the essence of wisdom on the part of those who defend the privileges of colonial rule to negotiate a cease-fire now, rather than to prolong a conflict which, should they even win, will in the long run raise its head again. Peace in Algeria must take first priority in the consolidation of peace and in laying the foundations of security.
Our emphasis upon Africa bespeak neither chauvinism nor isolationism. We who pioneered the development of Pan Africanism have done so with a vision. History has described to us the tragedies which have beset every other continent upon this planet the international wars, the rebellious and revolutions. We must be determined that this continent of ours shall not repeat that dismal history. The continent of Africa has been drenched with blood in the past, it has been raided for slaves, it has been partitioned and exploited and looted. Precisely because it has had this kind of past, it is determined not to have that kind of future. If we succeed, and succeed we must, the whole of mankind —not Africa alone will reap immense benefits. Men with great foresight and knowledge all agree that the future of the world will be decided in Africa.
We welcome men of goodwill everywhere to join us, irrespective of their race, religion or nationality. When I speak of Africa for Africans, this should be interpreted in the light of my emphatic declaration that I do not believe in racialism and colonialism. The concept "Africa for Africans" does not mean that other races are excluded from it. No. It only means that Africans, who naturally are in the majority in Africa, shall and must govern themselves in their own countries. The fight is for the future of humanity, and it is a most important fight.
Fellow Africans: Africa is matching forward to freedom and no power on earth can halt her now. Our salvation and strength and our only way out of these ravages in Africa, lies in political union, and those who doubt the feasibility of such a union appeal to have forgotten their history lesson too soon. The vastness of Russia and all the towering obstacles of her beginning did not prevent that country from building its greatness in unity by the union of eighteen different republics. The sprawling spread of America and her origin colonial difficulties have not stopped that country from building a union of forty-nine states. If these countries can do this, why cannot Africa? I repeat that nothing but our own groundless fear and doubts can stop us from building a real practical politic union. But remember, "Our fears are traitors and make us lose what we might often achieve by fearing to attempt.
If as African territories emerge into independence, they declare their intention to form a union among themselves, and if countries like Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, for instance, as well as others, come together in an effective political union in the West for a start, it is not difficult to imagine the impact that such an African union would create on the world. Then consider the weight of our influence, if later our brothers of the East throw in their lot into the union, and greater still, the influence if our brothers of the North throw in their lot too.
This is not a mere dream. This is an objective worthy and capable of achievement and I for one am prepared to serve under any African leader who is able to offer the proper guidance in this great issue of our time. So dear is this African unity to our hearts, that in our proposed republican constitution a definite provision has been incorporated by a concrete proposal that Ghana’s sovereignty should be surrendered in whole or in part as a contribution towards the attainment of the great objective. Fellow Africans: permit me the liberty of stating in categorical terms that the greatness of this objective so transcends all other purposes and its sublimity is so profound, that it behoves each and everyone in the leadership of this struggle to endeavour to subdue his own little interests, his individual pride and ego and other petty considerations which merely serve to create needless obstacles in our path. The overriding importance of African unity demands the sacrifice of all personal, tribal and regional objectives and considerations.
In my view, conferences, protests and petitions may have their usefulness, but such usefulness is undoubtedly limited. The only answer to the several difficulties facing our continent is actual union of our various states and territories. If we cannot make an effort in this direction, we might as well begin to throw up our hands in despair and forget about Africa. But dare we do so?
l firmly believe without the possibility of contradiction that the only and the best solution to our problem is union - real political union which will provide the necessary complement required to augment the efforts of other people for the consolidation of unity and peace in the world.
Finally we, by our concerted non-violent positive action, can help to ensure that this march forward is a swift and peaceful one and the formulation of the necessary plans to effect this must be the responsibility of this conference. I thank all of you for your devotion, which your presence here indicates, to this great cause, and wish for God’s guidance and success in our deliberation.