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About this book

Post-colonial South Asia and Africa invite comparison: along with their political boundaries, they inherited from colonial regimes administrative languages, a cluster of sovereign state institutions and modern economic nuclei. When they became independent, South Asian and African states were - for all their diversity - thrust into a common position in the international system, and embarked on a common history as 'emergent', 'non-aligned', 'developing nations'. This is the first book to offer a single-volume comparative history of postcolonial South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in the first generation since independence.

South Asia and Africa After Independence draws together the political and economic history of these two regions, assessing the colonial impact, establishing breaks and continuities, and highlighting their diversity and interplay. Waites sets out a framework for analysing the first generation of post-colonial history, offering an interpretation of 'post-colonialism' as a historical phenomenon, and provocatively challenging us to re-think this term in relation to South Asian and African history. This book is an important reference for the study of global, world, African and South Asian history.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Post-colonialism in Historical Perspective

Abstract
In 1945, roughly 30 per cent of humanity or over 700 million people lived under European colonial rule; 20 years later the only substantial colonial territories were Portuguese Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with a combined population of around 22 million — and their days were numbered. This great transformation reshaped the international order: in South Asia, which provides one geographic focus for this book, a sub-continental colonial empire was partitioned in 1947 into the sovereign states of India and Pakistan. In sub-Saharan Africa, my second geographic focus, individual colonies were reconstituted as sovereign states: seventeen became independent in 1960, and a further eight in 1961–4. (Henceforth, it will be referred to simply as ‘Africa’.) Since power was transferred to politicians enjoying an electoral mandate, it was an extraordinary ‘wave’ of democratisation, though soon followed by a flurry of coups and constitutional revisions that installed one-party regimes or military governments. (Regrettably, South East Asia — the third great region of transformation — has been excluded from this study for want of space.) By transmitting the principle of territorial sovereignty into the contemporary world, the colonial experience left a lasting imprint, as is plainly evident from the political map of Africa where the correspondence between formerly colonial and now national territories is near perfect.
Bernard Waites

1. Post-colonial Trajectories in South Asia

Abstract
India and Pakistan present a paradox for students of post-colonial history: they have a common colonial heritage but have followed different political trajectories since gaining independence on 15 August 1947. India was constituted as a secular state, Pakistan as a state for Muslims. In India, politics have observed democratic norms and power is transferred through competitive elections. The great exception was a period of emergency rule under Indira Gandhi in 1975–7, but even that was ended by her rash decision to call a general election. Pakistan, for most of its existence, has been governed by authoritarian regimes in which the military have played a dominant role; on four occasions army commanders have overthrown civilian governments. The Indian civil authorities have kept the military in strict subordination; senior military officers have never held ministerial office in New Delhi. India championed non-alignment in the Cold War; Pakistan allied with the USA. Of course, these are bald statements which require immediate qualification: Pakistan’s founders were liberal secularists for whom Islam was a spiritual and moral framework, not a blueprint for modern jurisprudence. The Islamisation of the Penal Code, financial services and other civil society institutions was not attempted until the regime of General Zia ul-Haq (1977–88).
Bernard Waites

2. Democracy, Economic Planning and Economic Stagnation in India: 1947–c. 1975

Abstract
In the 1950s and 60s, Indian governments and their expert advisers attempted to implement a set of economic policies generally known as ‘Nehruvian socialism’ because of its close identification with the country’s first prime minister. These policies were intended to end India’s economic dependence and raise its abysmally low living standards by accelerating industrialisation; their chosen instrument was national economic planning. Planning would, it was hoped, create a self-reliant economy and assure national independence and security in world politics. The development strategy embodied in the second and third Five Year Plans (covering the years 1956–66) was overtaken by a double crisis of economic stagnation and political instability in the later 1960s. ‘Nehruvian socialism’ was not formally abandoned, and India remained one of the world’s most highly regulated ‘mixed’ economies until the liberalisation of the 1990s. But there was a distinct watershed in 1966–70 that divided one political economy from another. The Nehru-era policies favouring cities, centralisation, bigness and capital-intensive industrialisation were modified by policies favouring agriculture, decentralisation and small producers. Here, I seek first to analyse a phase in India’s history that was both ‘post-colonial’ and, in the working assumptions of the major political actors, self-consciously ‘anti-colonial’; then to explain the transition to radical populism under Mrs Gandhi. The latter part of this chapter assesses the achievements and shortcomings of planned development.
Bernard Waites

3. Caste in Post-colonial India

Abstract
In 1947, India’s new leaders sought to institute secular, democratic government in history’s most durable social and religious hierarchy. They were egalitarians devising the basic political arrangements for a civilisation permeated by inequality in every sphere and in which the marks of inequality were visible in every form of collective life. To a degree unparalleled elsewhere, the inequality of what the Constitution called the ‘socially and educationally backward classes of citizens’ was an attribute not of individuals but of self-perpetuating communities that we call ‘castes’. This chapter explores the complex history of caste in post-colonial India. I emphasise ‘history’ because there is an understandable presumption that caste is a primordial Hindu institution that has maintained its essential characteristics while all around has changed. This presumption must be discarded at the outset.
Bernard Waites

4. Politics and Economics in Independent African States

Abstract
Are Africa’s states still ‘post-colonial’? In certain obvious ways ‘yes’: as territorial entities, all but a few were created by European colonial powers and are inconceivable without their prior existence as colonies. In 1963–4, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) reached a consensus on the immutability of their boundaries, which preserved the continent’s political geography in colonial aspic. Nearly every state inherited an organisational core from the colonialists and a European language for public administration, together with an ideology of sovereignty alien to indigenous political traditions. National identity was nowhere the organic outgrowth of a common language and culture, but a reflection of the identity of the colony in the minds of an educated elite. Independence by-passed Africa’s historic political nations, such as the Asante, the Baganda and the Bakongo, which underscored the foreign and derivative character of the post-colonial state. In electoral terms, most successor regimes represented minorities: a telling example is Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party — one of the more broadly based nationalist parties — which before 1957 won the support of no more than 35 per cent of the Gold Coast’s enfranchised electorate (Rathbone, 1978, p. 22). Modern nationalism’s political base was, typically, an even narrower urban stratum because (Lusophone Africa and Zimbabwe apart) independence movements were not tested by protracted military struggle and had rarely extended their support into the rural hinterlands.
Bernard Waites

5. Nigeria and Congo-Zaire, 1960–c. 1975: Decolonisation, Civil War and State Recovery

Abstract
Why compare Nigeria and Congo-Zaire?1 Their sheer demographic weight is one reason: in 1960, their combined population was 26 per cent of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa. Nigerians numbered about 42.4 million, the Congolese 15.5 million. By 2005, their numbers had grown to 141.4 million and 58.7 million; together they were 27 per cent of the African total. So, these states encompass a large part of Africa’s human experience. Then, there is their quintessentially postcolonial character: neither could conceivably have evolved out of the indigenous polities or empire-building traditions that once flourished within their present territories; their ‘internal nations’ had different legends of origin, histories and institutions. As political formations, they are the handiwork of European colonialists, who set their boundaries and endowed them with administrative languages and apparatuses. Each has a small number of major indigenous languages and hundreds of minor ones; in both, assimilating primordial cultural identities with the national state has been a conflicted process. Finally, there are parallel events which repay comparative analysis. Both came close to disintegration after independence, in Congo-Zaire’s case within weeks of the transfer of power, in Nigeria’s after several years of deepening regional and ethnic tension. In each country, a major territorial region attempted to secede and horrendous civil wars were fought to maintain the state’s integrity.
Bernard Waites

6. Nigeria and Congo-Zaire from the 1970s to the Late 1990s: Regional Giants, Giant Failures?

Abstract
In the early 1970s, Nigeria and Zaire were vying for the leadership of ‘Black’ Africa. Their large populations, mineral wealth and abundant land, coupled with nuclei of modern industry, rapid improvements in the quality of the labour force and strong state institutions promised a far brighter future than that awaiting newly independent Bangladesh. Inflation had been halted in Zaire and the currency’s international value stabilised; there was negligible debt and ample foreign exchange reserves; it was attracting new foreign investors. In Nigeria, the civil war’s economic consequences could be shrugged off because its end coincided with the onset of the great oil boom. The state transformed the country’s ‘public face’ by enormous investment in physical infrastructure, national institutions (such as universities) and prestigious events, most notably the great Festival of Black Arts and Culture, held in Lagos in 1977. However, by the later 1990s, Zairians were far poorer on average than Bangladeshis and Nigerians no wealthier. Zaire had virtually ceased to function as a state and the Nigerian Federal Government was unable to suppress armed dissidence in the Niger Delta. Nigerians had so little confidence in their own country as a site of economic opportunity that they were holding about $107 billion of their wealth abroad, or three times as much as the private domestic capital stock (Collier, 2003). Apart from crude oil, Nigeria’s ‘foreign trade sector’ consisted of international fraud and the re-export of narcotics. State decline cannot be represented as a linear narrative, for there were several occasions when the political class in Nigeria and Zaire appeared to be resisting it by reforming institutions and governance, but incipient decay is the inevitable focus of this chapter.
Bernard Waites

7. Colonialism, Post-colonialism and Ethnic Violence: The Examples of Rwanda and Burundi

Abstract
Even the least attentive reader will have gathered by now that ethnic consciousness is an inescapable (and irreducible) part of African social life. Yet, despite its apparent pervasiveness, ethnicity is a concept with which many scholars are distinctly uncomfortable. They find it difficult to define in a way which covers all instances of group solidarity and exclusiveness labelled ‘ethnic’. They are also unsure as to whether ethnicity is a brute datum which explains political behaviour or whether it is really ethnic identity and discrimination that stand in need of explanation (Hyden, 2006, ch. 9, summarises the academic literature). A further reason for scholarly unease lies in the association, in much public discussion (within Africa and without), of ethnicity with ‘tribes’ and ‘tribalism’, and the grossly distorting assumption that postcolonial conflicts are historically rooted in primordial ‘tribal’ identities and animosities. Anthropologists working in Africa long ago dropped the word ‘tribe’ from their professional vocabulary because it was irredeemably tarnished with a vulgar social evolutionism: a ‘tribe’ implied a lower form of social and political life. The notion of a self-sufficient ‘tribal society’, maintaining its distinctive culture and identity in an ahistorical limbo, was an illusion (Southall, 1970; see also Young, 1976, p. 35).
Bernard Waites

8. Angola and Mozambique

Abstract
Few states constituted since the 1970s have had such traumatic national histories as Angola and Mozambique. They bore the brunt of the general and prolonged crisis in southern Africa following the collapse of Portuguese colonial power and the armed resistance of the white regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa to the claims of African nationalism. In Angola, there was a seamless continuity from colonial war to civil war and foreign intervention. Mozambique went through a similar syndrome of foreign-inspired intervention, civil war and social destabilisation soon after achieving independence. Mozambique’s vicious internal war persisted up to the early 1990s, Angola’s to the early 2000s. As well as a dreadful toll in life, limb and displaced persons, these conflicts distorted state expenditures and brought economic development and social amelioration to a halt. In 1998, their social indicators of life expectancy and child mortality were amongst the worst in the world (Agadjanian and Prata, 2001). Mozambique was Africa’s most impoverished state and the most dependent on foreign aid. Angola is potentially one of the continent’s wealthier countries, yet throughout the 1990s its oil and diamond resources were shamelessly exploited by the MPLA government and its rival, UNITA, in order to continue their appalling conflict. The general population, meanwhile, lived in misery, at permanent risk of being killed or maimed by ubiquitous land mines or press-ganged into military service, and denied access to much of the best agricultural land.
Bernard Waites

Summary and Conclusions

Abstract
What conclusions can we draw from the histories of the eight states discussed in the preceding chapters? It is evident that they do not cohere into a single ‘grand’ narrative: South Asia and Africa became independent in different geopolitical contexts, and followed different sequences from dependency to sovereign state. The British raj was an empire in itself, with a large measure of devolved government: it generated its own coercive capacity, set its own tariffs and, as a founder member of the United Nations, represented itself in the international system. Britain’s political will to remain the paramount power was exhausted by 1947 and the coercive capacity it could call on to defend imperial strategic interests was much diminished. The economic relationship between the metropolitan and the colonial government had been reversed: the Government of India was now Britain’s largest creditor, thanks to the accumulation of sterling balances that had paid for wartime expenditure on Indian resources and Indian troops deployed overseas. Sovereign power was hurriedly transferred to the political representatives of India and Pakistan before they had decided how government was to be constituted and political order maintained. They inherited legal governing instruments but their constitutional choices were made after, not before independence.
Bernard Waites
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