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.
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