As we have seen in Chapters 1 and 2, the playing out of the colonial endgame gave rise to a territorially fragmented continent where the sheer viability of many of the constituent states was open to question. Although independence was seized with alacrity in most cases, there was a lack of consensus about whether the new map of Africa ought merely to be taken as a starting point or its contours should be considered immutable. In many cases, leaders clung on jealously to what was theirs, whilst others pursued irredentist claims against their neighbours. Some, like Kwame Nkrumah, expressed a keen interest in territorial mergers with a view to avoiding the perils of continental balkanisation, while demands for secession elsewhere threatened to break the continent into yet smaller pieces. Of all the weighty questions facing the first generation of post-colonial leaders, perhaps none was of greater moment than the configuration of the political map. With the benefit of hindsight, some have bemoaned their over-eagerness to perpetuate the terms of the European partition. But it would be a mistake to forget that over the first decade or so there were many efforts to chart a different course. In order to understand what eventually transpired, we need to take account of a combination of factors which tilted the balance in favour of one outcome rather than another: including the ambitions and resources of the leaders concerned, their levels of grassroots support and the international environment in which they were forced to operate.
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