All-African Peoples' Conference

All-African Peoples' Conference

The All-African Peoples' Conference (AAPC) was a conferenceof political parties and other groupsin the late 1950s and early 1960s in Africa.It was attended bydelegates from independence movementsin areas still under European colonial rule,as well as by delegates from the independent African countries,including representatives of the governing parties of some of those countries.In the Conference's own words, it was open to 'all national political partiesand national trade union congresses or equivalent bodies or organisationsthat subscribe to the aims and objects of the conference.' [AAPCamended Constitution, Article III. See Gott, Major and Warner, p 349.] The Conference met three times: December 1958, January 1960, andMarch 1961; and had a permanent secretariatwith headquarters in Accra.Its primary objectives were independence for the colonies; andstrengthening of the independent states and resistance to neocolonialism.It tended to be more outspoken in its denunciations of colonialismthan the Conference of Independent African States, a contemporaryorganisation which, being composed of heads of state, was relativelyconstrained by diplomatic caution.Wallerstein says that the All-African Peoples' Conference wasthe "true successor to the Pan-African Congresses."The subject matter and attitudes of the Conference are illustrated by thefollowing excerpt from its second meeting:

The Conference

Demands the immediate and unconditional accession toindependence of all the African peoples, and the total evacuation of theforeign forces of aggression and oppression stationed in Africa;
Proclaims the absolute necessity, in order to resist theimperialist coalition more effectively and rapidly free all thedependent peoples from foreign oppression, of coordinating anduniting the forces of all the Africans, and recommends the Africanstates not to neglect any form of co-operation in the interest of all theAfrican peoples;
Denounces vigorously the policy of racial discriminationapplied by colonialist and race-conscious minorities in South and East andCentral Africa, and demands the abolition of racial domination in South Africa,the suppression of the Federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia, andthe immediate independence of these countries;
Proclaims equality of rights for all the citizens of thefree countries of Africa and the close association of the masses for thebuilding up and administration of a free and prosperous Africa;
Calls on the peoples of Africa to intensify the strugglefor independence, and insists on the urgent obligation on theindependent nations of Africa to assure them of the necessary aid andsupport; . . . . [Resolutions adopted by the SecondAll-African Peoples' Conference, Tunis, 30 January 1960. In Gott, Majorand Warner, see p 350.]

First Conference: Accra, 5-13 December 1958

The first conference was preceded by a Preparatory Committee composedof representatives from the eight independent African states -- otherthan South Africa. (They were Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Libya,Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Republic.) The conference itself wasattended by delegates from 28 African countries and colonies. Thenumber of delegates was more than 300, and the conference claimed thatthey represented more than 200 million people from all parts of Africa.
Tom Mboya, General Secretary of the Kenya Federation of Labour,was elected chairman.

One important discussion was over the legitimacy and desirabilityof using violence against the colonial powers. It was agreed thatviolence would be necessary in some cases. Concerning the strugglein Algeria, full support was given to the recently proclaimed
Provisional Republican Government ("Gouvernement Provisoire de la République Algérienne" -- GPRA). On the Cameroon,the Conference supported the fight of the UPC maquis, demandingfull amnesty and UN-sponsored elections. The Conferenceconsidered unity and solidarity to be key strategies in the fight againstcolonialism and economic domination after colonialism; it calledfor the establishment of Africa-wide organisations, including trade unionsyouth groups, and a Bureau of Liberatory Movements. It was at thismeeting that the decision was made to establish a permanent secretariatat Accra. The first secretary-general was George Padmore,then living in Ghana. The following year, he died and was replaced byGuinea's Resident Minister in Ghana, Abdoulaye Diallo.

Prominent persons at the first Conference included Patrice Lumumba,who headed the Congolese delegation.

Wallerstein summarises by saying: "The impact of this andsubsequent AAPC meetings on political awareness in Africa is difficultto measure, but nonetheless very real. The AAPC brought many Africannationalist leaders into contact for the first time with otherswho had already won independence for their countries or werein active and violent struggle for it." [Wallerstein, p 34.]

econd Conference: Tunis, 25-30 January 1960

One feature of the AAPC was tension between conservative andavant-garde elements. After the first conference, Tom Mboyawas 'more or less' fired as chairman and was absent at Tunis.The conference adopted a proposal by the Algerians and Moroccansfor an 'international corps of volunteers' to go to fight in Algeriain the manner of the International Brigade that had gone to
Spain in the 1930s.

The Conference voiced considerable concern over neocolonialism -- thetendency of the nominally freed states to actually remain subjugatedto the imperialist powers because of economic dependency andother factors. This was expressed, for example, in the"Economic and Social Resolution":

Economic and Social Resolution

Considering the underdeveloped state of African economieswhich is a result of the colonial system and foreign domination;
Considering the tendency of the colonialist countries tosubstitute economic for political dominationand thus rob the newly won independence of the African statesof its true content;
Considering also the departmentalisationand lack of harmony existing in the African economiesand the inadequacy of technical cadres and finance;
Considering that economic growth and developmentconstitute the surest guarantee of the freedom of the African continent;
Considering that foreign Powers sometimes use their economic aid asa means of endeavouring to divide the African territories andisolate the Independent States from territories that are still undercolonial rule;

The Conference

Affirms that independence is a prerequisiteto all economic development;
Declares that the peoples of Africa are determined to work for theeconomic development and liberation of Africa,for the benefit and under the control of the masses;
Recommends to the independent African states:

I. The intensification of their efforts to wrest theirrespective countries from economic dependenceon the imperialist countries. . . . ['Resolutions adopted by theSecond All-African Peoples' Conference, Tunis, 30 January 1960',in Gott, Major and Warner, p 351.]

The general resolution also spoke on this topic:
The Conference

. . . recommends the African governments to beactive in liquidating the neo-colonialist groups, particularlyany foreign military establishments on their soil;
Considering moreover the important social and economic 'enclaves'created by the imperialist countries in Africa in the industrial andagricultural sectors, by the establishment of special monetary,financial, technical and social institutions entirely controlledby themselves;
Observing these foreign 'enclaves' result in theexploitation of the human, vegetable and mineral resources of Africa, andthat they have been installed in the service of foreign economic systems;
Observing further that the existence of these 'enclaves'enables the imperialist countries to bind the economy of certainAfrican countries very stringently in the domains of customs,finance, trade, currency, etc.;
Considering on the other hand, that the imperialists are aimingat the organisation of all these new institutions of domination witheach African people taken separately, while they arethemselves co-ordinating strictly their action in orderto present a united front against the efforts of economicliberation on the part of Africa;

The Conference

Affirms the absolute necessity of turning the economy of theAfrican countries to the profit of its peoples, and of acting withunity in the economic field, as in thepolitical and cultural fields;
Proposes therefore the creation by all the IndependentAfrican States, of common organisations for theconduct of finance and commerce, and of centres of social and economicresearch, for the purpose of studying the forms of technical assistance toAfrica and of training the technicians whom Africa needs to ensureher economic development and her social progress;
Proclaims finally the irrevocable character of themovement towards Africanindependence, liberty and unity; . . . . [Resolutionsadopted by the Second All-African Peoples' Conference, Tunis,30 January 1960. In Gott, Major and Warner, pp 350, 1.]

The Conference was particularly critical of the French governmentfor taking measures to limit the sovereignty of its territoriesin North Africa that were being decolonised.
Considering the existence of the French Community,a new form of imperialist domination, and the present attempts of theFrench Government to impose upon countries associated with thiscommunity and on the threshold of independence, bondsof a kind which would deprive themof true national sovereignty; . . . . [Resolutions adoptedby the Second All-African Peoples' Conference, Tunis,30 January 1960. In Gott, Major and Warner, p 350.]

Third Conference: Cairo, 25-31 March 1961

The mood at this conference was more militant than at thesecond conference, partly because some conservative groups had withdrawn,and partly because the conference occurred during the crisis in the Congo.The Congolese issue was raised by the Secretary-General, Abdoulaye Diallo,in his opening address:

Today there are two forces existing in the Congo; forces which representthe imperialist interests, and forces which represent the interests of theCongolese people. The former are led by Messrs. Kasavubu, Tshombe, and theircohorts; the latter, or in other words ours, are led by Mr. Gizenga,who has the sympathy of all the people and the support of theimmense majority of the population. [Quotedin Wallerstein, p 51.]
Later, the Conference adopted a very strong resolution on the Congo:
The Conference denounces the role played by General Kettani in the degradationof the situation in the Congo and demands the dismissal of Dag Hammarskjoldequally responsible for the murder of Lumumba. [Quoted in Wallersteinpp 51, 2.]
In another clause Kasavubu, Mobutu, Tshombe and Kalonji were denouncedfor their role. The Conference proclaimed Lumumba the 'hero of Africa'.

The issue of neocolonialism was again raised by the Conference;its four page "Resolution on Neocolonialism" is citedas a landmark for having presented a collectively arrived at definitionof neocolonialism and a description of its main features. [Wallerstein,p 52: 'It attempted the one serious, collectively agreed upon definitionof neocolonialism, the key concept in the armory of the revolutionarycore of the movement for African unity.'Also William D. Graf, review of Yolamu R. Barongo, "Neocolonialism andAfrican Politics: a Survey of the Impact of Neocolonialism on AfricanPolitical Behaviour" (1980); "Canadian Journal of African Studies",p 601: 'The term itself originated in Africa, probably with Nkrumah,and received collective recognition at the 1961 All-AfricanPeople's Conference.']

Internal contradictions within the AAPC led to its eventual demise.Wallerstein has described the make up of the AAPC around the time of theThird Congress:

The AAPC had become the meeting ground of three groups:African nationalists in non-independent countries, whoserevolutionary ardor was often tactical and hence temporary;leaders of the so-called revolutionary African states, whosemilitancy was often tempered by the exigencies of diplomacyand the reality of world economic pressures;African radical-nationalist opposition movements in independent states,which states were considered by these opposition movements as clientsor "puppets" of the West. This latter group (which included the UPC,the Sawaba of Niger led by Djibo Bakary, theMoroccan Union Nationale des Forces Populaires [UNFP] represented by Mehdi Ben Barka) was perhaps the most genuinely and themost persistently militant. It also had the least real power.Therefore, while this third group often dominated the conferences andgave the tone to the resolutions, it was the second group (thegovernments) that dominated thestructure and held the purse strings. [Wallerstein, p 52.]
The difference between the two groups was to prove fatal to the AAPC, asradical pronouncements by the Conference began to pose difficultiesfor its governmental members in their diplomatic relations with themore conservative African states. Although it was decided at the 1961Conference thata fourth Conference be held at Bamako, Mali, in February 1962, thatmeeting never took place because the host government, Mali, and theSecretary-General's government, Guinea, were reluctant to proceed with it.Wallerstein says that 'The Casablanca governments were contentto let the AAPC disappear quietly in their attempts to come to termswith the other African governments.' [p 52. ]


Richard Gott, John Major and Geoffrey Warner (eds),"Documents on International Affairs 1960".London, 1964, Oxford University press;pp 349 "et seq."

Gillian King (ed),"Documents on International Affairs 1958".London, 1962, Oxford University Press;pp 583 "et seq."

"International Organisation", vol 16, no 2 (Spring 1962), pp 429-34. Wasavailable free on [ JSTOR] as of November 2007.

Immanuel Wallerstein, "Africa: The Politics of Unity"; New York, 1967,Random House. 'Resolutions adopted by the Second All-African Peoples' Conference,Tunis, 30 January 1960'. Watt's source is Colin Legum,"Panafricanism", London, 1962, Pall Mall Press. pp 236-47.


See Sources, above, for the works referred to in these notes.

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