Accepted paper:

PAFMEC(S)A and East African decolonisation: cross-border networks and the making of the nation-state, 1958-1963


Christopher Vaughan (Liverpool John Moores University)

Paper short abstract:

The Pan-African Freedom Movement of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa built a network of solidarity among anti-colonial elites, but excluded those pursuing goals at odds with a strong centralized state. This transnational network ultimately reinforced the nation-state model of decolonisation.

Paper long abstract:

The Pan-African Freedom Movement of Eastern, Central (and from 1962 Southern) Africa (PAFMEC(S)A) presents an engaging case for scholars writing histories of decolonisation 'beyond the nation-state'. From 1958 until 1963 PAFMEC(S)A conferences and summits provided a space for the construction of transnational regional networks, a shared ideology, and a mutually reinforcing international legitimacy among anti-colonial activists pushing for rapid independence. Yet alongside expressions of solidarity and connection, PAFMEC(S)A also played an important role in excluding rival actors pursuing political agendas at odds with the dominant vision of PAFMEC(S)A's leading members, who overwhelmingly subscribed to a centralised vision of the nation-state after independence. Those who advocated more devolved political arrangements, which would grant a significant degree of autonomy to internal regions or 'traditional' kingdoms, and dilute the authority of central governments, were repeatedly excluded and denounced at PAFMEC(S)A gatherings. PAFMEC(S)A thus served as a means to prevent political elites who pursued alternative visions of independence from building their own transnational, regional solidarities. This cross-border political network was thus tightly regulated and exclusionary, even as it spoke the language of freedom and unity. Moreover, the vision of East African federation which was supported by PAFMEC(S)A from 1960 was one entirely consistent with the vision of strong centralised statehood, with its envisaged leadership to be drawn from the elite nationalist network articulated in PAFMECA conferences. In East Africa, PAFMEC(S)A's cross-border network ultimately served to buttress rather than transcend the nation-state model.

panel His17
Connected decolonisations: networked approaches to anticolonial struggles in Africa, 1950s-80s