Nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and Federation in East Africa, 1961–67

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:00 AM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Michael Collins, University College London
By 1961 the debate about federation in east Africa had come to be dominated more by nationalist politicians in the region and less by colonial administrators. However, the influence of colonial politics remained significant. In Uganda, the political power of Buganda questioned the legitimacy of the nation-state at the very moment of decolonization. The internal politics of all three regional states – Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda – shaped discussions about federation in east Africa. In Kenya and Tanganyika the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and Tanganyika African National Union(TANU) believed they could speak for the nation, and that Milton Obote’s Ugandan People’s Congress (UPC) would do so too. But Uganda was already quasi-federal, and competing visions of the nation undermined the ability of national leaders to structure the powers of a central, federal legislature in such a way as to placate all parties.With independence for Tanganyika (1961), Uganda (1962) and Kenya (1963), the birth of the African Union in Addis Ababa in 1963 and the union of Tanzania and Zanzibar in 1964, this extraordinarily fertile period of political thinking covers the end of the colonial East African High Commission in 1961 through the existence of the East African Common Services Organization which, having failed to materialise a federation, morphed into the inter-governmental East African Community (EAC) in 1967. Based on original archival research in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, this paper examines the competing dynamics of nationalism, pan-Africanism and localism in east African politics between 1961 and 1967, framing debates about federation as part of a global ‘federal moment’, and as an important addition to the historiography on decolonisation and the post-imperial nation-state. The paper focuses on African leaders themselves and looks at how and why, during the very process of formal ‘flag decolonisation’, they envisaged a future federated east Africa.
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