Peaceful West Africa Waxes Calm As Remainder of Continent Seethes

Africa: II

West Africa, until recently a hotspot on the Dark Continent, is now quietly digesting gains made in its nationalistic struggle.

Calling its position somewhat unique, James S. Coleman, teaching fellow in Government who studied this area on a Fulbright grant last year, credited "enlightened colonialism" and a lack of discrimination for this calm.

"By colonial standards, British rule in WestAfrica is very enlightened," he said; French policy, to a lesser extent. West Africa, divided into a number of British and French colonies, has bred many powerful nationalistic movements.

Compared to the rest of Africa, this section has received "surprisingly substantial political and economic concessions."

"Discrimination is legally prohibited." Having very small white communities, there is little racial friction. Nigeria, for example, with a total population of 25 million, has only 5,000 whites.


Whites In Kenya

Another distinguishing feature is the British policy of "non-alienation of land." No native land can be sold to a non-African without the hard-to-get approval of the governor. "In Kenya, hugh areas of the better farm lands have been taken over by whites." This alone, he indicated, has proved considerable cause for unrest.

Coleman traced the rise of nationalism to agitation of Western-educated native leaders. Returning from European and American universities where they had demonstrated equal capacities and had tasted modern culture, they were expected to submerge themselves into the backward social systems of their homelands.

Into the Hinterland

He talked of the "frustration of those who had approached the threshold of equality." Their greatest protest, he stated, "is against the stigma of inferiority."

"They are not just a group of educated agitators in the seacoast towns," Coleman emphasized. These men descended into the tribes and gained the confidence of the masses by articulating their grievances to colonial authorities. With the great masses behind them they pressured for reform. "They're succeeding," Coleman feels.

"The nationalists think industrialization in the cure-all for their economic backwardness," Coleman said. "Whereas formerly colonial authorities discouraged this notion, now they are taking positive steps toward industrial development."