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Mainstream, VOL LV No 6 New Delhi January 28, 2017

Gandhi and West Africa: Exploring the Affinities

Tuesday 31 January 2017, by Anil Nauriya

“There is however no hope of avoiding the catastrophe” (of increased racial bitterness) “unless the spirit of exploitation that at present dominates the nations of the West is transmuted into that of real helpful service, or unless the Asiatic and African races understand that they cannot be exploited without their co-operation, to a large extent voluntary, and thus understanding, withdraw such co-operation.” [Gandhi in Young India, March 18, 1926, CW, Vol 30, p. 136] 

Q: “For some years Britain would continue certain subject territories like Gold Coast. Would Mr Gandhi object?” 

A: “I would certainly object.”

[Gandhi in reply to a question in London, October 31, 1931, CW, Vol 48, p. 255]

Mahatma Gandhi (b. 1869) was shot dead in India on January 30, 1948. “We too mourned his death,” wrote Kwame Nkrumah, “for he had inspired us deeply with his political thought, notably with his adherence to non-violent resistance.”1 As one writer put it, “The message cabled by the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) on his death expressed the sentiments of all African nationalists, for whom Gandhi was the ‘bearer of the torch of liberty of oppressed peoples’ and whose life had been ‘an inspiration to colonials everywhere’.”2 The Sierra Leone economist-poet David Carney who, as the West African poet Abioseh Davidson Nicol observed, wrote “poetry of a Miltonic grandeur”, resorted to verse: Carney’s poetic tribute “Gandhi” was “broadcast to millions” in Africa and Asia.3 Carney, who died only recently, was Sierra Leone-born and had spent many years in Nigeria and Ghana.4

To appreciate what contributed to the impact that Gandhi’s passive resistance campaigns in South Africa and India had in West Africa, it is useful to recapitulate a few facts.


As shown elsewhere, the widening of Gandhi’s outlook on racial matters goes back to his South Africa years and was not merely a later occurrence as is sometimes erroneously assumed.5

The condition of plantation workers in Africa had received Gandhi’s attention even while he was in South Africa. In 1913 he had written: “In cocoa plantations, Negro workers are subjected to such inhuman treatment that if we witnessed it with our own eyes we would have no desire to drink cocoa. Volumes have been written on the tortures inflicted in these plantations.”6 A couple of years earlier he had complained to his associate, Henry Polak, about “the abominable chocolate”, calling it “that cursed product of devilish slave labour”.7 By this time the Quaker Joseph Burtt’s investigations into conditions on cocoa plantations had become known.8 These and other inquiries were focused on Portuguese territories in West Africa and had wider significance. J. P. de Carvalho’s work Slavery in West Africa: Portuguese Revelations became known in 1912-1913. Gandhi’s Indian Opinion gave prominence to the critique by de Carvalho, a former Curator (official Protector of Africans) in Principe, Portuguese Africa, of Portugal’s conduct and attitude towards the African population. In a leaflet issued by the Anti-Slavery Society, de Carvalho, who had resigned his position after investigating the facts, wrote alleging the existence of slavery in the colony: “....I speak of the labourers born in Angola. They are actual slaves. Caught in the interior, or sold to Europeans by their chiefs, they come down to the coast like any other sort of merchandise.”9 Indian Opinion noted that The Spectator, where the report was first published, had observed that de Carvalho’s work appeared to “bear the stamp of genuineness” and also that it was “as regards the main fact of slavery, fully borne out by the first-hand evidence of Mr Nevinson, Mr Burtt, and Mr Harris”.10 H.W. Nevinson conducted an investigation in Angola and Sao Tome the results of which were put together in his work A Modern Slavery, published in 1906. John H. Harris produced his work Portuguese Slavery in 1913. Gandhi and Nevinson would meet later, in London in 1931.11

After his return to India, Gandhi was in contact with Dr W.E.B. DuBois, the pioneer of the Pan-African movement, who was to spend his last days in Ghana. Dr DuBois had been repeatedly referred to in Gandhi’s Indian Opinion in South Africa. In 1911 Indian Opinion had carried laudatory references to Dr DuBois and his role. Gandhi, for his part, had been referred to in the pages of Dr DuBois’ journal, Crisis, since at least the early nineteen twenties. Crisis, a monthly journal from New York, was the organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). In March 1922, the month in which Gandhi was to be arrested, Crisis carried a five-page long appreciative article on Gandhi. The Crisis article referred to the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar in 1919 and set out in detail the content of Gandhi’s non-co-operation and boycott movement. Crisis went on to observe: “The second outstanding factor in Mr Gandhi’s program is the idea and practice of non-violence or passive resistance. Like the principle of non-co-operation, it kills without striking its adversary.”12 Years later, writing in 1957, Dr DuBois was to recall that “(w)ith the First World War came my first knowledge of Gandhi”.13 Gandhi sent Dr DuBois a “love message” for Crisis on May 1, 1929.

As in South Africa, Gandhi would be imprisoned again in India. The non-cooperation movement against British rule in India was initiated by Gandhi in 1920. Political activities in India were a factor that contributed to the quickening of political events in certain parts of Africa. It was soon after the end of the First World War that in West Africa too Gandhi’s name began to make itself known. Events during and after the World War, “plus the example of Gandhi’s Indian Congress party”, led to the formation of the National Congress of British West Africa at Accra in 1920.14

The founding circles of the West African Congress, including journals associated with J. E. Casely-Hayford, made appreciative fraternal references to the work of the Indian National Congress. [See, for instance, Lagos Weekly Record,

April 20, 1920]

A notable West African personality, slightly elder to Gandhi, but whose thought is believed to have affinities with Gandhi, was Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford (1866-1930).15 Casely-Hayford, also known as Ekra Agyiman, “was regarded as the ‘Uncrowned King of West Africa’ and is one of the fathers of Pan-Africanism”.16

In the course of the non-co-operation movement in India Gandhi would be arrested in 1922. For his part, Gandhi was prepared, even in his non-co-operation, to provide the English with an honourable exit. What he sought was equality among the white, brown and black races and, if this could not be achieved under the English, he was, of course, prepared to end that connection. He defined his objective in a letter to his English friend and associate C.F. Andrews: “It may be that the English temperament is not responsive to a status of perfect equality with the black and the brown races. Then the English must be made to retire from India. But I am not prepared to reject the possibility of an honou-rable equality. The connection must end on the clearest possible proof that the English have hopelessly failed to realise the first principle of religion, namely, brotherhood of man.”17

Gandhi was aware of the unequal exchange in the labour, commodity and other markets with which the economic life of people in the colonies was entwined. Following the economic boycott of foreign cloth that Gandhi encouraged and sponsored in India, he recommended the same course to other Asians and to Africans.He declared in March 1926 in response to reports of racial restrictions in Glasgow:“There is however no hope of avoiding the catastrophe” (of increased racial bitterness) “unless the spirit of exploitation that at present dominates the nations of the West is transmuted into that of real helpful service, or unless the Asiatic and African races understand that they cannot be exploited without their co-operation, to a large extent voluntary, and thus understanding, withdraw such co-operation.”18

A year later the international aspect of the struggle came still further into focus with the invitation to Gandhi to attend the Brussels International Congress Against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism, or the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities, to be held in February 1927. In his message sent before February 7, 1927, Gandhi thanked it “very cordially” for its invitation, and while regretting that his work in India prevented him from participating, he added: “I wish you, however, from the depths of my heart, every success in your deliberations.”19 In December 1926 the Indian National Congress, at its Guwahati (Assam) session, appointed Jawaharlal Nehru, who was already in Europe at the time, as its representative to the Brussels Congress.20 The Brussels conference gave birth to the League Against Imperialism. Nehru was made one of the honorary presidents of the General Council of the League and a member of the Executive Committee. Among the three elected secretaries was the African trade unionist Lamine Senghor. Belonging to Senegal in French West Africa, Lamine Senghor was then resident in Paris and was Chairman of the Ligue pour la Defence de la Race Negre.21 Kojo Tovalou Houenou had become directly involved in Dahomey (now Benin) and Senegal politics and had even been arrested in Togo. In succession to Houenou’s Ligue Universelle de Defense de la Race Negre, Lamine Senghor came to lead the Comite de Defense de la Race Negre [CDRN] which was later reconstituted as Ligue de Defense de la Race Nnegre [LDRN].22 Nehru reported back to the Congress Working Committee in India that Lamine Senghor’s speech at the Brussels Congress appeared to have led to the latter’s arrest in France for “high treason”.23 The journal La Race Negre “had been clamoring since July 1927 for complete and immediate independence”; Garan Tiemoko Kouyate from French Sudan (the later Mali) and Lamine Senghor, “the two West Africans who had launched upon this radical course”, referred not to “black internationalism” but to Gandhi, the socialists and Woodrow Wilson in support of their claim for national self-government.24 Articulate sections of Francophone West Africa had already been taking a keen interest in Gandhi. For example, Les Continents, a monthly journal established in Paris in 1924 by the Dahomeyan Kojo Tovalou Houenou, had been carrying extracts on Gandhi’s ideas and movements.25

That Gandhi should have sent a message to the Brussels Congress is significant for he was not especially enamoured of international conferences and it was not often that he would associate himself with them, his emphasis being on strengthening the struggle at hand wherever he was based. The message was important also as the Brussels Congress represented, at this stage, the coalescing of, or an alliance between, groups seeking, in the first instance, freedom from colonial rule and those focusing on change in the social and economic structure. Participants at the Brussels Congress had a wide canvas before them. The problem, as Gandhi noted later in the year, was the idea of inequality itself : “The false and rigid doctrine of inequality has led to the insolent exploitation of the nations of Asia and Africa.”26

In 1930 Gandhi resumed Civil Disobedience in India. While the Indian National Congress was still banned and Gandhi, along with most Congress leaders in prison, the British Government headed by Ramsay MacDonald called a Round Table Conference to discuss Indian Constitutional Reform in London from November 12, 1930. The Conference did not result in any specific solution; ultimately the hosts themselves realised that they would have to release the Congress leaders and go through the motions of attempting to keep the Congress in the picture. In the second half of January 1931, Gandhi was released from prison. Talks between Gandhi, on behalf of the Indian National Congress, and the British Viceroy led to a kind of provisional truce in March 1931. In England Winston Churchill reacted unfavourably to the prospect of political advance in India and to the spectacle of the Viceroy appearing to seek a political settlement with an arch-rebel like Gandhi. A notable African voice that rebuked Churchill at this point was of Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, the future President of Nigeria, then in the United States. Azikiwe wrote: “Winston Churchill, former Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Baldwin regime in England, is reverting to the jingoism of the Victorian era. After the dissolution of the Round Table Conference on India and the freedom of Ghandi (sic) from jail, this great author of The World Crisis became so emotionally fervent in his irreconciliable attitude that he denounced the MacDonald government for attempting to grant India political autonomy. Such an attitude naturally leads to grave reactions which Churchill himself knows. He went further to suggest severe punishment for Gandhi in order to bring him to his senses. In my humble opinion, I think this is poor statesmanship on his part.”27


At the end of August 1931 Gandhi sailed from India for Europe to attend the Second Round Table Conference called by the British Govern-ment to discuss the constitutional development of India. With Gandhi already committed to Indian independence, and to full Egyptian independence, his commitment to all of Africa could be no less. While in London, Gandhi was asked on October 31, 1931: “For some years Britain would continue certain subject territories like Gold Coast. Would Mr Gandhi object?”

“I would certainly object,” was Gandhi’s reply.28 He continued: “India would certainly aspire after influencing British policy..... I do not want India to be an engine of oppression.”29 He spoke on this occasion about the exploitation of Zulus and Swazis, which he described as “radically wrong”.30

African activists and students also had contact with Gandhi during his visit to England in 1931. On October 25 Gandhi spoke at the Ruskin Society in Oxford.31 Among those he met at Oxford was the wondrously talented Gold-Coast-born, and later Sierra Leone-based, poet Gladys Casely Hayford (1904-1950), then studying at Ruskin College. She was the daughter of the famous Gold Coast nationalist and writer, Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford, and the African educationist, Adelaide Casely Hayford, then settled in Sierra Leone. The precocious Gladys had spent her childhood in West Africa and Britain, where she had attended schools at various intervals from as early as 1906. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), the Black musical genius, to whom Gandhi’s journal in South Africa, Indian Opinion, had referred in 1911, had been Gladys’s sponsor and godfather; in 1927 Gladys had, while working for the Gold Coast Leader, the weekly paper founded by her father, reported also on the 2nd Achimota Conference of the Congress of British West Africa.32 Her illustrious father had died in August 1930.33 Gladys joined Ruskin College in October 1931 and the meeting with Gandhi was barely a fortnight later. She evidently informed her mother, then in West Africa, of her encounter. A letter from Gladys’s mother to a friend mentions her daughter’s meeting with Gandhi on the latter’s visit to Ruskin College where “she got him to autograph her book of poems”.34 Little is apparently known about the conver-sation between Gladys and Gandhi. Unlike her mother who had somewhat “Europeanised” herself in style and manner, Gladys would soon turn away from Europe and identify increasingly with Africa and African lifestyles. This was in accordance with the advice that Gandhi was known to give to Africans.35 A week after this visit to Oxford where he had encountered Gladys, Gandhi would declare, in answer to the question put to him in London, to which reference was made above, his objection to the colonial subjection of the Gold Coast.36 From Oxford, Gladys, known by her pen-name Aquah Laluah as well, went on also to assist in her mother’s educational activities in West Africa. Like Jomo Kenyatta, who obtained a message from Gandhi when he met him in London in November 1931, Gladys too carefully preserved the sheaf carrying Gandhi’s signature; a photograph of it now appears in the biography written and published by Lucilda Hunter, the Sierra-Leonean author and Gladys’s daughter-in-law.37 Though Gladys had a hard life, taking sundry jobs in the struggle to make ends meet, she made a reputation as the cultural leader of her time in Sierra Leone. There and in the Gold Coast she “promoted African culture at a time when colonialism had made many educated Africans rather inclined to disregard their heritage”.38

When Gandhi addressed a meeting at the London School of Economics on November 10, 1931, an African student asked him: “You love an Englishman as much as an Indian and yet you dislike British Government. Now British people make up the Government.”39 Gandhi replied: “Man is superior to his method. A man’s method may be vile, and yet you may not apply the adjective to the man himself .... “.40 In an unusual gesture, Gandhi shared a personal circumstance of his family life as an illustration in response to the African student’s question: “I have a boy who has rebelled against me. Yet I love that boy equally as I do the other brothers. ... I have learnt from domestic law that if I have humanity in me, I should love the Britisher.... And yet I detest his method....”41 Gandhi’s formulations and interactions in England at this time did not go unnoticed in Africa. In Nigeria, Herbert Macaulay (1864-1946), described as the founder of Nigerian nationalism and the “Gandhi of West Africa”, referred in an article to the inspiration Gandhi had derived from the Sermon on the Mount, even as he found solace in his own religion and traditions.42 Colonial repression in India was to mount presently. On returning to India in the last week of December 1931, Gandhi was again arrested in the first week of January 1932. Not impressed by such restrictive measures, some African leaders did not hesitate to speak their mind. Nigeria’s Herbert Macaulay “suggested that Europe had a lot to learn from Gandhi and his policy of non-violence”.43


With Gandhi having spoken against the colonial subjection of the Gold Coast in 1931, it was appropriate that Ghana was, after South Africa, among the first of the parts of Africa where Gandhian techniques were adopted. This was noted by a prominent Afro-Caribbean scholar-statesman.44

As we have seen, consistent with the boycott of foreign cloth that Gandhi had initiated in India, he had suggested similar methods for Africa and the rest of Asia, writing in the spring of 1926 that there was no hope of “avoiding the catastrophe” of increased racial bitterness “unless the spirit of exploitation that at present dominates the nations of the West is transmuted into that of real helpful service, or unless the Asiatic and African races understand that they cannot be exploited without their co-operation, to a large extent voluntary, and thus under-standing, withdraw such co-operation”.45 A vital formulation, this conceptually extended to the wider world the non-violent non-co-operation he had earlier initiated in India.

A most singular resort to the strategy mentioned in this spring 1926 article would soon occur. In West Africa Gandhi’s influence had spread substantively. Obviously, such African leaders who invoked or hearkened to Gandhi would adapt his ideas and methods creatively to suit their own national traditions and circumstances. In 1935, four years after Gandhi declared his support for a free Gold Coast, his friend and biographer C.F. Andrews spent time in Achimota College. Andrews went on to spend time at Achimota College in the Gold Coast.46 Before Andrews planned his visit he seems to have written to Gandhi to seek out his views. Gandhi responded to say: “I entirely endorse your programme for West Africa.”47 Andrews and Gandhi had already worked in synergy in relation successively to South Africa, East Africa and the African-Americans. West Africa was now added to this list. Andrews left an impact on West Africa, with a journal writing, in farewell, that it envied India “such a champion” who was “capable to interpret to his white brethren that the Indian also has a soul that yearns for self-expression”.48

Andrews’ presence there attracted significant attention. A crisis was brewing in the then Gold Coast related particularly to the cultivation and marketing of cocoa, which directly affected the African farmer. It presently came to a head. In 1937 the African-American press reported from London that “Gold Coast Africans by declaring a boycott of British merchandise have caused a panic among London and Liverpool export merchants”; according to the report, the boycotters “had sparked the publicity by adopting the tactics of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, paralyzing trade and disrupting the lucrative cocoa industry”.49European mono-polists controlled the cocoa export trade with West Africa, buying cheap and selling at high prices abroad and were believed to have formed a combine in 1937. Reacting to this, “the chiefs and farmers unitedly took action by holding up cocoa and boycotting the retail stores of the firms connected with the pool. Not only the farmers and brokers and chiefs joined but there was unanimity of action ....”50 The cocoa strike was investigated by the Nowell Commission which found that it was a mass movement, ‘remarkable for its spontaneity and discipline over a wide area’; it remarked on its ‘protracted duration’ and described it as the ‘first instance of unanimous popular action’.51 As a conse-quence, “(t)he economic life of the Gold Coast was paralysed from October 1937 to April 1938”.52 Writing in Dr W.E.B. DuBois’ journal, George Padmore (Malcolm Nurse) related the tactics adopted in West Africa to Gandhi and his methods: “Trouble has broken out in the Gold Coast. An agrarian strike has been declared. Thousands of cocoa farmers, incensed by the attempt on the part of the British monopoly trading companies and merchants to obtain their cocoa below its real value, are holding up their crops. Motor transport workers and dockers are refusing to handle the goods of foreign firms, while a nationwide boycott of British commodities has been proclaimed. ...The entire economic life of West Africa’s richest colony is at a standstill. Clashes have occurred between the people and the military.... (the) trouble began during the latter part of October, but the authorities are trying to prevent the news from getting abroad. According to authentic reports reaching London, thousands of native cocoa producers of the Gold Coast and Ashanti have been holding meetings at Suhum, Nsawan, Kibi, Dodowah and other cocoa-producing districts, for the purpose of discussing ways and means of defending themselves against imperialist oppression.... The strike, coupled with the boycott, has drawn the entire country into action. The urban population, most of whom are related to the farmers, are also refusing to buy foreign goods. For the first time in the history of Africa, three million people have taken up the challenge against vested interest and have applied the economic strike weapon. This is symptomatic of the New Africa, which is gradually becoming conscious of its strength, and is learning to use Gandhi’s well-known technique, the boycott, with effect.”53

It was the African farmer’s response to an elaborate economic stranglehold upon him which can be compared with the British trade in cotton and textiles with India in which Gandhi had so strikingly intervened. According to a summary of Sir Ofori Atta’s testimony before the Cocoa Commission in 1938, “....European merchants dictated the price at which the African farmer must sell his product, as well as fixed the price at which the farmers had to buy their merchandise; ... irrespective of the quality of the cocoa, the farmer got a fixed price, since grading was done at a later stage; .... when the world price of cocoa rose, the merchants increased the price of some staple goods most in demand, so that the farmer was deprived of the benefit of the increase in the price of cocoa; ... by controlling produce prices and the prices of trade goods, the European buyer-merchant had made the African farmer a virtual serf.”54


It was not merely in the economic sphere that Gandhi’s methods had influence.

While in prison on account of the movement that he had launched on August 8-9, 1942 asking the British to Quit India, Gandhi wrote to the British Indian Government on July 15, 1943. In his letter, Gandhi reproduced the passage from his article in the Harijan dated July 26, 1942 seeking the freeing of “all other subject peoples in Asia and Africa”. Indeed, he described a long quotation from the article, including this passage, as “an open gate to the whole of my mind regarding the movement contemplated in the resolution of 8th August last.”55 In spite of the strict control over the flow of news from India during Gandhi’s war-time imprisonment, this sequence of events came to be known in Africa. It further enhanced his moral stature. More than a decade later, in June 1957, Nigeria’s leader, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, speaking at Oxford, would remind his audience that in the 1940s the Labour opposition in the British House of Commons had pressed L.S. Amery, the Secretary of State for India, to release Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru from prison. Dr Azikiwe, having observed Indian affairs since the early thirties when he charged Churchill with showing poor statesmanship in his attitude towards Gandhi and India, recalled the events of 1942-43: “Mr Amery prevaricated, and on being requested to state categorically what India wanted, Mahatma Gandhi said that Indian nationalists demanded from Britain self-govern-ment for India and for the people of Africa.”56 Dr Azikiwe himself had in 1943 penned a memorandum, The Atlantic Charter and British West Africa, urging that the third clause of the Atlantic Charter of 1941, which spoke of ‘the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they may live’ be applied to West Africa.57

 Two years after Gandhi’s prison letter of July 1943 reiterating his support for the freedom of the people of Africa, the Fifth Pan-African Congress was held in Manchester, England between October 15-21, 1945 under inspiration from Dr DuBois who was also present. George Padmore, the Trinidad-born activist, and Kwame Nkrumah, the future leader of Ghana, were the leading organisers. At the conference, Gandhi’s satyagraha methods were discussed and “endorsed as the only effective means of making alien rulers respect the wishes of an unarmed subject people”.58 Jomo Kenyatta, who had met Gandhi in 1931, was present at this meeting as Chairman of the Credentials Committee, as was “Sierra Leone’s redoubtable trade union leader”, Isaac T.A. Wallace Johnson.59 Chief Soyemi Coker of Nigeria also pleaded for adoption of the non-violent methods that had been adopted in India.60 Clearly, there would be more than one interpretation of any idea or method that was adopted and it would also have to be appro-priate to prevailing traditions and circum-stances. For example, Wallace Johnson argued in response to Chief Coker that Gandhi was not altogether against the use of force, but used a different kind of force.61 Nigeria’s Nnamdi Azikiwe, an admirer of Gandhi, was one of the biggest supporters of the conference.62 Another Nigerian admirer of Gandhi, Obafemi Awolowo, was a delegate. Among the women who were present was Marcus Garvey’s first spouse, Amy Ashwood Garvey. From South Africa the ANC named Marko Hlubi, already in England, to the Pan-African Congress. “He and the other South African delegate, Peter Abrahams, the writer, met many of Africa’s young leaders, among them Kwame Nkrumah, Chief Akintola ....”63 Another England-based delegate to the Congress was Nigeria’s M.I. Faro who represented the Negro Association. “Strongly influenced by Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement, he joined the Negro Association and became its official representative”.64 Among the resolutions at the Congress was one by George Padmore expre-ssing solidarity with the Indian struggle. The resolution was “adopted by the Congress with loud acclaim”; it read: “We, the represen-tatives of African peoples and peoples of African descent assembled at the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, do hereby send fraternal greetings to the toiling masses of India through the Indian National Congress and pledge our solidarity with the Indian struggle for national freedom and social emancipation.”65 The Pan-African Congress set up a working committee with Dr DuBois as Chairman and Nkrumah as Secretary.


During World War II, African troops were utilised by Britain in India, Burma and in the South-East Asian theatre generally. West African troops too came into contact with “politically minded Asiatics reaching out towards political indepen-dence”.66 Some African troops from Gold Coast, along with other Commonwealth troops, had been taken to Durban in South Africa, before being dispersed to various destinations. Many of them heard of Gandhi there and later on even in East Africa, where they were posted along with the Indian Artillery.67 On returning from Asia, some of them worked for the independence of the Gold Coast.68 One of these, John K. Baku, who became a politician and trade union organiser after the war, recalled his military experiences in India where he obtained a ‘leave pass’ and went to Bombay (Mumbai) “in order to try and get a glimpse of Gandhi...”.69 It is hardly surprising in this context that the colonial governments of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia should have sent military officials “to visit the 80,000 West African troops in India and Burma to collect, at first hand, information as to their general outlook and their views on post-war developments”.70 The political exposure that West African troops received in India and Burma became a factor in further developments that occurred in the countries of their origin.71

Gandhi was repeatedly stressing the inter-connection between Indian and African freedom. As the New Year unfolded, Gandhi, in a discussion with the political workers in Bengal, told them: “If India won its freedom through truth and non-violence she would not only point the way to all the exploited Asiatic nations, she would become a torch-bearer for the Negro races that inhabit the vast continent of Africa, and even to Europe.”72

Of especial significance is the meeting that some West African soldiers had with Gandhi in Madras (now Chennai) in early 1946. The political importance of this may be gauged firstly from the fact that visitors to Gandhi had, for decades, been under surveillance of colonial intelligence; and secondly from the particular juncture in January-February 1946 when the meeting took place. It was the time when revolt was simmering among the Indian naval ratings of the British Indian Navy. The revolt broke out at the port of Bombay in mid-February 1946.73

A report of the conversation with the West African soldiers was published in Gandhi’s journal on February 24, 1946. The West African soldiers came prepared “with a long list of questions”, which to Pyarelal, Gandhi’s secretary, indicated “deep stirring in their conscious-ness”.74 They had done some preparation for the interview; Pyarelal observes that they “quoted Gandhiji’s observation that to remain in slavery is beneath the dignity of man; a slave who is conscious of his state and yet does not strive to break his chains is lower than the beast”.75 They asked Gandhi: “How can a continent like Africa fight down the fetters of slavery when it is so hopelessly divided?” His advice was the simple message he had been infusing in India since 1920: “But there is a charm which can overcome all these handicaps. The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. He frees himself and shows the way to others.”76 Gandhi’s further remarks must necessarily have assumed an added significance by the time of publication in his journal because the Indian Naval Revolt had meanwhile occurred: “Freedom and slavery are mental states. Therefore the first thing is to say to yourself: ‘I shall no longer accept the role of a slave. I shall not obey orders as such but shall disobey them when they are in conflict with my conscience.’ The so-called master may lash you and try to force you to serve him. You will say: ‘No, I will not serve you for your money or under a threat.’ This may mean suffering. Your readiness to suffer will light the torch of freedom which can never be put out.”77 They queried him further: “Africa and India both drink of the cup of slavery. What necessary steps can be taken to unite the two nations so as to present a common front?” Gandhi’s replies were noteworthy: “You are right. India is not yet free and yet Indians have begun to realise that their freedom is coming, not because the white man says so but because they have developed the power within. Inasmuch as India’s struggle is non-violent, it is a struggle for the emancipation of all oppressed races against superior might. I do not propose mechanical joint action between them. ‘Each one has to find his own salvation’ is true of this as well as the other world. It is enough that there is a real moral bond between Asiatics and Africans. It will grow as time passes.”78

Obviously seeing freedom as being sufficiently within his grasp, Gandhi shared with the West African soldiers some economic ideas about the future. He told them that he wanted Indo-African trade to be non-exploitative and “not of manufactured goods against raw materials after the fashion of Western exploiters”.79 Another significant comment Gandhi made was about the spinning wheel which he had popularised in India as part of his programme for reconstruction and utilisation of idle labour time so as to end widespread poverty: “If I had discovered it in South Africa, I would have introduced it among the Africans who were my neighbours in Phoenix. You can grow cotton, you have ample leisure and plenty of manual skill. You should study and adopt the lesson of the village crafts we are trying to revive. Therein lies the key to your salvation.”80 For years he had been suggesting that the logic of structurally unequal exchange which had driven him to campaign for hand spun and handwoven cloth in India, applied equally to Africa: “Cloth manufactured in Manchester is meant for use not in Manchester or England or Europe, but to be exported to Asia or Africa for the use of the people there. On the contrary khadi is meant to be made for the millions by the millions living in the villages.”81


Political events in Africa were gathering momentum. On January 8, 1950 the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in the Gold Coast (later Ghana) “commenced Positive Action, a campaign of non-violent resistance modeled on Gandhian tactics”.82 Dr J.B. Danquah, founder of the Gold Coast Youth Congress in 1937 and co-founder of the United Gold Coast Convention ten years later, and Kwame Nkrumah, both leading figures in Ghana’s national movement, acknowledged inspiration from Gandhi though they differed in their interpretations.83 There was even a small sartorial symbolism that underlined a symbiotic connection: “CPP members out of prison sported P.G. (Prison Graduate) caps, which were the Gandhi caps of the Indian struggle with the letters P. G. added”.84 Kwame Nkrumah himself took to wearing the cap.85 The “caps of the Indian struggle” had themselves originated in the prison dress to which Gandhi and his companions had been familiarised in South Africa.86 Other activists of the African diaspora, also committed to non-violent struggle and influenced by Gandhi’s example, converged on Ghana in support of the movement. These included the African-Americans Bill Sutherland and Bayard Rustin. George Padmore of the Pan-African Congress wrote on June 9, 1953 to his old Indian comrade, N.G. Ranga: “Do not be discouraged. Africa is on the march. Nothing can hold the Africans back. We shall suffer many blows before achieving freedom, but now that they have learned the Gandhian technique of non-violent non-co-operation they have a mighty weapon in their hands. I have discussed its application in the Gold Coast in my book ‘The Gold Coast Revolution’, a copy of which I have sent you. I hope the book will become a sort of text book to guide other African movements which have not yet reached the stage of the G.C. Already the British are trying to divide up Nigeria along the lines of India— on religion and communalism but we are fighting it tooth and nail. Thanks for the warning and example from India, we are prepared to meet the imperialist challenge.”87 Ranga, along with Kenyatta and Dr Harold Moody, had founded the League of Coloured Peoples in England in the 1930s. Another scholar assessed the significance of the events set in motion in Ghana: “Nkrumah’s declaration of Positive Action on January 8, 1950 was influenced by Mohandas Gandhi’s non-violent revolution in India. It constituted the first major political action in the history of the country. It was to bring to an end British colonial rule not only in Ghana, but also in the rest of Africa....The non-compromising non-violent Positive Action was also the second confrontation of this kind that the British government had to face after that of Gandhi in India years earlier.”88 89

Visiting Africa in 1952, the African-American Bayard Rustin, who had been influenced by Gandhi’s methods, found the continent “afire”, with “every imaginable form of resistance being used to break 300 years of ... European domination”.90 In that year South Africa was boiling over with the Defiance campaign. Rustin met Nkrumah in Accra. And in Nigeria he met Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (“Zik”) near Lagos. Rustin and Dr Azikiwe, “an eager student of Gandhi’s campaigns”, discussed Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Later comparing Azikiwe and Nehru, Rustin recorded: “I have never met two men more alike than Zik and Nehru. Each is fiery and sensitive. Each has a world view. Each has the love of his people.”91 The African-American added that “each respects the ideals of Gandhi and each is inwardly sorry he cannot see clearly to follow him all the way”.92

Though diverse tactics would be available for adoption in West Africa as in other parts of Africa, Gandhi’s struggle in South Africa and in India continued to inspire activists and thinkers in and from the continent. There were parts of West Africa where Gandhi struck a chord. In the Ivory Coast Felix Houphouet-Boigny (1905?-1993), for example, regarded Gandhi as a source of inspiration and was himself spoken of as the “Gandhi of Africa”.93 Houphouet-Boigny was associated with the Parti Democratique de la Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) and persuaded the French Constituent Assembly in 1946 to support legislation “to outlaw the forced labour system in all of France’s colonies”, a measure which ensured wide support for him among the people of West Africa.94

As colonial repression mounted in some parts of Africa, independence dawned in others. The Gold Coast having become the independent state of Ghana in 1957, the first conference of independent African states was organised in Accra in April 1958. This was followed by the All African Peoples’ Conference, also in Accra, in December 1958. A posthumously published work by Kwame Nkrumah reproduces the provisional agenda prepared for the conference: “The main purpose of the All-African Peoples’ Conference to be held in Accra, Ghana, in December 1958, will be to formulate concrete plans and work out the Gandhian tactics and strategy of the African Non-violent Revo-lution....”95

According to one contemporary observer, the final resolution was a compromise between what was described as the Algerian point of view, which considered “violence to be one of the weapons used by subject peoples to achieve independence from colonialism” and other Africans who “wanted non-violence and the policies of Ghandi (sic)”.96

Violence was always lurking around the corner. In a pamphlet first written and circulated in the forties, Nkrumah, mentioning the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by British-led troops in Amritsar (India) in 1919, had referred to the colonial policy in Africa which “in 1929 mowed down by machine gun fire poor defenceless Nigerian women for peacefully and harmlessly protesting against excessive taxation, the counterpart of India’s Amritsar.”97 98

On April 7, 1960, in the shadow of the Sharpeville incident in South Africa, Nkrumah addressed the Positive Action Conference for Peace and Security in Africa. “The beginning of the year 1960,” he said, “has seen the climax of ruthless and concerted outrages on the peace-loving people of our continent. The explosion of an atomic device in the Sahara by the French Government and the wanton massacre in the Union of South Africa of our brothers and sisters who were engaged in peaceful demons-trations against humiliating and repulsive laws of the South African Government are two eloquent events in this climax, a climax which is a sign post to the beginning of the end of foreign supremacy and domination in Africa.”99

 “Positive action has already achieved remarkable success in the liberation struggle of our continent and I feel sure that it can further save us from the perils of this atomic arrogance. If the direct action that was carried out by the international protest team were to be repeated on a mass scale, or simultaneously from various parts of Africa, the result could be as powerful and as successful as Gandhi’s historic Salt March. We salute Mahatma Gandhi and we remember, in tribute to him, that it was in South Africa that his method of non-violence and non-cooperation was first practiced in the struggle against the vicious race discrimination that still plagues that unhappy country.

But now positive action with non-violence, as advocated by us, has found expression in South Africa in the defiance of the oppressive pass laws. This defiance continues in spite of the murder of unarmed men, women, and children by the South African Government. We are sure that the will of the majority will ultimately prevail, for no government can continue to impose its rule in face of the conscious defiance of the overwhelming masses of its people. There is no force, however impregnable, that a united and determined people cannot overcome.”100

At the end of the sixties, the West African nationalist pioneer, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, wrote in the light of his own experience: “On Gandhi’s teachings of satyagraha, history has proved Gandhi right.”101 Dr Azikiwe understood a vital aspect of Gandhi’s method : it did not consist in mere expression of love towards the opponent, as is sometimes incorrectly assumed, but of a struggle to change the existing state of affairs. Dr Azikiwe elaborated: “Those Indians who tried to love and co-operate with the alien Sahibs who ruled over them, and continued to do their work without seeking a political means of effecting a radical change in their status, had learned from experience that they were living in the clouds. Who but a fool would co-operate with evil or with his oppressor?”102

As Tom Mboya noted, Gandhi’s influence in Africa was felt across “political or racial boundaries”.103 His impact, such as it was, appeared to cut across nations, races, linguistic areas and religions. Among his most ardent students, for example, were Nigeria’s Aminu Kano and the leading Algerian intellectual and Islamic scholar, Malek Bennabi. A devout Muslim, Aminu Kano, according to his biographer, “analysed Gandhi’s success in lifting millions of Indians to a high level of dedication and endeavoured to adapt Gandhi’s non-violent techniques to Northern Nigeria”.104 Kano came, at least according to one source, to be referred to as the “Gandhi of Nigeria”.105 A progressive Muslim and Secretary of the Northern Elements Progressive Union, Aminu Kano took several initiatives for land and social reform, supporting peasants’ co-operatives and advocating gender equality.106 The name of Aminu Kano came to be associated with high ideals and moral purpose. Underlining the “importance to society of people like Aminu Kano or Mahatma Gandhi”, the West African litterateur, Chinua Achebe would write: “Gandhi was real; Aminu Kano was real. They were not angels in heaven, they were human like the rest of us in India and Nigeria. Therefore, after their example, no one who reduces the high purpose of politics which they exemplified down to a swinish scramble can hope to do so without bringing a terrible judgement on himself.”107

There was another aspect of Gandhi—his strategy for national rejuvenation and recons-truction which often interested West Africans. Senegal’s writer, poet and statesman Leopold Senghor (1906-2001) identified Gandhi as an inspiration. According to Senghor’s biographer: “His non-violent approach to colonial problems had been inspired in 1944 by the example of Gandhi. He called Gandhi ‘the most surprising revolutionary of our time’ because he was non-violent and because ‘his goal was not political victory but spiritual victory’”.108 Senghor emphasises the social and economic content of Gandhi’s message: “Let us not mistake the Mahatma for a soft dreamer. With a truly Western realism he works for the economic and social liberation of his country, but that liberation itself is a means, not an end. It is from this point of view that he considers colonisation less an evil than the symptom of the malady from which India suffers. He invites the colonizer to collaborate with him in the spiritual liberation of the country.”109 In 1948 Senghor would form the Bloc Democratique Senegalais (BDS) and in 1956 the Bloc Progressiste Senegalaise (BPS) before becoming the President of Senegal in 1960. In Cameroon intellectuals closely studied Gandhi’s ideational resistance to colonialism. The influential journal Abbia was guided by Bernard Nsokika Fonlon who was “quite explicit” in his “resort to writings against imposed forms of education by Ireland’s Padraic Pearse and India’s Mohandas Gandhi, nationalist rebels who made those descents from elite to mass surroundings Fonlon called for and were respectively executed and jailed for their efforts”.110 “Their resistance served Fonlon as models for Africa’s leaders.”111

Gandhi’s advocacy of African freedom led India in its support for freedom struggles in Africa. And with reconciliation stressed by Gandhi, most former British colonies opted to remain in the Commonwealth after indepen-dence. The extent to which Gandhian non-violent struggles came to draw upon the emphasis that Gandhi placed on a non-racialist construction of peoplehood, especially and expressly from May 1908 onwards (when he had spoken in Johannesburg looking forward to the day when “all the different races commingle and produce a civilisation that perhaps the world has not yet seen”112), the influences which served to bring this about, and Gandhi’s repercussions in West Africa remain a promising area for further study.


1. Kwame Nkrumah, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology, Heinemann, London, 1961, pp. 2-3.

2. George H.T. Kimble, Tropical Africa, Volume 2: Society & Polity, Anchor Books, New York, 1962, p. 263.

3. Davidson Nicol, ‘The Soft Pink Palms: On British West African Writers : An Essay’ in Presence Africaine, Paris, June-November 1956, p. 118.

4. David Carney passed away in May 2014.

5. See, for instance, The African Element in Gandhi, Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi, 2006, a work that emerged from some of my lectures in South Africa; and “Gandhi and some contemporary African leaders from KwaZulu-Natal“, Natalia, Vol 42, 2012. For more on Gandhi against race, see my article “Freedom, Race and Francophonie: Gandhi and the Construction of Peoplehood” in the Dakar-based CODESRIA’s journal, Identite, Culture et Politique, Vol 10, N. 2, 2009, pp. 78-95,

6. Indian Opinion, March 8, 1913, CW, Vol 11, p. 483.

7. August 26, 1911, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CW), Vol 96 (Supplementary Vol VI), p. 71.

8. For further material on Burtt’s investigations undertaken at the behest of the Cadbury Brothers Limited see Catherine Higgs, Chocolate Islands : Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 2012.

9. “Slavery in West Africa”, Indian Opinion, April 26, 1913. Carvalho had earlier in 1907 defended Portuguese practices but had seemed by March 1913 to reverse his position. (See Higgs, op. cit., p. 158) Gandhi’s Indian Opinion had thus clued in within weeks to the latter exposures.

10. Indian Opinion, April 26, 1913.

11. CW, Vol 48, p. 385.

12. “Gandhi and India”, Crisis, New York, March 1922.

13. W.E.B. DuBois, “Gandhi and the American Negroes”, Gandhi Marg, Bombay, July 1957, Vol 1, Number 3, p. 175.

14. Hugh H. Smythe and Mabel M. Smythe, The New Nigerian Elite, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1960, p 28.

15. Robert Fay in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (eds.), Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience,op. cit., p. 390 and Norbert C. Brockman, An African Biographical Dictionary, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, California, 1994, pp. 75-76. An influential writer, Casely-Hayford worked for African political rights and was one of the main founders of the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA). His efforts for establishing a university in Ghana (then Gold Coast) resulted in the founding of Achimota College in 1927. Although the nature and precise juncture of Gandhi’s influence, if any, upon Casely-Hayford may not be easy to pinpoint, there are multiple points of affinity. In 1911 when he produced Ethiopia Unbound, one of the earliest African novels, Casely-Hayford dedicated it “to the sons of Ethiopia the world wide over” and his interpretation of Ethiopianism was itself wide; it has been argued that Casely-Hayford’s “Ethiopianism encourages all oppressed peoples to identify themselves as historical subjects who will eventually be liberated”. (Kwadwo Osei-Nyame, “Pan-Africanist ideology and the African historical novel of self-discovery : the examples of Kobina Sekyi and J.E. Casely Hayford”, Journal of African Cultural Studies, Volume 12, Number 2, June 1999, pp. 137-153) This notion of Pan-Africanism may be compared to Gandhi’s declaration in his article Independence v. Swaraj: “My ambition is much higher than independence. Through the deliverance of India, I seek to deliver the so-called weaker races of the earth from the crushing heels of Western exploitation in which England is the greatest partner.” (Young India, January 12, 1928, CW, Vol 35, p. 457) Apart from the inclusive nature of their nationalism, there was yet another bridge between Gandhi and other African leaders like Casely-Hayford. This lay in their emphasis on education; like Gandhi, Casely-Hayford had also been impressed by the work of Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee. (W. Manning Marable, “Booker T. Washington and African Nationalism”, Phylon, 1974, Vol 35, No 4, pp. 398-406 and p. 400) In the mid-1930s Gandhi’s friend and associate, C.F. Andrews, who had visited Tuskegee, would spend some time also at Achimota.

16. Janheinz Jahn, Ulla Schild, Almut Nordmann, Who’s Who in African Literature: Biographies, Works, Comment-aries, Horst Erdmann Verlag, Tubingen, 1972, p. 73.

17. Letter dated November 23, 1920, CW, Vol 19, p. 14.

18. Young India, March 18, 1926, CW, Vol 30, pp. 135-136.

19. CW, Supplementary Vol. 1, p. 411. Curiously, Gandhi’s support for the Brussels Congress is often overlooked especially by Indian academicians.

20. Indian Annual Register, 1926, Volume 2, p. 322.

21. Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol 2, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1972, p. 286n.

22. See J. Ayo Langley, “Pan-Africanism in Paris, 1924-36”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol 7, No 1, (April 1969), pp. 79-84.

23. Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol 2, p. 317.

24. Martin Steins, “Brown France versus Black Africa: The Tide Turned in 1932”, Research in African Literatures, Volume 14, No 4, special issue on African Literary History, Winter, 1983, pp. 474-497.

25. J. Ayo Langley, “Pan-Africanism in Paris, 1924-36”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol 7, No 1. (April 1969), pp 74-75.

26. Young India, August 11, 1927, CW, Vol. 34, p. 315.

27. Ben N. Azikiwe, “Ethics of Colonial Imperialism”, The Journal of Negro History, Vol 16, No 3, (July 1931), pp 287-308 at p. 303n.

28. CW, Vol 48, p. 255.

29. Idem.

30. Idem.

31. C.B. Dalal, Gandhi 1915-1948: A Detailed Chronology, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, 1971, p. 94.

32. Yema Lucilda Hunter, An African Treasure: In Search of Gladys Casely-Hayford, 1904-1950, Accra, 2008,
p. 26 and p. 31.

33. Adelaide M. Cromwell, An African Victorian Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960, Washington, D.C., Howard University Press, 1992, p. 182.

34. Adelaide Casely Hayford to Anna Melissa Graves, December 5, 1931 in Anna Melissa Graves (ed.), Benvenuto Cellini Had No Prejudice Against Bronze: Letters From West Africans, Waverly Press, Baltimore Md., 1942, p. 53. As it was in Oxford that Gladys Casely Hayford met Gandhi, it is probable that a Gold Coast African student who, according to Mahadev Desai’s record, Gandhi came across in London was yet another student apart from Gladys. See Desai’s account in C Rajagopalachar (i) and J C Kumarappa (eds.), The Nation’s Voice, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 2nd edn., 1947, (first published, 1932), pp. 147-148.

35. For a later reference, see Interview to S.S. Tema, January 1, 1939, Harijan, February 18, 1939, CW, Vol 68, pp. 272-274, in which Gandhi told Tema, a member of South Africa’s African National Congress: “You must not be afraid of being ‘Bantuized’ ....”, and: “If you belong to the common people, live like them and think like them, they will make common cause with you.”

36. CW, Vol 48, p. 255.

37. Yema Lucilda Hunter, op. cit., p. 105.

38. Ibid., p. 164.

39. CW, Vol 48, p. 281.

40. Idem.

41. Idem. The reference was to Gandhi’s eldest son Harilal Gandhi, who too had participated in the Gandhi-led campaigns in South Africa and had been imprisoned there in 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1911; later he had developed differences with his father.

42. H. Macaulay, “Gandhi and Leadership”, Lagos Daily News, November 26, 1931, quoted in the editors’ introduction to Frieder Ludwig and Afe Adogame (eds.), European Traditions in the Study of Religion in Africa, Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2004, p. 8.

43. H. Macaulay, ‘No More Arms’, Lagos Daily News, February 5, 1932, cited in the editors’ Introduction: Historiography and European Perceptions of African Religious History, in Frieder Ludwig and Afe Adogame (eds.), European Traditions in the Study of Religion in Africa, Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2004, p. 8.

44. Eric Williams, Gandhi : A Broadcast on the 90th Anniversary of the Birth of Mahatma Gandhi, P.N.M. Publishing Co., Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, n.d., p. 4.

45. Young India, March 18, 1926, CW, Vol 30, pp. 135-136.

46. Benarsidas Chaturvedi and Marjorie Sykes, Charles Freer Andrews, Government of India, Publications Division, New Delhi, 1971, p. 325.

47. Letter to C F Andrews, February 7, 1935, CW, Vol 60, pp 180-181.

48. Benarsidas Chaturvedi and Marjorie Sykes, op. cit., pp. 326-327 citing The Times of West Africa, March 30, 1935.

49. Penny M. Von Eschen, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anti-Colonialism 1937-1957, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1997, p. 16 and p. 195n, citing “West Africa Uses Tactics of Gandhi: Natives Boycott British Goods to Register Dissatisfaction”, Chicago Defender, October 18, 1937.

50. Amba Prasad, The Nationalist Movement in Ghana in Bisheshwar Prasad (ed.), Contemporary Africa, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1960, p. 73.

51. Idem.

52. Idem.

53. George Padmore, ‘Cocoa War on the Gold Coast’, The Crisis, February 1938.

54. Kumar Ghoshal, People in Colonies, Sheridan House, New York, 1948, p. 137. According to a booklet issued by the Gold Coast nationalist, J.B. Danquah, the African farmers’ decision had the backing of Sir Ofori Atta: See J.B. Danquah, Liberty of the Subject : A Monograph on the Gold Coast Cocoa Hold-Up and Boycott of Foreign Goods (1937-38), p. 11. African farmers like Kojo Broni and Kweku Abebrese played a leading role in the movement. (Danquah, Liberty, pp. 14-17) Sir Ofori Atta’s role is mentioned also in Padmore’s article referred to earlier.

55. Letter to Additional Secretary, Home Department, Government of India, 15 July 1943, CW, Vol 77, pp. 128-129.

56. Zik: A Selection From the Speeches of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Governor General of the Federation of Nigeria, Cambridge University Press, London, 1961, pp. 315-316.

57. Colin Legum (ed.), Africa Handbook, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Revised Edition, 1969, p. 553.

58. George Padmore, Pan-Africanism or Communism?, Dobson, London, 1956, p. 177; see also Colin Legum, ‘The Roots of Pan-Africanism’ in Colin Legum (ed.), Africa Handbook, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Revised Edition, 1969, p. 550 and Guy Arnold,
Africa: A Modern History,
Atlantic Books, London, 2005, pp. 11-12.

59. Colin Legum, Pan-Africanism: A Short Political Guide, Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1962, p. 31.

60. Hakim Adi and Marika Sherwood, The 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress Revisited, New Beacon Books, London, 1995, p. 44, (relying on the reports of the proceedings in West African Pilot, November 1, 1945, p. 1; The Statesman, Calcutta, October 19, 1945, p. 5; and Manchester Evening News, October 16, 1945, p. 1).

61. Adi and Sherwood, op. cit., p. 45.

62. Peter Abrahams, The Coyaba Chronicles: Reflections on the Black Experience in the 20th Century, David Philip Publishers, Claremont, South Africa, 2000, p. 47.

63. Mary Benson, The African Patriots: The Story of the African National Congress of South Africa, Faber and Faber, London, 1963, p. 117.

64. Adi and Sherwood, op. cit., p. 134.

65. George Padmore, (ed.), Colonial and Coloured Unity: A Programme of Action; History of the Pan-African Congress, reprinted in Adi and Sherwood, op. cit., p. 113.

66. I. Wallerstein, The Road to Independence: Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Mouton & Co., Paris, 1964, p. 79n.

67. See Gail M. Presbey in David Boersema and Katy Gray Brown (eds.), Spiritual and Political Dimensions of Nonviolence and Peace, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2006, p. 6, relying on an account by Geoffrey Aduamah, a Ghanaian who fought in the Second World War; the source of the interview with Aduamah is given at p. 25n; the full text of the interview is at script.html. Downloaded by the present author on December 29, 2008. Indians in South Africa are reported by Aduamah as having asked the African troops: “Why are you fighting for Britain?.....Are you yourself free?” and advised them: “Fight for your freedom first.”

68. Adrienne M. Israel, ‘Measuring the War Experience: Ghanaian Soldiers in World War II’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol 25, No 1, (March 1987), pp. 159-168, at p. 167.

69. Idem.

70. The Statesman, Delhi/Calcutta, October 21, 1945.

71. Guy Arnold, Africa: A Modern History, Atlantic Books, London, 2005, p. 5.

72. Amrita Bazar Patrika, January 5, 1946, CW, Vol 82, p. 335.

73. Sachchidananda Bhattacharya, A Dictionary of Indian History, University of Calcutta, Calcuta, 1972, p. 682.

74. CW, Vol 83, p. 11n.

75. Idem.

76. Harijan, February 24, 1946, CW, Vol 83, p. 11.

77. Ibid., p. 12.

78. Idem.

79. Idem.

80. CW, Vol 83, p. 13 For a reference to some efforts in Africa in the 1940s to introduce the hand spinning wheel “of the Gandhi-type made in the Achimota workshops”, see ‘The Institute of West African Arts, Industries and Social Science: The Society’s Afternoon Meeting for the Rev R. W. Stopford, Principal of Achimota College, Gold Coast, May 26, 1943’, Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol 42, No 169 (October 1943), pp. 183-190. The method adopted by the staff of Achimota College in Gold Coast (Ghana) was that the wheel would be introduced, in particular, to the “women of the village” and would then be lent to the village on condition that “the village carpenter makes more like it” A loom would then be introduced and “the village carpenter makes a copy of it”. According to the account: “The idea has caught on well.”

81. Harijan, September 15, 1940, CW, Vol 72, p. 457.

82. I. Wallerstein, The Road to Independence: Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Mouton & Co., Paris, 1964, p. 46.

83. Amba Prasad writes: “Dr Danquah issued a pamphlet in 1949 entitled ‘Political Agitation in the Gold Coast’ in which he opposed Positive Action and urged satya and ahimsa of Gandhiji, though Nkrumah does not see any contradiction between Gandhiji’s ideal and his Positive Action as has been explained in his What I Mean by Positive Action.“ [Amba Prasad, ‘The Nationalist Movement in Ghana’ in Bisheshwar Prasad (ed.), Contemporary Africa,op. cit., p. 78, note 19]

84. Ibid., p. 73.

85. Elspeth Huxley, Four Guineas : A Journey Through West Africa, Chatto and Windus, London, 1954, p. 84.

86. H.S.L. Polak, “Early Years : 1869-1914” in H.S.L. Polak, H.N. Brailsford, Lord Pethick-Lawrence (eds.), Mahatma Gandhi, Odhams Press, London 1949, p. 61.

87. N.G. Ranga, Agony and Solace: Correspondence, Statements, Speeches etc. 1936-1974, Kisan Publications, Nidubrolu, Andhra Pradesh (India), 1974, p. 293.

88. Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, Kwame Nkrumah’s Politico-Cultural Thought and Policies: An African-Centred Paradigm for the Second Phase of the African Revolution, Routledge, New York, 2005, p. 101.

89. There is, especially in Left-wing literature, a tendency towards disillusionment with Nkrumah’s historic role, especially after his coming to power in Ghana. As against this the Afro-Caribbean Marxist C.L.R. James seems to have seen no reason to change his own high assessment of Nkrumah made in an article in 1964, going on to include the article in a work published thirteen years later. James had written : “The countries known as underdeveloped have produced the greatest statesmen of the twentieth century, men who have substantially altered the shape and direction of world civilisation in the last fifty years. They are four in number: Lenin, Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung and Nkrumah.” (C.L.R. James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution, Allison & Busby, London, 1977, p. 189)

90. John De’Emilio, Lost Prophet : The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 184-185.

91. D’Emilio, op. cit., p. 185.

92. Idem.

93. K. Madhu Panikkar, Revolution in Africa, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1961, p. 10; see also Ali A. Mazrui, “Africa between Gandhi and Nehru : An Afro-Asian Interaction”, Africa Quarterly, Vol 39, No. 2, 1999, pp. 1-20, at p. 1.

94. See Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (eds.), Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience, Basic Civitas Books, Perseus Books Group, New York, 1999, p. 969.

95. Kwame Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path, International Publishers, New York, 1973, pp 132-133.

96. John Stonehouse, Prohibited Immigrant, The Bodley Head, London, 1960, p. 213.

97. Kwame Nkrumah, Towards Colonial Freedom: Africa in the Struggle against World Imperialism, Heinemann, London, 1962, p. 35.

98. For accounts of the Nigeria incident of 1929 see (i) Nina E. Mba, ‘Heroines of the Women’s War’ in Bolanle Awe (ed.), Nigerian Women in Historical Perspective, Sankore Publishers (Lagos) and Bookcraft (Ibadan), 1992, pp. 73-88 and (ii) Judith Van Allen, ‘Sitting on a Man:Colonialism and the Lost Political Institutions of Igbo Women’in Roy Richard Grinker and Christopher B. Steiner (eds.), Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History and Representation, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 1997, pp. 536-549. Judith Van Allen writes: “On two occasions, clashes between the women and the troops left more than 50 women dead and 50 wounded from gunfire. The lives taken were those of women only—no men, Igbo or British, were even seriously injured.” (Van Allen, op. cit., p. 543)

99. Kwame Nkrumah, ‘Positive Action in Africa’in James Duffy and Robert A Manners (ed.), Africa Speaks, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey, 1961 p. 48.

100. Ibid. pp. 50-51.

101. Nnamdi Azikiwe, My Odyssey: An Autobiography, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1970, p. 274.

102. Idem.

103. Tom Mboya in Africa Quarterly, Vol II, No 2, July- September 1962, p. 76.

104. Alan Feinstein, African Revolutionary: The Life and Times of Nigeria’s Aminu Kano, Davison Publishing House, Devizes, Wiltshire, 1973, pp. 143-144.

105. Idem.

106. Smith Hempstone, The New Africa, Faber & Faber, London, 1961, p. 605; see also Elspeth Huxley, Four Guineas: A Journey Through West Africa, Chatto & Windus, London, 1954, pp. 237-238.

107. Chinua Achebe, The Trouble with Nigeria, Heinemann, London, 1984, p. 63.

108. Jacques Louis Hymans, Leopold Sedar Senghor: An Intellectual Biography, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1971, p. 156 and p. 247n, citing Senghor, ‘La Critique des livres: le Pelerinage des Sources par Lanza del Vasto’, l’Etudiant de la France d’Outre-mer, Janvier 5, 1944, 15.

109. Ibid., p.154 and p. 247n.

110. Milton Krieger, “Building the Republic Through Letters: ‘Abbia : Cameroon Cultural Review’, 1963-82 and its Legacy”


Research in African Literatures, Vol 27, No 2, (Summer 1996), pp. 155-177, at p. 16.

111. Idem.

112. Speech at YMCA, Johannesburg, May 18, 1908, Indian Opinion, June 6 and 13, 1908, CW, Vol 8, p. 246.

The author is a writer and lawyer in the Supreme Court. He has specialised on the freedom movements in India and Africa. For some time he was a Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.

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