Political parties in French West Africa.
Markovitz, Irving L
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The success of the R.D.A., M.S.A. and C.A. in establishing themselves as pan-territorial movements is the distinguishing feature of political parties in French West Africa, and is in sharp contrast to the ethnically bound parties of British West Africa, such as the Ibo-based N.C.N.C. and the Yoruba founded Action Group. Even the Convention People's Party, which claims to be wholly secular, originally, and to a very large extent at present, depends for most of its support from the predominantly Akan South. This is not to say that certain tribal groups and traditional leaders do not play an important role in contemporary politics. There are however, no comparisons to the role of the above mentioned tribes or leaders such as the Sarduana of Sokoto in British West Africa. The French sought to eliminate the power of the chiefs and absorbed them into the administrative bureaucracy. British policy, while eventually resulting in the same end, sought to maintain the fiction of the local leaders' independence and autonomy, and preserved, in so far as possible, traditional societies and organizations. Another respect in which the A.O.F. parties differed from those of their British counterparts, was in the absence of a demand, until recently, for independence. Both the pan-territorial character of the R.D.A., H.S.A., and C .A., and the tendency to demand association within a Euro-African Community, are in large measure due to the French colonial policy and the institutional framework provided by the French government. Historically, there has always existed a strong, highly centralized administration, with all power in Paris. There has been an absence of an assumption of ultimate territorial self government, and little opportunity for legal political expression until the 1946 Constitution. Even this reform established Territorial Assemblies which were only advisory, and made representation in the National Assembly the most meaningful political right. The idea was to burn significant elements of the African population into Frenchmen, to have others absorb French culture so that they might become French citizens. The colonies however, were to remain overseas parts of France. French culture did succeed in winning over an African elite which remained strongly attached to it. They attacked the colonial system, but not France. The ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were eagerly accepted and demanded for Africans. The First Constituent Assembly had a decisive influence on the shaping of the character of political parties and political demands, for this ensured that these areas would continue to have representation in metropolitan institutions, which meant in turn that African parties could become deeply involved in the party politics of metropolitan France. [TRUNCATED]
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University