Ghana, Guinea and Mali tried to form a three-in-one nation but the dream was eventually let go due to internal factors in each of the countries as well as by the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.
Although the dream of a United States of Africa has been situated in African intellectual history for nearly 100 years, the first substantial attempt to bring that dream to life was an ambitious project spearheaded by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah.
After leading Ghana to independence in 1957, Nkrumah thought the feat was “meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of the African continent”.
It is very necessary to point out that this famous quote was uttered on the eve of Ghana’s independence to a jubilant crowd who had not turned up for a lecture on Pan-African philosophy. But Nkrumah, the first leader of a free sub-Saharan African country, could not help himself but state one condition under which Ghana’s independence would be more fulfilled – be a lightning rod for other independence struggles on the continent.
Soon after Ghana, Guinea defied French colonial expectations in another intriguing story in 1958 to become only the second country in sub-Sahara to declare independence. Mali too, led by Modibo Keita, left the France Federation two years after Guinea, and the newly-independent African nation joined the Union of African States (UAS), previously Union of Independent African States (UAIS), comprising its two West African neighbors Ghana and Guinea.
The UAS was historically the first move towards a post-colonial Pan-African organization in Africa. It was formed pragmatically as a strong bilateral relationship between Ghana and Guinea in 1958 but in 1959, the two countries entered into another alliance with the never-before-colonized Liberia to enact the Union of Independent African States.
Liberia’s interests in this stead and the UAIS were rather short-lived. And so when Mali joined Ghana and Guinea’s UAS in 1960, the West African trio became the near-crystallization of a political and economic union in the form of what Nkrumah had always preached.
The UAS was, for its time and place, a dream equally beautiful and scary. Juxtapose the Union with, for instance, the European Commission (EC), which was founded by historically free European states in 1958 as a Pan-European effort at political, social, and economic integration, and you will come to the conclusion that UAS was somewhat too heavy for the shoulders of three infant nations in exploited Africa.
The idealism, however, needs to be applauded and this should encourage African states to disregard colonial boundaries and establish United States of Africa Federation.
Africa must unite