Sept 24 ICGC event: Decolonization and the Nation-State

Decolonization and the Nation-State: Reflections on the 1958 Referendum in French West Africa
Thursday September 24th, 2015
12-1:30pm  1210 Heller Hall

Presented by: Dr. Elizabeth Schmidt, Loyola University Maryland

Abstract: In September 1958, the people of Guinea voted "no" in an empirewide referendum on a new French constitution that would have perpetuated colonial subordination.  While the majority of electors in the seven other French West African territories endorsed the constitution and joined the new French-dominated Community, Guinea alone opted for immediate independence as a solitary nation-state. Some historians have argued that Guinean political activists abandoned the more difficult federal project, despite warnings that balkanization would jeopardize African social, economic, cultural, and political development, in favor of the immediate the gratification of national political sovereignty. This paper counters that the French Community, as defined in the 1958 constitution, did not offer the possibility of a federation in which African states would be equal partners. Rather than abandoning federalism, Guineans who voted "no" confronted the political reality that metropolitan France would thwart the establishment of federations that were not under its control.  For Guinea, territorial independence was not the first choice.  However, it was the best option available in September 1958. 

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