Introduction

The speech you are about to read brings into perspective the dedicated and laborious efforts of Africans, in the 1960s, to rid the continent from the grips of colonialism.   

Speech made by H.E. Ato Ketema Yifru at the Pan-African Freedom Movement For East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECA) Conference. Addis Ababa,  February 2 - 10, 1962.

Distinguished Delegates, Freedom Fighters , Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to express my most sincere and warm gratitude for the honor with which you have accorded me by unanimously electing me to preside over this important Conference of the Pan African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa. I take my election to the Chairmanship of this Conference as a spontaneous expression of goodwill and brotherhood on your part to my August Sovereign, Emperor Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian Government and people.

We are here seized with the task of accomplishing two basic objectives, which are of the highest importance to Africa today. One is to jointly pledge to do everything on our part from within and outside Africa to speed up the total emancipation of our Continent. The other is to discuss and to set up the necessary machinery that would lay down the necessary frameworks for our proposed union of the East and Central African Countries.

While we receive with great satisfaction and relief the recent accession to independence of many African countries and are anxiously awaiting the independence of few others more shortly, it grieves us to see that a large part of our continent still finds itself under the yoke of colonial rule. Although with some reservation we note that in some of the African colonies the developments that are taking place today are very promising, we are confronted with serious problems with respect to the deplorable situations prevailing in Southern and Northern Rhodesia, in the Portuguese Colonies, in Southwest Africa and South Africa.

 

Since its inception and throughout its operation the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyassaland has been opposed by the dominant and rightful majority of the population of the component territories of the Federation. Against the fierce and relentless African opposition the Federation was established, with the sanction of the British Government, with the sole aim of perpetuating the political and economic dominance of a handful white minority numbering approximately 300,000 over an African majority of over 8,000,000 inhabitants.

 

The Federation is in theory said to be a multi-racial partnership. But in practice the Federal Government consists entirely of a minority of European settlers whose policy so far has been to suppress African political activities and aspirations for freedom and justice and to deny them from exercising their political, constitutional, economic, and social rights. 

 

The component territories of the Federation are still considered to preserve their protectorate status; but unfortunately Great Britain has so far never taken any step to exercise its protectorate powers over Northern Rhodesia and Nyassaland and its reserved powers over Southern Rhodesia to protect Africans from the ruthless administration of the defunct Federation. Great Britain, which so often boasts of being the exponent of parliamentary democracy, has failed to apply to Northern and Southern Rhodesia the policy it had followed with respect to its former colonies in West Africa. However, as the saying goes "better late than never", Great Britain has still great opportunities and powers to rectify its failures in the past and to meet squarely African demands for full self-government and independence.

 

The situation in the Portuguese African Colonies is another serious problem, which requires our urgent consideration. All peaceful means of meeting African legitimate aspirations have been frustrated. Portugal continues to maintain the absurd position that our African brothers are Portuguese citizens. Evidently this is only a screen behind which Portugal seeks to continue its policy of exploitation, brutal practice of racial discrimination and forced labor, and systematic extermination of unarmed Africans. The situation is thus of utmost acuteness. 

 

The injustice prevailing in the Mandated territory of Southwest Africa under South Africa's ruthless administration and notorious policy of apartheid has surpassed all the endurance and patience of the African inhabitants of the territory and of all mankind. All efforts to persuade South Africa to abide by its obligations under the Mandate have been exhausted to no avail. All that is left now for us Africans is to meet South Africa in a united front both from within and outside the United Nations Organization to press upon the latter to take a more positive and resolute action against South Africa in accordance with article I paragraph I of the Charter. The same approach is also equally imperative to bring to an end the unhappy condition in which our African brothers in South Africa find themselves under the deplorable apartheid policy of the racist Verwoerd Government.

 

 The problems facing us are thus very serious and dangerously threatening. To succeed we have to muster all the material and moral forces we can possibly mobilize. We have to intensify and be vigilant in our struggle against the injustices of colonial rule and racial discrimination. At our gathering here we have a heavy task to accomplish. Approaching our problems with seriousness of purpose and determination, I am sure we will succeed in all our endeavors. The other aspect of our work deals with the question of bringing into effect the proposed union of East and Central African countries. 

 

When in the 19th Century the Colonial Powers launched the scramble for Africa they had formed a collusion and through exchange of secret letters and various treaty agreement had prearranged the partition of Africa and laid down the conditions of acquiring recognition for their respective occupation of African territories. Likewise, today they have formed a similar collusion among themselves to advance their neocolonialist policy in order to exploit on political and economic life, impair our development programs and make us ever dependent on them for our political and economic security. 

 

This, indeed, is the challenge that makes our unity imperative. Already the Colonial Power have left behind in the territories they have quitted chronic border, tribal, linguistic, political economic and social problems. These artificial problems were purposely engineered in order to create perennial weak points by which they could subvert, balkanize, weaken and exploit African States. If each African State were to find solution to these problems which transcend its territorial confines, it would come into conflict with its neighboring African States and dangerously call for their disintegration let alone that it would be diverted from consolidating its independence and executing its national development programs. However, to the bitter disappointment of the Colonial Powers who follow the policy of political and economic exploitation through promoting division among African States, the very forces that were designed to divide and break us apart are now becoming the very compelling forces of our unity.

 

 Bearing thus in mind the seriousness of the work we are here gathered to accomplish, I would like to appeal to the delegates to refrain from raising issues that would undermine the objectives of this Conference and the cause for which we have dedicated ourselves. On my part, with your cooperation and understanding, I shall conduct the proceedings of our deliberations lions with fairness to all and strict compliance to the agenda before us.

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