History of the Pan-African Congress, George Padmore (editor) 1947

The East African Picture.

October 17th, 1945. First Session.

Chairman: Dr. W. E. Burghardt Du Bois (U.S.A.).

Rapporteur: Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya).

Mr. George Padmore said he had been asked to make an announcement. The delegates would remember that they had decided to have a panel of Chairmen, the procedure to be that each of these Chairmen would preside over a session of the Congress. The Standing Orders Committee now reported that as a token of esteem and respect we should elect our distinguished guest Dr. Du Bois permanent Chairman of the Congress. It was further suggested that each of the original Chairmen should be invited in turn to come to the platform as a supporting Chairman of the Congress. On this occasion he welcomed Mr. Wallace Johnson to be associated with Dr. Du Bois on the platform.

Mr. Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya) said that his task that morning was a hard one, for he had to report on six territories. Somaliland, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Nyasaland, and the Rhodesias.

Before he proceeded to state the conditions under which our people live in East Africa, he would like to say a little about the people themselves and how they lived before the advent of the Europeans. In the whole of East Africa people were grouped or divided into three sections: an agricultural group; a pastoral group which lived by rearing cattle, sheep and goats; and a group of hunters. Each group had its own territories, which it considered its own property, and on which it could move as it pleased, cultivating here today and there tomorrow building its villages here and there as it wanted, or hunting as it wished. Many of these people lived happily and contented.

What is the picture today? It is quite a different one. Many of us talk about home, but have no home, because in order to have a home you must have land on which you ran stand your house or hut and say, “this is my home.” Today we find that practically throughout the whole of East Africa a no African can claim that right, and he spoke on behalf of nearly 14 million people in East Africa. It is their call that he brought to the Congress. If conditions were possible for them to come, he thought many of them would be there with them.

He first looked at Uganda, which has a population of 3.5 million Africans, 16,000 Indians, and 2,000 Europeans. In Luanda, the African enjoys a little more privilege than in any other part of East Africa because, according to the 1900 Agreement, the land is supposed to belong to the people. But consider for a moment the position of the King of Buganda. He is the king of his own country, no doubt; but the District Commissioner or his assistant is the man who gives orders to that king. That is the position of the kings of Uganda.

In Uganda the people grow coffee and cotton. In fact, Uganda is becoming almost as important as the Sudan as a cotton-growing country. Last year there was a big strike, which the Government called a disturbance, but it was really a protest by the people against the political, as well as economic, oppression under which they suffer. There is not a single African doctor in Uganda, and any demonstration or agitation for the improvement of educational and social opportunities often means deportation of the leaders. The youth of Uganda are suffering strongly from a sense of frustration and need the support of their friends outside their country in their fight against their own Quislings and for the advancement of their people.

He then spoke about Tangayika, a mandated territory with a population of 5-mill on Africans, 30,000 Indians and 9,000 Europeans. Here again the African grows coffee and cotton. And it suits the British Government here, too, to use a native ruler with the District Commissioner in control.

Let us see what kind of wages the people get in Tanganyika. We find that the highest wages that are paid for skilled or semi-skilled labour is 30/- to 50/- per month. What about labourers? Many of them have during the war, been conscripted to work on the white plantations and while the cost of sisal was increased because of the war, the African still got only from 5/- to 12/- for month’s work. According to the British Government, the people will never reach a high enough level to govern their own country. Well, he asked the Congress, if you are only getting 5/- or 12/- for one month’s work, what kind of living standard can you be expected to reach? On top of that these people have to pay taxes, heavy taxes.

In Kenya we have the methods which have been transplanted from South Africa. Here there are 4,000,000 blacks, 45,000 Indians, 13,000 Arabs, and 2,000 European. In 1914, 300,000 warriors were conscripted to go to German East Africa, of whom 60,00 did not return. There were told they were going to fight the German barbarians. And at that time we found two most important ordinances being passed. One was the Crown Land Ordinance of 1915, which made all lands formerly occupied by Africans crown land. Africans found their land taken away from them, and were turned into tenants of their own land. The other was the Native Registration Ordinance of 1919, which made it obligatory for all natives in Kenya over the age of 16 to have their fingerprint taken. Therefore, when we finished the war for freedom we found that we had to go and have our finger prints taken as though we were common criminals. This second Ordinance requires each African to carry his registration certificate on his person, so it is worn around the neck in a little box and must be produced on demand by the police or employer. Failure to produce means prison for one to two months or a fine of 7 10s. The wage paid to the holder is entered upon the certificate, and as the labourer cannot read or write, they find when

they receive their money at the end of the first month that very often they have been cheated. It often occurs that when a labourer has asked for 12/- a month he is given 5/-, and when he refuses to work further, he is chased by the police and forced to work a contract he has never signed.

As to education in Kenya, 4/6d. per head is provided for African children and 27 for the European. Although there are 500,000 of school age only 100,000 ran find any education at all, and many of them are in missionary schools.

Just a word about Somaliland, a great section of which has been fighting the British Government for over 25 years. One thing we must do, and that is to get political independence. If we achieve that we shall he free to achieve other things we want. We feel that racial discrimination must go, and then people, can perhaps enjoy the right of citizenship, which is the desire of every East African. Self independence must be our aim.

Mr. Marko Hlubi (South Africa): We are faced with a very crucial and serious situation in Africa. In Nyasaland, while there is a parliament, the coloured people, who are in the majority, are not represented there. The National Congress of Nyasaland is asking that our Pan-African Congress should do everything to fight the question of the amalgamation of North and South Rhodesia, which is wanted by the Government. One white man represents each state, but no black represents his own part of the country. These same things apply in South Africa. Three only represent the whole of the people who live there, and these three must be white people. The wages in these territories are so ridiculous as to be unbelievable, and seine-thing must be done and done by this Congress. We must produce something constructive.

Mr. C. D. Hyde, Negro Welfare Assn. (Gold Coast): I come from West Africa, but the repression we are discussing is my affair too. I went to South Africa as a seaman, because I knew that if I wanted to go as a student I should not get a visa. On arriving we went to the Seamen’s Institute and were told by the superintendent that we would not be able to share the Institute with our white comrades amongst the crew, but our officers said that the coloured crew would have the same privileges as the white men, or they would leave. They tried to make us have passes to stay out late, but we refused. We shall have to face the challenge now, and see that something is done for the whole of Africa. Wherever we are, the challenge is ours.

Mr. Garba Jahumpa (Gambia) said that the Congress resolved to demand, first and foremost, the complete freedom of our South African bro hers. We were here to learn about all our peoples from all over the world, and if we went back to our different countries and remained dormant, the Congress will have been a failure. The Congress should resolve to set up somewhere in the world a central council which would keep in touch with the whole of the African world and know what is going on. It was essential to bring the aftermath of the Congress to a successful conclusion.

Mr. Wallace-Johnson (Sierra Leone) stated that the attitude of the British Press was to print statements not relative to the main issues. They were keeping back the hard facts about the coloured peoples and shelving the truth. Before 1937, only one day in every year was set aside in the House of Commons for the discussion of African affairs, and the House was nearly empty. It was now a recognised fact that at least one day in every week should be given to African affairs. Out of the Congress we must make up our minds that we will carry on the struggle from one stage to another until final victory is achieved.

Mr. George Padmore (Trinidad): In Southern Rhodesia there are about 60,000 Europeans and a population of nearly 2-million Africans. Before bills concerning the black people can be made law they must have the sanction of the Dominion Office. Lands have been taken from the Africans and given to the Europeans, and these people have introduced legislation compelling the black people to work upon the farms and tobacco plantations, where wages are so very low.

The Europeans want the three states of Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to come together because, if united, then the laws now prevailing in Southern Rhodesia will be extended. In Northern Rhodesia, the white population is smaller than the black population on account of the climate. Here there are about 1.5 million blacks. It is the best copper producing state in the world, but the mines are owned by a foreign company which is controlled in London, and also by American capitalists. The wages paid to the coloured copper miners average 2/6d. per day. During the last two to three years there have been a series of strikes demanding better working conditions for these miners. White miners get 1 a day as a minimum wage. Black miners are not allowed to have organizations, but the white miners have their own trade unions.

Today, the young element is more progressive and is coming more and more to the forefront, demanding from their imperialistic masters a greater extension of democracy. He sincerely hoped that the resolutions on East Africa would reflect the aspirations and demands of the people of the East African territories.