The Journal of Modern African Studies


Political Integration in Africa: the Mali Federation

Donn M. Kurtz*


In the 1958 referendum on the constitution of the Fifth Republic, General de Gaulle asked the French West African territories whether they wanted continued association with France in the Community; if they voted ‘No’, this meant immediate independence, which was chosen by Guinea alone.

There was widespread sentiment, in those territories which voted ‘Yes’, in favour of some type of federation for the former A.O.F. (L'Afrique occidentale française). Long an advocate of this idea, Leopold Senghor of Senegal presented a constitution for a West African federation to the other A.O.F. leaders in October 1958. Senegal, Dahomey, Upper Volta, and Soudan all empowered their governments to enter into the proposed federation; Niger, Mauretania, and Ivory Coast said nothing. The four territories which responded to the call for unity sent delegations to meetings of federalists, in Bamako in December 1958, and then in Dakar, at which time a constituent assembly met and drafted a constitution. The work was finished and approved without discussion in three days.