a1 Ottawa University
This article reassesses the political alternatives imagined by African nationalists in the ‘first wave’ of Africa's decolonization through the lens of Cameroonian nationalism. After the proscription of Cameroon's popular nationalist movement, the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC), in the mid-1950s, thousands of Cameroonian nationalists went into exile, most to Accra, where they gained the support of Kwame Nkrumah's Pan-African Bureau for African Affairs. The UPC's external support fed Cameroon's internal maquis (as UPC members called the underground resistance camps within the territories), rooted in culturally particular conceptions of freedom and sovereignty. With such deeply local and broadly international foundations, the political future that Cameroonian nationalists envisaged seemed achievable: even after the Cameroon territories' official independence, UPC nationalists kept fighting. But, by the mid-1960s, postcolonial states prioritized territorial sovereignty over ‘African unity’ and Ghana's support of the UPC became unsustainable, leading to the movement's disintegration.
* A Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University provided support for the research and writing of this article. I am grateful to Abdoulaye Gueye, Naomi Davidson, Eric Alina-Pisano, anonymous readers for the Journal of African History, Jean-Michel Mabeko-Tali, Carina Ray, Edward Baptist, Sandra Greene, and Martin Bernal for valuable comments and suggestions.