Modibo Keïta and the vision of a united Africa

Wednesday September 5 2018


Modibo Keïta is a pan-African; a founding father of the Mali Nation and the first President of the independent Mali.

He ruled Mali from 1960 to 1968 endeavouring to harbour and nurse the pan-African Movement that was designed at first; to unite the West African countries and then to unite the African Continent as a whole.

First Modibo Keïta and Leopold Senghor of Senegal created the Mali Federation that was a union between French Sudan (present day Mali) and Senegal on the 4th April 1959. After the collapsed of the Mali Federation on the 22nd September 1960, Keïta’s desire for unity of the West African States did not wane; again Modibo Keïta together with Sékou Touré of Guinea, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, formed the Union of the States of Western Africa which was also unsuccessiful.

Modibo Keïta also played an important role in drafting the Charter for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and became the Founding Member of the OAU in 1963. Modibo Keïta’s energies and exertions that he put into the pan-African movement brands him as one of the giants of pan-African Movement.

Modibo Keïta is among the first generation of pan-African Leaders in Africa who dreamed and envisioned for the unification of the African Continent.

Although these pan-African efforts failed, but Modibo Keïta and his colleagues showed the desire for the unity of the African continent.

In a series of articles we therefore narrate the story of one of the forefathers of the pan-African movement who wanted the formation of a great nation – the United States of Africa.

Modibo Keïta was born on the 4th June 1915 in Bamako-Coura, a neighbourhood of Bamako City the capital city of French Sudan (present day Mali).

He was born in Malian Muslim family who claimed to be the direct descent from the founders of the Mali Empire.

Keïta obtained his primary education from 1924 in Bamako and later went to the École Normale William-Ponty in Dakar, Senegal for his tertiary education and became a teacher in 1935. In the beginning of the year 1936, he worked as a teacher in Bamako, Sikasso and Tombouctou cities in Mali.

From 1937 Keïta as a teacher was involved in various associations and helped in the creation of the Union of French West African Teachers Association. He also joined the Communist Study Groups Cell (GEC) in Bamako city.

As activist teacher in 1943, he founded the L’oeil de Kénédougou, a magazine critical of colonial rule.

Later in 1946 Keïta joined politics by becoming a member of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA) – the African Democratic Rally a political movement across French West Africa and the Secretary General of the RDA in French Sudan.

France opposed the RDA because of its close association with the French Communist party and its call for full equality.

Keïta was considered a dangerous anticolonial person and was imprisoned briefly and released in 1947.

In 1948 he was a candidate for the Constituent Assembly of the French Fourth Republic, supported by the Union Soudanaise Party the French Sudan section of the RDA known as (US-RDA) and was elected general Councillor of French Sudan.

Between 1950 and 1956, Keïta took many positions in politics including becoming Mayor of Bamako and the member of the National Assembly of France. He twice served as Secretary of State in the colonial French Sudan self-governments.

He was also elected Constituent Assembly President of the Mali Federation on July 20, 1960, that consisted of French Sudan and Senegal.

After the collapse of the Mali Federation French Sudan proclaimed its independence on the 23rd September1960 and Modibo Keïta became the First President of the newly declared independent nation of the Republic of Mali.

Keïta also banned all political parties and proclaimed Mali as a One-Party State with US-RDA the only political party.

Dr Kafumu is the Member of Parliament for Igunga Constituency