DECEMBER 3, 1959
NEW YORK —I had a visit the other morning from two representatives from the Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Their names are Joshua Nkomo and Kanyama Chiume.
At first they had some difficulty in explaining to me why they came to the United States, but soon their story became clear. They cannot appear before the United Nations because their homelands are colonies of Great Britain. And it is really not so much the colonial policy of Britain that they are fighting—though they do eventually want their freedom and want improvement which the colonial government home office could give them—they are really disturbed by the European settlers.
In their countries there are some 300,000 Europeans as against some 7,000,000 native Africans. They say that the settlers not only have taken the best land from the natives and left them only the poor portions of the land, but that all positions in government are filled by European settlers.
There are missionaries in Rhodesia and Nyasaland who have started schools for the natives, and the government also gives them some support. But there is no system of government education for all the children and no opportunity at all for natives, who have managed to educate themselves through the early years, to go on to any higher education.
There are in Central Africa some African congresses that are legal organizations and which advocate fuller African representation in government. In the Rhodesia-Nyasaland area, however, the Europeans have their own government and there is no representation for Africans in that government.
Earlier this year Dr. Hastings Banda, who was educated in the United States and was president of the Nyasaland Congress, was imprisoned with other African leaders and, according to my informants, they were imprisoned without charges but on the basis that a rumor was circulated that there was a "massacre plot" brewing.
My two gentlemen visitors were not in their own country at the time of the arrests, but cannot now return to their country, either. So they have been trying to interest United Nations people in their predicament and also are seeking financial help for the families of the arrested leaders. The setup of African family life is such that often one man is responsible for many members of his family. Thus, when he is arrested the hardship is incalculable for many people.
I have felt right along that Great Britain was trying to face the fact that the day of colonial possessions was over. I was under the impression that if there were to be new settlers in colonial areas they would have to take living in equality with the natives, and that in preparing for this the British government was providing native education and participation in every government area. Thus, when and where freedom was granted there would be qualified native citizens ready to take over the responsibility of government.
The wave of freedom seekers throughout the world is making it unlikely that any kind of colonialism under any alien government will exist for very long. So, it seems to me, the important thing for all who have an opportunity to help develop these areas of the world is to look upon the future as an opportunity to live together and work cooperatively and to prepare the peoples of the new nations for their future responsibilities as well as possible.
(Copyright, 1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 3, 1959
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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