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Africa: The Strain of Being Moderate

2 minute read

In the newly independent black nations, it is not easy these days to be a moderate, for the shrill cry against white men or colonialism can still whip up the biggest crowds. Last week Black Africa’s two top statesmen, both distinguished for their moderation, were adjusting their policies to radical pressures.

In Tanganyika, sober, sensible Prime Minister Julius Nyerere answered mounting criticism in his T.A.N.U. party by firing the most respected member of his Cabinet—a white man—and then resigning himself. But Nyerere kept his post as T.A.N.U.’s boss. It was a political maneuver that might, in fact, make Nyerere stronger than ever, for he installed as new Prime Minister his own close ally, Rashidi Kawawa, 32, onetime movie star whose long sideburns and curling eyelashes won him fame and top billing in Swahili films, including one titled Country Bumpkin. During his acting career, Kawawa found time for a clerk’s job in Tanganyika’s civil service; later he moved into the trade union movement, became its boss, then in 1957, shifted into politics as a member of the colonial legislature. There was no doubt who would remain Tanganyika’s boss. “Naturally, Nyerere will be more powerful; he is baba yetu, father of the nation,” says Kawawa. “I am a party man. What the party says goes.”

The ousted white Cabinet minister is Sir Ernest Vasey, Nyerere’s own choice as Minister of Finance when Tanganyika became independent eight weeks ago. But Sir Ernest drew the wrath of many T.A.N.U. rank-and-filers who resented a foreigner in so powerful a post; so he calmly stepped aside in favor of a black minister, then accepted a job as Tanganyika’s chief financial adviser at the same salary as before.

In Nigeria, Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, wincing at accusations that he is a British stooge, canceled an Anglo-Nigerian defense pact that many fiery patriots considered an infringement of the nation’s new sovereignty. The treaty, which Nigeria had to accept when it won independence in October 1960, gave the Royal Air Force base facilities and freedom to fly over Nigerian territory at any time. It was a vexing contract that Sir Abubakar’s friends as well as enemies have sharply criticized; henceforth, Britain must apply in advance for specific military privileges, each time negotiate with the Nigerian government.

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