Reference Entry

Rassemblement Démocratique Africain Alliance of nationalist political parties in the French colonies of West and Central Africa.

Elizabeth Heath

in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780195170559
Rassemblement Démocratique Africain Alliance of nationalist political parties in the French colonies of West and Central Africa.

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The Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA) was one of the driving forces of decolonization in several of France’s African colonies. It was founded by African deputies to the French National Assembly at a congress held in 1946 in Bamako, the colonial capital of French Sudan (now Mali). The RDA’s leading spokesperson in the French assembly was Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the future president of Côte d’Ivoire. The RDA’s initial demand was full French citizenship for Africans in France’s colonies. Later, the RDA played an important role in debates over the conditions of independence for the French colonies.In its early years the RDA was allied with the French Communist Party, the only major party in France that supported the RDA’s goals. The French government of Charles de Gaulle viewed the RDA as a threat, and the government often arrested RDA activists and banned their meetings. In the early 1950s, the RDA broke with the French Communists and formed closer ties with de Gaulle’s government. In Africa, the RDA drew its membership primarily from urban areas; trade unions were a particularly strong source of support for the RDA branches in Cameroon and Guinea.By the late 1950s, French military defeats in the French colonies of Indochina and Algeria had convinced the French government to accept African demands for decolonization. The RDA favored France’s offer to grant its colonies internal self-rule within a “French Community” under the executive control of the French president. For many RDA leaders, this proposal appeared to offer the colonies an opportunity to gain greater autonomy without losing the benefits of French citizenship and economic support. Only Sékou Touré of Guinea, the leader of an RDA affiliate, the Parti Démocratique de Guinée, called for complete independence. In 1958 there was a referendum in which African colonies controlled by France were given the option of independence or of retaining ties with France through a federation. Only Guinea voted to reject federation in favor of complete independence. France itself, however, soon abandoned its support for the proposed federation. Within a few years, candidates of RDA-affiliated parties were elected to lead some of the first independent governments of French-speaking Africa. Leaders who began their careers with the RDA included Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire (who had long since abandoned the RDA’s initial leftist positions), Sékou Touré in Guinea, Modibo Keita in Mali, and Hamani Diori in Niger. After independence the RDA’s international influence faded, although many of the leaders it fostered remained in office for years.See also Decolonization in Africa: An Interpretation.

Reference Entry.  435 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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