Africans in French Tropical Africa have recently been called on to make several farreaching political decisions. Two basic questions have been at issue: the nature of the relationship between France and the African territories, and the nature of relations between the African territories themselves. On the first question, the Referendum of September 28, 1958 on the Constitution of the Fifth French Republic gave Africans the choice between total independence and internal autonomy within “The (French) Community.” With regard to their mutual relations, the territories which made up the federations of French West and French Equatorial Africa could remain tied together politically, or they could sever all formal political connections among themselves; in French African political terminology, the second issue has been whether or not the individual territories should form “primary federations.”
The issue of total independence or internal autonomy within “The Community” was temporarily decided at the 1958 Referendum, when eleven of the twelve territories of French West and Equatorial Africa voted to remain with France, Guinea alone choosing immediate independence. Since then several members of “The Community” have initiated negotiations with France for the full transfer of sovereign powers to local African governments, and the indications are that all French-speaking West Africa will be fully independent within the near future.
The outcome of the second question—political relations among the African territories–is not so clear. The trend up to now has been against the re-creation of primary federations.