Brazzaville Conference of 1944
After the Fall of France in 1940, and the subsequent alignment of most of France's colonial empire with the Allies, Charles de Gaulle recognized the need to revise the relationship between France and its colonies in Africa. In January 1944, Free French politicians and high-ranking colonial officials from the French African colonies met in Brazzaville in the modern-day Republic of the Congo. The conference recommended political, social, and economic reforms and led to the signature of the Brazzaville Declaration.
Initially, the French Committee of National Liberation wanted to include all the governors from all free territories, but due to war difficulties, the Committee only included administrative représentants from French territories in Africa, which had already joined de Gaulle and René Pleven. Invitations were sent to 21 governors, 9 members of the Consultative Assembly, and 6 observers from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.
De Gaulle opened the Conference by saying he wanted to build new foundations for France after years under the domination of Philippe Pétain and his authoritative regime. There was also a seemingly more open tone towards the French colonies. De Gaulle wanted to renew the relationship between France and "French Africa."
The Brazzaville Conference is still regarded as a turning point for France and its colonial empire. Many historians view it as the first sign towards decolonization, albeit a precarious one.
The Brazzaville Declaration included the following points:
- The French Empire would remain united.
- Semi-autonomous assemblies would be established in each colony.
- Citizens of France's colonies would share equal rights with French citizens.
- Citizens of French colonies would have the right to vote for the French parliament.
- The native population would be employed in public service positions within the colonies.
- Economic reforms would be made to diminish the exploitative nature of the relationship between France and its colonies.
However, the possibility of complete independence was soundly rejected. As de Gaulle stated:
The aims of France's civilizing mission preclude any thought of autonomy or any possibility of development outside the French empire. Self-government must be rejected - even in the more distant future.
- Low, Donald Anthony, Britain and Indian Nationalism: The Imprint of Amibiguity 1929-1942 Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 16
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