African political history over the last two centuries can be summarized as the African peoples’ struggle against dominance by Western powers, and this even includes the period after most of the territories carved up by Europeans had won sovereignty.
This struggle found its expression in the creation of political organizations committed to the interests of some peoples in the colonies. While there were those who sought outright independence, some agitated for economic, identitarian and social interests.
As such, there are a number of political parties existing to date that predate how long the countries in which they were found have existed as independent entities. The oldest of these political parties are the point of this piece,
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Nevertheless, it is important to simplify what is meant by a political party and disambiguate it from organizational political traditions. We may think of a party as the association of like-minded people who are united by their opposition to another group’s political aspirations in a representative democracy. They seek power through elections in order to actualize their plans for the society.
A political tradition could come down to the philosophy and praxis entertained by a party or political organization and passed on to generations down the line. Political traditions are also not party-specific. In Ghana, for instance, about five parties say they are Nkrumahist, in honor of first president Kwame Nkrumah.
Isolating political traditions from political parties is important because as we will see, some African political organizations were not election-competing parties until a certain point in their history. Another reason is that certain parties that embodied certain traditions no longer exist and their traditions have died with them. The National Party of South Africa comes to mind on this front.
Here, as follows, are Africa’s oldest political parties:
- African National Congress -1921
The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa was founded in 1921 as a body seeking social and political rights on behalf of Black South Africans. The ANC carried with it the aspirations of Black people who sought self-determination in a country and period that insisted on preferential treatment for white South Africans.
Nelson Mandela rode to global prominence with the ANC.