Fascism in Africa

Fascism in Africa refers to the phenomenon of fascist parties and movements that were active in Africa. Due to the status of Africa as an area of colonialism during the inter-war period fascist movements rarely developed. However, the ideology was not unheard of whilst European fascist powers were active colonialists.

South Africa

South Africa's status as an independent country dominated by the white minority meant that it shared a number of characteristics with Europe whilst also having an institutionalised form of racism in the apartheid system. As such it proved a fertile ground for the development of groups inspired by European fascism.

Nazism found an audience in the country, with pro-Nazi elements organised by Louis Weichardt in 1932 under the name South African Gentile National Socialist Movement, a group that soon became known as the Greyshirts. Although the group enjoyed some support and continued after the Second World War they never became sufficiently important for the government to take action against them. The other main fascist group was the Ossewabrandwag (OB), founded in 1939, a group also inspired by Adolf Hitler. The two differed however as the Greyshirts emphasised Aryan race rhetoric and so organised amongst the various white immigrant communities whilst the OB were specifically for Afrikaner only.[1] A third, more minor group, the New Order, emerged in 1940 under the leadership of former cabinet minister Oswald Pirow. After the Second World War Pirow became an important figure in neo-fascism, working closely with Oswald Mosley, Nation Europa and A. F. X. Baron.[2] Nazi Germany sought to encourage such activity with former Olympic boxer Robey Leibbrandt active as an agent for the Abwehr during the war.[3] The Nazi Party itself also organised until it was outlawed in 1936.[4]

In the post-war era far right groups that are sometimes characterised as being neo-fascist in nature include the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging,[5] the Vereniging van Oranjewerkers,[6] the Herstigte Nasionale Party[6] and the Boeremag, as well as elements within the coalition Afrikaner Volksfront.[7]

North Africa

North Africa has also seen activity that has sometimes been identified as fascism. The high level of movement between France and French North Africa meant that political ideas travelled between the regions and as early as the 1890s the proto-fascist Antisemitic League of France was active in Algiers.[8] It was not until later however that indigenous versions began to emerge. In 1930s Egypt the Young Egypt movement, known as the greenshirts, became important. They followed the models of fascist groups in Europe and praised Italian fascism and Nazism, although they largely supported existing elites.[9] Within the Egyptian Army General 'Aziz 'Ali al-Misri (1878-1965) was noted for his fascist sympathies, to the extent that he was dismissed as Chief of Staff in 1940. Masri deserted the army and attempted to link up with the Afrika Korps but was arrested before he could escape.[10]

In Italian Libya Benito Mussolini sought to gain popularity by presenting himself as a defender of Islam and he formed a Libyan Arab Fascist Party to which indigenous people were admitted.[11] This was not the case in Ethiopia, where resistance was much fiercer and fascism did not take root. In both colonies, though, fascist youth movements were formed under Italian tutelage (Arab Lictor Youth and Ethiopian Lictor Youth).

East Africa

Like North Africa, the east of the continent saw some early development amongst white immigrant communities. A number of pro-fascist aristocrats, including Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll and Gerard Wallop, 9th Earl of Portsmouth, made their homes in Kenya during the 1930s. Although too few in number to form any meaningful political grouping they nonetheless maintained close links to the British Union of Fascists, of which most had been members.[12] Other white settlers organised pro-Nazi groups in Rhodesia during the Second World War.[13]

The Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) has been described as a Rwandan Hutu fascist political party responsible for inciting the Rwandan Genocide.[14][15][16] The CDR refused to operate within the law nor cooperate with other Rwandan political parties.[17] The CDR had a paramilitary wing, the Mupuza Mugambi that repeatedly provoked violent confrontations with members of other parties, using hand grenades and bombs, and served as one of the death squads that massacred Tutsis in the Rwandan Genocide.[17]

Parallels have frequently been drawn between Hitler and Uganda's Idi Amin[18][19] and it has been claimed that Amin's admiration for Hitler was so great that he even intended to build a statue of him.[20] American political scientist and historian Robert Paxton, a scholar on fascism, has stated, that from an ideological standpoint he shared little or nothing with proper fascism, sharing only cruelty and anti-Semitism with Hitler.[21] However Swiss historian Max-Liniger-Goumaz, a scholar on African history, has identified Idi Amin amongst a list of other African leaders as been an example of the phenomenon of "Afro-fascism".[22]

American historian and political scientist Robert Paxton, a scholar on the topic of fascism, has rejected the idea that there have been indigenous fascist movements in Africa, claiming that there have been no prominent examples of fascist regimes amongst Third World dictatorships.[21] Paxton also rejects the view that Idi Amin's rule in Uganda was fascist in nature.[21] However, other scholars assert that there have been indigenous fascist regimes in Africa. Swiss historian Max-Liniger-Goumaz, a scholar on African history, has identified multiple African regimes as being examples of the phenomenon of "Afro-fascism", including: Francisco Macías Nguema's regime in Equatorial Guinea, Mobutu Sese Seko's regime in Zaire, Idi Amin's in Uganda, Gnassingbé Eyadéma in Togo, and Mengistu Haile Mariam's regime in Ethiopia.[22] The Coalition for the Defence of the Republic has been regarded as a Rwandan Hutu fascist political party responsible for inciting the Rwandan Genocide.[14][15][16] Such post-war regimes are excluded from political science typologies of fascism however.

Such notions of indigenous African fascism have generally been excluded, often explicitly, from political science typologies of fascism. As well as Paxton Roger Griffin rejects the notion of fascism in Africa (outside of South Africa) in his book The Nature of Fascism, arguing that African dictatorships do not seek the mass mobilisation of their populations necessary for a regime to be called fascist, whilst with national borders often arbitrarily set by colonial powers and tribal, religious and ethnic loyalties frequently much stronger than national identity unifying nationalist palingenetic myths could not be constructed by groups, another precondition for true fascism.[23] For Griffin a precondition for the rise of fascism is a breakdown in traditional society combined with an increasing liberalisation against the backdrop of socio-political instability, which also rules out post-colonial Africa where such liberalisation did not take place until much more recently, with post-colonial regimes frequently transferring directly to dictatorships, wither actual or effective.[24]

Paul Hayes accepts that individual African countries may demonstrate some characteristics of fascism but argues that in no state are enough present simultaneously that anywhere in Africa could truly be labelled fascist from an academic basis.[25] Similarly Stanley G. Payne contends that whilst a one-party nationalist dictatorship may have been taken as the model in some African states none of these can genuinely be defined as fascist because the single parties usually have a small membership and often do not exist at any more than a basic functional level, the political economies do not follow the corporatist or national syndicalist models that define fascism and there is no philosophical or political culture of fascism, with such African regimes being highly pragmatic and even non-ideological in nature.[26] Indeed, the notion of true fascism, as opposed to mere dictatorship, in Africa was further eroded in the 1970s when many regimes did add an ideological dimension in the shape of Marxism-Leninism[27]


  1. Christoph Marx, 'The Ossewabrandwag As a Mass Movement, 1939-1941', Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Jun. 1994), p. 208
  2. G. Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black - Sir Oswald Mosley and the Resurrection of British Fascism after 1945, New York: IB Tauris, 2007, pp. 84-5
  3. "Sidney Robey Leibbrandt 1913 - 1966". Leibbrandt Archive. Retrieved July 20, 2006.
  4. Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, 1993, p. 158
  5. Peter H. Merkl, Leonard Weinberg, The Revival of Right Wing Extremism in the Nineties, Routledge, 2014, p. 255
  6. 1 2 Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, Routledge, 2013, p. 159
  7. Kathryn A. Manzo, Creating Boundaries: The Politics of Race and Nation, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998, p. 86
  8. Stanley G. Payne, Fascism in Europe, 1914-45, 2001, p. 45
  9. Payne, A History of Fascism, pp. 353
  10. Yaacov Shimoni & Evyatar Levine, Political Dictionary of the Middle East in the 20th Century, 1974, p. 250
  11. Payne, A History of Fascism, pp. 352
  12. R.J.B. Bosworth, The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 499
  13. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, p. 165
  14. 1 2 Christian P. Scherrer, Institute for Research on Ethnicity and Conflict Resolution. Ongoing crisis in Central Africa: revolution in Congo and disorder in the Great Lakes region: conflict impact assessment and policy options. Institute for Research on Ethnicity and Conflict Resolution, 1998. Pp. 83.
  15. 1 2 Front Cover Dina Temple-Raston. Justice on the Grass: Three Rwandan Journalists, Their Trial for War Crimes and a Nation's Quest for Redemption. Simon and Schuster, 2005. Pp. 170.
  16. 1 2 Raymond Verdier, Emmanuel Decaux, Jean-Pierre Chrétien (editors). "Situation judiciare au Rwanda" by Alphonse Marie Nkubito, Rwanda, un génocide du XXe siècle. Editions L'Harmattan, 1995. Pp. 223.
  17. 1 2 Christian P. Scherrer. Ethnicity, nationalism, and violence: conflict management, human rights, and multilateral regimes. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003. Pp. 328
  18. 'The Hitler of Africa'
  19. Idi Amin Dada: Hitler in Africa
  20. Idi Amin
  21. 1 2 3 Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, 2004, p. 191
  22. 1 2 Michel Ugarte. Africans in Europe: the culture of exile and emigration from Equatorial Guinea to Spain. University of Illinois Press, 2010. Pp. 25.
  23. Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, Routledge, 1991, p. 157
  24. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, p. 156
  25. Paul M/ Hayes, Fascism, London, 1972, p. 208
  26. Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-45, Routledge, 1995, pp. 514-515
  27. Payne, A History of Fascism, p. 515

See also

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