Political principles and philosophical thought or the therapeutic virtue of the teaching of Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr Ndongo MBAYE


Political principles and philosophical thought or the therapeutic virtue of the teaching of Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr Ndongo MBAYE

17th century, the Enlightenment Man of the 18th century, and the Realist Man of the 19th century.

A man of integrity and integrity of several knowledges, he knew how to make them converge, in a concrete way, and by relying on science, politics, philosophy and history, towards what he considered as a crucible, his only and unique credo: the development of the Human being, by the re-establishment of the Historical Truth of Africa.

Considering today the topicality of a work as masterful and fundamental as « Nations Nègres et Culture. De l’Antiquité nègre égyptienne aux problèmes culturels de l’Afrique noire d’aujourd’hui », CAD, like the philosophers and encyclopaedists of the Age of Enlightenment (Jean Jacques Rousseau, D’Alembert, Diderot, Voltaire), jurisconsults (Burlamaqui, Pufendorf, Hobbes), and 19th century writers such as Zola, Balzac, Maupassant and Flaubert, was able to pave the way for an awareness centred on freedom, self-confidence, and the future of humanity.

In order to establish its credibility and durability, the Diopian theory was based on two very solid foundations (which we analyse here for the needs of the methodology, in a differentiated manner, whereas they in fact constantly interpenetrate each other, in a movement of concomitance, and feed off each other) which we call: political principles and philosophical thought.

As for the « or therapeutic virtue of CAD’s teaching », it is not only a tribute to his love for subtitles that clarify the wording, but also an acknowledgement of the readability of the historical and future dimension of his faith in the generations to come, in the minds to be formed, in the citizens to be educated.

As he himself said in the Preface to the 1979 paperback edition of « Nations Nègres et Cultures… »: « May the young people who read this book be able to read it. May the young people who read this book find reasons to hope, by measuring the progress made since it was written.

It is this unfailing hope that is the bearer of the therapy of our peoples who are sick of a destructive domination, submission and concussion.

In this same preface, CAD first reports on the lucidity and honesty of the brilliant poet Aimé Césaire who, after having read the entire first part of the book in one night, found nothing but emptiness around him, as he toured the progressive Paris of the time in search of specialists willing to defend the new book with him.

In the second part, CAD lists all the facets of his work, all the hypotheses of his struggle, all the elements that are constitutive of his political principles and his philosophical thought, the driving forces of his teaching: from the independence of Africa, the creation of a federal African state, to the description of the African artistic universe and its problems (sculpture, painting, music, architecture, literature etc.), the demonstration of the ability to create a new culture, the creation of a new society, the creation of a new society, the creation of a new society. ), the demonstration of the ability of our languages to support scientific and philosophical thought, and hence the first non-ethnographic African transcription of these languages, including the African and Negroid origin of humanity and civilisation, and the Negroid origin of the Egyptian-Nubian civilisation.


CAD was a politician in the noble sense of the word: one who was concerned with the organisation and management of the city, for the benefit of ALL, in harmony, equity and justice, with a view to achieving Happiness.

His political struggle, the existence of a political movement, first clandestine, then the official creation of the National Democratic Rally (RND) party, attest, if need be, that the man went from theory to practice, and that he put his money where his mouth was, always in the sense of well-established convictions, and anchored in a tradition of progress and struggle.

He did not limit himself to saying, as he did during a conference in Niger, « …they are waging the most violent battle against us, more violent than the one that led to the disappearance of many species », but in his lucidity and pragmatism, he was already laying the foundations of what we call today « good governance », by calling for the systematic and vehement denunciation of these evils, which are still plaguing Africa, and which are called: nepotism, corruption, paternalism, blind and exacerbated favouritism, influence peddling, tribalism, regionalism, micro-nationalism…

CAD’s topicality also stems from its actions for causes which today seem so natural, but which in the 1950s were more like Herculean tasks:

-The use of new energies in Africa

-The reforestation policy, with regard to the desertification of the Sahel: a resolutely avant-garde vision in view of our current situation.

-The importance of the role of African languages in the Diopian strategy for the unification of Africa … In particular the cases of Hausa and Swahili, a few words of which outline the fundamental political principles:

Ujima: working together, breaking away from factional quarrels

Ujamaa: community spirit, the moralisation of public affairs

Umoja: believe in the unity of the people for the people

Nia: one goal, the unification and liberation of Mother Africa.

-The emancipation of black women

-Religions and tolerance

-The relations between Africa and its Diaspora

-The issue of African Unity, of which the professor said, in remarks collected by Djibril Gningue, and published in the February-March 1989 issue of the African Diaspora Review, for the third tribute to CAD: « African Unity is a question of survival of the continent, so it will be achieved, either with the consent of the elites, of the cadres, if they are sufficiently lucid; or against all those who will be against it, and for the greatest benefit of all.

But as early as 1953, in the Voix de l’Afrique Noire, an organ of the students of the RDA of which CAD was the Secretary General, one could read, on the subject of « the struggle in Black Africa »: « …It was in February 1952…that we posed the problem of the political independence of the black continent, and that of the creation of a future federal state…It is certain that at the time, apart from the Madagascan deputies and the Cameroonian leader Ruben Um Nyobe, no French-speaking black African politician dared to speak of independence, of culture, yes, of culture and of African nations… »

This shows that the reluctance of our current politicians to cut the umbilical cord does not stem from today.

Against this tendency of fear of commitment, CAD will forge notions and concepts, capable of mobilising energies, and creating forces of rebalancing.

This is how the words coalition, chain reaction and coordination came about.

On the subject of the coalition, he says: « We must oppose the coalition. It is more necessary than ever to set up against the coalition of Old Europe, that of the Young Peoples of all Africa, victims of colonisation… ».

To do this, he advocates the best tactic, which « consists of ensuring that the slightest attack on the life or safety of an activist, anywhere, will result in a chain reaction on a continental scale, which could take the form, at the very least, of a paralysis of economic life.

Such a reactive action requires a necessary coordination, the only one capable of profoundly modifying the balance of power, and of reversing the movement, a sine qua non condition for becoming master of the situation.

Such a recovery of Africa’s destiny, and a real participation in its liberation, are not only in the direction of the establishment of social progress on a world scale, but also in the direction of an increasingly effective contribution to the fight for peace between peoples.

This New African Era will be born of the awareness that any movement, any political party, can only survive and consolidate on the basis of the demands of the people, supported by independent and free trade unions.

But for this to happen, a New Thought must emerge.


The basis of CAD’s philosophical thought is a movement, a will, and above all the need for a decolonisation of thought, in order to free ourselves from the philosophical thought of our former colonisers.

Philosophical thought starts from the double observation, on the one hand, of a demand and a desire for philosophy based on the aspirations and hopes of our peoples, and on the other hand, of the perfidious profit that the public authorities have drawn from it, by proposing all sorts of so-called philosophical doctrines, to subjugate opinions, and thus reduce theoretical debates to a monologue of power.

By highlighting the idea that « whoever holds the history of a people, holds its soul », CAD will direct its reflection on two axes: Historical Consciousness, and African Languages will be the breasts of the conceptual Liberation of Africa.

In this sense, CAD clearly affirms its Afro-centric conception of the history of civilisations, in the face of European egocentrism and its unavowed African disciples.

This gives in « Civilisation ou Barbarie »: « The African who has understood us, is the one who, after reading our works, will have felt born in him another man animated by a Historical Consciousness, a true creator, a Prometheus bearer of a new civilisation, and perfectly conscious of what the whole earth owes to his ancestral genius in all the domains of science, culture and religion.

By emphasising the importance of the progress of African historiography, and by showing the efficiency of the study of the past (Nietzsche said that going back to the past does not mean staying there) which highlights Historical Relativity, CAD, calls on Africa to recover its Historical Initiative, the differential element between « the people » who need it to exist, and « the population » which is only an aggregate of composite individuals, which does not have this feeling of unity, this cement which unites all the elements of a people, this thread which goes back to the most distant ancestors, constituting the strength, and a bulwark of safety against all forms of cultural aggression.

In short, Consciousness, the Historical Ideology, as a powerful and fertile engine of development, is the first insurmountable barrier for a true mental and intellectual liberation.

What CAD is interested in is the restoration of dignity, through the awareness of existence, and of self-worth, through the exhumation of values trampled on and buried by the coloniser.

To do this, he put in place a theory of Non Renunciation and Non Disappearance, launching his cry of conviction: « Humanity must not be achieved by the erasure of some for the benefit of others; to renounce prematurely and unilaterally one’s own national culture in order to try to adopt that of others, and to call this a simplification of international relations and a sense of progress, is to condemn oneself to suicide.

At the same time as CAD defines philosophical thought as non-neutral, because it is always engaged, thereby denouncing any universalism of ideological discourse, and refuting any existence and any logic of a « one-size-fits-all » thought, he calls for liberation through linguistic decolonisation.

In doing so, he highlights the intrinsic relationship that language has with freedom or slavery, and the foreignness of the African intellectual born, nurtured and raised in foreign languages and cultures. A language is not philosophically neutral. Its structure, system, semantics, syntax, and vocabulary all go towards orienting the thinking of those who use it.

The power of this linguistic slavery can debase our way of thinking, and change our vision of the world.

This is why CAD urges us to be vigilant: « to base linguistic unity on a foreign language, from any angle, is a cultural abortion. It would irremediably consecrate the death of authentic national culture, the end of our deep spiritual and intellectual life, and reduce us to the role of eternal pasticheurs who have missed their historical mission in this world.


That’s it! The words are out: « historical mission », which must be based neither on a tyrannical tradition, nor on a materialistic modernism, but on what makes their constitutive links of a path, for the progress, the freedom and the dignity of all the peoples, transcending the borders, and based on the competence, the know-how, the possibility of drinking from the sources of its true history.

It is this fruitful back-and-forth between the past and the present, in the projection of the future, that can create a human spirit in general, and an African spirit in particular, capable of meeting the challenges of humanity.

The spirit of reclaiming oneself requires the objective and scientific reappropriation of one’s history, and the valorisation of one’s own language, while being able to approach and integrate innovative elements.

Pride alone, or the frantic search for a dignity to be regained and brandished, are not the bedrock of development. Independence requires the assimilation of scientific thought, as CAD confirms in his Preface to the 1954 edition of « Nations Nègres et Culture. :

« Of course, it will be necessary for Africa to assimilate modern scientific thought as quickly as possible: we must expect even more from her to make up for the delay she has accumulated in this field over the last few centuries; she must enter the scene of international emulation, and contribute to the advancement of exact sciences in all branches, through the contribution of her own sons. But let us not have too many illusions, such an undertaking will only be fully realised the day Africa is totally independent.

A thought that could not be more topical, and more conducive to permanent questioning.

Ndongo MBAYE

Doctor of Letters

Sociologist and journalist

Associate Professor at UCAD and IFAA in Senegal


Member of the Scientific Committee of the Pan-African Cultural Institute (ICP) of Yène

Responsible for the Pôle Loisirs Retraités et Handicapés at the Mairie de Choisy- Le -Roi (Val de Marne) in France

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