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The Asian-African (Bandung) Conference: Fact and Fiction

In the article below independent historian Kyle Haddad-Fonda describes the Asian-African Conference popularly known as the Bandung Conference which was the first significant gathering of independent and soon-to-be independent nations in Asia and Africa.

From April 18 to April 24, 1955, delegates from twenty-nine countries in Asia and Africa convened in Bandung, Indonesia, to discuss the common challenges their nations faced in navigating a postcolonial world. The Asian–African Conference, popularly known as the Bandung Conference, was a sensation around the world. Never before had leaders from so many non-Western countries gathered together to make common cause. But the Conference’s iconic status, coupled with a growing global sense of nostalgia for the supposedly optimistic days of the 1950s, means that many legends that have subsequently sprung up about the event are simply not true. Seldom has historical memory distorted and misrepresented any single event in quite so many different ways. Accordingly, it is valuable to include an extended discussion of the facts surrounding the Bandung Conference: how it was organized, who participated, what was said, and—perhaps most important—what was not said.

The Asian–African Conference was the brainchild of Indonesian Prime Minister Ali Sastroamidjojo, who planned the proceedings in collaboration with the prime ministers of Burma, Ceylon, India, and Pakistan. These five men met in Bogor, Indonesia, in December 1954 to draft the Conference’s agenda and to issue invitations.

After considerable debate, the five hosts agreed to send invitations to twenty-five countries. From the continent of Africa, they invited four of the five independent countries of the day: Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Libya. They declined to invite the fifth, South Africa, whose policy of apartheid was criticized in the Conference’s final communiqué. In addition to the four independent African countries, the conveners extended invitations to the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana), Sudan (then under joint

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