oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - Joint memorandum to the African Summit Conference of Heads of States by the representatives of African National Liberation Movements in non-independent territories : Addis Ababa, 21 May 1963

Volume 2, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



This volume ends on a memorandum not a speech. Yet this segment of written oratory, a preparatory document held in the archives of the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town, could be seen both as the summation of liberatory speeches and the advent of a form of fossilised rhetoric. At some stage indeed in the rhetorical manufacturing of public ideas discursive forms solidify into stock phrases and momentous pronouncements into monumental commonplaces. This process does not necessarily detract from their power to move, inform or elevate (the three standard aims of any speech properly conceived) but it changes the nature of public argument. It opens the door to bureaucratic propaganda and routine speech writing. However the passage from live oratory to the written document as a means to persuade was first noted by Napoleon: in his Instructions given to the newly founded school for cadres (École Polytechnique) he pointed out that "if the Ancients relied on the magic of the spoken word, we, the Moderns, put our trust in written documents" - and so doing he invented, as a tool of government on a large scale, the compulsory administrative report, a rhetorical form that was to become a mainstay of any modern State's preferred interaction with the governed. This Memorandum is the first bureaucratic shape given to the live, magical, spoken oratory of Africa's Liberation.

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