When Charles de Gaulle launched his stripling French Community two years ago, pundits the world over hailed him for his shrewd and generous accommodation to African nationalism. French officialdom, though less starry-eyed about the conversion of France's former African empire into a voluntary association of twelve states, thankfully noted the pro-French attitudes of most of the Community's moderate black leaders. But last week, suddenly struck from all sides by political shock waves, De Gaulle's liberal experiment was creaking at its seams.

Chief troublemaker was ambitious Modibo Keita, 45, boss of the arid, landlocked Sudanese Republic, which 17 months ago joined...

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