Decolonisation of Africa
The decolonisation of Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s, very suddenly, with little preparation. There was widespread unrest and organised revolts in both Northern and sub-Saharan colonies, especially in French Algeria, Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo and British Kenya.
The "Scramble for Africa" between 1870 and 1900 ended with almost all of Africa being controlled by European states. Racing to secure as much land as possible while avoiding conflict amongst themselves, the partition of Africa was confirmed in the Berlin Agreement of 1885, with little regard to local differences. By 1905, control of almost all African soil was claimed by Western European governments, with the only exceptions being Liberia (which had been settled by African-American former slaves) and Ethiopia (which had successfully resisted colonisation by Italy). Britain and France had the largest holdings, but Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal also had colonies. As a result of colonialism and imperialism, a majority of Africa lost sovereignty and control of natural resources such as gold and rubber. The introduction of imperial policies surfacing around local economies led to the failing of local economies due to an exploitation of resources and cheap labor. Progress towards independence was slow up until the mid-20th century. By 1977, 54 African countries had seceded from European colonial rulers.
During the world wars, African soldiers were conscripted into imperial militaries. This led to a deeper political awareness and the expectation of greater respect and self-determination, which was left largely unfulfilled. During the 1941 Atlantic Conference, the British and the US leaders met to discuss ideas for the post-war world. One of the provisions added by President Roosevelt was that all people had the right to self-determination, inspiring hope in British colonies.
On February 12, 1941, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to discuss the postwar world. The result was the Atlantic Charter. It was not a treaty and was not submitted to the British Parliament or the Senate of the United States for ratification, but it turned to be a widely acclaimed document. One of the provisions, introduced by Roosevelt, was the autonomy of imperial colonies. After World War II, the US and the African colonies put pressure on Britain to abide by the terms of the Atlantic Charter. After the war, some Britons considered African colonies to be childish and immature; British colonisers introduced democratic government at local levels in the colonies. Britain was forced to agree but Churchill rejected universal applicability of self-determination for subject nations. He also stated that the Charter was only applicable to German occupied states, not to the British Empire.
Furthermore, colonies such as Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana pushed for self-governance as colonial powers were exhausted by war efforts.
For early African nationalists, decolonization was a moral imperative. In 1945 the Fifth Pan-African Congress demanded the end of colonialism. Delegates included future presidents of Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and national activists.
Colonial economic exploitation led to European extraction of Ghana’s mining profits to shareholders, instead of internal development, causing major local socioeconomic grievances. Nevertheless, local African industry and towns expanded when U-boats patrolling the Atlantic Ocean reduced raw material transportation to Europe. In turn, urban communities, industries and trade unions grew, improving literacy and education, leading to pro-independence newspaper establishments.
Indeed, in the 1930s, the colonial powers had cultivated, sometimes inadvertently, a small elite of leaders educated in Western universities and familiar with ideas such as self-determination. In some cases where the road to independence was fought, settled arrangements with the colonial powers were also being placed. These leaders came to lead the struggles for independence, and included leading nationalists such as Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Kwame Nkrumah (Gold Coast, now Ghana), Julius Nyerere (Tanganyika, now Tanzania), Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal), Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria), and Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire).
The economic legacy of colonialism is difficult to quantify but is likely to have been negative. Modernisation theory emphasises that colonial powers built infrastructure to integrate Africa into the world economy, however, this was built mainly for extraction purposes. African economies were structured to benefit the coloniser and any surplus was likely to be ‘drained’, thereby stifling capital accumulation. Dependency theory suggests that most African economies continued to occupy a subordinate position in the world economy after independence with a reliance on primary commodities such as copper in Zambia and tea in Kenya. Despite this continued reliance and unfair trading terms, a meta-analysis of 18 African countries found that a third of countries experienced increased economic growth post-independence.
Effects of debt
The debts of African economies are external and one-sided. While the USA and the UK have gross external debts of 95% and 400% respectively, these debts are balanced by the countries being major lenders. This is not the case for African nations which do not own as many assets or debts to balance the burden. The debt situation in sub-Saharan Africa means that the world’s poorest countries were transferring $3 billion US dollars to developed countries between 1995 and 2000. This is exacerbated by interest and principal arrears which made up over 27% of total external debt for sub-Saharan nations in 1998. This causes two main problems: firstly, servicing the debt means less money is available for importing goods, secondly debt creates uncertainty and risk which puts off investors and reduces business confidence.
Over 2,000 distinct languages are spoken in the continent. Along with Africa’s indigenous dialects - Afro-Asiatic, Kordofanian and Khoisan languages, many colonial languages are spoken today. For example, English is spoken in Ghana, Gambia and Kenya, French in Benin, Burkina-Faso and Cameroon, and Portuguese in Guinea-Bissau, Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe. Scholars including Dellal (2013), Miraftab (2012) and Bamgbose (2011) have argued that Africa’s linguistic diversity has been eroded. Language has been used by western colonial powers to divide territories and create new identities which has led to conflicts and tensions between African nations.
Today, 93% of South Africa's land is still owned by ‘descendants of white settlers’ despite the political negotiation of the Native Land Act in 1913.[dubious ] King (1990) argued that ‘space’ is a mode of segregations, creating forms of inclusions and exclusions. Evidence is represented through different architecture designs, and distinct segregation of spaces (Zonification) in cities are still a feature in the colonial present. For example, the new development of the business improvement district in Cape Town portrays a similar image of the colonial era with embedded struggles in class, race, ethnicity and hierarchical differences. Decolonization marks one of the historical moments in which African countries increased its autonomous status from the impetus Western colonial powers. Echoes of the colonial past are still visible in the African society today because Ferguson (2006) stated there are still widespread social stigmas associated with the continent such as phrases of ‘darkness’ and ‘troubled’. The representation of Africa, therefore, reveals the continual Western legacies of the colonial past and the struggles embedded in the countries.
Transition to independence
Following World War II, rapid decolonization swept across the continent of Africa as many territories gained their independence from European colonization.
In August 1941, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to discuss their post-war goals. In that meeting, they agreed to the Atlantic Charter, which in part stipulated that they would, "respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them." This agreement became the post-WWII stepping stone toward independence as nationalism grew throughout Africa.
Consumed with post-war debt, European powers were no longer able to afford the resources needed to maintain control of their African colonies. This allowed for African nationalists to negotiate decolonization very quickly and with minimal casualties. Some territories, however, saw great death tolls as a result of their fight for independence.
On 6 March 1957, Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) became the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence from European colonization in the twentieth century.
Starting as early as the 1945 Pan-African Congress, Gold Coast’s American-educated, independence leader Kwame Nkrumah made his focus clear. In the conference’s declaration, he wrote, “we believe in the rights of all peoples to govern themselves. We affirm the right of all colonial peoples to control their own destiny. All colonies must be free from foreign imperialist control, whether political or economic.”
Four years later in 1949, the conflict would ramp up when British troops opened fire on African protesters. Riots broke out across the territory and while Nkrumah and other leaders ended up in prison, the event became a catalyst for the independence movement. After being released from prison, Nkrumah founded the, Convention People’s Party (CPP), which launched a mass-based campaign for independence with the slogan ‘Self Government Now!’” Heightened nationalism within the country grew their power and the political party widely expanded. In February of 1951, the Convention People's Party gained political power by winning 34 of 38 elected seats, including one for Nkrumah who was imprisoned at the time. While the movement started with violence, it would end with political cooperation.
Algerian War for Independence
In Algeria, anti-colonialism sentiment grew following World War II until it reached a boiling point. Unlike many territories that gained their independence through a smooth transition, France believed the African colony was important and never met their promise of self-governance in Algeria. As a result the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) began a guerrilla-style attack to win their freedom. Lasting more than eight years, the estimated death toll typically falls between 300,000 and 400,000 people. By 1958, the FLN was able to negotiate peace accord with French President Charles de Gaulle and nearly 90% of all Europeans had left the territory.
This table is the arranged by the earliest date of independence in this graph; 58 countries have seceded.
- Explanatory notes are added in cases where decolonization was achieved jointly by multiple countries or where the current country is formed by the merger of previously decolonized countries. Although Ethiopia was administered as a colony in the aftermath of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and was recognized by the international community as such at the time, it is not listed here as its brief period under Italian rule (which lasted for a little more than five years and ended with the return of the previous native government) is now usually seen as a military occupation.
- Some territories changed hands multiple times, so in the list is mentioned the last colonial power. In addition, the mandatory or trustee powers are mentioned for territories that were League of Nations mandates and UN Trust Territories.
- The dates of decolonization for territories annexed by or integrated into previously decolonized independent countries are given in separate notes, as are dates when a commonwealth realm abolished its monarchy. Any discrepancies between dates listed here and public holidays celebrating the country's independence (and whether the date listed is celebrated as a holiday at all) are noted, as well as the national day if the country does not have an independence day.
- For countries that became independent either as a Commonwealth realm, a monarchy with a strong Prime Minister, or a parliamentary republic the head of government is listed instead.
- Liberia would later annexed the Republic of Maryland, another settler colony made up of former African-American slaves, in 1857. Liberia would not be recognized by the United States until 5 February 1862.
- Stephen Allen Benson was President on the date of the United States' recognition.
- As Union of South Africa.
- The Union of South Africa was constituted through the South Africa Act entering into force on 31 May 1910. On 11 December 1931 it got increased self-governance powers through the Statute of Westminster which was followed by transformation into republic after the 1960 referendum. Afterwards, South Africa was under apartheid until elections resulting from the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa on 27 April 1994 when Nelson Mandela became president.
- As the Kingdom of Egypt. Transcontinental country, partially located in Asia.
- Not celebrated as a holiday. On 28 February 1922 the British government issued the Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence. Through this declaration, the British government unilaterally ended its protectorate over Egypt and granted it nominal independence with the exception of four "reserved" areas: foreign relations, communications, the military and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 reduced British involvement, but still was not welcomed by Egyptian nationalists, who wanted full independence from Britain, which was not achieved until 23 July 1952. The last British troops left Egypt after the Suez Crisis of 1956. For this, the 23 July date, celebrated as Revolution Day, serves as Egypt's national day.
- Although the leaders of the 1952 revolution (Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser) became the de facto leaders of Egypt, neither would assume office until September 17 of that year when Naguib became Prime Minister, succeeding Aly Maher Pasha who was sworn in on the day of the revolution. Nasser would succeeded Naguib as Prime Minister on 25 February 1954.
- From 1 April 1941 to its eventual transfer to Ethiopia, Italian Eritrea was occupied by the United Kingdom.
- Date marking the de jure end of Italian rule. Not celebrated as a holiday. The transfer of Eritrea to the Ethiopian Empire occurred on 15 September 1952. On 24 May 1993 after decades of fighting starting from 1 September 1961, Eritrea formally seceded from Ethiopia. The 24 May date is celebrated as Eritrea's date of independence.
- Emperor of Ethiopia on the date of the transfer. Isaias Afwerki became President of Eritrea upon independence.
- As the United Kingdom of Libya.
- Part of the British Military Administration originally gained independence as the Cyrenaica Emirate; it was only recognized by the United Kingdom. The Cyrenaica Emirate also merged to form the United Kingdom of Libya.
- Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899, stated that Sudan should be jointly governed by Egypt and Britain, but with real power remaining in British hands.
- As the Kingdom of Tunisia.
- See Tunisian independence.
- Cape Juby was ceded by Spain to Morocco on 2 April 1958. Ifni was returned from Spain to Morocco on 4 January 1969.
- As the Dominion of Ghana.
- The British Togoland mandate and trust territory was integrated into Gold Coast colony on 13 December 1956. On 1 July 1960 Ghana formally abolished its Commonwealth monarchy and became a republic.
- Originally as Prime Minister; became President upon the monarchy's abolition.
- After the French Cameroun mandate and trust territory gained independence it was joined by part of the British Cameroons mandate and trust territory on 1 October 1961. The other part of British Cameroons joined Nigeria.
- Minor armed insurgency from Union of the Peoples of Cameroon.
- Senegal and French Sudan gained independence on 20 June 1960 as the Mali Federation, which dissolved a few months later into present day Senegal and Mali.
- As the Malagasy Republic.
- The Malagasy Uprising was an earlier armed uprising that failed to gain independence from France.
- As the Republic of the Congo.
- Joseph Kasa-Vubu became President upon independence.
- The Congo Crisis occurred after independence.
- As the Somali Republic.
- The Trust Territory of Somalia (former Italian Somaliland) united with the State of Somaliland (former British Somaliland) on 1 July 1960 to form the Somali Republic (Somalia).
- As the Republic of Dahomey.
- As Upper Volta.
- Part of the British Cameroons mandate and trust territory on 1 October 1961 joined Nigeria. The other part of British Cameroons joined the previously decolonized French Cameroun mandate and territory.
- After both gained independence Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged on 26 April 1964 as Tanzania.
- As the Kingdom of Burundi.
- Assumed office on September 27, 1962 as Prime Minister. From the date of independence to Ben Bella's inauguration, Abderrahmane Farès served as President of the Provisional Executive Council.
- Abolished its commonwealth monarchy exactly one year later; Jamhuri Day ("Republic Day") is a celebration of both dates.
- The Mau Mau Uprising was an earlier armed uprising that failed to gain independence from the United Kingdom.
- The Sultanate of Zanzibar would later be overthrown within a month of sovereignty by the Zanzibar Revolution.
- Abolished its commonwealth monarchy exactly two years later.
- Abolished its commonwealth monarchy on 24 April 1970.
- Due the Rhodesia's unwillingness to accommodate the British government's request for black majority rule, the United Kingdom (along with the rest of the international community) refused to recognize the white-minority led government. The former self-governing colony would not be recognized as an independent state until the aftermath of the Rhodesian Bush War, under the name Zimbabwe.
- Botswana Day Holiday is the second day of the two-day celebration of Botswana's independence. The first day is also referred to as Botswana Day.
- Moshoeshoe II became King upon independence.
- Not celebrated as a holiday. The date 24 September 1973 (when the PAIGC formally declared Guinea's independence) is celebrated as Guinea-Bissau's date of independence.
- As the People's Republic of Mozambique
- Pedro Pires was sworn in as Prime Minister three days after independence.
- Although the fight for Cape Verdean independence was linked to the liberation movement occurring in Guinea-Bissau, the island country itself saw little fighting.
- As the People's Republic of Angola
- The Spanish colonial rule de facto terminated over the Western Sahara (then Spanish Sahara), when the territory was passed on to and partitioned between Mauritania and Morocco (which annexed the entire territory in 1979). The decolonization of Western Sahara is still pending, while a declaration of independence has been proclaimed by the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, which controls only a small portion east of the Moroccan Wall. The UN still considers Spain the legal administrating country of the whole territory, awaiting the outcome of the ongoing Manhasset negotiations and resulting election to be overseen by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. However, the de facto administrator is Morocco (see United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories).
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