Effects of Decolonization in Africa: History
We all know Africa was once almost entirely controlled by European nations and that those colonies became independent.
But most people don’t know HOW this happened or even WHY this happened.
So in this article, I seek to change that.
In this article, I will talk about how EVERY SINGLE nation in Africa gained its independence.
We will look at how the general trend in Africa at the time, the struggles faced by the Africans, and why every country with colonies decided to decolonize.
But before we can talk about how Africa was decolonized, we need to look at how Africa was colonized.
So, how did the Europeans colonize Africa? 🙂
Well, the first colonies were set up either in uninhabited areas such as Cape Verde or as coastal forts where Europeans would trade with the locals and supply trading ships going to and from Africa and Asia.
Over time Europeans would conquer small parts of the African coastline, but they couldn’t go any deeper.
But why not? Well, for most of the history Europeans simply didn’t have the technology to defeat the native African tribes, kingdoms, and empires and it wasn’t profitable to ship materials from Africa to Europe.
Unlike in the Americas, Africans didn’t die en masse from diseases like smallpox and unlike Asia, Africa didn’t have spices that were lightweight and easy to transport on a sailing ship.
So what changed? Well, Europe started industrializing: repeating rifles and machine guns made conquest easy, steamboats made shipping cheap, and trains made transport by land easy.
And in 1869, when the king of Belgium, Leopold II, started preparations to colonize the Congo, other European powers did not want to be left out and soon began their own expeditions to Africa.
There were 3 main reasons why European nations wanted to colonize Africa:
- The first reason was to control trade routes.
For example, the British wanted control over the Suez Canal for faster shipping to and from their Asian colonies, while other nations wanted ports where they could restock their ships.
- The second reason was raw materials:
with factories, trains, and steamboats it had become profitable to transport raw materials such as copper, cotton, or cobalt to Europe.
- And the third reason was to sell manufactured goods to the Africans.
With factories, trains, and steamboats Europe could make things that were better and cheaper than those products made in Africa.
And so, the more colonies you owned the more customers you had.
And the more customers you have, the more money you make.
European leaders held a conference, the Berlin conference, to decide how they were going to split up Africa between them to avoid a war over African resources.
These countries were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Great Britain.
although Germany would lose all their colonies after WW1. And so, in the late 19th and early 20th-century European powers went to
Africa to conquer it piece by piece.
Some regions were conquered in wars, such as the Herero Wars, where Germany conquered the Herero people.
While other regions joined willingly, realizing that resistance was futile.
And some regions joined through something called a ‘debt trap’, such as Tunisia, where European powers loaned large sums of money to Tunisia.
When Tunisia was unable to repay this loan, Europeans took control over parts of Tunisia’s government finance.
This control eventually destabilized the country so much that France could easily take control of the country.
Once an area was conquered, this new colony would generally be ruled by Europeans who would live in the colony or by pre-existing African rulers who would govern the colony in exchange for doing the bidding of the European overlords.
In general, the Africans had to pay a tax per person.
This tax was usually the same for every African in that colony and had to be paid in the currency of their European overlords.
So British colonies paid in British pounds, French colonies in French Francs, etc.
But how would native Africans get European money to pay the taxes?
Well, there were two ways they could get it.
They could either work for European companies in Africa or they could devote a portion of their land to growing crops, sell those crops for European currency, to then give that currency to their colonial government as a tax.
Europeans would then set up businesses in Africa to exploit those resources such as mines to extract gold, copper, or diamonds; plantations to grow cotton, cacao, or rubber; and build infrastructures such as roads, railroads, and ports to transport those materials to Europe.
There, European factory workers would turn those materials into manufactured goods such as gold for jewelry, cotton for clothes, and most importantly turn cacao into that sweet sweet delicious chocolate.
The taxes those governments earned from this would almost exclusively be spent on administering the colony and providing services to Europeans living in Africa.
Almost none of the work those African puts in was actually spent on improving the lives of the Africans.
And things went on like this for decades as Europeans expanded their influence over Africa for nearly 100 years.
Not all countries in Africa gained their independence by kicking the Europeans out, though.
Effects and Cause of Decolonization in Africa: History
There are 3 exceptions:
- The first of these is the colony of Liberia.
This colony was set up by the USA so free African Americans could establish their own country.
This was done so that slave owners wouldn’t have to deal with former slaves and their descendants and as a way to provide African Americans an escape from US racism and have their own country.
This idea was rejected by most African Americans, however, some did move there and declared independence in 1847, as was planned.
- The second was South Africa, where the government, composed mostly of ethnic Europeans, peacefully negotiated for their independence, which they gained in 1910.
That said, South Africa was still closely tied to the UK.
- And the third is Egypt, which declared independence from the Ottoman Empire during ww1 after the British helped to overthrow the previous government.
Egypt became a British protectorate for a while but didn’t like that and in 1919 the Egyptian people started a revolution.
- Great Britain decided it didn’t want to deal with this, wrote their own declaration of independence, and just sort of informed Egypt that they were now an independent country on February 28th, 1922 But African decolonization REALLY began after WW2.
But why was WW2 so important for Africa when most of it wasn’t even a warzone? Well, this is because the colonial powers had just spent 6 years blowing each other up and after the war was spending a lot of money on rebuilding what they had just destroyed.
This meant that they didn’t have the ability anymore to keep control over all their colonies.
[ITALIAN COLONIES] 🙂
A good example of this is the Italian colonies.
Italy was on the losing side of WW2 and had been severely damaged during the war.
As a result, other countries were able to demand that Italy give up all of its colonies.
At first Britain and France wanted to split these colonies between themselves, but they too had suffered a lot during WW2 and so the USA and USSR could easily put pressure on them to grant independence to the Italian colonies.
The first colony to become independent was Eritrea, in 1950, when it became part of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia had never been fully colonized by Italy and was liberated during WW2.
Libya became independent in 1951 and Somalia in 1960. [USA/USSR] The second major reason for African decolonization was the cold war.
The USA and USSR wanted to take power away from Western Europe and take it for themselves.
When a colony would become independent they would then be able to side with either the USA or USSR.
Every independent country meaning less power for Western Europe and more power for the Soviet Union and the United States.
As we just saw with the Italian colonies. As a result, many independence movements were funded by these two countries.
[AFRICAN NATIONALISM] 🙂
And the third reason for African decolonization was African nationalism.
This was an ideology whereby Africans themselves would demand independence from Europe to form their own nations.
Africans would spend decades fighting for their freedom and independence, using various methods such as protests, rebellions, and politics.
But the first successful example of an African colony gaining independence on its own was Gold Coast.
Great Britain was aware that African people were asking more and more for independence.
And so the UK decided to show the Africans the benefits of being under British rule, using the Gold Coast as their prime example.
One of the ways it did so was by giving Gold Coast free elections with a parliament that had mostly Africans.
The British hoped that by giving Africans more power that they wouldn’t have any need to ask for independence anymore.
But this didn’t happen…
What happened instead is that an African nationalist party was created which riled up the African citizens of the Gold Coast to demand “Self-government now”.
Its leader, Kwame Nkrumah, was sentenced to prison for 3 years for creating unrest in the colony.
In Prison Nkrumah discovered that a person could run for elections if they didn’t have a prison sentence which was longer than 1 year.
And while he had been sentenced to 3 years in prison.
They were 3 different sentences each lasting exactly 1 year, which technically meant he could run for parliament. And in the 1951 election, his party won 34 out of 38 seats in parliament.
And so Nkrumah the prisoner became Nkrumah the politician.
His party began demanding independence from Great Britain, declaring that “We prefer self-government with danger to servitude with tranquillity”.
In 1951 the constitution was changed to give the Gold Coast government control of every part of the colony except for its diplomacy, military, and courts.
3 years later, in 1954, the constitution was changed again so the majority-African parliament would become entirely African.
And as the people kept demanding more and more freedoms, Great Britain eventually relented in 1956 when the Gold Coast parliament voted to secede from the British Empire.
And so, on March 6th, 1957, Gold Coast became the independent country of Ghana.
Becoming the first African government run by ethnically Black-Africans.
Holding a large party to celebrate the occasion.
[FRENCH ALGERIA] 🙂
Next is the French colonies. France colonized Africa much earlier than most other European nations with their Algerian colony, known as French Algeria.
This had gone on for so long that Algeria was now considered to be part of France, rather than a colony:
Over two million ethnically French people lived here, general elections were being held like anywhere else in France, and the culture had become unmistakably French…
But while the French saw this region as part of France, the native Algerians viewed the situation much differently:
Nearly all commerce was in the hands of the French, the elections were clearly rigged so that pro-French Algerians would sit in the local parliament, and the native Algerian population as second-class citizens in their own homeland.
And this is where we need to look at the rest of France’s empire. Because France was facing issues elsewhere in its empire in the colony of Indochina, which today are the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The French had fought a war of independence there and were defeated by the Vietnamese.
France was afraid that something similar might happen in other colonies as well.
And so it embarked on a policy of promoting pro-French Africans into positions of power in its African colonies.
France hoped that this would show to the African people that they had political power in their own colonies without actually giving political power to the African people.
While those who wanted change and more freedom for the Africans were removed from power.
And so, without any political means to have their voices heard, some Algerians turned to violence.
They formed a resistance group called the FLN in 1954.
The FLN attacked military targets, to which the French sent more troops into Algeria, upon which the FLN attacked civilian targets, to which the French opened internment camps, as a result, FLN members threw grenades into French-owned cafes, upon which French soldiers killed 1200 random Algerians including children.
Creating a cycle of violence that over time became worse and worse and worse.
As France was focussing its efforts on Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia began asking for their own independence.
In Morocco, the French put a Sultan on the throne who was supposed to do whatever the French told him to do.
But this Moroccan Sultan became an African nationalist himself and began resisting their French overlords. Eventually, he refused to put his signature on French demands.
So the French simply replaced him with a new Sultan… But the People of Morocco were very unhappy with this and united in their hatred against the French. They formed their own resistance movement just like Algeria.
Effects of Decolonization in Africa: History
In Tunisia, the people were just as upset with the French.
In their case, because France refused to give Tunisians more rights: they asked for democracy in Tunisia, which the French refused.
So they formed a political party to gain more freedom.
but their leader was exiled. They went to the UN to settle the issue, but the delegation’s leader was arrested.
Tunisians became so frustrated that they also created their own resistance movements.
So now France was facing wars in 3 of its colonies.
They knew that by fighting everywhere, they wouldn’t be strong enough anywhere.
So in 1956 both Tunisia and Morocco gained their independence so France could focus on keeping Algeria.
But as news of the independence of Ghana, Algeria, and Morocco spread across Africa, African nationalism began to grow.
And all over Africa, people began demanding more autonomy.
In almost every colony the Africans were now considering the possibility of independence.
But France didn’t realize this and in 1956 it was still confident that it could hold on to its remaining colonies.
The reason for this was that France had cultivated a group of African elites all across its colonies;
they spoke the French language, adopted the French culture, and were in favor of the French government.
The French considered them to be fully-fledged Frenchmen. And France had been investing more and more money into developing its African colonies.
They hoped that by making Africans less poor that Africans would want to stay in a French colony… but this didn’t happen.
Instead, Africans kept asking for more freedom.
So instead France tried something else in 1958, they gave their colonies a choice:
They could either stay with France and have a democracy with their own prime minister, cabinet, and parliament in control of most aspects of the colony… or they could become independent.
France thought that the colonies would want to remain part of the French empire…
But the French were wrong… very wrong…
In guinea the referendum was held on September 28th, 1958… with 95% of the people voting in favor of independence. 4 days later, on October 2nd, Guinea declared independence.
In retaliation, France cut off all government aid, recalled all its French citizens such as doctors and government employees, and took as much government property with them as they could carry.
What they couldn’t take with them was destroyed: from the furniture to the lightbulbs to the government buildings themselves.
The other colonies saw what the French did in Algeria and guinea and decided they didn’t want to have those people in charge of them anymore.
And in just over a year almost all French colonies in Africa declared their independence.
The first was January 1st, 1960, with Cameroon;
followed by Togo on April 27th; Mali and Senegal on June 20th;
Madagascar on June 26th; Dahomey, now called Benin, on August the 1st; Then Niger on the 3rd;
Upper Volta, now called Burkina Fase, on the 5th;
Ivory Coast on the 7th; Chad on the 11th;
the Central African Republic on the 13th;
The Republic of the Congo on the 15th; Gabon on the 17th; and Mauritania on November 28th.
But because the colonies were underdeveloped after decades of French rule, these newly independent nations kept relying on French support… something which remains true to this day in many former French colonies.
With France deploying troops in their territory and giving aid to the governments.
France would keep fighting a war in Algeria until 1962 until the cost of war became too much for them.
And so, after 8 years of fighting, Algeria became independent on July 5th, 1962, leaving behind an estimated 350k-1.5 million graves.
While these developments were happening in the French colonies, the British faced their own independence movements as all over the continent Africans were rising against their European overlords.
Great Britain had seen the cost of holding on to their colonies by looking at places like Algeria, Indochina, and their own war to support the Dutch control over Indonesia.
It did not want to fight a long protracted war, only to lose anyway. And so in the 1950s, the UK became more open to independence.
The British were more interested in the resources than they were in controlling the government, so they were okay with independence if Britain could maintain access to the African resources.
This policy is called neo-colonialism.
In Sudan, it ruled together with Egypt. Both countries were afraid of the cost of the war in Sudan when the local people became restless in the 50s.
And so both the British and Egyptians decided to give Sudan its independence on January 1st, 1956.
In other colonies, the question wasn’t so much about WHEN to decolonize as to HOW to decolonize.
And a good example of how Great Britain struggled with how to decolonize was their Nigerian colony:
Because Africa is the most diverse place on Earth with thousands of different ethnicities and in Nigeria alone 250 ethnic groups were speaking over 200 different languages living together in a single colony.
In the North lived mostly Muslim people who governed using feudalism, similar to how Europeans governed themselves during the middle ages.
In the west lived the Yoruba who had adopted various parts of western culture.
While in the east lived the Igbo who were the best educated but poor and moved all over Nigeria for a better salary. These were the 3 main ethnic groups, but among them lived 250 smaller ethnicities with their own unique cultures.
Many of these groups didn’t get along with each other at all, yet Great Britain was determined to create some sort of government with the Africans for an independent Nigeria.
In 1951 they created a constitution that was so unpopular they replaced it 3 years later.
In 1957 Britain gave self-governance to the Igbo in the east and the Yoruba in the west.
However, after decades of colonization, the Northern Muslims simply lacked the skills and knowledge to govern themselves.
In fact, only 1% of government offices were taken by Northern Muslims. And so they had to wait until 1959 until they could govern themselves.
Effects of Decolonization in Africa: History
In the end, they agreed on a system where the 3 regions would be able to rule largely independently in a system called Federalism, which is similar to, for example, how the USA is governed today…
but Northern Muslims controlled nearly half the territory and 75% of the population, meaning that they would always be in a dominant position.
Not only that, no national political parties emerged. Instead, parties were split along ethnic lines with every ethnic group mostly voting for their own parties.
And so when Nigeria became independent on August 3rd, 1960, the Nigerians weren’t all that optimistic about their own country…
The results of this type of government can still be seen today where Nigerian leaders find it very difficult to run their own country.
And the reasons for this can be found in how the British set up this colony in such an illogical way, with the country of Nigeria being more diverse than the entire continent of Europe.
In other British colonies, they faced similar issues as Nigeria… But on top of having African ethnicities which often didn’t get along, they also had Europeans living in those colonies who didn’t get along with the Africans.
Those Europeans were better educated, controlled most of the government, and owned most of the businesses.
Those Europeans had a system that favored them while putting Africans in long-term poverty.
And those Europeans did not want to give up power. So how were the British going to solve this issue?
Well, for the UK the answer was to create multiracial societies where Africans and Europeans would work together, under the leadership of the Europeans living in those colonies…
Because apparently what Africans REALLY needed was some white guy telling them what to do…
The reason the UK thought this was a good idea was exactly that the Europeans were already in charge.
If they wanted to put Africans back in positions of power it would take years to teach those Africans all the knowledge and skills needed to run a country, skills which they had lost during colonization.
So the British government saw cooperation under European rule as the only solution by trying to get Europeans to accept Africans as more equal, while also having power over those Africans.
And of course… this didn’t work: the Africans didn’t understand why they should have less power when they were 98% of the population and instead wanted the Europeans to go back to Europe and return the land and power to Africans.
In Kenya they started a rebellion, called the Mau Mau Uprising, lasting from 1952-1960, because of the issues between Africans and Europeans…
Great Britain was afraid that more rebellions might appears if they gave too much power to the Europeans and so decided to give more power to Africans.
For example, Africans would be allowed to choose which crop they wanted to grow, allowed to farm the most fertile regions which previously had only been allowed for ethnic Europeans, and Africans were given an equal number of seats in the colonial parliament as Europeans.
By 1960, with the Mau Mau uprising almost defeated, with more rights for Africans, and with a plan to share power equally between the small European population and the large African, Great Britain was pretty satisfied with their progress.
So in 1960, they announced that they were going to start the process of decolonization all across Africa, lasting between 10-15 years.
But while the UK was satisfied, the Africans were not. And region after the region became more unstable as they were told they had to wait 10-15 YEARS before they could finally become independent, while still having to share power with the Europeans who were suppressing them their entire lives…
As you can imagine, Africans didn’t really trust their government after decades of colonization and soon riots broke out in some of the colonies.
Effects of Decolonization in Africa: History
And now the UK was afraid of rebellions popping up all across their empire and having to fight a long and bloody war just like the French in Algeria.
Great Britain didn’t want to have to deal with any of that and decided to just give Africans their independence.
While this upset the Europeans living in Africa, the British were more concerned with an African revolt than they were with those small European populations.
While most of the colonies lacked the education and experience to run a country, they were given independence nonetheless.
The first was Sierra Leone on April 27th, 1961; Tanganyika, now called Tanzania, on December 9th;
Uganda on October 9th, 1962; Kenya on December 12th;
Malawi on July 6th, 1964;
Northern Rhodesia, now called Zambia, on October 24th;
The Gambia on February 18th, 1965; Southern Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, on November 11th;
Bechuanaland, now Botswana, on September 30th, 1966;
Basutoland, now Lesotho on October 4th; Mauritius on March 12th, 1968;
and lastly, Swaziland, now called Eswatini, on September 6th.
[BELGIAN COLONIES] 🙂
In general, the newly independent nations departed the British Empire on relatively good terms… the same, however, cannot be said about the Belgian colonies.
The Belgians only colonized the Congo. And Belgian Congo started as the personal property of the Belgian King Leopold II. Under his rule, Belgian Congo was turned into a gigantic corporation concerned only with making a profit, regardless of how many people died in the process.
But how did they do this? Well, Congo has a lot of navigable rivers, meaning you could take steamboats and travel from the Atlantic ocean all the way into the country.
This made it easy to send troops to take over the whole region. The Belgians then built railroads, mines, and plantations across the country, often destroying the homes of the people who lived there.
Soldiers then went to the villages, towns, and cities and told the Congolese peoples that they had to work for the Belgians.
And they were told exactly how many resources they had to hand over every time the soldiers came to collect them. This was often MUCH more than a human was capable of and so many did not meet the Belgian demands even if they tried.
But the Belgian soldiers who had to collect the resources from the Africans were told that if they didn’t bring enough materials back to their superiors, that they would be severely punished themselves.
But if soldiers brought back less raw materials than they were expected to, they had to compensate for the loss of income’ by killing or mutilating part of the native population in the hope that those who survived would work harder.
To prove that the soldiers actually implemented this punishment, they had to bring body parts of their victims, bringing baskets full of them, to their superiors.
Those who collected the most were allowed to return to Belgium early. Belgian soldiers would sometimes make the people kill or mutilate their own neighbors, they would force them into degrading acts with their own family, they would utterly abuse the population without consequence.
The term ‘crimes against humanity’ was created specifically to describe what the Belgians did in Belgian Congo and the policies implemented by Leopold II.
I have never made an article where I wasn’t able to read all the research materials, but this is the first time I read something I couldn’t finish because of how brutal the accounts are.
But I warn you: if you try to google for more information or go to the wiki, you will probably find pictures and testimonies that might be too much to handle all at once.
And while things got better when Leopold II died, it wasn’t that much better, with the Congolese population being kept subservient to the European population living in Congo.
The call for independence finally came in 1958, when some Congolese were inspired by the president of Ghana to start their own independence movement.
This was so successful that only a week after calling for independence, the capital of Belgian Congo erupted in riots over discontent for their Belgian government.
Just like France and the UK, Belgium was afraid of an African uprising.
So they decided to give some political freedoms to the Congolese people, just like the French and British had done.
Within a year over 120 political parties were formed across the Congo with the call for independence becoming greater and greater every day.
So fed up with their oppression, the Congolese began to riot against their Belgian overlords. As a result, the government began suppressing the population. Which in turn caused more rioting.
Effects of Decolonization in Africa: History
Eventually, a region refused to pay taxes or obey Belgian laws anymore… And there was almost NOTHING.
Belgium could do about it. Belgium had shown they couldn’t stand up against the Congolese and would have a war on their hands similar to the French in Algeria… except Belgium was far less powerful than France.
This is a very important point to realize: As soon Africans were rising, they realized that their European overlords weren’t able to control them anymore.
And so the Belgian government relented and invited 13 political leaders to Brussels to discuss independence.
The Belgian government wanted a gradual independence process lasting 4 years… the Congolese wanted independence that same year on June the 1st.
Faced with an all-out revolution, the Belgian government eventually agreed on June 30th, 1960. And the country was renamed ‘Congo’.
But the Congo was woefully unprepared for independence because of the Belgian colonization.
For example; The Congo only had 30 university graduates and 136 children who finished high school when it became independent.
And so the Belgians still controlled many aspects of the Congo, simply because there weren’t enough Congolese to run government institutions.
On the independence day, the Belgian king held a speech, espousing the “genius” and “courage” of his great-uncle Leopold II for creating the Congo and how very thankful the Congolese should be for everything the Belgians had done to them…
[FADE TO BLACK] 🙂
[BELGIAN – RWANDA & BURUNDI] Shortly before the Congo became independent, the Belgian colonies of Rwanda and Burundi erupted in similar riots as in Belgian Congo.
Unable to maintain peace in these other 2 colonies, the Belgian government also gave them their independence, on July 1st, 1962, when both Burundi and Rwanda became independent nations.
[PORTUGEAUSE COLONIES] Next are the Portuguese colonies.
Portugal was one of the first to colonize Africa but it was one of the last to leave Africa. The reason for this is that they looked at the instability in the other colonies, such as Algeria, Belgian Congo, Nigeria, etc.
and concluded that the reason that those colonies descended into violence was that the Africans did not receive proper guidance from Europeans…
Concluding that what Africa REALLY needed was a bunch of white dudes telling them what to do.
And so to prevent Africans from rising in their own colonies they implemented something called apartheid.
This is a system in which Africans and Europeans would live apart from one another in many different ways, with the Africans receiving far fewer rights than the Europeans.
African politicians were harassed, African leaders were imprisoned, and African parties were banned.
On top of that, the daily lives of average Africans would be controlled by the government:
they were told what jobs they could get, where they could live, what types of public services they could use, and much more.
When Africans refused to abide by these laws, they were put in prison.
Through these actions, millions of Africans were moved from their homes and their land was taken over by Europeans who would build plantations on them.
As you can imagine, the Africans were very unhappy and resisted.
In March 1961 violence erupted in Northern Angola as roving bangs of Africans attacked European settlements, killing Europeans and African migrant workers.
The government was ill-prepared for this and took 6 months to regain control.
Portugal became afraid that this type of violence would break out again and so decided on investing in their African colonies and giving Africans more rights.
Unlike the French, British, and Belgian colonies, they did not allow democratic reforms, however, because Portugal at that time was a dictatorship.
But Africans could no longer have their land stolen, no longer had to perform compulsory labor, and were given equal rights as citizens of the Portuguese Empire.
They also invested in social programs, education, and economic development because Portugal turned colonies into proper provinces, which were on equal footing with the provinces back in Europe.
They were hoping that by improving the lives of Africans, that those Africans would stop demanding their independence…
But African resistance groups weren’t satisfied. Many of these resistance groups were receiving funding from countries like the USA, the USSR, Tunisia, and Algeria.
But the government was unwilling to give up its colonies and sent 50.000 troops to Angola to keep the peace. As a result, Angola would fight a war of independence between 1961-74.
The war ended when Portugal’s regime collapsed in 1974 and the new government was willing to grant its colonies independence.
It started with the colony of Guinea-Bissau, on September 10th, 1974;
next came Mozambique on June 25th, 1975;
Cape Verde on July 5th;
São Tomé and Príncipe on July 12th; and Angola on November 11th.
The last series of colonies we will talk about is the Spanish colonies.
It ruled its colonies similar to the French; with a ruling Spanish population, a small African elite, and a large African population that wasn’t counted as citizens.
Spain didn’t have a lot of colonies though, holding only what we now call Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara, while the Moroccon parts were given back when it became independent.
While its colonies did not see the instability we saw in other African colonies, the Spanish government was still afraid of an African revolt. And so Spain upgraded its colony
in Equatorial Guinea to a province that was on equal footing with the other Spanish provinces, just like Portugal had done. It also invested A LOT of money in this new province.
So much so that by 1965 it had become the richest region in Africa per person. But despite these efforts, the Africans were still upset that ethnic Spanish people were in charge of their homeland.
And so Spain gave them more autonomy after a referendum in 1965. In 1966 the UN passed a resolution ordering Spain to grant independence.
And so, on October 12th, 1968, The Spanish Territories of the Gulf of Guinea became an independent nation, calling itself Equatorial Guinea.
Western Sahara never became independent, however, because when Spain left in 1975, Morocco came in and is occupying that territory to this very day.
Great Britain still had one colony left in Africa: Seychelles.
It was not until 1964 that the colony began asking for independence. In 1970 they created a new constitution which gave more power to the colony.
And in the election of 1974, 2 parties promised independence and they won.
And so Britain agreed to grant independence and on June 29, 1976.
France also still had a few colonies lying around in Africa, such as Djibouti.
In 1960 they got an independence referendum… but this one was rigged and so the results showed that they wanted to stay with France.
They held another one in ‘67… which was also rigged.
But the second referendum shenanigans caused resistance movements to pop up.
They eventually kidnapped the France ambassador to Somalia in 1975, hijacked a bus in 1976, and performed various other forms of resistance to kick the French out.
So finally a third referendum was held in 1977…
this time without rigging the election and with 99.8% voting for independence.
Becoming independent on 27 June 1977. The last French colony to become independent was French Comoros.
This was done via a referendum on all four of the colony’s islands.
3 islands voted for independence and became the nation of Comoros on July 6th, 1975.
The island of Mayotte voted to stay with France and remains under French administration to this day.
But it wasn’t the last country to decolonize: for South Africa still occupied the territory of Namibia.
South Africa wanted to annex the region, however, was facing opposition from the local population, which turned into a proxy war in the Cold War.
The UN decreed in 1969 that Namibia become independent, but South Africa maintained its occupation.
But in the 80s the cold war was coming to an end and both the USA and USSR pressured South Africa into giving independence, while South Africa became fed up with fighting an endless war of independence.
A ceasefire was agreed upon in March 1989, an 11-month transition period was created where South Africa would withdraw its troops, and Namibia became its own country on the 21st of March, 1990.
African decolonization was a hard-fought battle. There is no one reason why the African nations became independent, as we saw in this article.
Instead, it required tremendous effort from millions of people.
It took the African leaders to convince their people to rise against their European overlords, it took the populations themselves to protest weeks or months or years to show their oppressors that they were no longer going to be oppressed, it took the influence of great powers to put pressure on the colonizers to give independence, and it took the whole world to come to terms with the plight of the Africans to demand that the Western and Southern Europeans nations give independence to Africa.
African independence was gained with a lot of work, a lot of suffering, and a lot of graves.
But independence hardly solved the issues of a century of colonization and underdevelopment.