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Posts tagged "independence"

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) becomes independent of French colonial rule - August 15th, 1960.*

The central African country often referred to as Congo-Brazzaville, in order to distinguish between neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (or Congo-Kinshasa), was formerly part of the French colony French Equatorial Africa. The name of it’s capital city is taken from the surname of Italian explorer and naturalized French citizen Pietro Paolo Savorgnan di Brazzà, later known as Pierre Paul François Camille Savorgnan de Brazza, who opened the way for the French to colonize the area in the 1880s. 

From wikipedia:

The most prominent Congolese politician until 1956 was Jean-Félix Tchicaya, born in Libreville on 9 November 1903 and a member of the royal family of the Kingdom of Loango. Together with Ivorian leader Félix Houphouët-Boigny and others, he formed the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA) in 1946 and, in 1947, the Parti Progressiste Africain. On 21 November 1945, Tchicaya became one of the first African leaders elected to the French parliament, giving him great prestige in his native country.

Although Tchicaya was on the left of the French political spectrum, he never strongly questioned French colonial rule. This resulted in a loss of influence as the Congo prepared for independence, influenced by nationalist anti-colonial leaders as Kwame Nkrumah from Ghana and Egyptian PresidentGamel Abdel Nasser. Only by aligning himself with his erstwhile enemy, the more radical Jacques Opangault in the parliamentary elections of March 31, 1957 could he continue to play a leading role in Congolese political life.

Prior to independence, the French establishment and Catholic Church feared Opangault’s radicalism and favored the rise of Fulbert Youlou, a former priest. The defection of Georges Yambot from the African Socialist Movement (MSA) to Youlou’s Union Démocratique pour la Défense d’Intérêts Africains (UDDIA) helped Youlou become Prime Minister in 1958. This led to the establishment of the Republic of Congo on 28 November 1958 (with Brazzaville replacing Point Noire as the country’s capital).

On 16 February 1959, a revolt organized by Opangault and his MSA erupted in clashes along tribal lines between Southerners, supporting Youlou, and people from the North, loyal to the MSA. The riots were suppressed by French army and Opangault was arrested. In total about 200 people died. Prime Minister Youlou then held the elections for which Opangault had previously asked in vain. After the May 9 arrest of several politicians, including veteran politician Simon Kikhounga Ngot, because of an alleged communist plot, parliamentary elections were convincingly won by Youlou. On 12 July 1960 France agreed to Congo becoming fully independent. On 15 August 1960, the Republic of Congo became an independent country and Fulbert Youlou became its first President.

In November that year, Youlou released Opangault, Ngot and other adversaries, as part of an amnesty. In return both politicians, as well as Germain Bicoumat, joined Youlou’s government and received ministerial posts, effectively destroying any organized political opposition.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Central African Republic becomes independent of French colonial control.

August 13, 1960 is celebrated annually as the day that this landlocked central African country became a nation independent of French control. However, the country was ruled by a series of presidents, military rulers and an emperor, the notorious Jean-Bédel Bokassa, most of whom gained power through coups, often with the backing of France. Central Africa’s first democratic elections would not be held until 1993, 33 years after independence.

The country is currently in the midst of a violent crisis that came about as a result of political unrest, spurred by the resistance movements against the CAR government by rebel armies who have formed a coalition known as Seleka (meaning ‘union’ in the Sango language).

As of March this year, the rebels had seized the capital city of Bangui, causing President Francois Bozize to flee the country, essentially living CAR without a government. Following this, rebel leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president. Djotodia also dissolved the government and suspended the country’s constitution. 

On-going unrest continues as many civilians have become vulnerable to violent attacks with many fleeing to neighbouring countries as refugees and IDPs. Furthermore, many children face the threat of being recruited as child soldiers, amongst other human rights abuses and violations.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Chad gains independence from France

August 11th, 1960 was the date that the Central African landlocked country of Chad, currently home to a large number of various ethnic groups - such as the Fulbe, Moundang, Zaghawa, Kotoko, Toubou and Massa, collectively speaking over 100 different languages both outside of and within the same ethnic groups, gained independence from French colonial authority.

Before French colonization of the area, the Sao and Kanem Empires each flourished in the region.

Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, a series of states and empires rose and fell in Chad’s Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region.

France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa.

In 1960, Chad obtained independence under the leadership of François Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lasting civil war in 1965. In 1978, the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the south’s hegemony. However, the rebel commanders fought amongst themselves until Hissène Habré defeated his rivals. He was overthrown in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. Since 2003, the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad.


August 7th, 2013, marks the 53rd independence day of Cote D’Ivoire from France. The West African nation became a French colony in 1893, after treaties between the kings of Grand Bassam and France had been signed between 1843-1844 leading to the expansion of French control over the area. However, Europeans had been present on that part of the continent since the days of the transatlantic slave trade, with Portuguese explorers arriving in 1482.

Prior to European colonialism, the region that is modern-day Cote D’Ivoire was home to various empires and kingdoms such as the 17th century-founded kingdom of Gyaaman established by the Abon who were an Akan group, the Muslim Kong Empire established by the Juula in the 18th century, the Baoulé, Senuofo and Bouna kingdoms, and the Ghana, Songhai and Sudanic empires that extended into the area during their reigns in West Africa.

French rule in the area was not met without resistance. To many, the treaties signed with Grand Bassam leaders meant little, if anything, and Madinka forces, mostly from Gambia, fought a long war with the French in the 1890s. The Baoulé and other eastern groups continued opposing French colonial influence using guerrilla warfare until 1917, and it wasn’t until 1918 that local forces were defeated by the French. Samori Ture, leader and founder of the Wassoulou Empire, is a legendary figure known for his continuous resistance against France’s colonial presence in West Africa and fought against French forces from 1882 until his capture in 1898.

In 1960, Cote D’Ivoire gained independence under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny who held power until his death in 1993.

Happy Independence Day São Tomé e Príncipe!

Located off the Western equatorial coast of Central Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, this former Portuguese colony is Africa’s smallest country, after the Seychelles, with an estimated population of a little less than 167, 000.

Until the arrival of the Portuguese in the late 1400s, the island, according to Western historians, was said to have been uninhabited. The island were set up as trading bases by the Portuguese and were named after St. Thomas (São Tomé), as this island was discovered on December 21st which is St. Thomas’ Day, and the Portuguese prince, (Príncipe). Attracting settlers from Portugal proved difficult and at first, those sent to the island were ‘undesirables’ such as prisoners and Jewish people.

During the 1500s, as the region proved incredibly suitable for agricultural purposes, the islands soon became sugar plantations run by the Portuguese. As the cultivation of sugar is a labour-intensive process, the Portuguese began to use slave labour in the form of kidnapped African’s from the Western coast of Africa.  

However, as the enslaved population began to grow, and with Portugal unable to invest resources in the islands resulting in the decline of sugar produce, by the mid-17th century São Tomé and Príncipe primarily served as a transit base for ships carrying kidnapped and enslaved Africans from West Africa.

With the introduction of cocoa and coffee by the Portuguese in the 1800s, the economy of São Tomé and Príncipe increased and with that the introduction of large slave plantations known as roças were established all over the islands. By 1908, São Tomé had become the world’s largest producer of cocoa - a testament to the rigorous form of slavery on these tiny islands.

Although Portugal officially abolished slavery in 1876, they continued to use a mixture slavery and forced paid labour systems on those who worked the plantations well into the 20th century. With the growing anti-Portuguese and anti-Colonial sentiments rising amongst the enslaved population, a series of riots broke out in 1953 that resulted in clashes between the African and Portuguese populations. Several African labourers were killed in what is known as the Batepá massacre.

The event was instigated by Portuguese landowners who were becoming increasingly fearful of the African labour force who had always refused manual field work on the estates as they considered it slave labour. This meant that there was a shortage of labour on Portuguese plantations - a factor that was beginning to severely affect the economy of the islands. This resistance is seen as the start of the nationalist movement in São Tomé.

As the wave of independence began to sweep across African in the 1950s and 1960s, a small group of São Toméans established the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé e Príncipe (MLSTP), establishing a base in nearby Gabon. After the overthrow of the Caetano dictatorship in Portugal in 1974, the group met with the new Portuguese authorities and in that same year an agreement for the transfer of sovereignty was reached.

On July 12th, 1975, São Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence choosing MLSTP Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa as the country’s first president.

Happy (belated) Independence Day Comoros!

Four days ago on July 6th the island nation of Comoros, located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa, celebrated its independence from French colonial authority that was won on that day in 1975.

African and Austronesian settles who traveled to the island by boat are thought to have been the first human inhabitants of the island who are speculated to have arrived around the sixth century AD, the date of the earliest known archaeological site, found on Nzwani.

The Comoros islands have since been populated by a diverse array of settlers ranging from Arab and Swahili settlers, traders and human traffickers, to Malagasy slave raiders, and Portuguese, Dutch and French colonists.

French colonial rule was established on the islands beginning in 1841 with the signing of the Treaty of April 1841 between France and the Malagasy King of Mayotte Andrian Tsouli. The Treaty surrendered the Comoros island of Mayotte to France. By 1912, the islands of the Comoros were all under French colonial control.

In 1973 an agreement was reached between France and local Comorian authorities for the islands to become independent and self-governing. On 6 July 1975, the Comorian parliament passed a unilateral resolution declaring independence with Ahmed Abdalla as the country’s first president.

From Al Jazeera:

After 2 years of independence, is it progress or paralysis for South Sudan? Economically it suffers as oil continues to fuel conflict with Sudan. Internally, nearly 90% of its people live on less than $1 a day, violence between tribes continues & malnutrition persists.

Some have labeled South Sudan a failed state. But can that be changed? With 72% of the population under 30, is it up to the youth to chart the course for their homeland’s future?

Join the conversation at 1930GMT. http://aje.me/12TOUi5 ‎#SouthSudan

I find it that after only two years, there are people calling South Sudan a failed state. Really though? Really? Wow.

Happy Independence Day South Sudan!

Today, July 9th, 2013, marks the second year of independence for Africa’s newest country, South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan officially came into being on this day in 2011 after a referendum, determining whether or not the Southern region of Sudan should secede from the North, that passed with 98.83% of the vote, with President Salva Kirr Mayardit being elected as the country’s first president.

There are over 60 indigenous languages spoken in South Sudan, and the main ethnicities in the country are the Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Murle, and Zande peoples.

Happy Independence Day Malawi!

The southern African landlocked Republic of Malawi was colonised by the British in 1891 and up until July 6th, 1964, was known as ‘Nyasaland’.

The country’s independence was achieved largely through the efforts of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) formed in 1944. Headed by Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, in 1958, who left his position as a medical practitioner in Ghana to dedicate himself to the cause of Malawi’s independence, Banda was elected president of the party. The NAC was banned by colonial authorities in 1959 and Banda was subsequently jailed for his political activities.

After his release in 1960, Banda formed the NAC’s successor, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and became it’s first president. At this stage, Nyasaland had been merged with Northern and Southern Rhodesia by the British to form the semi-independent region known as the Central African Federation (CAF) - an entity that was still ruled largely by the dominant white European minority.

Opposing this fusion of separate states, Malawian nationalists began to gather local support and in 1961, Nyasaland held a Legislative Council Election that saw the MCP win the majority of the seats, above other local parties. As a result, the CAF was dissolved in 1963 with Banda becoming Prime Minister of Nyasaland, and in 1964, he became President of Malawi.

Banda turned Malawi into a one-party state and remained President of the country until 1994 - almost 30 years - giving himself the title of ‘President for Life’ of MCP in 1970, and of Malawi in the following year. Despite his nationalist efforts towards Malawi’s independence, Banda was seen as a pro-Western leader, receiving aid from several Western states, and also maintained relations with South Africa’s Apartheid government. However, he also credited by some as being supportive of women’s rights, reforming Malawi’s education system, and improving the country’s economy and infrastructure. Malawi became a multi-party democratic state following a referendum in 1993.

The current President of the country and Africa’s second woman head of state, Joyce Banda (née Mtila), is of no relation to Dr. Banda.

Happy Independence Day Cape Verde!

The former Portuguese colony consisting of islands that served as a base for European slave traders during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, because of its strategic location off the coast of West Africa, officially gained independence from Portugal and became a republic on July 5th, 1975.

Instrumental in the island nation’s fight for independence, Guinea-Bissauan and Cape Verdean political leader and revolutionary Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral was assassinated eight months before the country’s declaration of independence on 20 January 1973. Highly political since his days as a student in Lisbon, Cabral founded the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde), PAIGC, and was one of the co-founders of the Movimento Popular Libertação de Angola (MPLA) - all three nations, Angola, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau being Portuguese colonies in Africa. 

From the founded of the PAIGC in 1963 until his death, Cabral led the party’s guerrilla movement against Portuguese forces, and was seen as one of the most successful independence wars in African history. With his education background as an agricultural engineer, Cultural led several innovative development initiatives that taught local crop growers better farming techniques, encouraged his soldiers to assist local farmers when not fighting, set up high standard travelling clinics with supplies sent from the USSR and Sweden, and established a trade-and-barter bazaar system that went around the country making staple goods available to rural communities at prices lower than that of colonial store owners.

“Educate ourselves; educate other people, the population in general, to fight fear and ignorance, to eliminate little by little the subjection to nature and natural forces which our economy has not yet mastered.”

- Amilcar Cabral

Aristides Maria Pereira, a leading member of the PAIGC, became the first president of Cape Verde serving from 1975 to 1991.

Happy Independence Day Algeria!

After a nearly eight-year war against colonial French rule in the country, Algeria’s independence was officially declared on July 5th, 1962.

The Algerian Revolution/War of Independence was fought from 1 November 1954 – 19 March 1962, between Algerian independence movements and France. An incredibly complex and decolonization war, various stages of the fight included battles between Algerian independence movements against both France and each other. The National Liberation Front (FLN) - the leading Algerian liberation movement that Fantz Fanon was involved with - fought viciously against the Algerian National Movement (MNA) and the right-wing Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS) fought against both the FLN and the French government’s forces.

Women also played crucial roles in the Algerian Revolution, both on the French and Algerian sides, and were particularly active within the FLN where they were given more instrumental roles. Revolutionary Djamila Bouhired is one of the most well-known woman fighters from this time.

The end of the war came into being after the leader of the French Republic, Charles De Gaulle, held talks with the FLN and the signing of the Évian Accords - a 93-page treaty that detailed agreements between Algeria and France, from prisoner releases to the treatment of Pied-Noirs (European-descended people living in Algeria), and put an end to the war with the declaration of a cease-fire.

Read a more in-depth post about the Algerian Revolution.

Happy Independence Day Somalia!

On July 1st, 1960, the British and Italian parts of Somalia become independent and merged to form the United Republic of Somalia with Aden Abdullah Osman Daar elected as president.

The Horn of Africa has been home to Somalis, who make up around 85% of Somalia’s population, for centuries. For many years, Mogadishu stood as the pre-eminent city in the بلاد البربر, Bilad-al-Barbar (“Land of the Berbers”), which was the medieval Arabic term for the Horn of Africa. During the age of the Ajuuraans, the sultanates and republics of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawa, Hobyo and their respective ports flourished and had a lucrative foreign commerce with ships sailing to and coming from Arabia, India, Venetia, Persia, Egypt, Portugal and as far away as China. Vasco da Gama, who passed by Mogadishu in the 15th century, noted that it was a large city with houses of four or five storeys high and big palaces in its centre and many mosques with cylindrical minarets.

From the 7th to the 10th century, Arab and Persian trading posts were established along the coast of present-day Somalia. Nomadic tribes occupied the interior, occasionally pushing into Ethiopian territory. In the 16th century, Turkish rule extended to the northern coast, and the sultans of Zanzibar gained control in the south.

After British occupation of Aden in 1839, the Somali coast became its source of food. The French established a coal-mining station in 1862 at the site of Djibouti, and the Italians planted a settlement in Eritrea. Egypt, which for a time claimed Turkish rights in the area, was succeeded by Britain. By 1920, a British and an Italian protectorate occupied what is now Somalia. The British ruled the entire area after 1941, with Italy returning in 1950 to serve as United Nations trustee for its former territory.

By 1960, Britain and Italy granted independence to their respective sectors, enabling the two to join as the Republic of Somalia on July 1, 1960. Somalia broke diplomatic relations with Britain in 1963 when the British granted the Somali-populated Northern Frontier District of Kenya to the Republic of Kenya.

On Oct. 15, 1969, President Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated and the army seized power. Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre, as president of a renamed Somali Democratic Republic, leaned heavily toward the USSR. In 1977, Somalia openly backed rebels in the easternmost area of Ethiopia, the Ogaden Desert, which had been seized by Ethiopia at the turn of the century. Somalia acknowledged defeat in an eight-month war against the Ethiopians that year, having lost much of its 32,000-man army and most of its tanks and planes. President Siad Barre fled the country in late Jan. 1991. His departure left Somalia in the hands of a number of clan-based guerrilla groups, none of which trusted each other.

(sources 1; 2)

Happy Independence Day Rwanda!

Rwanda saw the first European presence, when German Count Von Goetzen visited the country in 1894. However, it was not until 1897 that Germans began establishing their control over Rwanda, and the Kingdom of Burundi to the South, as part of German East Africa. The colony later came to be known as Ruanda-Urundi after it was ‘handed’ over to Belgium, by the League of Nations, under the Treaty of Versailles.

For many years the Germans ruled the country indirectly through the Tutsi King (Tutsi was the elite class consisting mostly of aristocracy). The other major ethnic group was Hutu, who were the working class, primarily farmers.

Like other imperial powers first the Germans, and then the Belgians, who occupied the region around 1916 through military occupation, stirred the ethnic and social differences between the two groups. These differences eventually triggered the ethnic violence in 1959, which led to ouster of Tutsi monarchy in what is present-day Rwanda.

In 1961, in a referendum supervised by the United Nation, Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) won an overwhelming majority. The party came to form an interim government, and was granted internal autonomy in January 1962.

Rwanda soon won its complete independence on July 1, 1962 through UN resolution that ended the trusteeship of Belgium (at the end of World War II Ruanda-Urundi had become a United Nation trust territory under Belgian administrative authority at the end of Second World War).

(text edited but sourced from here)

Happy Independence Day Burundi!

The original inhabitants of Burundi were the Twa, a Pygmy people who now make up only 1% of the population. Today the population is divided between the Hutu, making up around 85% of Burundi’s population, and the Tutsi, approximately 14%. Both Hutu and Tutsi people speak the same language, Rwanda-Rundi, also spoken as a mother tongue by the Twa. The difference between tree two ethnic groups is primarily occupational - Hutu are considered to be agriculturally-based, whereas the Tutsi are known to be cattle herders, and Twa are traditionally hunter-gatherers. The main division between the Tutsi and the Hutu came with the classification system based on wealth status (cow ownership) and physical appearance that defined

Present-day Burundi first came under European colonial control when it was colonized by the Germans and became a part of German East Africa in 1885. After Germany’s defeat in World War I, Germany was forced to ‘hand over’ the territory to Belgium. From 1916-1924 the territory was under Belgian military occupation, conquered by Belgian Congo forces in 1916. Under the Treaty of Versailles, German East Africa was divided between Belgium and Great Britain with the area know known as Burundi becoming under full control of Belgium in 1924. The area officially became Ruanda-Urundi. The Belgians had promised the League of Nations that they would promote ‘education’ in the region but, as with all colonist countries, they exploited the people and their land to benefit Belgium interests.

Read more about how Burundi gained their independence.

Happy Independence Day to everyone Democratic Republic of Congo!

After years of colonial rule by the Belgians, beginning with King Leopold II and his ruthless ambitions to secure colonial territory in Africa starting in the late 1870s, followed by the establishing of the Congo Free State from 1885-1908, which later became known as the Belgian Congo in the early 20th century, the area known today as the Democratic Republic of Congo officially became an independent nation on June 30th, 1960.

The fight for Congo’s independence was led primarily by the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba who would later be brutally assassinated after a Mobuto-led coup deposed him of his position after only three months in office. Lumumba’s assassination was carried out with involvement from British and Belgian governments, the United States (CIA), and local Congolese leaders who opposed Lumumba’s political developments.