Decolonisation of Africa

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An animated map shows the order of independence of African nations, 1950-2011 African nations order of independence 1950-1993.gif
An animated map shows the order of independence of African nations, 1950–2011

The decolonisation of Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s to 1975, with sudden and radical regime changes on the continent as colonial governments made the transition to independent states; this was often quite unorganized and marred with violence and political turmoil. There was widespread unrest, with organized revolts in both northern and sub-Saharan colonies including the Algerian War in French Algeria, the Angolan War of Independence in Portuguese Angola, the Congo Crisis in the Belgian Congo, and the Mau Mau Uprising in British Kenya. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]



European control in 1939
Independent Map of Africa in 1939.png
European control in 1939

The "Scramble for Africa" between 1870 and 1900 ended with almost all of Africa being controlled by a small number of 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. [6] [7] 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 (then occupied by Italy in 1936). [8] 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. [9] Progress towards independence was slow up until the mid-20th century. By 1977, 54 African countries had seceded from European colonial rulers. [10]


External causes

During the world wars, African soldiers were conscripted into imperial militaries. [11] This led to a deeper political awareness and the expectation of greater respect and self-determination, which was left largely unfulfilled. [12] 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. [10]

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. [13] 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 out to be a widely acclaimed document. [14] 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. [10]

Furthermore, colonies such as Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana pushed for self-governance as colonial powers were exhausted by war efforts. [15]

Internal causes

For early African nationalists, decolonisation 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. [16]

Colonial economic exploitation led to European extraction of Ghana’s mining profits to shareholders, instead of internal development, causing major local socioeconomic grievances. [17] Nevertheless, local African industry and towns expanded when U-boats patrolling the Atlantic Ocean reduced raw material transportation to Europe. [10] In turn, urban communities, industries and trade unions grew, improving literacy and education, leading to pro-independence newspaper establishments. [10]

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. [9] 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).[ citation needed ]

Economic legacy

There is an extensive body of literature that has examined the legacy of colonialism and colonial institutions on economic outcomes in Africa, with numerous studies showing an adverse and persistent impact of colonialism. [18]

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. [19] 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. [20] 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. [19]

Social legacy


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. [21]

Transition to independence

Following World War II, rapid decolonisation swept across the continent of Africa as many territories gained their independence from European colonisation.

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." [22] This agreement became the post-WWII stepping stone toward independence as nationalism grew throughout Africa.[ citation needed ]

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 decolonisation very quickly and with minimal casualties. Some territories, however, saw great death tolls as a result of their fight for independence.[ citation needed ]

British Empire

British Empire by 1959 British Empire in 1959.png
British Empire by 1959


On 6 March 1957, Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) became the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence from European colonisation. [23] Starting in 1945 Pan-African Congress, Gold Coast’s British- and 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.” [24]

British decolonisation in Africa. By 1970 all were decolonised. British Decolonisation in Africa.png
British decolonisation in Africa. By 1970 all were decolonised.

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!’” [25] 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. London revised the Gold Coast Constitution to give Blacks a majority in the legislature in 1951. In 1956 they requested independence inside the Commonwealth, which was granted peacefully in 1957 with Nkrumah as prime minister and Queen Elizabeth as sovereign. [26]

Winds of Change

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan gave the famous "Wind of Change" speech in South Africa in February 1960, where he spoke of "the wind of change blowing through this continent". [27] Macmillan urgently wanted to avoid the same kind of colonial war that France was fighting in Algeria. Under his premiership decolonisation proceeded rapidly. [28]

Britain's remaining colonies in Africa, except for Southern Rhodesia, were all granted independence by 1968. British withdrawal from the southern and eastern parts of Africa was not a peaceful process. Kenyan independence was preceded by the eight-year Mau Mau Uprising. In Rhodesia, the 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the white minority resulted in a civil war that lasted until the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, which set the terms for recognised independence in 1980, as the new nation of Zimbabwe. [29]

French colonial empire

The French colonial empire began to fall during the Second World War when the Vichy France regime controlled the Empire. But one after another most of the colonies were occupied by foreign powers (Japan in Indochina, Britain in Syria, Lebanon, and Madagascar, the United States and Britain in Morocco and Algeria, and Germany and Italy in Tunisia). However, control was gradually reestablished by Charles de Gaulle, who uses colonial base as a launching point to expel Vichy from Metropolitan France. De Gaulle together with most Frenchmen was committed to preserving the Empire in the new form. The French Union, included in the Constitution of 1946, nominally replaced the former colonial empire, but officials in Paris remained in full control. The colonies were given local assemblies with only limited local power and budgets. There emerged a group of elites, known as evolués, who were natives of the overseas territories but lived in metropolitan France. [30] [31] [32]

De Gaulle assembled a major conference of Free France colonies in Brazzaville, in Africa, in January–February, 1944. The survival of France depended on support from these colonies, and De Gaulle made numerous concessions. They included the end of forced labor, the end of special legal restrictions that apply to natives but not to whites, the establishment of elected territorial assemblies, representation in Paris in a new "French Federation", and the eventual representation of Sub-Saharan Africans in the French Assembly. However, Independence was explicitly rejected as a future possibility:

The ends of the civilizing work accomplished by France in the colonies excludes any idea of autonomy, all possibility of evolution outside the French bloc of the Empire; the eventual Constitution, even in the future of self-government in the colonies is denied. [33]


France was immediately confronted with the beginnings of the decolonisation movement. In Algeria demonstrations in May 1945 were repressed with an estimated 6,000 Algerians killed. [34] Unrest in Haiphong, Indochina, in November 1945 was met by another warship bombarding the city. [35] Paul Ramadier's (SFIO) cabinet repressed the Malagasy Uprising in Madagascar in 1947. French officials estimated the number of Malagasy killed from a low of 11,000 to a French Army estimate of 89,000. [36]

In France's African colonies, Cameroun, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon's insurrection, started in 1955 and headed by Ruben Um Nyobé, was violently repressed over a two-year period, with perhaps as many as 100 people killed.[ citation needed ]


French involvement in Algeria stretched back a century. Ferhat Abbas and Messali Hadj's movements had marked the period between the two wars, but both sides radicalised after the Second World War. In 1945, the Sétif massacre was carried out by the French army. The Algerian War started in 1954. Atrocities characterized both sides, and the number killed became highly controversial estimates that were made for propaganda purposes. [37] Algeria was a three-way conflict due to the large number of "pieds-noirs" (Europeans who had settled there in the 125 years of French rule). The political crisis in France caused the collapse of the Fourth Republic, as Charles de Gaulle returned to power in 1958 and finally pulled the French soldiers and settlers out of Algeria by 1962. [38] [39] Lasting more than eight years, the estimated death toll typically falls between 300,000 and 400,000 people. [40] By 1958, the FLN[ clarification needed ] was able to negotiate peace accord with French President Charles de Gaulle and nearly 90% of all Europeans had left the territory.[ citation needed ]

French Community

The special territories of the European Union c. 2011 EU OCT and OMR map en.png
The special territories of the European Union c. 2011

The French Union was replaced in the new 1958 Constitution of 1958 by the French Community. Only Guinea refused by referendum to take part in the new colonial organisation. However, the French Community dissolved itself in the midst of the Algerian War; almost all of the other African colonies were granted independence in 1960, following local referendums. Some few colonies chose instead to remain part of France, under the status of overseas départements (territories). Critics of neocolonialism claimed that the Françafrique had replaced formal direct rule. They argued that while de Gaulle was granting independence on one hand, he was creating new ties with the help of Jacques Foccart, his counsellor for African matters. Foccart supported in particular the Nigerian Civil War during the late 1960s. [41]

Robert Aldrich argues that with Algerian independence in 1962, it appeared that the Empire practically had come to an end, as the remaining colonies were quite small and lacked active nationalist movements. However, there was trouble in French Somaliland (Djibouti), which became independent in 1977. There also were complications and delays in the New Hebrides Vanuatu, which was the last to gain independence in 1980. New Caledonia remains a special case under French suzerainty. [42] The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte voted in referendum in 1974 to retain its link with France and forgo independence. [43]


This table is the arranged by the earliest date of independence in this graph; 58 countries have seceded.

RankCountry [lower-alpha 1] Colonial nameColonial power [lower-alpha 2] Independence date [lower-alpha 3] First head of state [lower-alpha 4] Independence won through
1Flag of Liberia.svg  Liberia Flag of the United States (1846-1847).svg Liberia Flag of the United States.svg  United States 26 July 1847 [lower-alpha 5] Joseph Jenkins Roberts [lower-alpha 6] Liberian Declaration of Independence
2South Africa Flag 1910-1912.svg  South Africa [lower-alpha 7] Flag of the Cape Colony 1876-1910.svg Cape Colony
Flag of the Natal Colony 1875-1910.svg Colony of Natal
Flag of Orange River Colony.svg Orange River Colony
Flag of the Transvaal Colony (1904-1910).svg Transvaal Colony
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 31 May 1910 [lower-alpha 8] Louis Botha South Africa Act 1909
3Flag of Egypt (1922-1958).svg  Egypt [lower-alpha 9] Flag of Egypt (1882-1922).svg Sultanate of Egypt 28 February 1922 [lower-alpha 10] Fuad I [lower-alpha 11] Egyptian revolution of 1919
4Flag of Eritrea.svg  Eritrea Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg Italian Eritrea Flag of Italy.svg  Italy [lower-alpha 12] 10 February 1947 [lower-alpha 13] Haile Selassie [lower-alpha 14] -
5Flag of Libya.svg  Libya [lower-alpha 15] Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg Italian Libya [lower-alpha 16] Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 24 December 1951 Idris -
6Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan Flag of the United Kingdom.svgFlag of Egypt (1922-1958).svg Anglo-Egyptian Sudan Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom [lower-alpha 17]
Flag of Egypt (1952-1958).svg Republic of Egypt
1 January 1956 [lower-alpha 18] Ismail al-Azhari [lower-alpha 19] - [lower-alpha 20]
7Flag of South Sudan.svg  South Sudan
8Flag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia [lower-alpha 21] Flag of Tunisia.svg French Protectorate of Tunisia Flag of France.svg  France 20 March 1956 Muhammad VIII al-Amin
Habib Bourguiba
- [lower-alpha 22]
9Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco Flag of Morocco.svg French Protectorate in Morocco
Flag of International Tangier.svg Tangier International Zone
Merchant flag of Spanish Morocco.svg Spanish Protectorate in Morocco
Flag of Spain (1945 - 1977).svg Spanish West Africa
Flag of Spain (1945 - 1977).svg Ifni
Flag of France.svg  France
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
2 March 1956 [lower-alpha 23]
7 April 1956
10 April 1958
4 January 1969
Mohammed V Ifni War
10Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana [lower-alpha 24] Flag of the Gold Coast (1877-1957).svg  Gold Coast Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 6 March 1957 [lower-alpha 25] Kwame Nkrumah [lower-alpha 26] 1956 Gold Coast legislative election
11Flag of Guinea.svg  Guinea Flag of France.svg  French West Africa Flag of France.svg  France 2 October 1958 Ahmed Sékou Touré 1958 Guinean constitutional referendum
12Flag of Cameroon.svg  Cameroon Flag of France.svg French Cameroons Flag of France.svg  France 1 January 1960 [lower-alpha 27] Ahmadou Ahidjo - [lower-alpha 28]
13Flag of Togo.svg  Togo Flag of Togo (1957-1958).svg French Togoland Flag of France.svg  France 27 April 1960 Sylvanus Olympio -
14Flag of Mali.svg  Mali Flag of France.svg French West Africa 20 June 1960 [lower-alpha 29] Modibo Keïta -
15Flag of Senegal.svg  Senegal Léopold Sédar Senghor -
16Flag of Madagascar.svg  Madagascar [lower-alpha 30] Flag of France.svg French Madagascar 26 June 1960 Philibert Tsiranana - [lower-alpha 31]
17Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg  Democratic Republic of the Congo [lower-alpha 32] Flag of Congo Free State.svg  Belgian Congo Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 30 June 1960 Patrice Lumumba [lower-alpha 33] Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference [lower-alpha 34]
18Flag of Somalia.svg  Somalia [lower-alpha 35] Flag of British Somaliland (1952-1960).svg  British Somaliland
State Ensign of Italy.svg Trust Territory of Somaliland
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
26 June 1960
1 July 1960 [lower-alpha 36]
Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal
Aden Abdullah Osman Daar
19Flag of Benin.svg  Benin [lower-alpha 37] Flag of France.svg  French West Africa Flag of France.svg  France 1 August 1960 Hubert Maga -
20Flag of Niger.svg  Niger 3 August 1960 Hamani Diori -
21Flag of Burkina Faso.svg  Burkina Faso [lower-alpha 38] 5 August 1960 Maurice Yaméogo -
22Flag of Cote d'Ivoire.svg  Ivory Coast 7 August 1960 Félix Houphouët-Boigny -
23Flag of Chad.svg  Chad Flag of France.svg  French Equatorial Africa 11 August 1960 François Tombalbaye -
24Flag of the Central African Republic.svg  Central African Republic 13 August 1960 David Dacko -
25Flag of the Republic of the Congo.svg  Republic of the Congo 15 August 1960 Fulbert Youlou -
26Flag of Gabon.svg  Gabon 17 August 1960 Léon M'ba -
27Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria Flag of Nigeria (1914-1952).svg Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria
British Cameroon Flag.svg British Cameroons
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 1 October 1960
1 June 1961
1 October 1961 [lower-alpha 39]
Nnamdi Azikiwe -
28Flag of Mauritania.svg  Mauritania Flag of France.svg  French West Africa Flag of France.svg  France 28 November 1960 Moktar Ould Daddah -
29Flag of Sierra Leone.svg  Sierra Leone Flag of Sierra Leone (1916-1961).svg Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 27 April 1961 Milton Margai -
30Flag of Tanganyika (1961-1964).svg  Tanganyika [lower-alpha 40] Flag of Tanganyika (1923-1961).svg Tanganyika Territory 9 December 1961 Julius Nyerere -
31Flag of Burundi.svg  Burundi [lower-alpha 41] Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Ruanda-Urundi Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 1 July 1962 Mwambutsa IV of Burundi -
32Flag of Rwanda.svg  Rwanda Grégoire Kayibanda Rwandan Revolution
33Flag of Algeria.svg  Algeria Flag of France.svg French Algeria Flag of France.svg  France 5 July 1962 Ahmed Ben Bella [lower-alpha 42] Algerian War
34Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda Flag of the Uganda Protectorate.svg Protectorate of Uganda Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 9 October 1962 Milton Obote -
35Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Flag of Kenya (1921-1963).svg Colony and Protectorate of Kenya 12 December 1963 [lower-alpha 43] Jomo Kenyatta [lower-alpha 26] - [lower-alpha 44]
36Flag of the Sultanate of Zanzibar (1963).svg Sultanate of Zanzibar [lower-alpha 40] Flag of the Sultanate of Zanzibar (1963).svg Sultanate of Zanzibar 10 December 1963 Jamshid bin Abdullah - [lower-alpha 45]
37Flag of Malawi.svg  Malawi Flag of Nyasaland (1925-1964).svg  Nyasaland 6 July 1964 [lower-alpha 46] Hastings Banda [lower-alpha 26] -
38Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia Flag of Northern Rhodesia (1939-1964).svg  Northern Rhodesia 24 October 1964 Kenneth Kaunda -
39Flag of The Gambia.svg  The Gambia Flag of The Gambia (1889-1965).svg Gambia Colony and Protectorate 18 February 1965 [lower-alpha 47] Dawda Jawara [lower-alpha 26] -
40Flag of Rhodesia (1968-1979).svg  Rhodesia
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe
Flag of Southern Rhodesia (1924-1964).svg  Southern Rhodesia 11 November 1965
17 April 1980 [lower-alpha 48]
Ian Smith
Robert Mugabe
Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence
Lancaster House Agreement
41Flag of Botswana.svg  Botswana Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Bechuanaland Protectorate 30 September 1966 [lower-alpha 49] Seretse Khama -
42Flag of Lesotho.svg  Lesotho Unofficial Basutoland Ensign.svg Territory of Basutoland 4 October 1966 Leabua Jonathan [lower-alpha 50] -
43Flag of Mauritius.svg  Mauritius Flag of Mauritius (1923-1968).svg Mauritius 12 March 1968 Seewoosagur Ramgoolam -
44Flag of Eswatini.svg  Swaziland Swaziland 6 September 1968 Sobhuza II -
45Flag of Equatorial Guinea.svg  Equatorial Guinea Flag of Spain (1945 - 1977).svg Spanish Territories of the Gulf of Guinea Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 12 October 1968 Francisco Macías Nguema -
46Flag of Guinea-Bissau.svg  Guinea-Bissau Flag of Portugal.svg Overseas Province of Guinea Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 10 September 1974 [lower-alpha 51] Luís Cabral Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
47Flag of Mozambique.svg  Mozambique [lower-alpha 52] Flag of Portugal.svg State of Mozambique 25 June 1975 Samora Machel Mozambican War of Independence
48Flag of Cape Verde.svg  Cape Verde Flag of Portugal.svg Overseas Province of Cape Verde 5 July 1975 Aristides Pereira [lower-alpha 53] Guinea-Bissau War of Independence [lower-alpha 54]
49Flag of the Comoros.svg  Comoros Flag of France.svg French Comoros Flag of France.svg  France 6 July 1975 Ahmed Abdallah 1974 Comorian independence referendum
50Flag of Sao Tome and Principe.svg  São Tomé and Príncipe Flag of Portugal.svg Overseas Province of São Tomé and Príncipe Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 12 July 1975 Manuel Pinto da Costa -
51Flag of Angola.svg  Angola [lower-alpha 55] Flag of Portugal.svg State of Angola 11 November 1975 Agostinho Neto Angolan War of Independence
52Flag of the Seychelles.svg  Seychelles Flag of Seychelles 1961-1976.gif Seychelles Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 29 June 1976 James Mancha -
53Flag of Djibouti.svg  Djibouti Flag of France.svg French Territory of the Afars and the Issas Flag of France.svg  France 27 June 1977 Hassan Gouled Aptidon 1977 Afars and Issas independence referendum
54Flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.svg  Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic [lower-alpha 56] Flag of Spain (1945 - 1977).svg Spanish Sahara
Southern Provinces
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco
27 February 1976
independence not yet effectuated
El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed
Mohamed Abdelaziz
Western Sahara War
Western Sahara conflict

Timeline notes

  1. Explanatory notes are added in cases where decolonisation was achieved jointly by multiple countries or where the current country is formed by the merger of previously decolonised 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.
  2. Some territories changed hands multiple times, so only the last colonial power is mentioned in the list. In addition, the mandatory or trustee powers are mentioned for territories that were League of Nations mandates and UN Trust Territories.
  3. The dates of decolonisation for territories annexed by or integrated into previously decolonised independent countries are given in separate notes, as are dates when a Commonwealth realm abolished its monarchy.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Stephen Allen Benson was President on the date of the United States' recognition.
  7. As Union of South Africa.
  8. 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.
  9. As the Kingdom of Egypt. Transcontinental country, partially located in Asia.
  10. 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. [44] 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.
  11. 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.
  12. From 1 April 1941 to its eventual transfer to Ethiopia, Italian Eritrea was occupied by the United Kingdom.
  13. Date marking the de jure end of Italian rule. 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.
  14. Emperor of Ethiopia on the date of the transfer. Isaias Afwerki became President of Eritrea upon independence.
  15. As the United Kingdom of Libya.
  16. From 1947, Libya was administrated by the Allies of World War II (United Kingdom and France). 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.
  17. 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. [45]
  18. Before Sudan even gained its independence, on 18 August 1955 the southern area of Sudan began fighting for greater autonomy. After the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement on 28 February 1972, South Sudan was granted autonomous rule. On 5 June 1983, however, the Sudan government revoke this autonomous rule, igniting a new war for control of South Sudan. (The main non-government combatant of the Second Sudanese Civil War largely claimed to be fighting for a united, secular Sudan rather than South Sudan's independence.) On 9 July 2005, in accordance to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on 9 January of that year, the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was restored; exactly six years later, in the aftermath of the 9–15 January 2011 South Sudanese independence referendum, South Sudan became independent.
  19. Salva Kiir Mayardit became President of South Sudan upon independence. Abel Alier was the first President of the High Executive Council of the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region, while John Garang became its President following its restoration.
  20. Sudan's independence is indirectly linked to the Egyptian revolution of 1952, whose leaders eventually denounced Egypt's claim over Sudan. (This revocation would force the British to end the condominium.)
  21. As the Kingdom of Tunisia.
  22. See Tunisian independence.
  23. Cape Juby was ceded by Spain to Morocco on 2 April 1958. Ifni was returned from Spain to Morocco on 4 January 1969.
  24. As the Dominion of Ghana.
  25. 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.
  26. 1 2 3 4 Originally as Prime Minister; became President upon the monarchy's abolition.
  27. 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.
  28. Minor armed insurgency from Union of the Peoples of Cameroon.
  29. 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.
  30. As the Malagasy Republic.
  31. The Malagasy Uprising was an earlier armed uprising that failed to gain independence from France.
  32. As the Republic of the Congo.
  33. Joseph Kasa-Vubu became President upon independence.
  34. The Congo Crisis occurred after independence.
  35. As the Somali Republic.
  36. 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).
  37. As the Republic of Dahomey.
  38. As Upper Volta.
  39. Part of the British Cameroons mandate and trust territory on 1 October 1961 joined Nigeria. The other part of British Cameroons joined the previously decolonised French Cameroun mandate and territory.
  40. 1 2 After both gained independence Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged on 26 April 1964 as Tanzania.
  41. As the Kingdom of Burundi.
  42. 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.
  43. Abolished its commonwealth monarchy exactly one year later; Jamhuri Day ("Republic Day") is a celebration of both dates.
  44. The Mau Mau Uprising was an earlier armed uprising that failed to gain independence from the United Kingdom.
  45. The Sultanate of Zanzibar would later be overthrown within a month of sovereignty by the Zanzibar Revolution.
  46. Abolished its commonwealth monarchy exactly two years later.
  47. Abolished its commonwealth monarchy on 24 April 1970.
  48. 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.
  49. 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.
  50. Moshoeshoe II became King upon independence.
  51. 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.
  52. As the People's Republic of Mozambique
  53. Pedro Pires was sworn in as Prime Minister three days after independence.
  54. Although the fight for Cape Verdean independence was linked to the liberation movement occurring in Guinea-Bissau, the island country itself saw little fighting.
  55. As the People's Republic of Angola
  56. 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 decolonisation 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, [46] 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).

See also

Related Research Articles

Colony Territory under the political control of an overseas state, generally with its own subordinate colonial government

A colony is a territory under the immediate complete political control and occupied by settlers of a state, distinct from the home territory of the sovereign. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception.

Colonialism Creation and maintenance of colonies by people from another territory

Colonialism is the policy of a country seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their religion, economics, and other cultural practices on indigenous peoples. The foreign administrators rule the territory in pursuit of their interests, seeking to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources.

Imperialism Policy or ideology of extending a nations rule over foreign nations

Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending the rule or authority of a country over other countries and peoples, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control. In this sense imperialism is not a form of government of a state headed by an emperor.

Neocolonialism Proposed dominance of countries through culture and/or economics

Neocolonialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalisation, cultural imperialism, and conditional aid to influence a developing country instead of the previous colonial methods of direct military control (imperialism) or indirect political control (hegemony).

French Union

The French Union (1946–1958) was a political entity created by the French Fourth Republic to replace the old French colonial system, colloquially known as the "French Empire". It was the formal end of the "indigenous" status of French subjects in colonial areas.

French colonial empire Set of territories that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s

The French colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies, protectorates and mandate territories that came under French rule from the 16th century onward. A distinction is generally made between the "First French Colonial Empire," that existed until 1814, by which time most of it had been lost or sold, and the "Second French Colonial Empire", which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830. At its apex, the Second French colonial empire was one of the largest empires in history. Including metropolitan France, the total amount of land under French sovereignty reached 11,500,000 km2 (4,400,000 sq mi) in 1920, with a population of 110 million people in 1936.

Decolonization or decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination on overseas territories. The concept particularly applies to the dismantlement, during the second half of the 20th century, of the colonial empires established prior to World War I throughout the world. Scholars focus especially on the movements in the colonies demanding independence, such as Creole nationalism.

The territorial evolution of the British Empire is considered to have begun with the foundation of the English colonial empire in the late 16th century. Since then, many territories around the world have been under the control of the United Kingdom or its predecessor states

United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories UN General Assembly document listing places that are not self-governing and subject to decolonization

The United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories is a list of places that the United Nations General Assembly deems to be "non-self-governing" and subject to the decolonization process. Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter embodies a "Declaration on Non-Self-Governing Territories" which declares that the interests of the occupants of dependent territories are paramount and requires member states of the United Nations in control of non-self-governing territories to submit annual information reports concerning the development of those territories. Since 1946, the General Assembly has maintained a list of non-self governing territories under member states' control. Since its inception, dozens of territories have been removed from the list, typically when they attained independence or internal self-government, while other territories have been added as new administering countries joined the United Nations or the General Assembly reassessed the status of certain territories.

French Community International political association

The French Community was an association of former French colonies, mostly from Africa. In 1958 it replaced the French Union, which had itself succeeded the French colonial empire in 1946.

Union of African States international organization

The Union of African States, sometimes called the Ghana–Guinea–Mali Union, was a short-lived and loose regional organization formed 1958 linking the West African nations of Ghana and Guinea as the Union of Independent African States. Mali joined in 1960. It disbanded in 1963.

Brazzaville Conference

The Brazzaville Conference was a meeting of prominent Free French leaders held in January 1944 in Brazzaville, the then-capital of French Equatorial Africa, during World War II.

Year of Africa 1960, year of the indepencence of 17 African countries

1960 is referred to as the Year of Africa because of a series of events that took place during the year—mainly the independence of seventeen African nations—that highlighted the growing Pan-African sentiments in the continent. The year brought about the culmination of African independence movements and the subsequent emergence of Africa as a major force in the United Nations. These rapid political developments led to speculation and hope about the future of Africa as a whole; yet at the same time, the continent was beginning to face the realities of post-colonial violence. This year also saw the beginning of armed opposition to South African apartheid government, with political ramifications across Africa and around the world.

This is a non-exhaustive chronology of colonialism-related events, which may reflect political events, cultural events, and important global events that have influenced colonization and decolonization. See also Timeline of imperialism.

History of colonialism aspect of history

The historical phenomenon of colonization is one that stretches around the globe and across time. Ancient and medieval colonialism was practiced by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the crusaders, among others. Colonialism in the modern sense began with the "Age of Discovery", led by Portuguese, and then by the Spanish exploration of the Americas, the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India and East Asia. The Portuguese and Spanish empires were the first global empires because they were the first to stretch across different continents, covering vast territories around the globe. Between 1580 and 1640, the two empires were both ruled by the Spanish monarchs in personal union. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, England, France and the Dutch Republic also established their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other.

The All-African Peoples' Conference (AAPC) was partly a corollary and partly a different perspective to the modern Africa states represented by the Conference of Heads of independent Africa States. The All-Africa Peoples Conference was conceived to include social groups, including ethnic communities and anti-colonial political parties and African organizations such as Labor Unions and other significant associations in the late 1950s and early 1960s both in Africa and the Diaspora such as Europe, North America and South America. The All-Africa Peoples Conference was conceived to represent the position that Africa should be returned to the peoples and groups, such as ethnic communities, from who it was grabbed by colonialism. The idea was mooted in Accra April 1958 by John Kale from Uganda. This was at the end of first Africa Heads of State Conference in Accra Ghana in March 1958. John Kale then operating from exile in Egypt, who was one of the organizers of the first Africa Heads of State Conference, was already the initiating secretary of the African Liberation Committee, the Africa Executive of Afro-Asian Solidarity which had its secretariat in Cairo and shortly after the Africa representative on the World Peace Council on which he was the Vice President. For John Kale the main reason of the parallel organization to the then just concluded independent Africa Heads of States was that it had brought together only nine then independent Africa states excluding the majority of the Africa peoples both in the non-independent countries and in the Diaspora. The First All-Africa Peoples Conference was attended by delegates from independence movements in areas still under European colonial rule, as well as by delegates from the independent African countries, including representatives of the governing parties of some of those countries. In the Conference's own words, it was open to "all national political parties and national trade union congresses or equivalent bodies or organizations that subscribe to the aims and objects of the conference." The Conference met three times: December 1958, January 1960, and March 1961; and had a permanent secretariat with headquarters in Accra. Its primary objectives were independence for the colonies; and strengthening of the independent states and resistance to neocolonialism. It tended to be more outspoken in its denunciations of colonialism than the Conference of Independent African States, a contemporary organisation which, being composed of heads of state, was relatively constrained by diplomatic caution. Immanuel Wallerstein says that the All-African Peoples' Conference was the "true successor to the Pan-African Congresses." The subject matter and attitudes of the Conference are illustrated by the following excerpt from its second meeting:

The Conference

 Demands the immediate and unconditional accession to independence of all the African peoples, and the total evacuation of the foreign forces of aggression and oppression stationed in Africa;
 Proclaims the absolute necessity, in order to resist the imperialist coalition more effectively and rapidly free all the dependent peoples from foreign oppression, of coordinating and uniting the forces of all the Africans, and recommends the African states not to neglect any form of co-operation in the interest of all the African peoples;
 Denounces vigorously the policy of racial discrimination applied by colonialist and race-conscious minorities in South and East and Central Africa, and demands the abolition of racial domination in South Africa, the suppression of the Federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia, and the immediate independence of these countries;
 Proclaims equality of rights for all the citizens of the free countries of Africa and the close association of the masses for the building up and administration of a free and prosperous Africa;
 Calls on the peoples of Africa to intensify the struggle for independence, and insists on the urgent obligation on the independent nations of Africa to assure them of the necessary aid and support;...

The decolonization of Asia was the gradual growth of independence movements in Asia, leading ultimately to the retreat of foreign powers and the creation of a number of nation-states in the region. A number of events were catalysts for this shift, most importantly the Second World War. Prior to World War II, some countries had already proclaimed independence.

French Cameroon former French Mandate territory

French Cameroon or French Cameroons was a League of Nations Mandate territory in Central Africa. It now forms part of the independent country of Cameroon.

Wind of Change (speech) Speech by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan

The "Wind of Change" speech was a historically significant address made by the UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to the Parliament of South Africa, on 3 February 1960 in Cape Town. He had spent a month in Africa visiting a number of what were then British colonies. The speech signalled clearly that the Conservative-led UK Government had no intention to block the independence to many of these territories. The Labour government of 1945–51 had started a process of decolonisation, but this policy had been halted by the Conservative governments from 1951 onwards.

Special Committee on Decolonization U.N. General Assembly special committee

The United Nations Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, or the Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24), is a committee of the United Nations General Assembly that was established in 1961 and is exclusively devoted to the issue of decolonization.


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  44. King, Joan Wucher (1989) [First published 1984]. Historical Dictionary of Egypt. Books of Lasting Value. American University in Cairo Press. pp. 259–260. ISBN   978-977-424-213-7.
  45. Robert O. Collins, A History of Modern Sudan
  46. UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 and UN General Assembly Resolution 35/19

Further reading