Decolonisation of Africa

The decolonisation of Africa was a process that took place in the mid-to-late 1950s to 1975 during the Cold War, with radical government changes on the continent as colonial governments made the transition to independent states. The process was often marred with violence, political turmoil, widespread unrest, and organised revolts in both northern and sub-Saharan countries including the Algerian War in French Algeria, the Angolan War of Independence in Portuguese Angola, the Congo Crisis in the Belgian Congo, the Mau Mau Uprising in British Kenya, the Zanzibar Revolution in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, and the Nigerian Civil War in the secessionist state of Biafra.[1][2][3][4][5]

An animated map shows the order of independence of African nations, 1950–2011


Comparison of the scramble for Africa in the years 1880 and 1913, the year before the start of the First World War

The "Scramble for Africa" between 1870 and 1914 was a significant period of European imperialism in Africa that ended with almost all of Africa, and its natural resources, being controlled as colonies 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] Almost all the pre-colonial states of Africa had lost their sovereignty, with the only exceptions being Liberia (which had been settled in the early 19th century by African-American former slaves) and Ethiopia (later occupied by Italy in 1936).[8] Britain and France had the largest holdings, but Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal also had colonies.[9] The process of decolonisation began as direct consequence of World War II. By 1977, 50 African countries had gained Independence from European colonial powers.[10]

External causesEdit

European control in 1939, the year the Second World War began

During the world wars, African soldiers were conscripted into imperial militaries.[11] Some African soldiers also volunteered.[12][13] Veterans from over 1.3 million African troops participated in World War II and fought in both European and Asian theatres of war.[14] This led to a deeper political awareness and the expectation of greater respect and self-determination, which was left largely unfulfilled.[15] 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 post-war world. The result was the Atlantic Charter.[16] 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.[17] One of the clauses, Clause Three, referred to the right to decide what form of government people wanted, and to the restoration of self-government.

Prime Minister Churchill argued in the British Parliament that the document referred to "the States and nations of Europe now under the Nazi yoke".[18] President Roosevelt regarded it as applicable across the world.[19] Anticolonial politicians immediately saw it as relevant to colonial empires.[20] The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, three years after the end of World War II, recognised all people as being born free and equal.[21]

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.

Italy, a colonial power, lost its African Empire, Italian East Africa, Italian Ethiopia, Italian Eritrea, Italian Somalia and Italian Libya, as a result of World War II.[22] Furthermore, colonies such as Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana pushed for self-governance as colonial powers were exhausted by war efforts.[23]

The United Nations 1960 Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples stated that colonial exploitation is a denial of human rights and that power should be transferred back to the countries or territories concerned.[24]

Internal causesEdit

Colonial economic exploitation involved the siphoning off of resource extraction (such as mining) profits to European shareholders at the expense of internal development, causing major local socioeconomic grievances.[25] For early African nationalists, decolonisation was a moral imperative around which a political movement could be assembled.[26][27]

In the 1930s, the colonial powers had cultivated, sometimes inadvertently, a small elite of local African leaders educated in Western universities, where they became familiar with and fluent in ideas such as self-determination. Although independence was not encouraged, arrangements between these leaders and the colonial powers developed,[9] and such figures 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) came to lead the struggles for African nationalism.

During the second world war, some local African industries and towns expanded when U-boats patrolling the Atlantic Ocean reduced raw material transportation to Europe.[10]

Over time, urban communities, industries, and trade unions grew, improving literacy and education, and leading to pro-independence newspaper establishments.[10]

By 1945 the Fifth Pan-African Congress demanded the end of colonialism, and delegates included future presidents of Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and national activists.[28]

Economic legacyEdit

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 disputed economic effects of colonialism.[29]

The economic legacy of colonialism is difficult to quantify and is disputed. Modernisation theory posits 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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[30]

Social legacyEdit


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.[32]


In the immediate post-independence period, African countries largely retained colonial legislation. However, by 2015 much colonial legislation had been replaced by laws that were written locally.[33]

Transition to independenceEdit

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."[34] 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 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 EmpireEdit

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.[35] Starting with the 1945 Pan-African Congress, the Gold Coast's (modern-day Ghana's) 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."[36]

British decolonisation in Africa. By 1970 all were decolonised.

In 1948, three Ghanaian veterans were killed by the colonial police on a protest march. Riots broke out in Accra and though Nkrumah and other Ghanaian leaders were temporarily imprisoned, 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 wide-scale campaign in support of independence with the slogan "Self Government Now!"[37] Heightened nationalism within the country grew their power and the political party widely expanded. In February 1951, the CPP gained political power by winning 34 of 38 elected seats, including one for Nkrumah who was imprisoned at the time. The British government revised the Gold Coast Constitution to give Ghanaians a majority in the legislature in 1951. In 1956, Ghana requested independence inside the Commonwealth, which was granted peacefully in 1957 with Nkrumah as prime minister and Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign.[38]

Winds of ChangeEdit

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".[39] Macmillan urgently wanted to avoid the same kind of colonial war that France was fighting in Algeria. Under his premiership decolonisation proceeded rapidly.[40]

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.[41]

French colonial empireEdit

The French Community in 1959
Geographic distribution of Europeans and their descendants on the African continent in 1962.[42]
  Over 100,000

The French colonial empire began to fall during the Second World War when the Vichy France regime controlled the Empire. 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). Control was gradually reestablished by Charles de Gaulle, who used the colonial bases as a launching point to help expel the Vichy government from Metropolitan France. De Gaulle, together with most Frenchmen, was committed to preserving the Empire in its 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. A group of elites, known as evolués, who were natives of the overseas territories but lived in metropolitan France emerged.[43][44][45]

De Gaulle assembled a major conference of Free France colonies in Brazzaville, in central Africa, in January–February 1944. The survival of France depended on support from these colonies, and De Gaulle made numerous concessions. These included the end of forced labour, the end of special legal restrictions that applied 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.[46]


After the war ended, 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.[47] Unrest in Haiphong, Indochina, in November 1945 was met by a warship bombarding the city.[48] Paul Ramadier's (SFIO) cabinet repressed the Malagasy Uprising in Madagascar in 1947. French officials estimated the number of Malagasy killed from as low as 11,000 to a French Army estimate of 89,000.[49]

In Cameroun, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon's insurrection which began in 1955 headed by Ruben Um Nyobé, was violently repressed over two years, with perhaps as many as 100 people killed.[50]


French involvement in Algeria stretched back a century. Ferhat Abbas and Messali Hadj's movements 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.[51] 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.[52][53] Lasting more than eight years, the estimated death toll typically falls between 300,000 and 400,000 people.[54] By 1962, the National Liberation Front was able to negotiate a peace accord with French President Charles de Gaulle, the Évian Accords[55] in which Europeans would be able to return to their native countries, remain in Algeria as foreigners or take Algerian citizenship. Most of the one million Europeans in Algeria poured out of the country.[56]

French CommunityEdit

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 amid the Algerian War; almost all of the other African colonies were granted independence in 1960, following local referendums. Some 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.[57]

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.[58] The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte voted in referendum in 1974 to retain its link with France and forgo independence.[59]

Female Independence Leaders in AfricaEdit

Nationalist and Independence movements throughout Africa have been predominantly led by men, however, women also held important roles. These roles included organizing at the local and national levels, tending to the wounded, and even being on the front lines of war.[60] Women’s roles in independence movements were diverse and varied by each country. Many women believed that their liberation was directly linked to the liberation of their countries.[60]


Nigeria was granted independence from the British Empire on 1 October 1960. Before this, various forms and demonstrations against colonial rule took place. Women in Nigeria played a significant role during the movement for national independence. Before independence, women organized through movements like the Abeokuta Women's Revolt and the Women's War.

Margaret Ekpo was one of the most important female independence leaders in Nigeria. She worked toward more equitable civil rights and Nigerian independence.

Margaret Ekpo (1914 - 2006)Edit

Margaret Ekpo was a chief, a politician, and a nationalist independence leader. In 1945, Ekpo became involved in politics after her husband, Dr. John Udo Ekpo, became dissatisfied with the colonial administration's treatment of indigenous Nigerian doctors.[61] In British-ruled Nigeria, colonial rulers had concentrated the power on male chiefs. After the Women's War, she and other women were appointed to replace warrant chiefs. Ekpo was later appointed to the Eastern House of Chiefs in 1954. As a chief, she rallied women of different ethnic identities to demand women's rights and independence. She was arrested multiple times for instigating these rallies against British colonization. As a warrant chief, Ekpo passed a law that required police to employ more women in Enugu and Lagos.

Before WWII, Ekpo led the Aba Market Women Association in mobilizing women against colonial rule and patriarchal oppression. Following WWII, Ekpo and the Aba Market Women Association continued to mobilize using tactics such as buying up large quantities of scarce commodities and selling them only to registered members of the association who attended meetings regularly. She used this as an opportunity to educate women on the importance of independence and decolonisation.[62]

I would tell the women, do you know that your daughter can be the matron of that hospital? Do you know that your husband can be a District Officer (D.O.) or Resident? Do you know that if you join hands with us in the current political activities, your children could one day live in European quarters? I used to tell them these things every time and so they became interested…[63]

After being granted independence in 1960, Ekpo participated in the Constitutional Conferences in Lagos and London. Ekpo would also serve as a member of parliament in Nigeria from 1960 to 1966.[62] Ekpo’s work also transcended national politics. She travelled out of Nigeria to represent Nigerian women at several international conferences such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference (1964) and the World Women’s International Domestic Federation Conference (1963).[62]

Along with her work in advocating civil and political rights, Ekpo left a legacy that notably lacked ethnic bias in a country where many forms of ethnicism and nepotism existed in politics.[64]


Late in 1961, the predecessor state of Tanganyika was established through the Tanganyika Independence Act of 1961. This act ended British rule and established self-government.[65] A new republican constitution was adopted one year later, in December of 1962. This abolished the remaining role of the British monarchy in Tanganyika. A union with the neighbouring state of Zanzibar in 1964 led to the formation of the Republic of Tanzania.[66]

Bibi Titi Mohamed (1926-2000)Edit

Popularly known as Bibi Titi, Bibi Titi Mohamed was a prominent figure in African women's politics and the independence movement in Tanganyika, mobilizing women to join the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) political party.[65]

Born in Dar es Salaam, Bibi Titi rose to prominence unexpectedly. Having only four years of primary school education before her political career, she was a housewife and lead singer in a “Bamba'' group.[67] However, as the struggle for freedom amplified, Bibi Titi found a more active role in politics. She joined the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1954.[65] Doing so, Bibi Titi became TANU’s first female member.[67] She advocated for political freedom as well as the autonomy of women. By the end of the 1950s, Bibi Titi had become a prominent and powerful voice in politics, campaigning on behalf of freedom and development.[65] After gaining popularity, her voice became a powerful source of African feminist and anti-colonial sentiment.

After the establishment of the Republic of Tanzania in 1964, she represented the constituency of Rufiji in Parliament. She also served as a member of TANU’s Central Committee and Executive Committee.[65] There, she continued to advocate for greater freedom and women’s rights.

Bibi Titi left a legacy that calls on women to have greater self-respect and encourages women to strive for more education and equal treatment.[67] In a speech, Bibi Titi implored women to take advantage of their latent political influence saying:

I told you [women] that we want independence. And we can’t get independence if you don’t want to join the party. We have given birth to all these men. Women are the power in this world. We are the ones who give birth to the world…[67]


After almost 10 years of fighting, Mozambique became independent from Portugal in 1975. FRELIMO, the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique or the Mozambique Liberation Front, was created in 1962 to liberate Mozambique from Portugal’s colonial rule. FRELIMO actively recruited women and young girls to join the battle for independence.[68] Female members of FRELIMO were either trained to be guerilla soldiers or part of the nonmilitary wing.[69]

Josina Machel (1945-1971)Edit

Josina Machel was a prominent leader in FRELIMO and a freedom fighter for Mozambique. She was born to a family that was considered to be “assimilados” which gave them a status of whiteness and privilege.[70] Due to her status, Machel was allowed to receive an education until secondary school.[70] At 18 years old, she attempted to flee the country and join FRELIMO in Tanzania. She was subsequently caught and imprisoned for six months.[70] Machel fled successfully after a second attempt.

After joining FRELIMO, Machel soon became the leader of the women’s wing, Destacamento Feminino.[69] This wing of FRELIMO provided women with political education and military training.[70] Destacamento Feminino also mobilized young women to join FRELIMO.

As a leader, Machel created health centres, schools, and daycare facilities to help people in the liberated zones of Mozambique.[71] She was also nominated to be a delegate in FRELIMO’s second congress, where she staunchly fought for women to be allowed to fully participate in the liberation movement.[71] As a delegate, Machel passed a resolution allowing girls to receive an education.

In 1971, Machel died due to unspecified health problems at the age of 25. She never got to see Mozambique as an independent state. But, she is memorialized in Mozambican history: April 7, the date of her death, is Mozambican Woman’s Day.[69]


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

Rank Country[a] Colonial name Colonial power[b] Independence date[c] First head of state[d] Independence won through
1   Liberia   Liberia   United States 26 July 1847[e] Joseph Jenkins Roberts

William Tubman

Liberian Declaration of Independence
2   South Africa[g]   Cape Colony
  Colony of Natal
  Orange River Colony
  Transvaal Colony
  United Kingdom 31 May 1910[h] Louis Botha South Africa Act 1909
3   Egypt[i]   Sultanate of Egypt 28 February 1922[j] Fuad I[k] Egyptian revolution of 1919
4   Ethiopian Empire   Italian East Africa   Kingdom of Italy
  United Kingdom
31 January 1942
19 December 1944
Haile Selassie I
4   Eritrea   Italian Eritrea   Italy[l] 10 February 1947[m] Haile Selassie[n] Eritrean War of Independence
5   Emirate of Cyrenaica   British Military Administration   United Kingdom 1 March 1949 Idris I
5   United Kingdom of Libya   British Military Administration
  Military Territory of Fezzan-Ghadames
  Emirate of Cyrenaica
  United Kingdom
  French Fourth Republic
  Emirate of Cyrenaica
24 December 1951 Western Desert Campaign
5   Libya[o]   Italian Libya[p]   Italy

  United Kingdom

24 December 1951 Idris Treaty of Peace with Italy, 1947

U.N. General Assembly Resolution 289[73]

6   Sudan    Anglo-Egyptian Sudan   United Kingdom[q]
  Republic of Egypt
1 January 1956[r] Ismail al-Azhari[s] -[t]
7   South Sudan
8   Tunisia[u]   French Protectorate of Tunisia   France   United Kingdom 20 March 1956 Muhammad VIII al-Amin
Habib Bourguiba
9   Morocco   French Protectorate in Morocco
  Tangier International Zone
  Spanish Protectorate in Morocco
  Spanish West Africa
2 March 1956[w]
7 April 1956
10 April 1958
4 January 1969
Mohammed V Ifni War
10   Ghana[x]   Gold Coast   United Kingdom 6 March 1957[y] Kwame Nkrumah[z] 1956 Gold Coast legislative election
11   Guinea   French West Africa   France 2 October 1958 Ahmed Sékou Touré 1958 Guinean constitutional referendum
12   Cameroon  
German Kamerun
  French Cameroons
  British Cameroons
  United Kingdom
4 March 1916
1 January 1960[aa]
1 October 1961
Karl Ebermaier
Ahmadou Ahidjo
John Ngu Foncha
13   Togo   French Togoland   France 27 April 1960 Sylvanus Olympio -
14   Mali   French West Africa 20 June 1960[ac] Modibo Keïta -
15   Senegal Léopold Sédar Senghor -
16   Madagascar[ad]   French Madagascar 26 June 1960 Philibert Tsiranana -[ae]
17   Democratic Republic of the Congo[af]   Belgian Congo   Belgium 30 June 1960 Joseph Kasa-Vubu Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference[ag]
18   Somalia[ah]   British Somaliland
  Trust Territory of Somaliland
  United Kingdom
26 June 1960
1 July 1960[ai]
Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal
Aden Abdullah Osman Daar
19   Republic of Dahomey
  • 1 August 1960
  • 31 July 1961[75]
Hubert Maga
19   Benin[aj]   French West Africa   France 1 August 1960 Hubert Maga -
20   Niger 3 August 1960 Hamani Diori -
21   Burkina Faso[ak] 5 August 1960 Maurice Yaméogo -
22   Ivory Coast 7 August 1960 Félix Houphouët-Boigny -
23   Chad   French Equatorial Africa 11–12 August 1960 François Tombalbaye -
24   Central African Republic 13 August 1960 David Dacko -
25   Republic of the Congo 14–15 August 1960 Fulbert Youlou -
26   Gabon 16–17 August 1960 Léon M'ba -
27   Nigeria   Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria
  British Cameroons
  United Kingdom 1 October 1960
1 June 1961
1 October 1961[al]
Nnamdi Azikiwe -
28   Mauritania   French West Africa   France 28 November 1960 Moktar Ould Daddah -
29   Sierra Leone   Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone   United Kingdom 27 April 1961 Milton Margai -
30   Tanganyika[am]   Tanganyika Territory 9 December 1961 Julius Nyerere -
31   Burundi[an]   German East Africa
1 July 1919
1 July 1962
Mwambutsa IV of Burundi -
32   Rwanda Yuhi V Musinga
Grégoire Kayibanda
Rwandan Revolution
33   Algeria   French Algeria   France 5 July 1962 Ahmed Ben Bella[ao] Algerian War

Évian Accords

34   Uganda   Protectorate of Uganda   United Kingdom 9 October 1962 Milton Obote -
35   Kenya   Colony and Protectorate of Kenya 12 December 1963[ap] Jomo Kenyatta[z] -[aq]
36   Sultanate of Zanzibar[am]   Sultanate of Zanzibar 10 December 1963 Jamshid bin Abdullah -[ar]
37   Malawi   Nyasaland 6 July 1964[as] Hastings Banda[z] -
38   Zambia   Northern Rhodesia 24 October 1964 Kenneth Kaunda -
39   The Gambia   Gambia Colony and Protectorate 18 February 1965[at] Dawda Jawara[z] -
40   Rhodesia
  Southern Rhodesia 11 November 1965
17 April 1980[au]
Ian Smith
Robert Mugabe
Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence
Lancaster House Agreement
41   Botswana   Bechuanaland Protectorate 30 September 1960 – 1966[av] Seretse Khama -
42   Lesotho   Territory of Basutoland 4 October 1966 Leabua Jonathan[aw] -
43   Mauritius   Mauritius 12 March 1968 Seewoosagur Ramgoolam -
44   Eswatini Swaziland 6 September 1968 Sobhuza II -
45   Equatorial Guinea   Spanish Territories of the Gulf of Guinea   Spain 12 October 1968 Francisco Macías Nguema -
46   Guinea-Bissau   Overseas Province of Guinea   Portugal 24 September 1973
September 10, 1974 (recognised)
5 July 1975


Luís Cabral
João Bernardo Vieira
Aristides Pereira
Pedro Pires
Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
47   Mozambique[ay]   State of Mozambique 25 June 1975 Samora Machel Mozambican War of Independence
48   Cape Verde   Overseas Province of Cape Verde 5 July 1975 Aristides Pereira[az] Guinea-Bissau War of Independence[ba]
49   Comoros   French Comoros   France 6 July 1975 Ahmed Abdallah 1974 Comorian independence referendum
50   São Tomé and Príncipe   Overseas Province of São Tomé and Príncipe   Portugal 12 July 1975 Manuel Pinto da Costa -
51   Angola[bb]   State of Angola 11 November 1975 Agostinho Neto Angolan War of Independence
52   Seychelles   Seychelles   United Kingdom 29 June 1976 James Mancha -
53   Djibouti   French Territory of the Afars and the Issas   France 27 June 1977 Hassan Gouled Aptidon 1977 Afars and Issas independence referendum
54   Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[bc]   Spanish Sahara
Southern Provinces
  Southern Provinces
  Western Tiris
Islamic Republic of Mauritania
27 February 1976
independence not yet effectuated
El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed
Mohamed Abdelaziz
Western Sahara War
Western Sahara conflict
55   Namibia   South West Africa   South Africa October 27, 1966 (De jure)[77]
21 March 1990
Sam Nujoma U.N. Security Council Resolution 269

South African Border War

Timeline notesEdit

  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 annex 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 a 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 except four "reserved" areas: foreign relations, communications, the military and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.[72] 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 succeed 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 (the 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.[74]
  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, following 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. ^ a b c d 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. ^ The Congo Crisis occurred after independence.
  34. ^ As the Somali Republic.
  35. ^ 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).
  36. ^ As the Republic of Dahomey.
  37. ^ As Upper Volta.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ a b After both gained independence Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged on 26 April 1964 as Tanzania.
  40. ^ As the Kingdom of Burundi.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ Abolished its commonwealth monarchy exactly one year later; Jamhuri Day ("Republic Day") is a celebration of both dates.
  43. ^ The Mau Mau Uprising was an earlier armed uprising that failed to gain independence from the United Kingdom.
  44. ^ The Sultanate of Zanzibar would later be overthrown within a month of sovereignty by the Zanzibar Revolution.
  45. ^ Abolished its commonwealth monarchy exactly two years later.
  46. ^ Abolished its commonwealth monarchy on 24 April 1970.
  47. ^ Due to 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.
  48. ^ 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.
  49. ^ Moshoeshoe II became King upon independence.
  50. ^ 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.
  51. ^ As the People's Republic of Mozambique
  52. ^ Pedro Pires was sworn in as Prime Minister three days after independence.
  53. ^ Although the fight for Cape Verdean independence was linked to the liberation movement occurring in Guinea-Bissau, the island country itself saw little fighting.
  54. ^ As the People's Republic of Angola
  55. ^ 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,[76] 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 alsoEdit


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  4. ^ John D. Hargreaves, Decolonization in Africa (2014).
  5. ^ for the viewpoint from London and Paris see Rudolf von Albertini, Decolonization: the Administration and Future of the Colonies, 1919-1960 (Doubleday, 1971).
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  12. ^ Jennings, Eric T. (2015). Free French Africa in World War II: The African Resistance. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1107696976.
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Further readingEdit

  • Birmingham, David (1995). The Decolonization of Africa. Routledge. ISBN 1-85728-540-9.
  • Brennan, James R. "The Cold War battle over global news in East Africa: decolonization, the free flow of information, and the media business, 1960-1980." Journal of Global History 10.2 (2015): 333+.
  • Brown, Judith M. and Wm. Roger Louis, eds. The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume IV: The Twentieth Century (2001) pp 515–73. online
  • Burton, Antoinette. The Trouble with Empire: Challenges to Modern British Imperialism (2015)
  • Chafer, Tony. The end of empire in French West Africa: France's successful decolonization (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2002).
  • Chafer, Tony, and Alexander Keese, eds. Francophone Africa at fifty (Oxford UP, 2015).
  • Clayton, Anthony. The wars of French decolonization (Routledge, 2014).
  • Cohen, Andrew. The politics and economics of decolonization in Africa: the failed experiment of the Central African Federation (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).
  • Cooper, Frederick. Decolonization and African society: The labor question in French and British Africa (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
  • Gordon, April A. and Donald L. Gordon, Lynne Riener. Understanding Contemporary Africa (London, 1996). online
  • Hargreaves, John D. Decolonization in Africa (2014).
  • Hatch, John. Africa: The Rebirth of Self-Rule (1967)
  • James, Leslie, and Elisabeth Leake, eds. Decolonization and the Cold War: Negotiating Independence (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015).
  • Jeppesen, Chris, and Andrew W.M. Smith, eds. Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa: Future Imperfect? (UCL Press, 2017) online.
  • Jerónimo, Miguel Bandeira, and António Costa Pinto, eds. The Ends of European Colonial Empires: Cases and Comparisons (Springer, 2016).
  • Khapoya, Vincent B. The African Experience (1994) online
  • Louis, William Roger. The transfer of power in Africa: decolonization, 1940–1960 (Yale UP, 1982).
  • Louis, Wm Roger, and Ronald Robinson. "The imperialism of decolonization." Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 22.3 (1994): 462–511.
  • Manthalu, Chikumbutso Herbert, and Yusef Waghid, eds. Education for Decoloniality and Decolonisation in Africa (Springer, 2019).
  • MacQueen, Norrie. The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan Revolution and the Dissolution of Empire (1997) online
  • Michalopoulos, Stelios; Papaioannou, Elias (2020-03-01). "Historical Legacies and African Development." Journal of Economic Literature. 58#1: 53–128. online
  • Mazrui, Ali A. ed. "General History of Africa" vol. VIII, UNESCO, 1993
  • Muschik, Eva-Maria. "Managing the world: the United Nations, decolonization, and the strange triumph of state sovereignty in the 1950s and 1960s." Journal of Global History 13.1 (2018): 121-144.
  • Ndlovu‐Gatsheni, Sabelo J. "Decoloniality as the future of Africa." History Compass 13.10 (2015): 485-496. online
  • Rothermund, Dietmar. The Routledge companion to decolonization (Routledge, 2006), comprehensive global coverage; 365pp excerpt
  • Sarmento, João. "Portuguese tropical geography and decolonization in Africa: the case of Mozambique." Journal of Historical Geography 66 (2019): 20-30.
  • Seidler, Valentin. "Copying informal institutions: the role of British colonial officers during the decolonization of British Africa." Journal of Institutional Economics 14.2 (2018): 289-312. online
  • Strang, David. "From dependency to sovereignty: An event history analysis of decolonization 1870-1987." American Sociological Review (1990): 846–860. online
  • Thomas, Martin, Bob Moore, and Larry Butler. Crises of Empire: Decolonization and Europe's imperial states (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015).
  • von Albertini, Rudolf. Decolonization: the Administration and Future of the Colonies, 1919-1960 (Doubleday, 1971) for the viewpoint from London and Paris.
  • White, Nicholas. Decolonization: the British experience since 1945 (Routledge, 2014).
  • Wilder, Gary. Freedom time: negritude, decolonization, and the future of the world (Duke University Press, 2015). excerpt
  • Winks, Robin, ed. The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography (2001) ch 29–34, pp 450–557. How historians covered the history online
  • Wood, Sarah L. "How Empires Make Peripheries: 'Overseas France' in Contemporary History." Contemporary European History (2019): 1-12. online[dead link]

External linksEdit