Europe often claims that it is an advocate of democracy. It is claimed that the Athenian constitution and the British Parliament are the earliest examples of democracy but written history says otherwise. Africa has Meroe, Carthage, the Gada system of the Oromo and the Kalenji system to point to for evidence of pre-colonial democracy.
Furthermore, it is popular to pretend that the colonial administrative systems of non-representative rule had no lasting effects. For close to 70 years from 1884 AD onwards pre-existing political structures and African rule of law was dismantled. Close to 1,000 different political systems were undermined and an autocratic colonial system in which governors acting under Royal Charters backed by army controlled large parts of Africa.
The violation of democratic values was unsustainable. The massacres that were used to suppress revolts such as the first genocide of the 20th century (the Herero massacre of 90,000 Africans by imperial German) and use of concentration camps by the United Kingdom during the Mau Mau uprising could not be erased from history despite attempts such as Operation Legacy.
In this article we look at when African countries gained their independence. We look at factors that contributed to independence and conclude with a survey of dates when African countries gained independence.
Strategies used to maintain colonial power
The colonials used many ways to retain their power. One of these ways was to ensure that there was no representation of Africans in the running of the government. The reason for this was to ensure that the continent of Africa could be used to provided raw material, minerals and food for the Western powers, and that no government could choose to focus on manufacturing. This had a devastating effect on Africa as an entire generation existed that had no idea how to run their society.
The British also used the approach of Indirect rule in Nigeria. They would use the existing power structures to run the country, while having a veto power over all they ruled. This ensured that the people would have little experience of dealing with British rule, while also ensuring that nothing happened which went against British interests.
Taxes and custom duties served a two-fold purpose. They raised money for the treasury, while also ensuring that the locals had little money to organise a resistance of their own, given the exorbitant rate of tax. This kept the populace downbeat, and ensured that there was no real chance of a rebellion.
One of the most ignored policies of the West were the human right abuses carried out by the police and army to oppress the people of Africa. All manners of torture, and even outright genocide like the Herero and Nama genocide were carried out by the European colonizers to ensure that the African people would not dare to rise up against them.
Another way to keep Africans in line was to forcibly conscript them into the army, and force them to fight their wars. The Europeans did not have large armies, instead, they relied on locals to fight for them. This was not just a matter of necessity, most African regiments were created before the first World War, to fight for the Europeans against their fellow Africans, not to fight in the Great Wars.
Armed resistance to colonial rule
There were many cases of armed uprising against colonial rule. One of the earliest resistance to British rule in Africa was the Nandi resistance in Kenya in 1895. It lasted for 10 years, and ended only by a piece of duplicity by Colonel Richard, who offered a truce to the Orkoiyet of the Nandi and then killed him when he went. The next major conflict was the Boer war of South Africa. Over a 100000 people, most of them civilians would die in these battles. The Anglo-Ashant war in 1900 was fought over the Golden Stool of the Ashanti. There were riots in Anyang in 1904, against the excesses of colonial rule, while in 1906, the British would behead the rebellious Zulu king in a war, that Gandhi would describe as a man hunt.
Africa contributions to the world wars
Africans were hugely involved in the World Wars, with many fighting on both sides in World War I and II, at great cost to their lives. African troops were pivotal in the world wars, yet, their contributions were completely ignored by those who used them in their own war. African troops were of great aid to France in both World War I and World War II, with them being the only French government controlled territory to stand against Vichy France, as established by the Germans. Thousands of Africans would lose their lives, and yet today, their contributions stand forgotten by those who colonised them for years, and yet owe the very existence of their states to these brave fighters.
Africans stripped of citizenship in advance of independence
As the 1900’s progressed, it became more and more obvious that after the World Wars, Europe could not continue to hold control of Africa, though some like France would try in increasingly more brutal ways to try to cling on to their control. The EU was formed to allow France, Germany and the rest of Europe to trust each other more through deeper trading ties rather than get into another war after three wars in the preceding century before the formation of EU (the Franco-Prussia War, World War One and World War Two). Africans who had fought for Britain, France and Germany were given tough criteria to be able to get Visas but Europeans then offered each other free movement of people and goods immediately after the second world war concluded.
This was most obviously seen in the Immigration act of 1962, which was passed by the British Parliament and was called as the most “cruel and brutal anti-colour act” by the leader of the Opposition at the time. As Britain prepared for their African colonies to get independence, it ensured that they would not be able to freely enter Britain. This ensured that all Africans were to stay trapped in a territory which had had all its resources plundered, and many of its young men slaughtered just to keep Britain country safe. This was replicated all over the continent and even now, African immigration is frowned upon, while the EU allows limitless immigration.
Africa’s independence dates
Below are the independence dates of all the African colonies from Europe. Even after the world wars, France and some other colonial powers tried to cling on to their colonies, until finally, they gained independence from colonial rule that had totally ravished the continent.