Resource 5: Key events in the move to independence

Background information / subject knowledge for teacher


1957 Ghana becomes first independent black state in Africa under Kwame Nkrumah through Gandhi-inspired rallies, boycotts and strikes, forcing the British to transfer power over the former colony of the Gold Coast.
1958Chinua Achebe (Nigeria): Things Fall Apart, written in ‘African English’, examines Western civilisation's threat to traditional values and reaches a large, diverse international audience.
1958All-African People's Conference: Resolution on Imperialism and Colonialism, Accra, 5–13 December 1958
1954– 1962French colonies (Francophone Africa) oppose continued French rule despite concessions, though many eager to maintain economic and cultural ties to France – except in Algeria, with a white settler population of 1 million. Bitterly vicious civil war in Algeria ensues until independence is gained in 1962, six years after Morocco and Tunisia had received independence.
1958White (Dutch-descent) Afrikaners officially gain independence from Great Britain in South Africa.
1964Nelson Mandela,on trial for sabotage with other ANC leaders before the Pretoria Supreme Court, delivers his eloquent and courageous ‘Speech from the Dock’ before he is imprisoned for the next 25 years in the notorious South African prison Robben Island.
1960– 1961Zaire (formerly Belgian Congo, the richest European colony in Africa) becomes independent from Belgium in 1960. Then, in Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), ‘charismatic nationalist Patrice Lumumba was ... martyred in 1961, with the connivance of the [US] Central Intelligence Agency and a 30-year-old Congolese colonel who would soon become president of the country, Joseph Deséré Mobutu.’ (Bill Berkeley, ‘Zaire: An African Horror Story’, The Atlantic Monthly, August 1993; rpt. Atlantic Online)
1962Algeria (of Arab and Berber peoples) wins independence from France; over 900,000 white settlers leave the newly independent nation.
1963Multi-ethnic Kenya (East Africa) declares independence from the British.
1963Charter of the Organisation of African Unity, 25 May 1963.
mid-60sMost former European colonies in Africa gain independence and European colonial era effectively ends. However, Western economic and cultural dominance, and African leaders’ and parties’ corruption intensify the multiple problems facing the new nations.
1965Rhodesia: Unilateral Declaration of Independence Documents.
1966Bechuanaland gains independence and becomes Botswana.
1970sPortugal loses African colonies, including Angola and Mozambique.
1976Cheikh Anta Diop (Senegal, 1923–1986), one of the great African intellectuals of the 20th century, publishes the influential and controversial book, The African Origin of Civilization, his project to ‘identify the distortions [about African history] we have learned and correct them for future generations’.
1980Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) gains independence from large white settler population after years of hostilities.
1970s–1980sPolice state of South African white minority rulers hardens to maintain blatantly racist and inequitable system of apartheid, resulting in violence, hostilities, strikes, massacres headlined worldwide.
1986Nigerian poet/dramatist/writer Wole Soyinka awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature.
1988Egyptian novelist and short story writer Nabuib Mahfouz awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first prizewinning writer with Arabic as his native tongue.



The Hutus massacre up to a million Tutsis in Rwanda; then fearing reprisals from the new Tutsi government, more than a million Hutu refugees fled Rwanda in a panicked mass migration that captured the world's attention.


500,000 of Hutu refugees streamed back into Rwanda to escape fighting in Zaire.

2001After 38 years in existence, the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) is replaced by the African Union.
Timeline – African countries in order of independence
CountryColonial nameColonial powerIndependence dateFirst head of state
Ethiopiaestablishment as the Kingdom of Aksum1st century BCMenelik I
LiberiaCommonwealth of LiberiaAmerican Colonization Society26 July 1847Joseph Jenkins Roberts
LibyaLibyaItaly24 December 1951Idris
SudanSudanBritain1 January 1956Ismail al-Azhari
TunisiaTunisiaFrance20 March 1956Muhammad VIII al-Amin
MoroccoMoroccoFrance7 April 1956Mohammed V
GhanaGold CoastBritain6 March 1957Kwame Nkrumah
GuineaFrench West AfricaFrance2 October 1958Sékou Touré
CameroonCamerounFrance, Britain1 January 1960Ahmadou Ahidjo
TogoFrench TogolandFrance27 April 1960Sylvanus Olympio
MaliFrench West AfricaFrance20 June 1960Modibo Keita
SenegalFrench West AfricaFrance20 June 1960Léopold Senghor
MadagascarMalagasy ProtectorateFrance26 June 1960Philibert Tsiranana
DR CongoBelgian CongoBelgium30 June 1960Patrice Lumumba
SomaliaItalian Somaliland, British SomalilandItaly, Britain1 July 1960Aden Abdullah Osman Daar
BeninFrench West AfricaFrance1 August 1960Hubert Maga
NigerFrench West AfricaFrance3 August 1960Hamani Diori
Burkina FasoFrench West AfricaFrance5 August 1960Maurice Yaméogo
Côte d'IvoireCôte d'IvoireFrance7 August 1960Félix Houphouët-Boigny
ChadFrench Equatorial AfricaFrance11 August 1960François Tombalbaye
Central African RepublicFrench Equatorial AfricaFrance13 August 1960David Dacko
CongoFrench Equatorial AfricaFrance15 August 1960Fulbert Youlou
GabonFrench Equatorial AfricaFrance17 August 1960Léon M'ba
NigeriaNigeriaBritain1 October 1960Nnamdi Azikiwe
MauritaniaFrench West AfricaFrance28 November 1960Moktar Ould Daddah
Sierra LeoneSierra LeoneBritain27 April 1961Milton Margai
TanzaniaTanganyikaBritain9 December 1961Julius Nyerere
RwandaRuanda-UrundiBelgium1 July 1962Grégoire Kayibanda
BurundiRuanda-UrundiBelgium1 July 1962Mwambutsa IV
AlgeriaAlgeriaFrance3 July 1962Ahmed Ben Bella
UgandaBritish East AfricaBritain9 October 1962Milton Obote
KenyaBritish East AfricaBritain12 December 1963Jomo Kenyatta
MalawiNyasalandBritain6 July 1964Hastings Kamuzu Banda
ZambiaNorthern RhodesiaBritain24 October 1964Kenneth Kaunda
GambiaGambiaBritain18 February 1965Dawda Kairaba Jawara
BotswanaBechuanalandBritain30 September 1966Seretse Khama
LesothoBasutolandBritain4 October 1966Leabua Jonathan
MauritiusBritain12 March 1968
SwazilandSwazilandBritain6 September 1968Sobhuza II
Equatorial GuineaSpanish GuineaSpain12 October 1968Francisco Macías Nguema
Guinea-BissauPortuguese GuineaPortugal24 September 1973Luis Cabral
MozambiquePortuguese East AfricaPortugal25 June 1975Samora Machel
Cape VerdePortugal5 July 1975
ComorosFrance6 July 1975
São Tomé and PríncipePortugal12 July 1975
AngolaAngolaPortugal11 November 1975Agostinho Neto
SeychellesBritain29 June 1976
DjiboutiFrench SomalilandFrance27 June 1977Hassan Gouled Aptidon
ZimbabweSouthern RhodesiaBritain18 April 1980Robert Mugabe
NamibiaSouth West AfricaSouth Africa21 March 1990Sam Nujoma
EritreaEritreaEthiopia24 May 1993Isaias Afewerki
South AfricaSouth AfricaSouth Africa (apartheid)27 April 1994Nelson Mandela
Sahrawi Republic 1Spanish SaharaSpain27 February 1976El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed
Adapted from original source: wiki/ Decolonization_of_Africa#Timeline (Accessed 2008)

Resource 4: African timelines template