1960-2010: 50 years of ‘African independences’

schauzeri – ON AFRICA

Copyright On Africa
(Click the link at the bottom to see the complete original post, replete with photographs and links to the speeches referenced here.)
And after 2009, we arrived at 2010. A year which is expected to be full special moments for the continent, especially the Football World Cup in South Africa which starts on June 11th. But as we look forward to what 2010 will bring, we must not lose sight of what happened before. And this time something that took place, not last year, but few years before: 50 to be exact.
Because in 2010 it will be the 50th anniversary of the “Year of Africa” or the “Year of African independence”. During the 12 months of 1960, 17 African countries regained their independence after decades of European coloniation. Fourteen of these countries were French colonies: Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon and Mauritania, and the other three, two territories colonized by Great Britain: Somalia and Nigeria, and one from Belgium: Congo (Kinshasa).
It is true that in 1960 the decolonization of Africa had already begun: in 1957 the Gold Coast led by Kwame Nkrumah became independent from Britain and was renamed Ghana, and in 1958 Sekou Toure’s Guinean Democratic Party voted against staying within the French Community, declaring their independence. But 1960 was the year in which the processes of independence reached cruising speed, an exciting year full of events, celebrations and intrigues, and which can be symbolically situated between two events of very different character.
The initial moment was the speech of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in Cape Town on 3 February 1960. In it, Macmillan, Conservative Prime Minister said Britain would not oppose the processes of independence that were brewing in most African countries. He did it with some famous words that gave the name to his speech:
“The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it.”
If this speech, in which he also criticized the continuation of apartheid in South Africa, can be seen as the symbolic beginning of the “year of Africa”, its end can be placed in January 1961, with a totally different event. I am talking about the murder, after his kidnapping and torture of the elected prime minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba was elected to form a government in May 1960 and became prime minister of Congo on June 30 of that year. Although he was a government leader, Lumumba was excluded from the official independence ceremony in which both President Kasa-Vuvu and King Baudouin of Belgium spoke. Despite his exclusion Lumumba, enraged by the apology of colonialism and the defense of King Leopold II delivered by Baudouin, could not refrain from speaking against the European dignitaries, denouncing the humiliation and suffering inflicted on the Congolese people during colonialism:
“Because … no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that is was by fighting that it has been won [applause], a day-to-day fight, an ardent and idealistic fight, a fight in which we were spared neither privation nor suffering, and for which we gave our strength and our blood.
… We have known ironies, insults, blows that we endured morning, noon, and evening, because we are Negroes.
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