. 6
( 12)


They received wages so low that it was only just possible for them to
pay their taxes. The prices of most things that Africans bought went
up by 50 percent between the two world wars, yet African wages
South Africa, 1902--1939 209

remained nearly stationary. Africans had no means of increasing
their wages or improving their conditions of work. Their wages were
¬xed by law. It was a criminal offence for them to combine in strike
action. Their every movement was controlled by pass laws, which
required that all Africans outside the reserves must carry a variety of
permits. As early as 1919, a Johannesburg newspaper, The Star, had
commented that ˜the Native is crowded off the land, denied a per-
manent foothold in urban areas, exploited at every point, badgered
from pillar to post, and under disabilities of all kinds, whether he
stays at home or seeks work away from it™.
Nevertheless, African reactions to these conditions of discrimina-
tion and restriction were still very far from revolutionary. During the
inter-war years, the African National Congress had little in¬‚uence or
authority even among Africans. It continued to hold its conventions
annually on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, but, in 1938, it still had
fewer than 4,000 members. Much more signi¬cant through most of
this period was the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU), founded
in 1919 by Clements Kadalie, an ambitious clerk from Nyasaland. At
one time, the ICU could boast a membership of 200,000. But the
ICU became unwieldy. Its central organisation was weak, and it was
unable to operate effectively among the all-important mine-workers.
The employers™ control over the African mine-workers was extremely
strict. Like its rival, the African National Congress, the ICU was rent
by dissensions between communists and more moderate leaders. It
failed to in¬‚uence the government in labour matters, just as the ANC
failed to divert Hertzog from his goal of territorial separation.
Even in 1940, Africans were still remarkably restrained and tol-
erant toward the white society in which, economically, they were
becoming ever more integrated. This was due partly to the fact that
South Africa was by far the richest country in Africa, and African
wages, low though they were compared with those received by the
whites, were still higher than in most of the continent. More money
was available in South Africa to spend on African education, which,
at the secondary level at least, was of a high standard. Africans,
therefore, demanded no more than to receive a greater share in the
wealth of the country and to be considered as citizens in their own
land. Their nationalism was subdued “ markedly so in comparison
with the strident Afrikaner nationalism which was growing up at
210 Africa since 1800

the same time. Many young Africans were hopeful about the future.
There was still room for political adjustment between the races, and
if the white people had earnestly desired to create a multiracial na-
tion, they could still have done so. But, as we have seen, the opinion
of white South Africans was in fact moving rapidly in the opposite
direction. To secure election by a white constituency, an ambitious
politician had to go one step further than his rivals on the racial is-
sue, and always in the same extreme direction. Therefore, although
all seemed peaceful enough on the surface, the sands of goodwill
were in fact fast running out.

South-West Africa

We noted in Chapter 13 that the German colony of South-West Africa
became a League of Nations mandated territory administered by
South Africa. The country was, in fact, governed as if it were part
of the Union, and local resistance was put down by force. In 1922,
the Bondelswarts, a Nama group who had lost much of their land to
the Germans, opposed the levying of a dog tax. Dogs were of great
importance to them for herding and hunting. A police force was sent
against them, and their village was bombed. The police commented,
˜The effects of the lesson taught in this short campaign will have an
indelible impression not only on the minds of those who resorted to
the use of arms in de¬ance of lawful authority, but on other native
tribes in this territory as well™.
Land-hungry white South African farmers eagerly bought the
cheap farms in the country, the government providing funds to en-
able them to purchase stock and equipment. By 1935, there were
32,000 settlers in the territory (some of them Germans who had
stayed on), and nearly one-third of the land was in their posses-
sion. Much of the rest was desert. The Africans were forced to live
in reserves and to labour for the white man to get enough money to
pay their taxes. They had merely exchanged one hard master “ the
Germans “ for another.
SIXTEEN. The Last Years of
Colonial Rule

T he Second World War was a turning point in the modern his-
tory of Africa. Before it broke out, the pace of change in Africa
since the establishment of colonial rule at the end of the nineteenth
and the beginning of the twentieth century had been steady and
unhurried. After the war, the momentum increased until it became
In 1939, the whole of Africa was under some kind of European rule.
The Italians were in occupation of Ethiopia. British troops remained
in Egypt, in the Suez Canal Zone. Even Liberia was, in practice,
dominated by the American Firestone Rubber Company. The Union
of South Africa was an independent dominion within the British
Commonwealth, but its African and Asian populations enjoyed less
freedom than the inhabitants of the colonial territories. Everywhere,
colonial rule appeared to be ¬rmly rooted. Every colonial territory
had police and military forces adequate for all ordinary situations.
Although the numbers of armed men were almost incredibly small “
Nigeria, with a population of 20 million, was garrisoned by only
4,000 soldiers and a similar number of armed police “ with mod-
ern fast communications, reinforcements could have been brought
quickly from overseas to deal with any special emergency. But, for
twenty years or more in most colonies, there had been no such emer-
gencies. Colonial governments had come to be regarded as too strong
to be successfully challenged.
Nevertheless, the concept of trusteeship in colonial policy had be-
gun to produce some practical results during the twenty years since

212 Africa since 1800

the end of the First World War. Trusteeship was linked with the policy
of indirect rule in the British African territories. It had everywhere
given African communities some say in the management of their
own affairs at the local level and through their traditional authori-
ties. In the West African colonies, a start had even been made in the
Africanisation of the central institutions of the colonial governments.
A handful of Africans were at last being recruited as administrative
of¬cers, and some African members were included in the legisla-
tive councils and assemblies which advised the governors. Just after
the war, a former British colonial of¬cer-turned-writer expressed the
opinion that ˜We shall not disappear tomorrow, nor the day after to-
morrow, but the governor of each British colony is in fact presiding
over the liquidation of that colony “ as a colony. It is to become a
self-governing dominion™.1 The French policies of cultural assimila-
tion and economic association were designed to make France and its
colonies interdependent. No Frenchman seriously thought that any
colony would ever achieve a political status independent of France.
A few Africans, however, were rising to positions of power in France
itself and were preparing to carry French political party organisation
back into the French African territories.
The ¬‚aw in all colonial policies was the denial of scope for the
political abilities and ambitions of the educated elite. In the British
territories, indirect rule gave status and often considerable power
to hereditary chiefs and other members of the traditional ethnic
aristocracies. But it left the new educated professional class with-
out either political in¬‚uence or social recognition. Under the French
system, the educated Africans could rise higher in the government
service, but only at the price of complete identi¬cation with France
and French culture, which involved cutting their ties with their fel-
low Africans. The ¬rst generation of educated Africans “ men like
Casely Heyford in the Gold Coast, Blaise Diagne in Senegal, Herbert
Macauley in Lagos, or Tengo Jabavu in the Cape Colony “ while press-
ing for a greater participation in central government by the educated
elite, accepted the existing gulf between educated and uneducated,
between the traditional rural society and the modern urban one.

W. R. Crocker, On Governing Colonies (London, 1947), pp. 66“7.
The Last Years of Colonial Rule 213

None of them tried to build up a mass following, and probably they
would not have succeeded had they done so. Among the second gen-
eration of educated Africans, there were a few like Azikiwe, who un-
derstood that major reforms would not come until the educated had
made political contact with the uneducated. Others younger still, like
Nkrumah and Senghor, were in 1939 engaged in their European or
American studies, and would return with the same lesson ever more
¬rmly in their minds. But, had it not been for the Second World War
and for the profound change in the balance of world power that fol-
lowed, it is very doubtful whether even Nkrumah™s generation would
have lived to see African independence, let alone whether they them-
selves would have brought it about. The educational policies of both
France and Britain had made it certain that independence would
come to Africa within the twentieth century. The fact that it came in
the 1950s and 1960s, rather than in the 1980s and 1990s, was due
primarily to the ¬ve-year struggle around the globe.

The 1939“1945 War and Its Aftermath
The war greatly increased the number of Africans who were po-
litically conscious. Soldiers from all over Africa were recruited by
Britain and France. They went into action in Ethiopia, North Africa,
and Italy, and against the Japanese in Burma. Most of the Africans
who became soldiers had never before left their native lands or even
their own home districts. On active service, despite the dangers and
the hardships, they were well fed and clothed, and comparatively
well paid. They learned to see their own countries in perspective
from the outside and to appreciate that conditions there left much
to be desired. Many of them learned to read newspapers, to listen
to wireless bulletins, and to take an interest in international affairs.
Among the ¬rst news of great events to reach them was that of the
fall of France and of the occupation of its heartland by Germany in
May 1940. Belgium and Holland were likewise occupied and their
governments were in exile in Britain. All this was a great blow to
the prestige of the colonial powers. Again, at quite an early stage of
the war, soldiers from both East and West Africa took part in the
reconquest of Ethiopia from the Italians, and the signi¬cance of the
return of the emperor Haile Selassie to his throne was not lost upon
214 Africa since 1800

them. Nor did they long remain ignorant of the fact that the South-
East Asian empires of Britain, France, and Holland had collapsed
before the Japanese onslaught of 1942 like straw huts in a storm,
leaving the great British Indian empire under the threat of invasion
from the east. In Africa itself, the political dissensions which had
so weakened France at the beginning of the war were soon trans-
ferred to the French African colonies. In 1940, most of the French
colonial of¬cials had sided with the Vichy government of German-
occupied France, although the governor of Chad, F´ lix Ebou´ , by
e e
birth a Negro from French Guyana, had from the ¬rst supported
the Free French resistance movement led by General de Gaulle. By
1943, the whole of French Equatorial Africa had joined de Gaulle,
and Ebou´ had become the governor“general at Brazzaville. Only
after much intrigue and in¬ghting did the governments of French
West Africa and Madagascar gradually follow suit. This dissension
among Frenchmen lowered their prestige in the eyes of their African
subjects. In the Maghrib countries, the civil war between Free France
and Vichy was even more intense. The Maghribis, being closer to the
American armies ¬ghting in the Mediterranean theatre, looked to the
United States with its anti-colonial traditions as a potential libera-
tor. After meeting President Roosevelt at Casablanca in 1943, Sultan
Sidi Muhammad of Morocco began openly to support the nationalist
When the war ended in 1945, the world of 1939 had changed al-
most beyond recognition. Italy, Germany, and Japan had been in turn
defeated, but at a terrible cost to the victors, especially those whose
territory had been occupied and ravished, but also Britain, which
had spent all its reserves and run deeply into debt in ¬ghting the
war in the west alone for two years before the United States joined
in. Even though Britain and France remained in nominal control
of vast empires, it was clear that political, economic, and military
leadership had passed from the western European countries to the
two superpowers, America and the USSR, both of which were in
principle committed to the anti-imperial cause. Although the initial
threat to those empires was bound to be felt in Asia, where education
and political consciousness were so much further developed than in
Africa, the more distant future of Africa was sure to be affected. In-
deed, it is now known that in con¬dential exchanges between the
The Last Years of Colonial Rule 215

American and British governments during the closing years of the
war, it had been agreed that the African colonies of the European
powers could realistically be prepared for independence by the end
of the twentieth century. During the years immediately after the war,
successive French governments came gradually to accept this view.
Meanwhile, in 1947, Britain took the momentous step of liqui-
dating its Indian empire. The subcontinent was partitioned between
India and Pakistan, which became independent states within the
Commonwealth. Ceylon did the same. Burma, on becoming indepen-
dent, did not even join the Commonwealth. These countries between
them were inhabited by well over 500 million people, about one-
seventh of the world™s population. Much of the area had been ruled by
the British since the eighteenth century, and many ancient civilisa-
tions had ¬‚ourished there before the British came. To the indigenous
traditions of learning, there had been added a powerful stream of
western education, beside which the primary and secondary schools
of colonial Africa appeared the merest trickle. In all these countries,
university graduates existed in the tens of thousands. They had long
¬lled the learned professions and occupied all but the very highest
positions in the state. Political parties of a modern nationalist kind
had been growing up through half a century and were actively sup-
ported by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. To the
British, therefore, it did not seem that there was any essential con-
tradiction between withdrawing from South Asia and continuing
for another half-century to govern its African colonies. To politically
conscious Africans, however, as also to the colonial peoples of South-
East Asia, the end of the British empire in India was the event which,
above all others, exploded the mystique of imperialism everywhere.
It was from the South-East Asian region, where Indonesia ob-
tained independence from the Dutch in 1951 and where the commu-
nist guerrillas of Ho Chi Minh drove the French from Indo“China in
1954, that the so-called Afro-Asian liberation movement soon after-
wards began to hasten events in colonial Africa. It was at this period
also that American in¬‚uence, operating mainly through the United
Nations Organisation, became of decisive importance. The UN had
in 1945 taken over responsibility for supervising the administration
of the former Mandated Territories of the League, known hence-
forward as Trusteeship Territories, sending regular commissions
216 Africa since 1800

to inspect them and maintain pressure on their governments to de-
velop them. The UN Charter also included a comprehensive state-
ment of the rights of all peoples to freedom and justice. This was
adopted largely as a result of American pressure and against the
wishes of the colonial powers. When the smaller countries, such as
those in Latin America, took their seats in the UN, they fell in enthu-
siastically with the attitude of the United States. However, it was the
adherence of the new Asian states which most radically changed the
voting balance in the UN. There was now a large majority of lesser
powers, which demanded the speedy end of colonialism everywhere.
The leader of these newcomers was, of course, India, whose govern-
ment was then developing the idea of ˜positive neutralism™ between
the capitalist and communist sides in the Cold War. But, the ¬rst
big conference of these non-aligned nations was held at Bandung
in Indonesia in 1955, with communist China also taking part. The
only African countries then independent were Egypt, Ethiopia, and
Libya, but observers were sent by the main nationalist movements
in the Sudan, the Gold Coast, South Africa, and Algeria. The confer-
ence declared in its manifesto that ˜Colonialism in all its manifes-
tations is an evil which should be speedily brought to an end™, and
it called upon the colonial powers to grant freedom and indepen-
dence to colonial peoples. The sense of solidarity among Asian and
Middle Eastern countries had now spread to nationalist activists all
over Africa south of the Sahara, who knew that henceforward they
had friends to support them in their struggle. For Asian countries,
Bandung marked the end of the transition from colonial rule to inde-
pendence. For Africans, it marked the beginning of the last, decisive
phase in the revolutionary movement.

Development: The Last Phase of Colonialism

Despite all the changes in the world scene, the colonial powers “
Britain, France, Belgium, and even Portugal “ entered with enthusi-
asm on a ¬nal period of rule in Africa, which they all imagined would
last for at least ¬fty years, although in the event it was destined to last
less than half that time. There were several reasons for this ¬nal burst
of activity. First and foremost, the demand for tropical produce, and
the prices paid for it, had risen sharply during the war, and remained
The Last Years of Colonial Rule 217

high for more than a decade afterwards. Moreover, colonial govern-
ments had learned during the war to take a much larger share of
African farmers™ earnings by forcing them to sell their export crops
to state marketing corporations at prices far below what they would
fetch if they were sold on the world market. For the ¬rst time in
their history, therefore, colonial revenues were buoyant. It looked
as though a signi¬cant expansion of the public services in educa-
tion, health, and agricultural and veterinary services, as well as all
kinds of desirable public works, could now be set in train. More than
this, however, the colonial powers themselves were now for the ¬rst
time prepared to spend a small part of their own taxpayers™ money
on development aid to the colonies. The motives for this new gen-
erosity were mixed. On the one hand, it was a response to the fact
that colonialism was under international attack. It was, therefore,
more necessary to show that the colonies were bene¬ting from the
association. But on the other hand, there was, in the wartime and
post-war situation, a sense in which the tropical colonies were prov-
ing for the ¬rst time to be of real value to the colonial powers. These
were all in debt to America. They needed to import American goods,
and yet they themselves were producing little that America wished
to buy. The dollar was thus a ˜hard currency™, while the pound and
the franc were ˜soft currencies™. The tropical colonies were producers
of the primary products that America wished to buy, and the result-
ing dollars could be shared out within the franc and sterling cur-
rency zones instead of being credited directly to the colonies where
they had been earned. The system meant, in effect, that the dollar-
earning colonies were compelled to take a high proportion of imports
from their metropolitan powers at a time when they might have pre-
ferred to buy American. At all events, the operation was bene¬cial
enough to the colonisers to make them invest their own money in
colonial development which might enhance the productivity of their
So far as British Africa was concerned, a Colonial Development
and Welfare Act had been introduced as early as 1940, but, in the cir-
cumstances of war, it could be little more than a declaration of intent.
However, when seeking its renewal in September 1944, the colonial
secretary, Oliver Stanley, wrote to the chancellor of the exchequer in
the following words:
218 Africa since 1800

I believe that the time when we must take action . . . is now upon us. The end of the
¬ghting in Europe will, I am convinced, be the psychological moment at which to
announce our intention to make fully adequate provision for the assistance from
His Majesty™s Government which will be necessary for a dynamic programme of
Colonial development. It is the moment at which to demonstrate our faith and
our ability to make proper use of our wide Colonial possessions. It is also the
moment when the minds of administrators in the Colonies will be turning even
more de¬nitely towards planning for the future, and when a clear call from here
will give them faith in the permanence and adequacy of our policy . . . I make no
pretence . . . that this is going to be pro¬table transaction on a purely ¬nancial
calculation. The overriding reason why I feel that these proposals are essential
is the necessity to justify our position as a Colonial Power.2

Between 1946 and 1955, £210 million from funds provided by the Act,
from private investment, and from money raised by the colonial gov-
ernments themselves was spent on development plans in the British
territories. Before the war, French colonies had been even poorer
than the British colonies. Therefore, when money began to pour
in, the change was even more startling. Investment came from pri-
vate sources and from a government fund set up in 1946. This fund,
which was known by the acronym of its French title as FIDES, pro-
vided of¬cial aid on a scale even larger than the British. The devel-
opment plans of the nine West African territories alone totalled £277
million for the period 1946“55.
This new ¬‚ow of money, both from expanding internal revenues
and from external aid, revolutionised the activities of colonial gov-
ernments during the post-war period. From this time, every colony
had its planning staff and its development programme. Among the
more spectacular projects were the hydroelectric installations on the
Nile at Jinja in Uganda, at Kariba on the Zambezi between North-
ern and Southern Rhodesia, on the Volta River at Akasombo in the
Gold Coast, and at Fria and Kimbo in Guinea. The main purpose of
these projects was to supply power for industrialisation. Industries
supported in this way included cotton-spinning in Uganda, the exten-
sion of copper-mining in Northern Rhodesia, a variety of factories in
Southern Rhodesia, the smelting of bauxite into aluminium, as well
as a whole range of light industries in the Gold Coast and Guinea.

Oliver Stanley to Sir John Anderson, 21 September 1944, cited in Wm Roger Louis, Imperialism
at Bay 1941“1945 (Oxford, 1977), pp. 102“3.
The Last Years of Colonial Rule 219

The largest project of all was the Inga scheme for damming the lower
Congo, which was designed to supply half as much electricity as was
then produced in western Europe. Its implementation was halted by
the crisis that followed the independence of the Belgian Congo, and
thereafter was only partially resumed.
Hydroelectric power for industrialisation was, however, only one
particularly striking feature of the development programmes with
which every colonial government was concerned after the Second
World War. Central to every programme was the expansion and di-
versi¬cation of agricultural production. This was directed not only
to the production of cash crops, but also to the production of food
for local consumption, especially by the growing populations of the
new towns. Agricultural and veterinary services extended their op-
erations into almost every administrative district. Strenuous efforts
were made to educate farmers to adopt improved methods, such as
the rotation of crops, contour-bunding to prevent erosion in hilly ar-
eas, consolidation of scattered holdings, and introduction of better
tools and simple machinery. Pastoralists who had hitherto bred cat-
tle largely for prestige, concentrating on numbers rather than on the
yield of milk and meat, were persuaded to accept scienti¬c breed-
ing methods and to produce regularly for the market. This meant
using co-operative creameries and abattoirs in the grazing districts
instead of moving large herds on the hoof to distant selling points.
Again, ¬sh-marketing corporations were set up in many countries,
and refrigerated vans began to visit the ¬shing communities of the
seaboards, lakes, and rivers to buy their produce and distribute it
to the towns. All these activities demanded in turn a corresponding
revolution in transport. The old dirt roads of pre-war Africa could no
longer stand up to the weight of traf¬c that now passed over them.
A very large proportion of most development budgets was spent on
reconstructing and tarring the main trunk roads.

Progress in Education

It was soon realised by all colonial governments in the post-war pe-
riod that if one limitation on development was money, another and
more serious one was the shortage of educated people. Because there
had been so few secondary schools in colonial Africa before the war,
220 Africa since 1800

a large number of Europeans had to be employed to operate the
new development plans. These people were expensive. They had to
be induced to come to Africa by high salaries, subsidised housing,
and frequent home leave with free travel. On the political side, these
new ˜invaders™ of Africa undid much of the good which they con-
tributed with their skills. Their presence widened the gap between
Europeans and Africans. It created the impression that the colo-
nial grip on Africa was tightening, and it intensi¬ed political unrest
and made all government activities suspect to the people. Education,
therefore, soon became the cornerstone of every development plan.
At the end of the war, the vast majority of schools were still those
of the Christian missions. Nearly all of them were primary schools,
and most of them provided only four years of education in one or
another of the African languages. The ¬rst priority for advancement
was to extend the four-year period to six, the two additional years
being devoted largely to the study of a European language. The
main problem, therefore, was to train enough primary-school teach-
ers who had the necessary quali¬cations in English or French. The
most signi¬cant educational development of the 1940s was the es-
tablishment throughout colonial Africa of primary-teacher training
centres, which in their early days were essentially schools of English
or French. The problem of access to a ˜language of wider commu-
nication™ had to be solved before it was possible to press on toward
the provision of a more adequate number of secondary schools. Be-
fore the war, these had been very few indeed. Most territories had
only two or three such schools, and they had been staffed mainly by
European teachers. Now these schools had to be multiplied, which
could only be done very gradually, by bringing in more teachers from
abroad and by employing the fortunate few Africans who had passed
through the existing schools. Whereas the reform of primary educa-
tion had involved only the addition of two more years, six new years
of education were required for a secondary school. Even if a school
was able to add a new class every year, therefore, a full secondary
school could not be established in less than six years. In fact, most
schools took much longer than this to grow. Although the 1950s saw
a great increase in the number of secondary schools, most of them
were dismissing their pupils after only three or four years. This was
The Last Years of Colonial Rule 221

still the state of things when most African countries attained inde-
The secondary-school output determined the possibilities for
higher education. Nevertheless, the British government, at least, did
not allow the secondary-school bottleneck to hold up the foundation
of universities in colonial Africa. A commission set up in 1943 re-
ported two years later that the development of universities was ˜an
inescapable corollary of any policy which aims at the achievement of
colonial self-government™. During the four years after 1945, four uni-
versity colleges were established: at Ibadan in Nigeria, at Achimota
in the Gold Coast, at Khartoum in the Sudan, and at Makerere in
Uganda. The university college at Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia
was added in 1953. At all these places, fearfully expensive European
staffs were built up, while the output of graduates climbed slowly
from a hundred to two or three hundred a year. In French Africa,
the ¬rst university to be founded was that at Dakar in 1955,
just three years ahead of Senegalese independence. In the Belgian
Congo, the universities of Lovanium and Elizabethville narrowly
predated the political independence that came in 1960. In retro-
spect, it can be clearly seen that higher education arrived too late for
graduates to have any chance of capturing the political initiative in
independent Africa. Indeed, there were not nearly enough of them
to supply the bare needs of modern administrative and social ser-
vices, let alone those of an emerging private sector in industry and
commerce. Higher education in colonial Africa had been planned to
serve the needs of the 1990s, rather than the 1960s. Nevertheless, the
foundations had been laid, on which independent nations could try
to build insofar as their economic resources allowed.
It was perhaps in their steady support of educational development
at the higher levels that the British and French governments showed
their awareness of how close they were to decolonisation and their
good faith in preparing for it. Belgian policy in the Congo was, in
contrast, to put nearly all government support into the multiplication
of primary schools. Defending this policy, Pierre Ryckmans, who
had been governor“general of the Congo from 1934 until 1937, and
who then became the Belgian representative on the United Nations
Trusteeship Council, wrote in 1955:
222 Africa since 1800

Everyone who knows the Congo is convinced that Belgian rule is indispensable
there, and that the end of it would be the end of all that we have built up during
three-quarters of a century. We have preferred to give primary education to the
mass of children, and to organise secondary education later, as soon as available
resources allow. French West Africa has a thousand young people studying in
France, while we have just a handful studying in Belgium. But we have ten times
more children than they have in primary schools. I sincerely believe that in thirty
years™ time we shall have in the Congo at least as many university graduates, and
at least as many high-school graduates, and in¬nitely fewer illiterates than do
our French neighbours in West Africa, even though the ¬rst university in the
Congo opened its doors only last year. But will thirty years of peaceful progress
be given us?3

Ryckmans answered his own question with a cautious af¬rmative: he
was ˜full of hope™. Four years later, both he and his government were
proved sadly mistaken when the Congolese were quite unprepared
for the responsibilities of an independence which was thrust upon
them rather than for which they had struggled for.

Preparing for Democracy

During the time that remained to them after the war, the ¬eld in
which colonial governments were most active was that of local gov-
ernment. In the British territories, indirect rule was quietly aban-
doned as too gradual for the world situation. There was clearly not
going to be time in which to allow African systems of local govern-
ment to evolve ˜along their own lines™. Democratic local government
had to be attained within a very few years. The only thing to do was
to follow western models. Every chief was soon surrounded by an
elected council. The supervision of many local services was entrusted
to these councils, where previously they had been administered
autocratically by the chief or the European district commissioner.
The English county council was the model followed increasingly in
British territories, while the French aimed to reproduce the system
of communes which were the principal units of representative lo-
cal government in France. In the employment of the district coun-
cils and communes, many Africans learned to take administrative

Pierre Ryckmans, ˜Belgian Colonialism™, Foreign Affairs, October 1955, cited in Joan G. Roland,
Africa: The Heritage and the Challenge (Greenwich, Conn., 1974), pp. 205, 211.
The Last Years of Colonial Rule 223

responsibility in ways that were not yet open to them in the service
of the colonial central governments. Many future national politicians
gained their political training through membership on elected local
When it came to the creation of representative institutions at the
colonial level, British and French policy still showed hesitations and
contradictions. So far as the British were concerned, the intention
to decolonise was not in doubt. Oliver Stanley, the wartime colonial
secretary, had stated in June 1943, ˜We are pledged to guide colo-
nial peoples along the road to self-government within the British
empire™. No one yet knew whether this meant the full sovereign in-
dependence of every individual colonial unit, large or small. There
were many people in Britain who hoped that federations of West,
East, and Central African territories would emerge. But the imme-
diate course seemed clear: to repeat the pattern of constitutional de-
velopment followed earlier in the European-settled lands in Canada,
Australia, and South Africa. Political power would gradually be de-
volved to the legislative councils which had already been set up in
all the colonies. At the same time, the membership of these coun-
cils would be widened by increasing African representation through
the nomination of the governors and the chiefs. Later, the legislative
councils would become even more representative by giving the vote
to a wider and wider circle of the people in the colonies.
Such a plan raised no special dif¬culties in relation to West African
colonies, where all the British people were temporary residents only.
The complications arose on the eastern side of Africa, where from
Kenya all the way to Southern Rhodesia, there lived small commu-
nities of British settlers who thought of themselves as permanent
residents of these countries. They had already been afforded vary-
ing degrees of privilege in their government, and the advance of the
African majority populations would mean the end of their privileged
position. To understand their attitude, one has to remember that
South Africa had gained independence with a franchise virtually
limited to white people, and that in 1923 Southern Rhodesia, with
a much smaller proportion of whites to blacks, had gained internal
self-government on the same basis. British views had changed greatly
since 1923. All the same, the British governments of 1945“55 felt they
had an obligation to protect the settlers of eastern and central Africa
224 Africa since 1800

from a too rapid transfer of power to the African majorities. Britain,
therefore, spent ten years experimenting with a variety of so-called
multiracial constitutions in these areas. The typical multiracial con-
stitution was one in which each racial group elected a certain number
of representatives to the legislature. In this way, the various groups
were more or less evenly represented, regardless of their actual size.
The hope was that a democratic moderation would emerge from the
balancing of one group against another. Few Africans could see any
justice in such a system. Nevertheless, the multiracial constitutions
probably did perform a useful function in providing a transitional
stage between white-settler privilege and majority rule.
French hesitations and contradictions turned less upon the num-
ber of Frenchmen resident in any particular one of their African
territories than upon the future relations of the French overseas terri-
tories to France. Right up to 1960, the French plan for decolonisation
envisaged little more than local autonomy for the ex-colonies within
a centralised imperial system represented ¬rst by the French Union
and later by the French Community. Whereas the French Union had
been intended to include all the French overseas territories, in Indo“
China as well as in Africa, the French Community was limited to
Africa south of the Sahara and to those small island territories which
had accepted full integration with metropolitan France. Algeria was
included within the Community only while it remained a part of
France. Tunisia and Morocco were never members. In practice, how-
ever, French Africa from 1945 to 1955 was passing through a phase
of decolonisation very similar to the ˜multiracial™ period in British
East and Central Africa. In French West and Equatorial Africa and
Madagascar, legislative assemblies were being developed both at the
federal and at the territorial levels. During this transitional stage, half
of the seats in these assemblies were elected by the citoyens de plein
exercise, which was to say, in effect, by the locally resident French
Except in the Belgian and Portuguese possessions, the rulers of
colonial Africa from the Sahara to the Zambezi realised by about
1955 that they had entered into the last phase of European colonisa-
tion. Yet, French and British colonial governments played their parts
in this ¬nal act of the colonial drama with unprecedented vigour and
enthusiasm. Development money was being poured into the tropical
The Last Years of Colonial Rule 225

African colonies. Agriculture and industry were being actively stim-
ulated, and education was being given a decisive push forward.
Local government was being made quickly and surely more demo-
cratic. Central government was also being made more representa-
tive, though less rapidly and less certainly. The colonial rulers were
preparing to leave. There was no more time for further political ex-
periments. Therefore, western models were increasingly being used
for the development of political institutions. All over British Africa,
speakers in their traditional wigs and knee-breeches presided over
the rectangular debating chambers of the Westminster model, in
which ˜government™ and ˜opposition™ sat facing each other. All over
French Africa, assemblies sat in semicircular chambers on the Paris
model, in which the ˜left wing™ merged imperceptibly into the ˜right
wing™, without a dividing ˜¬‚oor™. These were the ˜old bottles™ imported
hastily from Europe to contain the ˜new wine™ of African national-
ism. They did not prove to be very successful. As soon as the Africans
took complete control of their own affairs, they changed them almost
beyond recognition. But, like the multiracial constitutions which
preceded them, they provided a framework for the transition from
dependence to independence.
SEVENTEEN. The Road to
Independence: (1) North and
North-East Africa

A s we saw in Chapter 14, nationalism in the Muslim north of
Africa had developed much earlier than in Africa south of the
Sahara. Egypt, indeed, had been self-governing since 1922. Yet, it was
not until forty years later “ after all of West Africa and most of eastern
Africa had become independent “ that the ¬nal emancipation of this
region was completed by the withdrawal of the French from Algeria.
North Africa™s emergence from colonialism was thus a much longer
drawn out and more piecemeal process than that of the regions to the
south. And, although it became in its ¬nal stages increasingly linked
with the rest of the Pan“African freedom movement, its origins were
different and must be separately treated. The countries of the Horn
of Africa likewise took special paths to independence, which ¬t more
easily with those of the lands to the north of them than with those
farther to the south.

Egypt and the Sudan
The key country of the whole North African region was, as ever,
Egypt. Although a British garrison remained in the Canal Zone in
accordance with the terms of the 1936 treaty (see Chapter 14), the
wartime occupation of the rest of the country ended in 1946, leaving
Egypt free to resume the political independence it had enjoyed before
the war. Egypt had, by far, the largest population and, by far, the most
developed industry and commerce of any of the North African coun-
tries. It was also the intellectual capital of the Arabic-speaking world.

Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 227

Ceuta (Sp.)
Conflict between
Rabat Melilla (Sp.)
Polisario and
Morocco MOROCCO Independent of British
1970s“2000s control 1922“36
IFNI (Sp.)
EGYPT Federal Union, Ethiopia
and Eritrea, 1954.
Cisneros Eritrea independent 1991
British Protectorate of
Somaliland joined
Italian Trust Territory
to form Somalia 1960
Khartoum Asmara
Niamey SUDAN
Bathurst Bamako VOLTA
Fort Lamy
Wagadugu Djibouti

Addis Ababa



Freetown IVORY



Abidjan Accra




© o No



Yaounde UGANDA S

1961 revolt EQUATORIAL GUINEA K E N YA Mogadishu


Portuguese rule GABON Kigali Nairobi Italian


French Soudan Brazzaville 1936“41
Usumbura BURUNDI
and Senegal Leopoldville
British Trust
joined abortive TANGANYIKA
Cabinda (Kinshasa)
Territory of ZANZIBAR 1963
Mali Federation (TANZANIA)
Togoland joined
1959“60 Union of
Dar es Salaam
independent Tanganyika and
Ghana 1957 Zanzibar as
Tanzania 1964

British trust Territory of Northern Cameroons joined

Northern Nigeria 1961; Southern Cameroons joined

the Republic of Cameroun in a federal state 1961 Zomba
1961 revolt against

Portuguese rule 1963


resistance to REPUBLIC
BOTSWANA Portuguese
CENTRAL AFRICAN FEDERATION 1953“63 Windhoek Gaborone
Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia)
and Nyasaland (Malawi)
Mbabane Self-governing
LESOTHO colony 1923
Former South African Mandate.
Fighting between SWAPO and South Africa
Independent 1990
Cape Town Union 1910
Republic 1961
End of Apartheid Regime 1994

The independence of African states

Independent before 1950 Independent 1970s

Independent 1950s Rhodesia UDI 1964“80;
Zimbabwe-Rhodesia internal settlement 1979-80
Zimbabwe independent 1980
Independent 1960s

Independent 1990s

26. The independence of Africa.
228 Africa since 1800

The two universities of Cairo had between them a student popula-
tion of 20,000. It was there that Arabic-speaking students from the
Maghrib met those from Libya, Sudan, and Somalia and formed the
same kind of associations as other African students from the English-
and French-speaking colonies south of the Sahara were forming in
London and Paris at the same period. But whereas students from
sub-Saharan Africa generally felt themselves to be outsiders “ if not
actually foreigners “ in the metropolitan imperialist countries, those
from North Africa who studied in Egypt knew that they were in an
entirely congenial milieu. For those North African nationalists whose
primary loyalty was still to Islam, Egypt was both a place of refuge
and a nursery of revolt.
Egypt itself was still in 1946 a land of immense social inequalities
and vivid economic contrasts. Although the country looked large on
the map, nearly all of its 20 million people were crowded into the
Nile valley and delta and the Suez Canal Zone. In these habitable
areas, the population density was among the highest in the world,
one agricultural region having as many as 2,650 people to the square
mile. Cairo was already a huge city of more than 2 million people, by
far the largest city in Africa at the time. Alexandria had more than
1 million, and several other towns had populations of more than
100,000. Nevertheless, more than 80 percent of Egyptians were
country-dwellers, and by far the greatest number were small farmers
(fellahin), who tended to fall deeper into poverty and malnutrition
as their holdings grew smaller by subdivision. Those who owned
their own land mostly held tiny patches of 1 acre or less. The rest
paid rent to landowners, and were often even worse situated. More
than a third of the cultivable land of Egypt was owned by the great
pashas, many of them descended from the Mamluks and Circassians
of Ottoman times or else from the family and favourites of Muham-
mad Ali. Most of the commerce of Egypt was in the hands of a non-
Egyptian merchant class, often Greeks whose ancestors had been
in Egypt for centuries. Modern industry and services tended to be
owned by foreign companies from western Europe and the Levant.
At the top of the social hierarchy perched King Farouk, the descen-
dant of Muhammad Ali, who lived the life of an extravagant playboy.
The whole situation was, therefore, one which contained many of
the necessary ingredients for revolution.
Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 229

It was clear that the traditional rulers of such a society would
adopt the classic tactic of trying to divert internal discontent into
the channel of external aggression. Already in 1944, they had joined
with other Arab countries in forming the Arab League, the earliest
and most persistent objective of which was to prevent the emergence
of a Jewish state in Palestine as soon as Britain ful¬lled its declared
intention of laying down its Mandate. In 1947, the United Nations
duly decreed the partition of Palestine between Israel and Jordan.
In 1948, the armies of the Arab League went to war against Israel
and were humiliatingly defeated by the one-year-old state. Egyp-
tians especially felt this blow to Muslim prestige, which showed up
the corruption and inef¬ciency of the monarchy and the politicians.
Frustrated in their attempts against Israel, the politicians now re-
sponded by turning the hatred of the foreigner against the continu-
ing British presence in the Canal Zone and in the Sudan. At ¬rst, in
covert de¬ance of the 1936 treaty, armed bands of Egyptians were
encouraged to attack British troops and installations. Then, in 1951,
the Egyptian government unilaterally declared the 1936 treaty to be
at an end. British reprisals against Egyptian terrorist attacks led to
an outburst of popular feeling in Cairo, in which British and other
foreign property was destroyed. Six months later, on 23 July 1952, a
group of young army of¬cers seized power. They were led by Colonel
Gamal Abdul Nasser, but used an older man, General Neguib, as
a ¬gurehead in forming a Revolutionary Command Council, which
quickly swept away the discredited monarchy and parliament.
One effect of the deterioration in Anglo“Egyptian relations had
been to cause Britain, from about 1951 onwards, to set a course
toward rapid independence for the Sudan, for not to have done so
would have been to drive the very real forces of Sudanese national-
ism into the arms of the Egyptians. From the British point of view, a
hostile Egypt had better be countered by a friendly Sudan. Strangely
enough, the new rulers of Egypt were thinking on parallel lines. It
happened that Neguib and Nasser had both served in the Sudan,
and had there come to appreciate the strength of Sudanese national-
ist feeling. They realised that a friendly Sudan, even if independent
of Egypt, was preferable to a hostile dependency. The new Egypt,
therefore, accepted the British proposals, made in 1952, that the Su-
danese people should hold elections under a constitution providing
230 Africa since 1800

internal self-government for a period of three years before deciding
upon complete independence or union with Egypt. When the time
came, in January 1956, the Sudan voted to become an independent
republic outside the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile, in 1954, Neguib had been ousted as President of Egypt
by Nasser, under whose rule Egypt™s relations with the western coun-
tries went from bad to worse. Nasser lost no time in identifying him-
self with independence movements in the rest of Africa and, in 1955,
he personally attended the conference of non-aligned nations at Ban-
dung which issued the rousing manifesto against ˜colonialism in all
its manifestations™ discussed in Chapter 16. Internally, Nasser™s Egypt
was the ¬rst country in Africa to put radical socialist policies into
practice, by limiting severely the amount of land which an individual
could own and by redistributing the large estates among the peas-
ants. Externally, he succeeded in ridding Egypt of the last traces of
European domination. Britain agreed to withdraw its troops from
the Canal Zone, leaving the canal to be operated as before by the
Anglo“French company that had built it. Nasser then turned to his
plan for extending the area of irrigated land in Egypt by building
a huge new dam across the Nile at Aswan. This was to have been
¬nanced mainly by American and British aid. America, however, be-
came increasingly annoyed by his non-aligned policies and, in 1956,
withdrew its offer of ¬nancial assistance. Nasser responded by na-
tionalising the Suez Canal, announcing that he would ¬nance the
˜high dam™ from its pro¬ts.
The governments of Britain and France reacted with exaspera-
tion to Nasser™s latest move and determined to deal him a blow that
would bring him to his knees. In their anger, they failed to reckon
with the international disapproval that such action would provoke,
and they even failed to consult with their principal ally and creditor
in the United States. Instead, they set up a dishonest charade by get-
ting Israel to attack Egypt along the line of the Suez Canal, so that
they could then intervene to separate the warring parties and make
safe the waterway for the commerce of the world. On this pretext,
British and French forces landed near Port Said in September 1956
and reoccupied the Canal Zone, hoping that a swift victory would
bring about the fall of Nasser. In the event, they found that their sur-
reptitious action was almost universally condemned. In the United
Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 231

Nations, the Soviet Union was supported by most of the smaller
countries in demanding a withdrawal; and, in the United States,
President Eisenhower informed the British and French governments
that there would be no further support for their still shaky currencies.
Under this pressure, Britain and France had no option but to with-
draw their forces and to face public and lasting humiliation. It was
not Nasser but the British prime minister, Sir Anthony Eden, who
was forced to resign on grounds of ill health, and the British people
who had to endure the discomforts of petrol rationing because of
the damage caused by their own forces to the Suez Canal. The af-
fair provided a sweeping victory for Nasser, which greatly enhanced
his standing in other African states and in the Muslim countries
of the Middle East. In 1958, Egypt formed a political union with
Syria known as the United Arab Republic. Although the union proved
short-lived “ it collapsed in 1961 “ Egypt retained the new name for
some time. One result of the Suez crisis was that the Soviet Union,
by providing ¬nance for the Aswan dam and other projects, and by
arming Egypt, obtained a foothold in a region of great strategic, polit-
ical, and economic importance. In Cairo, the Egyptian intelligentsia
referred to the Soviet ambassador humorously as ˜Cromersky™.
Meanwhile, the Sudan, which had ¬nally achieved its indepen-
dence from both Britain and Egypt in the year of the Suez crisis,
was experiencing a rough start to its new existence. The Muslim
and Arabic-speaking population of the north, which dominated the
country politically and economically, was divided within itself into
a number of religious, tribal, and class interest groups which did
not ¬t easily into the Westminster pattern of parliamentary govern-
ment hastily installed by the British on the eve of their departure;
there was relief only when, in 1958, the army of¬cers led by General
Abboud seized power from the politicians. The military hand at the
centre of government, however, did nothing to solve the more fun-
damental division between the north and the south of the country.
This was something which really went back to the days of slave- and
ivory-hunting in the nineteenth century, when Muslim Egyptians and
northern Sudanese together raided the black, animist peoples of the
south. The British-dominated condominium government had done
nothing to heal this rift, administering the north and the south in
separate compartments, and concentrating its efforts at economic
232 Africa since 1800

development almost entirely in the north. This policy was reversed
only in 1949 “ far too late to have any appreciable effect before the
country began its mad scramble to independence in 1953. The south™s
¬rst political party was founded only in that year, and fears of north-
ern domination of the independent government were already ram-
pant. These fears were fully borne out when, in 1954, Sudanese civil
servants were appointed to replace the departing English. Out of 800
senior posts, only 6 were ¬lled by southerners. The ¬rst open con¬‚ict
occurred in the middle of 1955, a few months before independence,
when the government decided to transfer soldiers from the north to
the south and vice versa. Southern troops mutinied in Torit and else-
where in Equatoria province. The mutinies were quickly put down,
with considerable loss of life, but many of the disgruntled southern
soldiers decamped into the bush and engaged in sporadic attacks on
government posts and installations. The Khartoum government vac-
illated between attempting to appease the southerners and impos-
ing a centralised Islamic and Arabic-speaking administration upon
them. In 1962, there was a prolonged strike in the Christian mis-
sion schools in the south and, during the next two years, all foreign
missionaries were expelled. Many Christian schools were replaced
by Koranic ones and, in some districts, of¬cials refused to recognise
any but Muslim names. The local army unit, the Equatoria Corps,
mutinied, led by their anti-Muslim and anti-communist missionary
educated of¬cers, and these troops formed the core of the Anyanya
(˜snake poison™) sucessionists who rose in open revolt in 1963. The
government™s response to the now widespread rebellion was to send
more troops, but the hostility of the people and the nature of the
country made military suppression of the guerrillas impossible. The
government held the few towns, and the roads connecting them,
while the rebels controlled much of the countryside. It was to be
the earliest and also the most persistent of independent Africa™s civil

States of the Horn

For a brief ¬ve years, from 1936 until 1941, the main territories of the
Horn of Africa “ Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia “ had been brought
under a single rule as Italian East Africa. For a still briefer period
Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 233

at the beginning of the war, the Italians added by conquest the
territory of British Somaliland. French Somali Coast (the modern
Djibouti) escaped Italian conquest by virtue of a governor who sup-
ported Vichy France. When the British in turn conquered the Italian
East African empire in 1941“2, British military administrations were
installed in all the territories except Ethiopia, which was recognised
as an independent state under the rule of the emperor Haile Selassie,
who had returned under the protection of a British expedition from
the Sudan to take part in the liberation of his country. This was
in reality much more than a simple restoration. The Italians had
done much to modernise the country, and the new empire inherited,
for example, a network of engineered roads and telecommunica-
tions connecting the capital with the provincial centres. Moreover,
whereas the old empire had been, in terms of international stand-
ing, an anomalous survival from the pre-colonial period, the new
empire, restored and recognised by the entire international commu-
nity, was seen by many, both inside and outside Africa, as the herald
of a new postcolonial Africa “ a state of respectable size, with a ba-
sic framework of modern institutions, yet governed by a traditional
aristocracy with venerable roots in the African past.
After the war, there were intensive deliberations at the United
Nations about the future government of North-East Africa. Haile
Selassie argued for retaining the broad structure of the Italian em-
pire by closely associating both Eritrea and Somalia with Ethiopia.
Eventually, in 1950, the former Italian Somalia became a United Na-
tions Trust Territory, which was placed under Italian administration
for a ten-year period, while the British continued to rule northern So-
maliland as a colony. At least three different plans were proposed for
Eritrea, with its population of 1 million, divided almost equally be-
tween the mountain-dwelling Tigreans, who were Ethiopian Chris-
tians, and the Afar and Danakil of the coastal plain, who were
Muslims. The Arab countries wanted Eritrea to be independent;
the British wanted it partitioned between Ethiopia and Sudan; the
Ethiopians wanted to annex the whole. At length, in 1952, the
Ethiopian view prevailed, though under a federal constitution which
gave the Eritreans a considerable say in their own affairs. Ten
years later, Eritrea was more tightly integrated by imperial decree, a
change which antagonised many Eritreans. Opposition to Ethiopia
234 Africa since 1800

developed in two rival movements “ the Muslim Eritrean Liberation
Movement and the Eritrean People™s Liberation Front, both of which
received help from outside sources, including radical Arab states and
countries of the eastern bloc.
After reassuming the reins of power at the end of the Second World
War, the emperor Haile Selassie continued to rule Ethiopia very
much as he had done during the 1920s and 1930s. As the number of
western-educated Ethiopians grew, so the forms of a modern bureau-
cracy were gradually established with the help of foreign advisers
drawn from several developed countries. But the inner network of
real power remained in the hands of the emperor™s extended family
and their spouses, who were strategically disposed in every institu-
tion and region and who reported directly to the palace rather than
to the of¬cial ministries. Nevertheless, some aspects of Ethiopia™s
economy and administration were modernised. Large amounts of
aid ¬‚owed in from the western countries. From 1953, the United
States became the main supplier of aid and military equipment, and
from the mid-1960s, this aid was much augmented in order to coun-
terbalance the Soviet supply of armaments to neighbouring Somalia.
As ruler of an ancient African state which had preserved its indepen-
dence through all but ¬ve years of the colonial period, Haile Selassie
was able to play a major part in the Pan“African politics of the 1960s,
not only mediating disputes between the newly independent states
and advising them in diplomatic procedures, but also training the
freedom ¬ghters sent to him by resistance movements in those ter-
ritories still under colonial rule. In 1962, for example, he hosted the
¬rst conference of PAFMECA (the Pan“African Freedom Movement
of East and Central Africa), which was attended, on the eve of his
arrest and long imprisonment, by the young Nelson Mandela, as a
secret emissary of the African National Congress (ANC) of South
Africa. ˜Here™, writes Mandela, ˜for the ¬rst time in my life, I was wit-
nessing black soldiers, commanded by black generals, applauded by
black leaders, who were all guests of a black head of state. It was a
heady moment. I only hoped it was a vision of what lay in the future
of my own country™.1 Following that conference, Mandela toured
the newly independent countries of North and West Africa. Rabat in
Morocco he described as ˜the crossroads of virtually every liberation

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, New York, 1994, p. 256.
Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 235

movement on the continent™, where he met freedom ¬ghters from
Mozambique, Angola, Algeria, and Cape Verde. However, it was to
Ethiopia that he returned to undergo a course of military training
in preparation for his intended role as commander of the military
wing of the ANC known as Umkonto we Sizwe. It is small wonder
that in the following year, Haile Selassie was able to persuade his
fellow heads of state to site the headquarters of the newly founded
Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa.
The decade of Italian Trusteeship in Somalia was generally judged
to be enlightened and generous. A wide-ranging education pro-
gramme was implemented, which trained administrators and tech-
nical personnel. In 1954, an Institute of Law and Economics was
opened under the auspices of the University of Rome, which later de-
veloped into the University of Mogadishu. The Italians encouraged
local participation in the territorial government and, by the middle
of the decade, most senior administrative positions were in Somali
hands. Without doubt, the deliberate and rapid decolonisation of
Italian Somalia was greatly helped by the fact that all the inhabi-
tants of the country spoke a single language and felt themselves to
be a nation. Most African countries had to undergo a process of na-
tionalist uni¬cation, for which some delaying tactics by the colonial
power was absolutely necessary. With the Somali, the problem was
rather that the sense of Somali nationalism existed over a wider re-
gion than the Trust territory. It extended clearly over the whole of
British Somaliland, where the colonial government “ although less
active than the Italian Trusteeship administration in its preparations
for decolonisation “ at least did nothing to prevent the future uni¬ca-
tion of the two territories. Albeit in a hurried and disorganised way,
British Somaliland was brought to independence ¬ve days before
the Italian territory and, on 1 July 1960, the legislative assemblies
of the two countries met in joint session at Mogadishu and consti-
tuted themselves into the National Assembly of the independent and
sovereign Republic of Somalia.
Six years before this event, in 1954, in a move fraught with danger
for the future, Britain had returned to Ethiopia the Ogaden district,
comprising the low plateau on the eastern side of the Ethiopian
mountains which provided vital seasonal grazing for the nomadic
Somali. After independence, the chief concern of the Somalia gov-
ernment was to promote the uni¬cation of all the Somali-speaking
236 Africa since 1800

lands and, in particular, to regain control over the Ogaden. The irre-
dentist spirit was ¬‚aunted by the new Somali ¬‚ag, which displayed a
¬ve-pointed star representing the ¬ve sections of the divided Somali
people, of which those in the Ogaden, Djibouti, and Kenya were un-
der white colonial rule. Before the independence of Kenya in 1963,
the British authorities, while recognising the nationalist sentiments
of the Somali-speaking population there, announced that the North-
ern Frontier District (NFD) was to remain an inalienable part of
Kenya. The British were, in fact, much more concerned to placate
the strongly expressed views of Kenyatta and other Kenyans than
to accommodate Somali claims. The Somali government, therefore,
broke off diplomatic relations with Britain and encouraged Somali
insurgents in the NFD to wage a guerrilla war with Kenya, which
lasted for more than four years. Likewise, border skirmishes devel-
oped along the frontier between Somalia and Ethiopia and erupted
into large-scale inconclusive ¬ghting from 1964 onwards. Soviet as-
sistance in building up the Somali army had already begun before
this, but it was only after the military coup of 1969, which installed
General Siad Barre as head of state, that Soviet involvement in So-
malia increased on a massive scale and began to be a fundamental
factor in all of the countries of the Horn.

Libya and the Maghrib

Between Egypt and the French-ruled Maghrib lay the sprawling
country of Libya, which had formed part of the African empire of
Italy. Libya™s road to independence, like that of Ethiopia, Eritrea,
and Somalia, was determined primarily by the results of the Sec-
ond World War. The British, during their North African campaigns
of 1942 and 1943, had entered into close and secret relations with
Sayyed Idris, the temporal head of the Sanusi brotherhood which
had organised the bedouin resistance to the Italians during the 1920s
and 1930s (see Chapter 14). From his place of exile in Egypt, Idris
directed the Sanusi nomads of the western desert to help the British
forces ¬ghting the Italians and, in particular, to protect an impor-
tant line of communication for military supplies which crossed the
Sahara from the Free French colony of Chad. Following the expul-
sion of the Italians from Libya in 1943, Idris returned to his country
Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 237

with full British support for his claim to be its ruler. There were still a
number of problems which had to be solved before he could be recog-
nised as king of a united and independent Libya, however. While the
Italians had found their main dif¬culty in extending their rule from
the settled, mainly Berber populations of the coastal cities to the no-
madic Arab pastoralists of the interior, Idris now encountered the
reverse problem of making the rule of the bedouin acceptable to
the more sophisticated and cosmopolitan people of the coast. While
the problem was being resolved, the country remained, with the con-
sent of the United Nations, under the administration of its wartime
conquerors. The two northern provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolita-
nia remained under a British administration which, while strongly
favouring the claims of Idris, was anxious to retain control until
those claims were ¬rmly established. The southern province, that of
the Fezzan, had been occupied during the war by the Free French
from Chad, who were in no hurry to move out of the frontier region,
since the Sanusi brotherhood was as strong in Chad as in Libya and
might all too easily inspire an irredentist movement in the French
colony. In 1949, therefore, the UN began to play a hastening role,
sending its own commissioner to work out a constitution acceptable
to the country as a whole. At last, in 1951, a constituent assembly
drawn from all three provinces declared Idris king of Libya, and
the new state began its independent existence in December of that
year. For more than a decade following, Libya remained a poverty-
stricken backwater, heavily dependent on British and American aid
and on the military agreements which Idris had made with the west-
ern countries. Its economic situation was transformed only in 1965,
when the discovery of large oil resources under the desert suddenly
converted Libya into the wealthiest country in Africa in terms of in-
come per head of population. Only then was the stage set for the
emergence of Colonel Gadda¬ as one of the most in¬‚uential and
¬‚amboyant military dictators of the postcolonial world.
The Maghrib was divided during the colonial period into Algeria,
which was administered as a part of France, and the two ¬‚anking
protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia. There was no essential differ-
ence between the state of nationalist opinion in the three countries.
The vast majority of all their populations were solidly Muslim and
Arabic-speaking. Their leaders looked to Cairo and the Arab League
238 Africa since 1800

for support in their struggle and were also affected by developments
toward independence in Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. The difference
between them was mainly one of strategy, which arose from the dif-
fering degrees of French commitment. It was obvious to all that if
France would adopt delaying tactics in the protectorates, in Algeria
it would ¬ght to the bitter end.
In Morocco, the sultan had made himself the central ¬gure of the
nationalist movement. He refused to give his consent to French laws
banning the Istiqlal and other nationalist parties. In a desperate at-
tempt to overcome the resistance to their rule in Morocco, the French
sided with the nomadic pastoralists of the Atlas mountains, who
were traditionally hostile to the sultanate. In 1953, the French de-
posed Muhammad V, and exiled him ¬rst to Corsica and later to
Madagascar. The tribal kaid Thami al-Glawi was made sultan in his
place. This act made Muhammad V the popular hero of Morocco
and more than ever the symbol of the country™ s hopes. Unrest broke
out with the formation of an Army of Liberation by the nationalist
groups. The French were forced to admit defeat and to agree to the
principle of independence for Morocco. In November 1955, Muham-
mad returned to his country and was reinstated as sultan. A broadly
representative delegation, including the Istiqlal, negotiated with the
French, and Morocco became independent in March 1956. A simi-
lar agreement was made with the Spanish government in respect to
the northern zone. Thus, after only forty-four years under European
control, Morocco became once more a united independent kingdom.
As soon as Morocco became independent, King Muhammad™s gov-
ernment began to stake claims to parts of neighbouring territories
which it had ruled at various times in the past. In 1957, it invaded the
Spanish colony of Rio de Oro, which stretched along a 600-mile fog-
bound coastline opposite the Spanish Canary islands. This attempt
was ¬rmly repulsed by the Spaniards, but it did not prevent Morocco
from claiming large parts of the adjoining French colony of Maurita-
nia. This claim was undermined when the French gave independence
to Mauritania in 1960, but Morocco still refused to recognise Mau-
ritanian independence until 1969. In 1973, a nationalist movement
with the name Polisario emerged among the indigenous Saharan
people of Rio de Oro, whereupon the Spanish government agreed
that the future of the territory should be decided by a referendum.
Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 239

Morocco now went to the UN and the International Court of Justice
to press its claim. The Court upheld the validity of Morocco™s historic
claims, but nevertheless supported the right of the Saharan peo-
ple to self-determination. In 1975, Muhammad™s successor, Sultan
Hassan, led a ˜Green March™ of 350,000 Moroccan civilians to liber-
ate the Rio de Oro in the name of Islam. Spain, in the dying days of the
Franco regime, gave up the unpro¬table struggle and, in 1976, pulled
out, leaving the territory partitioned between Morocco and Maurita-
nia. Polisario was ignored in the deal, and many of the Saharans ¬‚ed
to Algeria. Polisario continued its struggle and, aided by Algeria,
established a government called the Saharan Arab Democratic
Republic (SADR), which succeeded in evicting the Mauritanians
from their part of the country in 1979. But the ¬ghting between
Polisario and Morocco continued sporadically and inconclusively
throughout the 1980s, with Polisario controlling much of the inte-
rior desert and Morocco the few towns and the phosphate deposits
in the northern coastal region. Polisario organised its refugee camps
with great ef¬ciency and introduced excellent educational facilities,
for girls and women as well as for boys. Within its own territory, the
SADR had one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.
What had started as an adventure by King Hassan for largely
domestic and dynastic reasons had become for Morocco a na-
tional cause which could not now be jettisoned. Development money
was poured into Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, and its econ-
omy and administration were increasingly integrated with those of
Morocco itself. Polisario was supplied with military hardware by
Algeria, and also by Libya and the Soviet Union. Morocco was of
great strategic importance to the United States in the politics of the
Cold War. In the Arab world, too, most governments supported King
Hassan. An OAU plan for a referendum in 1981 was rejected by both
sides, and it was only with the ending of the Cold War that the issue
of the Western Sahara declined in international importance to the
extent that the UN was able in 1990 to negotiate a cease-¬re, pending
a future referendum.
In Tunisia, it seemed at ¬rst that France would pursue a more
conciliatory policy toward emerging nationalism than it had done
in Morocco. Habib Bourguiba, the founder of the N´ o-Destoure
party (see Chapter 14), returned to his country after four years of
240 Africa since 1800

self-imposed exile, and the following year he felt able to state that
˜with independence accepted in principle, there are no more prob-
lems™. But such optimism was misplaced. Increasing resistance to
constitutional change came from the French and Italian settlers
in the country. It came also from the French governor“general of
Algeria, who feared the effect on that country of having an inde-
pendent Tunisia as neighbour. In 1952, Bourguiba was arrested, and
disturbances broke out which the French were unable to control. By
1954, moreover, France was ¬ghting a full-scale war against the na-
tionalists in Algeria, and had neither the will nor the military forces
to break a serious revolt in Tunisia. As in Morocco, therefore, France
chose to give way to the nationalist movement. In 1955, Bourguiba
was released. Tunisia became independent in March 1956, at the
same time as Morocco. But relations with France became strained
once more in 1961 when, at the time of the Evian negotiations be-
tween France and the Algerian nationalists, Bourguiba demanded
the evacuation of French troops from the military base at Bizerta.
Violent ¬ghting broke out and continued until France agreed to com-
plete the evacuation by June 1962. By that time, a large proportion
of the European community in Tunisia had left the country. After
the Bizerta crisis, Tunisia and France became more closely aligned
again. There was substantial French investment in the development
of Tunisia™s varied agricultural resources, which ensured a measure
of economic and social stability in the newly independent state.
In Algeria, the ¬rst outbreak of nationalist violence occurred
within a few days of the end of the Second World War, when po-
lice ¬red upon a procession at S´ tif. Enraged Muslims turned upon
the French settlers, and the French replied with ruthless retaliation.
More than 100 Europeans and many thousands of Muslims were
killed. This grim experience gave many Algerians their ¬rst intima-
tions of nationhood. In 1946, Ferhat Abbas, who in 1934 had doubted
the existence of an Algerian fatherland (see Chapter 14), was able to
write, ˜The Algerian personality, the Algerian fatherhood, which I
could not ¬nd among the Muslims in 1934, I ¬nd there today. The
change that has taken place is visible to the naked eye, and cannot
be ignored™. But the French, nevertheless, ignored this growing Alge-
rian nationalism. For eight years, from 1945 until 1953, France had
been ¬ghting “ and losing “ a bitter war to reestablish her control
Road to Independence: North and North-East Africa 241

over her richest and most populous colonial territory in Indo“China,
where the terminal military disaster at Dien Bien Phu was felt to
be a national humiliation of catastrophic proportions. The effect of
the Indo“Chinese war on French policy elsewhere was, on the one
hand, to speed up thoughts of decolonisation in Black Africa and
the North African protectorates, but on the other hand to be totally
unyielding about Algeria, where 1 million pieds noirs had relations
all over the mother country. No French ministry in the long series
of weak governments which followed one another at frequent inter-
vals from 1945 to 1958 could face the unpopularity of abandoning
what was still, constitutionally, a part of metropolitan France. The
Muslim uprising there of 1954 was in¬‚uenced by events in Morocco


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