TheStruggle for Independence in Africa
Thestruggle for independence in Africa occurred mainly in the 20thCentury where waves of African Independence movements were formed tofight for their freedom from the Europeans. The independencemovements formed in various African countries played a significantrole in ushering independence to their nations. Examples of thecountries that fought against the Europeans during this time includeNamibia, Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, andMadagascar. The road to independence in Africa began withdecolonization where the independence movements caused the colonialpowers to withdraw their administrations in Africa. The belief forindependence began after the First World War by the Africans who wereeducated in Western nations had the Liberalist and Marxist knowledge.These thoughts gave rise to African nationalists who began to fightfor freedom. They realized that they need to rule themselves andregain their freedom that they had lost for over half a centurytherefore, the process of decolonization became important in Africa.Additionally, the Great Depression affected the economic state ofmost African nations, and this instigated the call for independence.Various movements were formed and were strengthened by the events ofthe Second World War. The political pressure generated by theindependence movements enabled the African nations to winindependence.1
Thispaper seeks to discuss the struggle for independence in Africa fromthe colonial rule and to compare and contrasts the AfricanIndependence movements in Namibia, Angola, Kenya, and Mozambique. Thepaper will provide background information on the struggles forindependence among the four nations. Also, the paper will providesupporting evidence to the thesis.
Inthe late 19thCentury, most European powers colonized African countries takingcontrol of the African soil. The European powers colonized Africannations for economic benefits by obtaining raw materials andexpanding their markets overseas. According to Chabal (2016), thecolonization of Africa in the 16thCentury made a profound impact on the economic development of theEuropeans. The easy access to foreign lands inspired Europeans tosearch for other new territories in order to develop more new marketsand obtain raw materials. Colonialism resulted in the loss ofsovereignty by the majority of African nations as well as controlover their natural resources. The control of the African markets andnatural resources forced the local people to depend entirely oncolonizers to conduct trade. The colonial powers destroyed thepolitical structures and institutions of the locals and set up newones to replace the existing ones that were administered by them, andthis led to the loss of sovereignty by African nations.2
Thepeople in colonized nations began agitating for independence afterthe WW ll. The Second World War made the colonized people in Africato realize that their masters are vulnerable and can be defeated. Theanti-colonialism movements in the international community inspiredthe people to fight for their freedom. The colonial systems startedexperiencing unrests and resistance from the locals. They began toform independence movements that they used to frustrate the colonistin order to regain their independence back. The establishment ofindependence movements led to decolonization, as a response to thosemovements. According toJan and Osterhammel (2017),decolonization is the process of dismantling the colonization systemsby the colonized people in order to regain their self-determinationand independence. The independence movements used in fightingcolonizers differ significantly in each African country. Each countryformed distinct independence movements that enhanced their ability toachieve independence. The independence movements that were used inthe struggle for independence in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique andKenya are discussed below.3
Namibiahad been under Germany`s rule from 1884, and South Africa was giventhe authority to administer the country by the League of Nationsafter the World War I. It acquired its independence in 1990 throughthe South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), anindependence movement formed in 1964. SWAPO was led by Sam Nujoma tofight for the independence of Namibia from the Germany, and thismovement contributed to a significant historical rule of the country.During the struggle for independence, SWAPO used classic collectiontactics that facilitated their win for independence and to fightagainst the South African occupation.4
Angola’sindependence was achieved in 1975 from the Portuguese rule. Thestruggle for Angolan independence was led by the Movimento Popular deLibertacao de Angola (MPLA). MPLA was formed in 1956 that contributedto significant changes in the political history of Angola. MPLA wasled by Agostinho Neto, who became the president after the countryregained its independence. MPLA fought for the freedom of the countryin order to make it an independent communist state. The independencemovement used the motivation of the Africanism and Marxism ideology.The movement used a number of tactics to acquire freedom includingthe use of guerilla actions. For instance, MPLA used bombs such asthe one carried out in the Luanda prison, and this action providedthe movement with high popularity than other movements in thecountry.5
Kenyawon its independence from the British rule in 1963 through theindependence movement known as Mau Mau. The Mau Mau movement wasformed in the 1950s led by Jomo Kenyatta. Kenyatta utilized thesupport of both the whites and blacks in the movement to achieveindependence for the country. He allowed the Europeans and Asians tostay in the country on condition that they acknowledge the colonialrule. The Mau Mau movements comprised mainly by Kikuyus, the largestethnic group in Kenya who fought for freedom and land. Most of theseattacks targeted the white settlers and the British collaborators. Tosecure their independence, the Mau Mau movement used the guerrillawarfare tactics against the British colonialists. The formation ofthe Independence movement in Kenya was contributed to by a number offactors including the emergence of elites like Jomo Kenyatta, who hadacquired the colonial education that provided them with therealization that the locals need to rule themselves. Through the MauMau movement, the nationalist leaders attempted to express theirdemands by seeking to mobilize mass support from the people.Additionally, the intensive exploitation of local resources and thepeople by European colonies is another factor that contributed to theformation of the independence movement. The exploitation andoppression caused the people to experience discomfort, and thismotivated them to fight for their freedom.6
Mozambiqueacquired its independence in 1975 through the Mozambique LiberationFront known as FRELIMO. FRELIMO was formed in 1962 and led by EduardoMondlane. FRELIMO independence movement led the country toindependence. FRELIMO was the first independence movement to launchan attack against the Portuguese in 1964. These attacks instigatedfights that spread to other parts of the country. The movement madeuse of guerrilla tactics to fight against the Portuguese colonistswho had refused to grant Mozambique independence. Also, they receivedsupport from the western and communist states, and their fighterswere well trained and this provided them with a high chance ofdefeating the Portuguese colonists. The increase in the size of theguerilla movements and the decrease in Portuguese troops furtherstrengthened FRELIMO. Moreover, the increased military activities ofFRELIMO also reinforced its strength that enabled it to combat thePortuguese colonists.7
Theactions and tactics used by these countries in their independencemovements to achieve independence compare and contrast in significantways. For instance, both Mozambique and Angola were involved indangerous struggles for independence of their countries against thePortuguese rule. Portuguese expansion into other countries started inthe 15thcentury, and this led them to colonize most of the African Nations.Additionally, both Angola and Mozambique received direct help fromthe military from Cuba. Similarly, Angola was colonized by thePortuguese, and it also received support from Cuba and the SovietUnion during the struggle for independence. Kenya used relativelypeaceful independence movements to fight for freedom compared toMozambique, Namibia, and Angola that used a bloody struggle toreclaim their lost identity. The rebellion against the Britishcolonials took place from 1952 to 1960. Namibia was ruled by theGermany colonists and administered by South Africa for 75 years.8
Accordingto Zuberi (2015), in their struggle for independence, the Africancountries took different routes to regain their freedom. Somecountries favored the use of peaceful route towards fighting fortheir independence while others chose to use violence to acquire it.Countries that chose a peaceful path obtained their independenceunder some prearrange conditions. For example in Kenya, the Europeanswere allowed to remain in the country and work together with thelocals, and this enabled them to acquire independence without muchbloodshed. Also, in Libya, the independent political body wasestablished by the United Nations. However, in other areas of thecolonized African states, the European powers were not ready to giveup their rule and control over the local people. Therefore, thelocals were forced to use violence in order to secure theirindependence. For instance, in Mozambique and Angola, the Africannationalists were prompted to use armed attacks and guerilla warfareto fight the Europeans, and this resulted in bloodshed.9
Zuberi(2015) points out that the struggle for independence that began afterWorld War l had a profound impact on the European powers. However,most African nations began the process of decolonization after WorldWar II. During this time, the African leaders had obtained muchpolitical power under the rule of European powers and they used thosepositions to protect the interests of the locals as well as ensurethey retain control over their political and economic resources. Theincreasing demand by Africans to have control over their economic andpolitical aspects of the countries caused the European coloniesespecially those in East and North Africa to favorself-determination.10
Accordingto PedroAires(2016), most of the African countries had regained their freedom andself-determination. The process of decolonization through the use ofindependence movements became inspiring that swept the Africancontinent. By 1960, about sixteen territories attained their freedomfrom the European colonizers. By 1990, all African nations that werecolonized had gained independence from the colonists. Theindependence movements made the locals realize the remarkable changethat the independence of African countries could generate to theircountry as well as to the global politics. The movements improved thenational consciousness of Africans that made them desire to change byregaining their independence from the political rule. This is anindication that the independence movements played a crucial role inpromoting the acquisition of independence by African nations.However, despite gaining independence, the European dominanceremained significant in various aspects including in the economics,in political structures, in trade networks, in national languages,education systems and political structures. The independencemovements enabled the African nationalist to shape their politicalpaths in order to avoid the influences from the European powers whenforming governments after their obtaining independence. 11
TheAfrican independence struggles were long and they occurred atdifferent times in various nations. Pedro Aires(2016) states that the colonies that gained independent first,were those located in North Africa including Algeria, Morocco,Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. The independence of AEF and AOF in WestAfrica provided a perfect example for the problems that were beingexperienced by the independence leaders during their struggle forindependence in their countries. In East African countries, theBritish colonialists had planned to combine these countries in theregion to form an East Africa Federation. However, this did not occurbecause the struggle for independence started in this period in orderto regain their freedom.12
Accordingto Maciej (2013), the African countries used various methods in theirstruggle to free themselves from the colonial rule. These forms ofliberations include liberation by dialogue, constitution or peacefulnegotiations. In this form, the African nationalists engaged inintensive negotiations with colonialists in order to peacefullysecure their independence. Liberation by Africans revolution isanother method applied in their struggle for independence. Thismethod involves the overthrow of the existing colonial politicalsystems by the locals with the support from the masses. Revolutionwas commonly applied in colonies where freedom was only given to theminority population among the locals. This method of acquiringindependence often involves bloodshed. An armed struggle is also aform of liberation that was applied in cases where the use ofpeaceful means did not succeed, and the colonists were not willing tooffer Africans with their independence. Africans used to force suchas the guerilla warfare to secure their independence from colonists.Examples of African countries that applied this method to achieveindependence include Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia.Africans used the use of armed struggle together with theconstitution as a liberations method from the colonial rule. In thiscase, the Africans first used armed struggle to secure independenceand then utilized peaceful means or dialogue to address the issuesregarding their independence. This method was applied in Kenya andZimbabwe.13
Maciej(2013) points out that a number of factors determined the forms ofliberation used by Africans in their struggle for independence. Thesefactors include:
The presence of settlers in colonies had contributed towards the developments of colonists` economy, and this made it reluctant for them to submit their wealth to Africans. The colonists were concerned on what will become of their future if the Africans take control of the government and thus this made it difficult for them to give independence to Africans. The reluctance of the colonists to give independence prompted Africans to apply the use of armed struggle to achieve their freedom.
Another factor is the nature of the colony. For instance, the colonies that were referred to as overseas provinces by the colonials were considered to be their compulsory land. Therefore, in this case, the colonialists were reluctant to grant Africans with independence. This forced Africans to use armed struggle to achieve their independence. This case occurred in Mozambique, Angola, and Kenya.
The strength of the economy of the colony was also a factor that determined the form of liberation. For instance, colonies such as in Zimbabwe and South Africa where there were high development and huge investments made the colonials not to give Africans their independence. This prompted Africans to apply force to obtain independence from the colonials.
The financial position of the colonials in the economy also determined the means that was used by Africans to acquire independence. For instance, colonies that were under Portuguese rule did not have a good economic position and therefore, they depended greatly on the African colonies for their development. Their dependence caused the Portuguese not to be ready to grant Africans their independence, and this prompted Africans to apply armed struggle to secure their freedom from colonial domination.
The status of the colony also determined the method of liberation. For instance, colonies such as those that were the United Nations (UN) Trust ship were able to obtain independence through peaceful methods. This is because the colonialists were pressured by the United States and the UN. Additionally, the presence of peasant cash crops enabled these colonies to acquire their independence through peaceful means. The colonists granted Africans colonies that had developed peasant cash crops their independence because they realized they can use neo-colonialism to continue utilizing the African resources.
Moreover, the nature of reaction by Africans towards colonialists defined the type of liberation to be applied. For example, African communities that were cooperative with the colonialists used peaceful means or dialogue to secure their independence. Consequently, the presence of wealth particularly minerals made the colonialists to experience difficulties in surrendering their wealth because granting Africans independence meant parting their wealth. This prompted Africans to use force to achieve their independence.14
TheAfrican Independence movement played an important role incontributing to the achievement of independence from the colonialrule. African countries formed independent movements to make theirdemands for acquiring freedom and self-determination. The colonizedAfrican countries used different tactics in their struggle forindependence including peaceful means and violent means such as theuse of bombings, guerrilla warfare, and armed struggle. The tacticsused to fight for independence were determined by a number of factorsincluding the presence of settlers in colonies, thestatus of the colony, and the financialposition of the colonials in the economy and the strength of theeconomy.
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Jansen,Jan C., and Jürgen Osterhammel. Decolonization:A Short History.Princeton University Press, 2017.
Oliveira,Pedro Aires. "Saved by the Civil War: African ‘Loyalists’ inthe Portuguese Armed Forces and Angola`s Transition to Independence."TheInternational History Review(2016): 1-17.
Wantchékon,Léonard, and Omar García-Ponce. "Critical junctures:independence movements and democracy in Africa." (2013).
Zuberi,Tukufu. Africanindependence: How Africa shapes the world.Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015.
1 Chabal, Patrick. Power in Africa: an essay in political interpretation. Springer, 2016.
3 Jansen, Jan C., and Jürgen Osterhammel. Decolonization: A Short History. Princeton University Press, 2017.
4 Wantchékon, Léonard, and Omar García-Ponce. "Critical junctures: independence movements and democracy in Africa." (2013).
9 Zuberi, Tukufu. African independence: How Africa shapes the world. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015.
11 Oliveira, Pedro Aires. "Saved by the Civil War: African ‘Loyalists’ in the Portuguese Armed Forces and Angola`s Transition to Independence." The International History Review (2016): 1-17.