Colonial flag of British Nigeria The flag of Nigeria today

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British influence in the Niger area increased gradually over the 19th century, but Britain did not effectively occupy the area until 1885, and then under competition from France and Germany. The slave trade was engaged in by European state and non-state actors such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and private companies, as well as various African states and non-state actors. With rising anti-slavery sentiment at home and changing economic realities, Great Britain outlawed the international slave trade in 1807. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain established the West Africa Squadron in an attempt to halt the international traffic in slaves. In 1885, British claims to a West African sphere of influence received recognition from other European nations. The following year, it chartered the Royal Niger Company under the leadership of Sir George Taubman Goldie. In 1900 the company's territory came under the control of the British government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. On 1 January 1901, Nigeria became a British protectorate, and part of the British Empire, the foremost world power at the time.

The independent kingdoms of what would become Nigeria fought many wars against the British Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries trying to regain independence. Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. By the middle of the 20th century, a great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa. Nigeria achieved independence in 1960.

Colonial flag of British Nigeria The flag of Nigeria today


In April 1882 Great Britain sent warships to Alexandria to protect European lives and property. Egypt was in the hands of nationalists opposed to European domination of the country and the new revolutionary government began nationalizing all assets in Egypt. Anti-European violence broke out in Alexandria, prompting a British naval bombardment of the city. The purpose of the attack had been to restore political stability to Egypt under a government of the Khedive and international controls which were in place to streamline Egyptian financing since 1876. It is unlikely that the British expected a long-term occupation from the outset; however, Lord Cromer, Britain's Chief Representative in Egypt at the time, viewed Egypt's financial reforms as part of a long-term objective. Cromer took the view that political stability needed financial stability, and embarked on a program of long term investment in Egypt's productive resources, above all in the cotton economy, the mainstay of the country's export earnings.

The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, also known as the 23 July Revolution, began on 23 July 1952, by the Free Officers Movement, a group of army officers led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser. This movement sought to abolish the constitutional monarchy and aristocracy of Egypt and Sudan, establish a republic, and end the British occupation of the country. The revolutionary government adopted a staunchly nationalist, anti-imperialist agenda, which came to be expressed chiefly through Arab nationalism, and international non-alignment.


Pyramids at Giza The Egyptian flag

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Colonial rule in the Congo began in the late 19th century. King Leopold II of Belgium, frustrated by Belgium's lack of international power and prestige, attempted to persuade the Belgian government to support colonial expansion around the then-largely unexplored Congo Basin. The Belgian government's doubt about the idea led Leopold to eventually create the colony on his own account. With support from a number of Western countries, who viewed Leopold as a useful buffer between rival colonial powers, Leopold achieved international recognition for a personal colony, the Congo Free State, in 1885. By the turn of the century, however, the violence of Free State officials against indigenous Congolese and the ruthless system of economic extraction had led to intense diplomatic pressure on Belgium to take official control of the country, which it did in 1908, creating the Belgian Congo.

In 1960, as the result of a widespread and increasingly radical pro-independence movement, the Congo achieved independence, becoming the Republic of Congo-Léopoldville under Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Kasa-Vubu. Poor relations between factions within the Congo, the continued involvement of Belgium in Congolese affairs and the Cold War led to a five-year long period of war and political instability, known as the Congo Crisis, from 1960 to 1965 which ended with the seizure of power by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu.

King Leopold II of Belgium Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

South Africa

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior started the Mineral Revolution and increased economic growth and immigration. This intensified the European-South African conquest of the indigenous people. The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor in relations between Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Boers and the British. Boer, is the term for a native farmer of this region.

On 31 May 1961, the country became a republic following a referendum in which white voters narrowly voted in favour thereof. Queen Elizabeth II was stripped of the title Queen of South Africa, and the last Governor-General, namely Charles Robberts Swart, became State President. Despite opposition both within and outside the country, the government legislated for a continuation of apartheid. Apartheid means, “A separation of races.” The government harshly oppressed resistance movements, and violence became widespread, with anti-apartheid activists using strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage by bombing and other means.

On April 27, 1994, Nelson Mandela, an anti-Apartheid activist, was elected the first, black President of South Africa. When Mandela began his term on 10 May 1994, he presided over the transition from minority rule and ended the practice of apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

President Nelson Mandela of South Africa Flag of South Africa


In the late 19th century, Imperial Germany conquered the regions that are now Tanzania (minus Zanzibar) and incorporated them into German East Africa. The post–World War I peace treaty (a war Germany lost and Great Britain won) and the League of Nations charter designated the area a British Mandate. Control of Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, eventually came into the hands of the British Empire; part of the political motivation for this was the 19th century movement for the abolition of the slave trade. Zanzibar was the center of the Arab slave trade. Ships from the British Royal Navy were employed to enforce the anti-slavery treaties by capturing any boats carrying slaves, but with only four ships patrolling a huge area of sea, the British navy found it hard to enforce the treaties as ships from France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the United States continued to carry slaves.

British rule came to an end in 1961 after a relatively peaceful (compared with neighboring Kenya, for instance) transition to independence. The island of Zanzibar gained independence from the British in December 1963 as a constitutional monarchy. A month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution in which up to 20,000 of Arabs and Indians were killed in a genocide and thousands more expelled, led to the establishment of the People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba.

Monument to the slaves of Zanzibar Flag of Tanzania


The colonial history of Kenya dates from the establishment of a German protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar's coastal possessions in 1885, followed by the arrival of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888. Initial colonial rivalries were anticipated when Germany handed its coastal holdings to Britain in 1890. This was followed by the building of the Kenya–Uganda railway passing through the country. This was resisted by some ethnicities — notably the Nandi, still the British eventually built the railway. The Nandi were the first ethnicity to be put in a concentration camp to stop them from disrupting the building of the railway. In 1920 the East Africa Protectorate was turned into a colony and renamed Kenya, for its highest mountain. While building the railroad through Tsavo, a number local African laborers were attacked by two lions known as the Tsavo man-eaters.

From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule. The British killed more than 4,000 Mau Mau during this time. Seeking to end their occupation of Kenya and devote resources elsewhere, the first direct elections for native Kenyans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Despite British hopes of handing power to "moderate" local rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta that formed a government shortly before Kenya became independent on 12 December 1963, on the same day forming the first Constitution of Kenya.

On 12 December 1964 the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed, and Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya's first president.

The Tsavo Maneaters on display at the Field Flag of Kenya

Musuem of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.


The French invaded and captured Algeria in 1830. The conquest of Algeria by the French took some time and resulted in considerable bloodshed. A combination of violence and disease epidemics caused the indigenous Algerian population to decline by nearly one-third from 1830 to 1872. The population of Algeria, which stood at about 1.5 million in 1830, reached nearly 11 million in 1960. French policy was based on "civilizing" the country. Algeria's social fabric suffered during the occupation: literacy plummeted. To force French rule in Algeria, French troops would burn native Algerian’s crops in a “scorched earth” policy. During this period, a small but influential French-speaking indigenous elite was formed, made up of Berbers mostly from Kabyles. Algeria became a destination for hundreds of thousands of European immigrants. Between 1825 and 1847, 50,000 French people moved to Algeria.

Gradually, dissatisfaction among the Muslim population, which lacked political and economic status in the colonial system, gave rise to demands for independence from France. Tensions between the two population groups came to a head in 1954, when the first violent events of what was later called the Algerian War began. Historians have estimated that between 30,000 and 150,000 Harkis and their dependents were killed by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) or by lynch mobs in Algeria. The FLN used terrorist attacks in Algeria and France as part of its war, and the French conducted severe reprisals and repression. The war concluded in 1962, when Algeria gained complete independence following the March 1962 Evian agreements and the July 1962 self-determination referendum.

Traffic sign in Algeria shows evidence Flag of Algeria

of cultural diffusion as it reads

in Arabic, Berber, and French.


Arab traders moved inland from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s. They were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879. Great Britain placed the area under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888, and ruled it as a protectorate from 1894. In the 1890s, 32,000 laborers from British India were recruited to East Africa under indentured labor contracts to work on the construction of the Uganda Railway. Most of the surviving Indians returned home, but 6,724 decided to remain in East Africa after the line's completion. As several other territories and chiefdoms were integrated, the final protectorate called Uganda took shape in 1914. From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic killed more than 250,000 people.

Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962, maintaining its Commonwealth membership. The first post-independence election, held in 1962, was won by an alliance between the Uganda People's Congress (UPC). After a military coup in 1971 the dictator Idi Amin seized control of the country. Amin ruled Uganda with the military for the next eight years and carried out mass killings within the country to maintain his rule. An estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives at the hands of his regime, many of them in the north, which he associated with his opponents. Aside from his brutalities, he forcibly removed the entrepreneurial Indian minority from Uganda, which left the country's economy in ruins.

idi amin.jpg

Ugandan dictator Idi Amin liked to dress in Flag of Uganda

European-style military clothing to show off

his power and influence. This is an example

of cultural diffusion.


In 1899, Britain and Egypt reached an agreement under which Sudan was run by a governor-general appointed by Egypt with British consent. In reality Sudan was effectively administered as a British colony. The British were keen to reverse the process, started under Muhammad Ali Pasha, of uniting the Nile Valley under Egyptian leadership, and sought to frustrate all efforts aimed at further uniting the two countries. The continued British administration of Sudan fueled an increasingly strident nationalist backlash in Egypt, with Egyptian nationalist leaders determined to force Britain to recognize a single independent union of Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt and Britain both sensed a great political instability forming, and opted to allow the Sudanese in the north and south to have a free vote on independence to see whether they wished for a British withdrawal. On 1 January 1956, in a special ceremony held at the People's Palace, the Egyptian and British flags were lowered and the new Sudanese flag, composed of green, blue and white stripes, was raised in their place by the Prime Minister Ismail al-Azhari.

Sudan's flag raised at independence Flag of Sudan

ceremony on 1 January 1956 by the

Prime Minister Ismail al-Azhari.

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