Key points colonial development strategies

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  • The winning of independence in British west Africa



Sierra Leone and The Gambia

  • The struggle for independence in the Maghrib

Morocco and Tunisia

Western Sahara


  • Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia





Colonial development strategies

  • British and French established funds for colonial development

  • Most directed to areas controlled by European colonists: mining, settler agriculture, mechanised timber felling

  • Intervention in African agriculture: ill-conceived and unsuccessful

  • Sudanese Djazira cotton irrigation expanded

  • French irrigation of cotton and rice, upper Niger (Mali) failed

  • British groundnut scheme, Tanganyika: failed

  • Colonial concept of Africa: exporter of raw materials, importer of manufactured goods

  • 1950s: boom period for African commodities, disguised the shortcomings of the reliance on exports

  • Beginning of government expenditure on health (malaria prevention);

  • and education: mostly primary schooling – 3-4% teenagers in secondary school in 1960

  • New universities: Ibadan, Legon, Khartoum, Makerere

  • French assumed higher education in France

  • Colonial aim: gradual move towards internal self-government, within the French and British empires

  • Rising tide of African nationalism seized the initiative from the colonial powers

  • French and British conceded political control in belief they could retain economic power

  • Colonies of white settlement (Algeria, Kenya, Rhodesia + South Africa [technically no longer a colony]) determined to resist all moves towards independence

  • Portugal and Belgium had no plans for reform

The winning of independence in British west Africa


  • 1946 new Gold Coast constitution – African majority, but mostly appointed by chiefs

  • British hoped to continue their ‘indirect rule’ through chiefs

  • African professionals and businessmen set up United Gold Coast Convention

  • Demanded elected not appointed representatives

  • Nkrumah, [at Pan-African Congress of 1945], general secretary UGCC – determined to push for independence

  • 1948, police fire on ex-servicemen’s protest at inflation – sparked riots

  • British blamed Nkrumah and UGCC leadership – imprisoned

  • Riots proved power of mass action: on release, Nkrumah founded Convention People’s Party (CPP) – mass membership, ‘Positive Action’ demonstrations, Nkrumah re-arrested

  • 1951 constitution, partially elected Assembly, CPP won majority – Nkrumah released to become leader of government business in parliament

  • Negotiations with governor for full internal self-government by 1954 – CPP won elections: Nkrumah Prime Minister

  • Independence March 1957

  • CPP opposed in Asante (especially by cocoa farmers who resented continuation of marketing board and price controls)

  • National Liberation Movement (Asante-based) to oppose CPP


  • 35 million population (1953) – large and disunited

  • 1944: National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC), Azikiwe (editor West African Pilot) – supposedly national, but main support from Igbo (south-east)

  • Other regional parties: Yoruba Action Group and Northern People’s Congress (Hausa/Fulani)

  • Independence delay over federal or unitary government: conservative Muslim northerners feared domination by ‘Europeanised’ southerners

  • Federal constitution: independence 1960, northerner, Balewa, as Prime Minister

Sierra Leone and The Gambia

  • SL independence = victory of Mende elite over formerly dominant Freetown Creoles

  • British considered possible union of The Gambia with Senegal

  • Gambian nationalists opposed, delayed independence until 1965

The winning of independence in French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa

  • French determined to keep colonies part of ‘Greater France’

  • 1946 abolition of hated indigénat and corvée labour laws

  • Ten African delegates elected to French National Assembly (2.5% of seats – equality would have given Africans 50%)

  • Delegates formed Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), led by Houphouet-Boigny (Côte d’Ivoire), but regional diversity prevented unity

  • 1948 Senghor founded Bloc Démocratique Sénegalais (BDS)

  • 1951 DBS won both Senegalese seats

  • Dispute among delegates: federation or individual territories

  • Senghor favoured federation – Dakar had been colonial capital of French West Africa

  • Houphouet-Boigny feared Côte d’Ivoire’s wealth would subsidise poorer parts of FWA

  • 1956: full internal self-government in French Africa

  • 1958: de Gaulle’s choice: independence now, or continue links with France

  • Guinea voted for independence – French cut them off completely

  • Guinea supported by Ghana and Soviet Union

  • 1960: De Gaulle agreed independence for rest of French Africa (13 countries)

The struggle for independence in the Maghrib

Morocco and Tunisia

  • French ‘Protectorate’ of Morocco, ruled through Sultan

  • Sultan Muhammad V sided with nationalist movement demanding independence

  • French exiled Muhammad

  • Public protest forced his return

  • National hero, became king Muhammad V at independence 1956

  • Tunisia also independent 1956 (Habib Bourguiba)

Western Sahara

  • Rio d’Oro, Spanish withdrew 1976, partitioned between Mauritania and Morocco

  • Indigenous Arab-Berbers formed Polisario Front to resist this foreign occupation of ‘Sahara Arab Democratic Republic’ (Western Sahara)

  • Guerrilla war, aid from Algeria

  • Mauritania withdrew 1979, Morocco continued occupation

  • Some international recognition, but Moroccans sent in settlers to force a majority if UN ever forced a referendum


  • France’s principal colony of white settlement – 2 million colons 1945

  • Muslim demonstrations fired on by police – rioting and retaliation, 100 French and 8000 Muslims killed

  • French reforms of 1946-7 = too little too late

  • 1954: war launched by Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), French troops in, escalation of war

  • 1958, 500 000 French troops, bitter war, hundreds of thousands killed

  • 1962 French forced to negotiate independence – President Ahmed Ben Bella –

  • 1965, Ben Bella replaced by army commander, Boumedienne


  • British wartime occupation, independence 1951, King Idris (of Sanusiyya Muslim Brotherhood)

  • 1960s huge oil reserves in desert

  • 1969, Idris replaced in coup by Colonel Mu’ammar Gaddafi

  • Gaddafi preached return to non-materialist Muslim values

  • Sponsored Anti-Western tendencies

  • Many distrusted his ambitions

Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia


  • 1944: Egypt regained independence from British wartime occupation

  • 1948-9: defeat in Arab-Israeli war

  • 1952: coup, King Farouk and old Ottoman regime overthrown – blamed for defeat

  • 1954: Colonel Gamal ’Abd al-Nasir, President of Egypt

  • Aim: land reform – redistribute large estates among peasantry

  • 1956 nationalised Suez Canal (French owned)

  • Profits to finance raising Aswan Dam

  • French and British occupy canal

  • Forced withdrawal: Egyptian resistance, + USA and Soviet pressure

  • Nasir nationalised all remaining French and British assets in Egypt

  • Ended century of European domination of economy

  • Nasir: leader of ‘Arab world’ – Egypt renamed: ‘The United Arab Republic’


  • North and south ruled separately for most of colonial period

  • 1954: Egypt gave up claims to authority in Sudan

  • Northerners dominated negotiations for independence

  • Southern politicians demanded federation

  • 1955: military rebellion in south

  • Britain airlifted northern troops to south – start of first civil war (1955-72) and beginning of long-term ‘occupation’ of south by north

  • Britain hastily negotiated independence (1 Jan. 1956)

  • Unitary government constitution imposed by north

  • Islamisation campaign in south to ‘enforce’ unity – civil war dominated country’s history


  • 1941: occupied by British

  • British favoured strong alliance with Christian Ethiopia

  • 1952: Muslim Eritrea handed to Ethiopia, giving them access to sea (lost since 16th century Ottoman occupation)

  • Self-governing state within federation

  • Ethiopia incorporated Eritrea as province within empire

  • Muslim/Marxist liberation movements start (30-year) independence struggle from Ethiopian imperialism


  • Somalis divided: (1) Ogaden to Ethiopia, (2) Awash estuary/port to France (Djibouti), (3) northern coast to British Somaliland, (4) central and southern to Italy, (5) south-west to Britain/Kenya

  • Independence 1960, united (3) and (4) only

  • Nationalists seeking ‘Greater Somalia’

  • Somalis divided: late-1960s election: 1000 candidates, 68 parties, for 123 parliamentary seats

  • Coup by General Siad Barre, 1969, to resolve corruption and establish unity

  • Aim of ‘Greater Somalia’ brought war with Ethiopia over Ogaden

  • Barre’s ‘scientific socialism’ got Soviet support

  • 1974: Soviets switched support to Marxist Ethiopia –

  • 1978 Somali troops expelled from Ogaden

  • Cold War: USA supported ‘socialist’ Somalia – US military base at Berbera

  • Barre’s development projects favouring south

  • Northern separatist movement: bombarded by Barre

  • Increasingly oppressive regime – reversion to clan-based loyalties

  • Jan. 1991: Barre fled leaving national disintegration

© Kevin Shillington, 2012

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