(The UN and INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENTS – continued)
Empress Victoria down in Guiana
In the eyes of their colonial subjects, Britain and France had lost prestige during World War II. Moreover, the Atlantic Charter created by Roosevelt and Churchill in 1941 had stated that their principle in fighting World War II was to "respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live." Many colonized people, especially the educated African, wondered why this should not apply to them, and they wanted that freedom.
During the war, Africa benefited from demand in Europe for its exports. By the end of World War II, Africa had experienced considerable economic growth and social change. In greater numbers people were moving to cities. After the war came a temporary setback as the demand for African goods diminished. But by the 1950s prosperity was returning, and Africans were exporting more than ever before. They were building roads and harbors and dredging rivers. They were building more extensive rail and telegraphic networks. In 1951, Cocoa exports from Britain's Gold Coast colony rose to 230,000 tons, up from about 1,000 tons in 1901. In 1954, Uganda exported 398,000 bales of cotton, up from 500 in 1906. Africans were participating in this economic growth and benefiting from it. And they wanted to have a voice in maintaining and increasing their prosperity.
Some who favored independence believed in individual enterprise, profits and incentives. Some African intellectuals held onto Leftist dreams, and they demonized capitalism. One of the Leftist dreamers was Kwame Nkrumah, a man Christianized by missionary schools. In 1939 he had graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology and economics from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast after World War II and joined the independence movement there. In 1949 he led a split within the movement from the more conservative, middleclass adherents. Nkrumah was more interested in mobilizing the masses than were the conservative intellectuals, and Nkrumah formed his own political party, the Convention People's Party.
The Gold Coast was the first to win its independence, becoming an independent dominion in 1957. Britain had prepared the Gold Coast for independence, believing that independence was inevitable and seeing itself as living up to its duty and declared aim. The Gold Coast became Ghana, which emerged as a parliamentary democracy. Its leader was Nkrumah, who had personal ties with the British and kept some British around as advisors. Nkrumah wished to create a truly democratic state. In his speeches he was inclined to include references to such men as Edmund Burke and Aristotle. And he was admired. On the day of Ghana's independence crowds filled with joy cheered his speech and cheered him. Nkrumah was their hero.
With Ghana having won its independence, other African nations increased their demand for independence, putting more pressure on France and Belgium as well as Britain. While the French were heavily committed to their war in Algeria, a Leftist in Guinea, Sekou Touré, led a movement that sought independence outside "the French Community," and with hostility, the French pulled out of Guinea, taking all they could with them, including the phones from the walls of their offices. And the French gave up rule elsewhere south of Morocco and Algeria. In 1960 the French granted complete independence to Senegal, Niger, Togo, Dahomey, Gabon, Chad, Mauritania, Mali (east and south of Mauritania), the Ivory Coast, Ubangi-Shari, which became the Central African Republic, and the area that includes the cities of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire which became the Congo Republic.
In 1960 the British granted full independence to Nigeria. In 1961, the British granted independence to Tanganyika, which the British had been ruling under a United Nations mandate. In 1962, the British gave Uganda its independence. That year, Belgium granted independence to Rwanda and Burundi, former German colonial territory that Belgium had been administering as trust territories – just west of Lake Victoria.
Observers in the Kremlin had no illusions about Africa being on the verge of Communist revolution. They described African nationalist movements as "bourgeois" and thoroughly un-proletarian. But the Soviet Union did what it could to improve relations with the newly independent African states, including offering low interest loans for economic development. The Soviet Union opened an embassy in Ghana in 1959. Anti-Communists in the United States and Europe were alarmed – as Vice President Richard Nixon had been when he returned from a visit to Africa in 1957 and reported that Africa was a new area of conflict "between the forces of freedom and international Communism." The Eisenhower administration feared that nationalist movements in Africa would be dangerously Leftist, as had been the nationalist movements in Asia. The Eisenhower administration gave only unenthusiastic endorsement for independence in Africa. And when Sekou Touré, an avowed socialist, requested aide for economic assistance for Guinea, the Eisenhower administration ignored it.
Abruptly in 1960 the Belgians pulled out of the Congo. They had done little to prepare the Congo for independence, and the Congo erupted into factional fighting, with the southeastern part of the Congo, Katanga, attempting separation. In Katanga were the copper mines owned by Belgium's Union Minière. The mining company and Belgian troops were backing Katanga's independence and Maurice Tshombe. The duly elected prime minister of the newly independent Congo was Patrice Lumumba, who opposed Katanga's breaking away. Lumumba sought help from the United Nations. He had the support of other African leaders, including Kwame Nkrumah. The United Nations dithered, leaving Lumumba frustrated. The United States offered no help. Lumumba sought the help offered from the Soviet Union. A CIA dispatch to Washington (18 august 1960) labeled Lumumba as "a commie playing the commie game." CIA chief, Lawrence Devlin, had close contacts with the Congolese commander Colonel Joseph Mobutu and the U.S. ambassador in the region, Clare Hayes Timerlake. Lumumba was taken prisoner by Mobuto's forces, degraded, beaten and murdered. And across Africa anti-American riots erupted.
Because of the greater number of white settlers in East Africa, working toward independence there was more difficult for the British. The whites were as opposed to handing a fair share of power to blacks and others as had been the whites in Algeria. In Kenya, frustration among the Kikuyu (about 20 percent of the population) led to rebellion in 1952 – known as the Mau Mau uprising. The Kikuyu were unhappy about their lack of power, their having been driven off much of their land and their unemployment and lives of poverty in the city of Nairobi and other towns.
The Mau Mau uprising was loosely organized, or perhaps it was more of a spontaneous rising of uncoordinated groups who hid in Kenya's jungles and struck at the fringes of white held areas. The British were able to crush the rebellion after five years of struggle – with about 90,000 Kikuyu having been put into concentration camps, more than a million Kikuyu and Embu civilians having been shifted into "secure" areas, and perhaps as many as 10,000 blacks killed. British firepower had proven supreme, the British losing only about 100 killed. They maintained their rule over 15 million blacks.
But Britain could not afford to keep a large force in Kenya to maintain its military victory, and it began to organize the turning over of power to the black Africans, to a government that would respect the minority white and Asian presence and maintain economic ties with Britain.
They found such a government under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, who had been the undisputed Kikuyu leader since the 1940s. Kenyatta had studied anthropology in Britain and had worked hard since the 1930s for reform, and he was revered by the Kikuyu. Kenyatta denounced Mau Mau terrorism, but the British had held him responsible for the uprising, had put him in prison in 1952 and had held him there for nine years. In 1963, the British granted Kenya its independence. Most of the Europeans – 50,000 of them – chose to remain in Kenya, confident that they could survive well enough under black rule. And Kenyatta entered Kenyan independence realistic about the difficulties that lay ahead. In his first speech as president he warned of the hard work which lay ahead and the need to save themselves from poverty, ignorance and disease, to educate their children and to have doctors, to build roads and to improve or provide all day-to-day essentials.
Rhodesia had experienced impressive economic growth, the benefits of which were far from equally shared between Europeans and blacks – in 1961 the Europeans on average earning fifteen times that of blacks. In an effort to surrender more power to blacks and prevent more uprisings like that of the Mau Mau rebellion, Britain separated Southern Rhodesia from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. On July 6, 1964 Nyasaland became the independent state of Malawi. And on October 24 that same year, Northern Rhodesia became Zambia.
Southern Rhodesia remained a British colony, 250,000 persons of European descent there holding power over 16 times their number: 4,000,000 blacks. Europeans continued calling it simply Rhodesia. And in November 1965 the Europeans there, led by their prime minister, Ian Smith, unilaterally declared itself independent. – within the Commonwealth of Nations.
"Indonesia's war for independence," http://www.gimonca.com/sejarah/sejarah08.html
India after Gandhi: a History of the World's Largest Democracy, by Ramachandra Guha, 2007
"Mohammed Ali Jinah's March 22, 1940, demand for a Seperate Homeland for Muslims," http://www.kashmir-information.com/LegalDocs/69.html
"Mahatma Gandhi," http://www.mkgandhi.org
A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, by Alistair Horne, 2006
The War Without a Name: France in Algeria, 1954-1962, by John Talbott, 1980
Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough, starring Ben Kingsley, 1983
Battle of Algiers, 1966
Copyright © 2000-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.