Africa’s year of wonder

Africa's Year of wonder

Africa History Blog III

On 26 August 1789, the French Déclaration des Droits d l’homme et du Citoyen first postulated the right of people to free themselves from unjust (colonial) rule and the right to self-determination. 130 years later, with the creation of the League of Nations (the predecessor of the UN) a right to self-determination was still not granted for all people around the world (Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law).

From the paternalistic perspective of 19th and early 20th century political thinking, the process of decolonization was only possible in an educated and civilized  society. Only in such a society would self-determination and recognition as an equal sovereign partner in international relations be granted (Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law).

It took until 1960, for the UN to initiate its first legal attempt of decolonization and the right of self-determination for colonies (14 December 1960 Decolonization Declaration of the UN General Assembly).

Lumumba in Brussels, January 1960

World War I

Following the defeat of Germany and Ottoman Turkey in World War I, their Asian and African colonies (which were judged not yet ready to govern themselves) were distributed among the victorious Allied powers. Countries were divided into three classes on the basis of their location and their level of political and economic development (Britannica; Saylor).

Class A Mandate

These territories were considered sufficiently advanced that their provisional independence was recognized. All Class A mandates had reached full independence by 1949

Mesopotamia
(given to UK)

From 10 August 1920 to 3 October 1932; Now Iraq

Syria
(given to France)

29 September 1923 to 1 January 1944 (mandate includes Lebanon; following the termination of the French mandate, two separate independent republics – Syria and Lebanon – were formed)

Palestine
(given to UK)

From 25 April 1920 to 15 May 1948 (following the termination of the remainder of the Palestine mandate, most of the territory became part of the State of Israel)

Class B Mandate

All former Schutzgebiete (German territories) in West and Central Africa which were deemed to require a greater level of control by the mandatory power

Tanganyika (given to UK)

From 20 July 1922 to 11 December 1946; On April 26 1964, Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar to become Tanzania.

Ruanda-Urundi (given to Belgium)

From 20 July 1922 to 13 December 1946. Now Rwanda and Burundi (Remained under Belgian administration until the separate nations of Rwanda and Burundi gained independence on 1 July 1962)

Kamerun (given to UK and France)

Was split on 20 July 1922 into British Cameroons and French Cameroun (27 August 1940). On December 13 1946 it was transformed into United Nations Trust Territories (again British and French Trust)

Togoland (given to UK and France)

Was split into British Togoland and French Togoland (29 July 1922); transformed on 13 December 1946 into United Nations trust territories

(Selected) Class C Mandate

The League considered them to be the least developed and therefore best administered under the laws of the mandatory as integral portions of its territory

South West Africa (given to South Africa/UK)

Now Namibia (Further Reading: The Commonwealth)

New Guinea (given to UK and France Australia(UK)

From 17 December 1920; 8 December 1946 under UN mandate

World War II

Nearly all of the United States’ European allies believed that after their recovery from World War II, their colonies would finally provide the combination of raw materials and protected markets for finished goods that would cement the colonies to Europe (US Office of the Historian)

However, African countries involved in pro-independence movements put pressure on colonial powers, reminding them of promises made to secure their support in the second world war effort. The colonising countries, supervised by the United States, were thus obliged to let their colonies go (France24).

Visit of Iain Macleod, Secretary of State for the Colonies, to Northern Rhodesia in March 1960; demonstrations by the United National Independence Party (UNIP)

Countries that achieved independence in 1960 (CIA World Factbook)

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