Independence Movement

North Africa

The Africans of the Mediterranean region, with greater educational opportunities and more exposure to modern attitudes than other Africans, were the first to work for independence, in the 1920's. In 1938 there were revolts against French rule in Tunisia. The revolts were suppressed, and the leader of the Neo Destour party, Habib Bourguiba, was imprisoned in France. The war broadened North Africa's contacts and created greater restlessness. Formation in 1945 of the Arab League encouraged the Muslim countries in their desire for national sovereignty.

Libya, lost by Italy in the war, became independent in 1951, and Eritrea joined Ethiopia in a federation in 1952. Guerrilla warfare started in Tunisia in 1952, the Algerian war began in 1954, and a revolt broke out in Morocco in 1955. Tunisia and Morocco were granted independence by France in 1956, and Algeria achieved nationhood in 1962.

Sub-Saharan Africa

The general practice of colonial governments in central and southern Africa was to maintain nonwhites in a menial position, deny them virtually all voice in government, and make little or no effort to improve their way of life. The fact that colonialism was no longer commercially profitable was very apparent during the worldwide depression of the 1930's. The demand for minerals, rubber, and other products in World War II revived the economy. Not only did Africa provide valuable resources, but it was recognized as a promising new market. The European colonial powers found it advantageous after the war to concern themselves with the education and social welfare of their African subjects.

A nationalistic fervor developed rapidly among the Africans, and demands for independence began to be voiced. The Mau Mau uprisings in Kenya in the early 1950's were one of the most violent expressions of discontent. Great Britain gave independence to Sudan in 1956 and Ghana in 1957, and in 1958 France made Guinea a nation. Seventeen independent nations were created in sub-Saharan Africa in 1960, and more followed.