Year of Africa ends
Wind of Change
Sub-Saharan Africa 1960.1224
Year of Africa ends
Africa after World War II, African independence (24 December 1960)
Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa
In mid-September 1960 Colonel Mobutu ended the governmental crisis in the Congo by seizing control and imprisoning PM Lumumba. Lumumba escaped a few months later only to be recaptured and murdered while attempting to reach his supporters in the east. Meanwhile Nigeria - the UK's most populous African colony - and Mauritania gained independence, the last of the seventeen African nations to throw off foreign rule in 1960.
The Two Republic of Congos 1960-64
During this period, Congo (Brazzaville) was called the 'Republic of Congo' and Congo (Leopoldville/Kinshasa) was called the 'Republic of the Congo'. For both the sake of simplicity and to avoid confusion, we always refer to Congo (Brazzaville) as the 'Republic of Congo' and Congo (Kinshasa) - the center of attention in Africa during this period - as simply 'the Congo'.
UN presence in the Congo
From mid-August 1960 to late 1961 the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) was based in all major cities and airfields of the Congo and was conducting patrols along the railroads and major roads of that country. However the general refusal of ONUC to involve itself in the Congolese Civil War meant that its influence was strongest in areas under control of the Congolese government and restricted in the rebelling regions. Thus, in the map, only major ONUC bases are depicted under UN influence in areas outside government control, even though ONUC patrols and presence often extended beyond these bases.
In September 1960 the Baluba around Manono, in northern Katanga in the Congo, revolted against Katangan efforts to control the region. In November an Irish Army platoon serving for the United Nations was ambushed and massacred by Baluba militia near Niemba, who had apparently mistaken the 11 soldiers for European mercenaries. The area would remain a combat zone for the next few years as the various Congolese factions and the Baluba vied for control.
Mobutu's First Coup
On 14 September 1960, with President Kasa-Vubu of the Congo still in a stalemate with Prime Minister Lumumba, Colonel Joseph Mobutu - the Chief of Staff of the Congolese national army - announced that he was closing Parliament until the end of the year and that any Soviet personnel in the country had 48 hours to leave. The next day Mobutu occupied Parliament and arrested Lumumba. Lumumba managed to escape a few months later, only to be recaptured by Mobutu's forces on 1 December as he attempted to reach his supporters in Stanleyville.
Independence of Nigeria
On 1 October 1954 the United Kingdom granted the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria autonomy as the Federation of Nigeria; four years later the British agreed to give the country independence in 1960. Elections were held in 1959 and won by a conservative alliance of the Nigerian People's Congress and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, leading to the selection of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the country's first Prime Minister. One year later, on 1 October 1960 as scheduled, Nigeria became a fully independent state under Balewa's leadership.
Independence of Mauritania
In October 1958 Mauritania had gained autonomy within the French Community as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, but soon joined its fellow African countries in seeking independence. However, as a strongly tribal and predominantly nomadic society, Mauritania faced difficulties in the move to a centralized government. On 28 November 1960 it became fully independent - the last of the French West African colonies to do so - under the pragmatic leadership of President Moktar Ould Daddah.
Free Republic of the Congo
Opposed to Colonel Mobutu's consolidation of power in the Congo, Antoine Gizenga, deputy prime minister to Patrice Lumumba, and his supporters withdrew to Stanleyville in Orientale Province in November 1960. Once there, Gizenga proclaimed the Free Republic of the Congo on 12 December, declaring that Mobutu's government was illegitimate. Mobutu responded by blockading the Congo River, but was unable to prevent Gizenga's troops from seizing Bukavu - an important town and airport near the border with Belgian-ruled Ruanda-Urundi - later that month.