Kenyan Independence

Africa and the Cold War

Sub-Saharan Africa 1963.1212

Kenyan Independence

Cold war conflict in Africa, Apartheid, African civil wars (12 December 1963)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

Due to political resistance from the white settler population, Kenya did not gain independence from the UK until December 1963. Rejecting Kenyan rule, the Somali tribes of the country's northeast preemptively launched the four-year Shifta War in the hope of joining neighboring Somalia.


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'.

Main Events

Operation Grandslam

In the wake of Katangan attacks on UN peacekeepers, United Nations Secretary-General U Thant authorized Operation Grandslam - an all-out offensive to eliminate the secessionist state of Katanga in the Congo. Reinforced by Swedish aircraft, the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) secured the Katangese capital of Élisabethville and vanquished the Katangese Air Force. On 14 January 1963 the Katangan President Moise Tshombe sued for peace, accepting the reintegration of his breakaway state into the Congo three days later.

Guinea-Bissau Independence War begins

Members of the Marxist African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) attacked the Portuguese garrison in Tite, Portuguese Guinea, as the first act of open warfare in the Portuguese colony. More guerrilla attacks followed elsewhere in the south of the country, with the PAIGC opening additional fronts in the north and east in 1964 and 1965, respectively. Portugal would never successfully come to grips with the rebels, who could melt into the jungle and rely on support from safe havens in neighboring Senegal and Guinea.


Following Mali's independence, Tuareg nationalists began their own movement for self-determination. In May 1963 militants under Zeyd ag Attaher launched a rebellion - the "Alfellaga" - against the Malian government in the northeastern region of Wadi Ouzzein. After several clashes, Mali brought the conflict to an end with support from Algeria and Morocco.

Organisation of African Unity

At a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, representatives of all the independent African states, with the sole exception of apartheid South Africa, proclaimed the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The OAU replaced the rival Casablanca and Monrovia Groups, supporting the continued push for the end of colonialism in Africa but rejecting the notion of a political federation. Ultimately, however, it had little power and its influence over the conduct of its members was minimal.

Shifta War

From 1960 on, the Somali population of the Northern Frontier District of the British colony of Kenya pushed for reform and autonomy, if not the integration of their region into neighboring Somalia. With their demands unmet and Kenyan independence looming, they revolted under the banner of the Northern Frontier District Liberation Movement in November 1963. Unable to match the Kenyan government militarily, the Shifta (rebels) resorted to mine warfare - laying land mines in the expected path of the Kenyan army - in 1965, which the Kenyans responded to by systematically rounding the Somali population up into "protected villages". Eventually both sides agreed to a Somalia-sponsored ceasefire and political settlement in October 1967.

Aden Emergency begins

The Egyptian-supported National Liberation Front (NLF) began a campaign of grenade attacks against British forces and civilians in Aden, capital of the British protectorate of the Federation of South Arabia. They were almost immediately joined in the fight by the rival Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY), which proceeded to attack both the British and the NLF. The British authorities responded by declaring a state of emergency, but the conflict would only escalate until their final abandonment of the protectorate in 1967.

Zanzibar Act

The Zanzibar Act came into effect, ending the United Kingdom's Protectorate over Zanzibar. Zanzibar became a constitutional monarchy under the newly-crowned 34-year-old Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah and with Sheikh Muhammad Shamte Hamadi as Prime Minister.

Kenyan Independence

In 1960 the British government began paving the way for the independence of its Kenya colony, granting increasing representation to the African population despite opposition from many of the 60,000 white settlers. In 1962 the Lancaster House conference set the date for independence, prompting the exodus of over half the white community - a loss of skilled workers which was only alleviated when Kenyan African National Union leader Jomo Kenyatta insisted that there would be no discrimination against whites if he gained power. Kenyatta was elected Prime Minister soon after and on 12 December 1963 Kenya became an independent state under his leadership.

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