Sub-Saharan Africa 1960: Year of Africa begins
The harsh French response to Guinea's 1958 declaration of independence only fueled pro-independence sentiment in the other French colonies. Next to go was the French UN mandate of Cameroon, which became independent on 1 January 1960—the first day of what would become known as the Year of Africa. At the same time, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan toured Africa, warning apartheid South Africa that a “Wind of Change” was sweeping the continent.
23 Nov 1958 Ghana-Guinea Union▲
In November 1958 President Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea received President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, to discuss an emergency loan Ghana would provide to newly-independent Guinea after the abrupt end of French aid to that country. On 23 November the two leaders announced their intention to create a United States of West Africa, formalizing the planned federation as the Union of Independent African States in May 1959. Despite their words, however, the union would never amount to more than a vague political alliance between the two nations and was all but irrelevant by the time it was dissolved in the early 1960s.
24 Nov–22 Dec 1958 End of French West Africa▲
With the exception of Guinea—which opted for independence—the component territories of French West Africa all voted to become self-governing members of the French Community in the referendum of September 1958. Between 24 November and 19 December, they gained autonomy as the Sudanese Republic, the Republic of Senegal, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Republic of Ivory Coast, the Republic of Dahomey, the Republic of Upper Volta, and the Republic of Niger. On 22 December Pierre Mesmer stepped down as the last High Commissioner of French West Africa.
28 Nov 1958–15 Aug 1960 End of French Equatorial Africa▲
The four territories of French Equatorial Africa all voted to join the French Community as self-governing states in the September 1958 referendum. On 28 November the Republic of Congo, the Gabonese Republic, and the Republic of Chad all gained autonomy; they were followed on 1 December by Ubangi-Shari, which became the Central African Republic. It was not until 15 August 1960, however, that Yvon Bourges, the last High Commissioner of French Equatorial Africa, stepped down, formally ending the federation.
4 Apr 1959 Mali Federation▲
In November 1958 Dahomey, Senegal, the Sudanese Republic (French Sudan), and Upper Volta pledged to form a federation within the French Community. By March 1959, however, both Dahomey and Upper Volta had dropped out of the talks, leaving Senegal and the Sudanese Republic to hold simultaneous elections to approve the union. Following a large vote in favor, the Mali Federation was formed, with Modibo Keïta of the Sudanese Republic as premier and Mamadou Dia of Senegal as vice-premier.
1 Nov 1959–28 Jan 1961 Rwandan Revolution▲
In November 1959 rising tensions in Rwanda between the increasingly socially mobile Hutu majority and the Tutsi elite under the new King Kigeli V erupted into violence. With only 300 colonial troops initially available, the Belgian authorities were unable to prevent fighting between the two groups and by July 1960 King Kigeli was forced to flee the country in the face of Hutu massacres of the Tutsi population. Hutu domination was confirmed in January 1961 when Rwanda was declared a republic, although it would remain a Belgian territory within the Ruanda-Urundi union until 1962.
1 Jan 1960 Independence of Cameroon▲
On 12 June 1958 the Legislative Assembly of French Cameroun requested that the French government grant ‘the State of Cameroon’ independence at the end of their United Nations trusteeship. In October France recognized Cameroun’s right to full independence, granting Cameroun total internal autonomy the following month and arranging the end of the trusteeship with the UN. Accordingly, on 1 January 1960, French Cameroun became independent as the Republic of Cameroon, with Prime Minister Ahmadou Ahidjo becoming head of state and later president.
3 Feb 1960 Wind of Change▲
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of the United Kingdom addressed the Parliament of South Africa following his month-long tour of Ghana and the British colonies in Africa. In his speech he stated that “The wind of change is blowing through this continent”, making it clear that the UK intended to end its colonial empire and would take a sterner approach to South Africa’s apartheid policies.