Sub-Saharan Africa 1960: French Withdrawal from Equatorial Africa

August 1960 was the high point in the Year of Africa, with nine nations gaining independence from France between the 1st and 17th of that month. Most notable was the former French Equatorial Africa, where France withdrew from Chad, Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, and Gabon in the space of a week.


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.

Main Events

7 Aug 1960 Independence of Ivory Coast

On 11 July 1960 France agreed to the Republic of Ivory Coast’s full independence and, less than a month later on 7 August, Ivory Coast became independent outside the French Community. Nonetheless Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the republic’s first president, would maintain close ties with France throughout his long, stable, and prosperous reign (he would remain in power until his death in 1993). A firm anti-communist, Houphouët-Boigny would also support coups and rebel movements against leftist governments in Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, and wikipedia

9 Aug 1960 Mining State of South Kasai

Baluba nationalist Albert Kalonji declared the region of south-eastern Kasai, the Congo, to be the new Mining State of South Kasai. Although this secession shared similarities with that of the neighboring Mining State of Katanga, Kalonji claimed the action was not a rejection of Congolese governance but rather a push for greater autonomy in the wake of Congolese persecution of the Baluba. Kalonji and members of his Mouvement National Congolais-Kalonji party continued to sit as deputies in the Congolese Parliament in Lé wikipedia

11 Aug 1960 Independence of Chad

On 11 August 1960 the Republic of Chad gained independence from France under the presidency of François Tombalbaye, although the French remained to administer the predominantly Muslim region of Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti in the north of the country until 1965 (in the south, Chad was mainly Christian and/or animist). Despite keeping Chad within the French Community, Tombalbaye quickly established autocratic rule and began a program of “Africanization” in the civil service, replacing French administrators with less experienced wikipedia

13 Aug 1960 Independence of Central African Republic

On 12 July 1960 France agreed to the full independence of the Central African Republic and one month later, on 13 August, the republic became an independent nation within the French Community. The country’s first president was David Dacko, who boosted diamond production by ending the mining monopoly but whose regime soon became a one-party state. Dacko remained in power until he was overthrown by General Jean-Bédel Bokassa, his distant cousin, on 1 January wikipedia

15 Aug 1960 Lumumba-Khrushchev agreement

Facing secession in Katanga and South Kasai and having lost patience with the United Nations, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Congo asked the Soviet Union for military assistance to maintain its territorial integrity. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev obliged and about a week later Soviet technicians, equipment, and transportation began arriving in the Congo. Although these actions were not contrary to the terms of the UN resolutions on the Congo, they disturbed the US government, which began seeking Lumumba’s wikipedia

15 Aug 1960 Independence of Republic of Congo

On 12 July 1960 the French agreed to the full independence of the Republic of Congo; a little over a month later, on 15 August, the republic became independent within the French Community. The country’s first president, Fulbert Youlou, eliminated political opposition and established a cult of personality; in one incident, he pulled an AK-47 out of his cassock and threatened the Assembly when it attempted to pass a motion of no confidence in his government. Despite these tactics, and wealth gained from the newly established oil industry, anti-government protests would force Youlou to step down on 15 August wikipedia

17 Aug 1960 Independence of Gabon

On 15 July 1960 France agreed to the full independence of the Republic of Gabon; a month later, on 17 August, Gabon became an independent country within the French Community. After independence, the two main political parties—the Gabonese Democratic Bloc (BDG), led by Léon M’Ba, and the Gabonese Democratic and Social Union (UDSG), led by Jean-Hilaire Aubame—decided to merge to form a single party under M’Ba, as neither would be able to achieve a majority on their own. Léon M’Ba thus won the elections of 12 February 1961 unopposed, becoming the first president of wikipedia