Struggles for National Liberation

At the end of the 1960s, six African colonies remained. Five of these were settler colonies, in which the European settler community kept the majority African populations from gaining their political freedom. For many years, only the white settlers in these colonies had the right to vote. They used this vote to pass laws that protected their own power and discriminated against Africans.

African nationalist movements formed in these countries in the 1940s and 1950s, seeking peaceful, constitutional change and recognizing the rights of the majority African population.

The settler colonial governments responded to the non-violent constitutional demands of African parties with laws that banned all political protests. Repressive laws allowed the settler governments to arrest and imprison the leaders of the banned African political parties. The most famous jailed leader is Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison before being released in 1989. Later, he became the first president of an independent South Africa.

African nationalists realized that the only way to deal with brutal regimes was with force. Beginning in the early 1960s, banned nationalist parties became liberation movements for armed struggle against the settler regimes.

The newly formed liberation movements had little money to purchase weapons and to train their soldiers. The United States and the former colonial powers in Europe were not willing to give support. Help came from China, the former Soviet Union and their allies in the Eastern Bloc, and independent African nations.

Although it took many years of struggle, in 1994 South Africa became the last African colony to achieve majority rule.

Source: Struggles for National Liberation
Copyright © 2020 Exploring Africa.

Back to top