African Wars of Independence

Tim Stapleton

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2014 | | DOI:
African Wars of Independence

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While most African states gained independence through negotiation with outgoing European colonial rulers during the late 1950s and 1960s, some experienced wars between stubborn colonial and white settler regimes, and armed African nationalist insurgents. During the 1950s Kenya and Algeria, with British and French settlers respectively, experienced uprisings that led to the metropolitan regimes abandoning settler interests and granting independence in the early 1960s. Insisting that its three African colonies were integral parts of the mother country, fascist Portugal fought African nationalist insurgencies in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, during the 1960s and early 1970s which led to a military coup in Lisbon in 1974 and a sudden withdrawal from Africa. In white settler ruled Southern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), South African occupied South West Africa (today’s Namibia), and apartheid South Africa, African nationalists became frustrated with increasingly deadly state repression and abandoned non-violent protest in the 1960s to embark on armed struggles to liberate their countries. Given the Cold War context of the time, the colonial and settler states portrayed themselves as champions of Western civilization and appealed to Britain and the United States for assistance and the exiled African nationalists received support from the Eastern Bloc which required that they adopt revolutionary socialist rhetoric. Newly independent African ruled countries, such as Tanzania and Zambia, were often sympathetic to the armed nationalist movements and allowed them to establish staging areas in their territories which meant that these states were often drawn into the conflicts as well. The sudden withdrawal of Portugal from Africa dramatically changed the balance of power in Southern Africa which led to the negotiated independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. The winding down of the Cold War led to South African withdrawal from Namibia, which gained independence in 1990, and the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa that resulted in that country’s first democratic elections in 1994. Given the number of African countries involved and the international dimensions of most of these conflicts, the relevant literature is vast and contains numerous debates.

Article.  9424 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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