News / Africa

50th Anniversary Of Independence Under Way in Number of African Countries

Ivory Coast will be celebrating 50 years in August, even though it is currently divided in two (file photo)
Ivory Coast will be celebrating 50 years in August, even though it is currently divided in two (file photo)
Nico Colombant

As more than a dozen African countries became independent in 1960, making 2010 the 50th anniversary of their independence, there have been many reflections from heads of state to comedians and Africa experts on what this means.

Next month, Ivory Coast will celebrate 50 years of independence, but one comedian Gbi de Fer recently went on Ivorian television saying he thought celebrating was misguided.

He asked whether Ivory Coast should present its buildings in the main city Abidjan which do not have any more paint on them.

Or, he wondered, should Ivorians present their divided country, with two armies which have been killing each other?

Another former French colony, Cameroon, became independent on January first 1960, making it the first to celebrate this year.

In a rare speech to mark the occasion, President Paul Biya said the first 50 years had built the architecture of independence.

Tomorrow, he concluded, Cameroonians will give it the social and economic content it deserves.

Mr. Biya has been in power since 1982, for more than half of the period of independence. Several people posted comments below his video on the Internet wondering whether Cameroonians would ever get independence from Mr. Biya.

He was one of many African leaders who this week attended Bastille Day celebrations in France, the former colonial power for 14 of the 17 countries reaching 50 years in 2010.  African soldiers marched in Paris to mark the event.  Many African commentators were puzzled, saying it should have been French officials going to Africa and not the reverse.

The three other countries reaching half a century this year are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Nigeria.

Stephen Smith, a journalist and anthropologist who has written several books about Africa, says many Africans have struggled economically in recent years.

"Celebrating definitely not, but commemorating, I think you would not scrap your 50th anniversary because you are unemployed," said Stephen Smith. "You have to put up with the circumstances as they are.  This argument about that there is little to celebrate is being made broadly in Francophone Africa specifically this year, but I think there is a distinct quality that is between commemoration and celebration. I think there is lots to commemorate and maybe to pore over and to reflect on, not necessarily celebrating. I do agree that maybe African soldiers marching on Bastille Day in Paris may not be the appropriate way of thinking over what has happened."

Gerald LeMelle, the executive director of the U.S-based advocacy group Africa Action, helped organize recent commemorations in Washington for Congo's 50th anniversary, which were called "The Continuing Pursuit."

LeMelle says he believes political independence means nothing if Africans have no say in how the continent's resources are traded and profits distributed.

"That is what independence is all about and so, it is very, very, difficult 50 years after so-called independence day, it is very, very, difficult to see where countries on the continent are able to make decisions without significant input by international economic and political actors," said Gerald LeMelle. "If people cannot make decisions that are in the country's own best interest, first vis a vis their resources, then we have not achieved independence."

Yale University professor and West Africa expert Mike McGovern says there is definitely a mixed legacy, but he is hopeful about growing awareness among Africans.

"Democracy is pretty much a globally accepted ideal, if not always practiced for allowing citizens to choose their own leaders," said Mike McGovern. "I think the rights of women, of young people, of poor people, are increasing by coming to the fore as things that have to be taken into account alongside economic growth."

Next month, President Barack Obama will host a town hall meeting with African youth leaders in Washington to mark the occasion of a half-century of independence.

Mr. Obama's father was a Kenyan who was one of the first of a growing African diaspora in the United States.  He returned to work in his post-independence homeland but died disappointed with the gains made by Africans since breaking free of colonial rule.  President Obama who will turn 49 in August, has called for helping African countries get on the right track as they enter a new half century.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs