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

Video 2nd American Reportedly Killed in Syria

Minnesota television report says Abdirahman Muhumed left area to fight for Islamic State militants More

WHO Fears Ebola Outbreak Could Infect 20,000 People

World Health Organization says outbreak 'continues to accelerate' but that most cases are concentrated in a few local areas More

Angelina Jolie Marries Brad Pitt

Actors wed in small private ceremony Saturday in France 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid