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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid