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A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

African Independence

The nifty ‘Tumblr’ site Afrographique, which Africa-related facts and statistics in a visually appealing and accessible way, created a handy chart of all the countries of Africa and the years they became independent. The chart correctly gives Zimbabwe’s date of independence as 1965, even though it had a brief return to colonial status for a few months in 1979-1980. Yet it lists Ethiopia’s “independence” year as 1941, despite the fact that Ethiopia has arguably been independent forever.

The Empire of Ethiopia was founded in 1137 with the ascent of the Zagwe dynasty (responsible for the country’s world-famous rock-hewn churches), and while it was occupied by the Kingdom of Italy (whose monarch usurped the title ‘Emperor of Abyssinia’) from 1936 to 1941 with a continued insurgency and a lack of abdication by the legitimate emperor, Haile Selassie, there’s a strong case that Ethiopia retained her independence throughout but merely suffered a temporary foreign occupation.

Despite this arguable discrepancy it’s not nearly so bad as Africa Report, which published a chart claiming that South Africa gained its independence in 1994. Pray tell, what colonial power ran South Africa before 1994? South Africa was unified and gained dominion status in 1910, and Afrographique goes for the much safer independence date of 1931 when the Statute of Westminster was adopted asserting the sovereignty of the dominions of the British Empire. Some Afrikaners claim South Africa did not become independent until the Republic was declared in 1961, but this is neither legally nor constitutionally the case as the country as an internationally recognised sovereign independent nation merely changed its form of government from a monarchy to a republic.

Afrographique has a number of other interesting posts, including African Nobel Prize winners (nine of them South African, across medicine, peace, and literature) and the ten richest Africans (fellow Matie Johann Rupert is #4).

This post was published on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 3:04 pm. It has been categorised under History and been tagged under , .
Dave Cooper
21 Aug 2012 6:10 pm

Andrew …

Interesting map, I have not seen this one. Thanks for making note of the discrepancies. One would hope that creators of the map will correct these.

Have you ever seen the maps of the DISTRIBUTION LINGUISTIQUE EN AFRIQUE by They are some of the best I have seen on the Web, and when you consider the way Africa was carved up over the centuries, it boggles the mind how most of the resultant countries can ever gel.

Did you know that Sir Roy Welensky had an idea (not sure if it was his originally) to unite all the Bemba regions which would have conveniently coalesced the copper producing areas of Katanga and Northern Rhodesia into one Greater Northern Rhodesia? But I think the Belgians would have nothing to do with it.

Alles van die beste …

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