Baylor College Medical School

147 2. African Nations Gain Independence

147 2. Africa is a diverse continent. Vast savannas, or grasslands, cover much of it, but there are also rain forests and deserts. Diversity is reflected in the continent's history, people, languages, and traditions.

After World War II, many Africans demanded freedom from European powers. After gaining independence, some African nations enjoyed peace and democracy. Others faced civil wars, military rule, or corrupt dictators. European powers had drawn colonial boundaries without regard for Africa's ethnic groups. This led to ethnic conflict in many new nations once colonial powers withdrew.

In 1957, Gold Coast gained its freedom from Britain and took the name Ghana. The government of its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, eventually became corrupt, and Nkrumah was over-thrown in a military coup d'etat. Other coups followed, but today Ghana is a democracy.

IN KENYA, WHITE SETTLERS HAD PASSED LAWS TO ENSURE THEIR DOMINATION OF THE COUNTRY. In the 1950s, rebels turned to guerrilla warfare, but the British crushed the rebellion. Kenya finally gained its independence in 1963. Jomo Kenyatta, a prominent independence leader, became the first president of the new country. In 2002, Kenya's first fair election removed the ruling party from office.

In Algeria, independence from France came only after a long war ut was finally achieved in 1962. A coup in 1965 began a long period of military rule. When the government allowed free elections in 1992, an Islamist party won. The military rejected the results, and seven years of civil war followed. Although the fighting has ended, the country remains tense.

After the Congo became independent from Belgium, the cooper-rich province of Katanga rebelled. The United Nations ended the rebellion in 1963. Mobutu Sese Seko ruled as a harsh military dictator from 1965 to 1997. Seven years of civil war ended with a cease-fire in 2003.

Nigeria won its independence in 1960, but regional, ethnic, and religious differences soon led to conflict. In 1966, the Ibo people in the southeast declared independence as the Republic of Biafra. After three years of fighting, Nigeria's military ended Biafra's independence. A series of dictators then ruled, but Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.


2. What country did the Ibo people of Nigeria try to establish?

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In 1966, the Ibo people in the southeast declared independence as the Republic of Biafra.