Happy Birthday Africa!
“Happy birthday Africa!” Exactly 60 years have passed since 1960, also known in the news as the Year of Africa. During those 12 months, 17 African countries achieved full independence. Even though it was celebrated with excessive lyricism and, on occasion, saw historical study and analytical investigation give way to political rhetoric and militant enthusiasm, it was nevertheless a significant year historically: an annus mirabilis for Africa and modern history.
1960 was a year full of contradictions. On the one hand, it was indeed yet another display by colonial powers to continue writing Africa’s history behind the “independence” label, by tightening its economic and political reins. On the other hand, 1960 was also a social turning point for Africans because it symbolized freedom – culturally speaking – from the shackles of colonialism and the horrors that it entailed.
Therefore 1960, for better or for worse, was a founding stone of our present, and today we must review and become familiar with that year to better understand a continent which, for too long and too many, has been treated as marginal and subordinate, but has proven itself over the last six decades as a protagonist in the world’s present and future. In fact more than half a century later, many issues the African, and even European, future faced back in the days of anthems and new flags, still persist. The phenomena and causes, whose consequences we see and experience today, are also rooted in the not-too-distant past of 1960. So if we want to understand how Africa emerged from the initial euphoria of independence, calls for national unity, the sanctity of borders and African irredentism to neocolonialism, ethnic massacres, the cross-border threat of Salafism and migrants fleeing Africa, a good starting point is to retrace historical schematics, and political and economic structures. Over the years, these have distinguished the 17 states that reached independence in 1960 and whose anniversary is celebrated in 2020.
Before going into each country’s history, a short introduction is needed into the revolutionary process at the end of World War II known as “decolonization”, where the modern Africa as we know it today first emerged.
Starting in 1946 the world’s peripheries—until then mere appendices and sources of men and raw materials for the world’s superpowers—began to break away from their respective homelands and gain full independence. The leaders of this process were Lebanon, Syria, the Philippines, the Transjordan and then Indonesia, India, Pakistan and followed by Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria, which meanwhile had taken up arms.
This brings us to the crucial year 1960, when decolonization was embraced by sub-Saharan Africa. The first states to become independent were the former French colonies. This happened primarily because, compared to British colonialism, the French had focused more on assimilation, so the links between the colonizing country and its territories politically, economically and even culturally were closer. France had also just lost the war in Indochina, and needed to concentrate all its forces on Algeria. In 1956 the “framework law” or “Defferre law” established an autonomous regime in French West African and French Equatorial African territories. In 1958, Charles De Gaulle proposed the creation of a community, hoping to set up a French Commonwealth, which was approved on 28 September. However this solution did not last long and in fact within a few months—starting in 1960—local governments ruled in favor of independence, while maintaining relations with the former motherland. The experiences of the former French colonies motivated other territories such as Somalia, Nigeria and the Belgian Congo, also becoming independent in 1960.
Independence for these territories took place peacefully and was effectively granted, rather than gained. To conclude and summarize, from a political and economic point of view, what was known as the Year of Africa, simply review the words expressed by one of Italy’s greatest Africanists, Professor Giampaolo Calchi Novati: “Colonial governments generally support the process of independence to prevent radicalization, using Algeria as an example, ensuring the transfer of power benefits governments, which are the expression of trusted, controllable ruling classes capable of managing ‘neocolonialism’. This is especially the case in the former French colonies. In the Congo, Patrice Lumumba’s attempt to initiate (albeit without the necessary political preparation) a program that would make independence effective—if not quite “revolutionary”—ended in tragedy. These very events show that Africa is still effectively “‘under protection’”.
The 17 countries that became independent in 1960 were: Cameroon, Togo, Senegal, Mali, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Mauritania.
On 1 January 1960, Cameroon became independent under the leadership of Ahmadou Ahidjo. In power, with France’s help, Ahidjo immediately put an end to the federal system between the French-speaking and English-speaking parts of the country. He started a protracted Marxist-inspired war, lasting until the seventies, against the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC). In 1966, a single-party regime was established. However, strong state intervention in the economy and the availability of raw materials allowed economic growth in the 1960s. Ahidjo’s resignation in 1982 and Paul Biya’s rise to the country’s top seat initiated a period of instability, culminating in an attempted coup in April 1984, followed by harsh repression from the regime. Biya, still at Cameroon’s helm, has ruled autocratically for the past thirty years and has in fact never allowed a period of democratization in the state. The country, overwhelmed by the scourge of corruption and with foreign debt of 8.36 billion dollars, today faces two armed crises: the war of the Boko Haram jihadists in the north and the rebellion of the English-speaking separatists in the south.
The first president of Togo was Sylvanus Olympio who, after studying in Europe, returned to his native country in 1958 when Togo broke away from Ghana. Olympio negotiated the country’s independence with De Gaulle, in the 1960s, and from that moment its leader started such a repressive regime that he was assassinated in ’63 by Nicolas Grunitzky’s men. Once in power, Grunitzky embarked on a democratic and liberal path in domestic politics, respected a multi-party system and adopted a non-alignment strategy in its foreign policy. On 13 January 1967, however, he was dismissed following a putsch led by general Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who remained in power until his death in 2005. The supreme leader of Togo created an autocratic regime, reformed the constitution, abolished multi-partism until the 1990s, and nationalized highly important production sectors such as mining. His sudden death in 2005 was followed by a military coup and his son Faure Gnassingbé took over as leader and remains so to this day.
On August 20, 1960, Senegal gained full independence and Léopold Sédar Senghor was elected president. The leader of the newly born West African state, maintained close political, economic and military ties with France and secured considerable stability for the country. However, despite working on an international level for the formation of an “African Socialist International” and seeking credit in the West as the promoter of moderate African socialism, internally he centralized power in his hands, imposed a one-party system and was guilty of corruption. In the seventies, in the face of widespread discontent and protests by students and unions against pro-French politics, a relative democratization of the country was established. Senghor voluntarily resigned in 1980 and power passed into the hands of Abdou Diouf. In foreign affairs, the 1980s were characterized by Diouf’s personal commitment to the African continent as president of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Traditional ties with the West were also maintained. In the 1990s, however, due to the devaluation of the CFA franc, the country faced a difficult economic crisis and many people fell into poverty. Despite internal democratization in the early 2000s the country continued to be troubled by the violence of the Casamance region’s separatists. However the victory of Macky Sall, former premier and current president, saw peace come to the area along with an ease in tension with its neighbors and an improved economy, thanks also to the funds sent home by Senegalese immigrants and the return to Senegal of many who emigrated in the 1990s.
The Republic of Mali was born on September 22, 1960, following the secession of Senegal. The first president of the republic, Modibo Keita—closely linked to Pan-African concerns in the 1930s—adopted a socialist approach which however worsened the economic situation and triggered widespread social discontent. These factors aided the 1968 coup, seeing Colonel Moussa Traoré become head of state and government. In domestic politics, supporters of the previous government were brutally repressed by the new leader. In 1974 he had a new constitution approved which established a one-party regime. At the same time, the precarious economic situation, caused by dependence on foreign aid and agricultural speculation, was aggravated by the severe drought that hit the entire Sahel region in the 1970s and 1980s. In foreign affairs, the military regime embarked on an unrealistic enterprise of reconstituting the ancient empire of Mali, leading to a real border war with Burkina Faso in 1985. In March 1991 new mass demonstrations against the regime led to the fall of Traoré and a process of democratization and relaxation in relations with the Tuareg groups began. In 2002, Amadou Toumani Touré won, and was re-elected in 2007, but in recent years Mali saw a disastrous failure in its economic, political and social situation. A serious drought hit the country again, relations with the Tuareg groups deteriorated on a daily basis, Al Qaeda cells began to infiltrate the country and many Malian citizens left, fleeing to Europe. This was how the 2012 crisis began and continues to this very day. In the spring of 2012, a military coup deposed President Touré, at the same time Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took control of the entire northern part of the country and, joining the jihadist groups, decreed the birth of an Islamic state in the north. A French military intervention and United Nations peacekeeping contingent then followed but, despite peace talks and the formation of a new government led by Boubacar Keita, the unrest did not stop. Jihadist groups are still rife today and now there are clashes over land control between the different ethnic groups that populate Mali.
Madagascar gained independence on June 26, 1960 while remaining part of the French community. The first phase of the new state was marked by President Philibert Tsiranana. The leader of the newly formed republic, while declaring himself a supporter of moderate and liberal socialism, created an extremely authoritarian and pro-Western government until 1972, the year of his resignation. On 14 June, 1975 Captain Didier Ratsiraka was appointed president of the Supreme Revolutionary Council and head of state. A new constitution was promulgated, relations with France became increasingly weak while ties with the USSR were strengthened to such an extent that a socialist policy was introduced on the Indian Ocean island, based on the fokonolona community structures that became the nuclei of a new administrative organisation. With the collapse of the Soviet world, Ratsiraka tried to open up to the West, especially faced with a wave of citizen protests calling for the abolition of the socialist constitution. Although a new constitution was approved in 1992, a real change at the top of the country only occurred in 2002, when Marc Ravalomanana declared himself president. After a period of tension and armed clashes, Ravalomanana gained the support of the military and forced Ratsiraka into exile. In the last twenty years political tensions have not abandoned Madagascar; unrest and attempted coups have marked the recent history of the Malagasy archipelago. However, in addition to the internal problems that seemed to have ended after the election of Andry Rajoelina as leader in January 2019, Madagascar in recent years has also had to face crises caused by cyclones and hurricanes. In 2017 an outbreak of pneumonic plague further aggravated the humanitarian situation of a state where 90% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Democractic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has had a troubled history since its origins. A few months after its proclamation of independence in 1960, the country plunged into a bloody civil war. The Kasai and Katanga provinces, rich in raw materials and close to the former Belgian colonisers and Western mining companies, proclaimed the secession. Patrice Lumumba, prime minister and leader of the Africanist MNC party, found himself alone and marginalized both nationally and internationally. After the coup by Colonel Mobutu (14 September 1960) he was arrested and then assassinated. The Katanga crisis only ended in January of 1963 thanks to UN intervention but instability continued to reign in the country, which became the scene of a violent civil war between the China-backed forces of the National Liberation Council and the loyalist army which enjoyed Western support.
As a result of the victories against the rebels, Mobutu launched a new coup in November, 1965, and established a dictatorship that lasted for the following thirty years. During his administration Mobutu heavily repressed any opposition. He launched a policy celebrating national character by renaming the country “Zaire”, sold off deposits and lands to foreign companies and created a system so heavily based on corruption it was renamed “kleptocracy”. Zaire’s economic difficulties became unsustainable in the 1990s and were exacerbated by the humanitarian emergency linked to the arrival of over a million Rwandan refugees. It was in these years that the AFDL rebel army was born, headed by Laurent Désiré Kabila. Starting in the Rwandan hills, in just one year, they reached the capital of Kinshasa and in 1997 put an end to the Mobutu regime. In 1998 a new conflict broke out in the Congo and this time saw Rwanda and Uganda clash against the new president’s government backed in turn by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. In 2001, Kabila was assassinated and succeeded by his son Joseph who, despite bringing the country to its first elections in 2006, never pacified the region. Congo is still the scene of ongoing crises and guerrilla warfare, mostly conducted by proxy to acquire natural deposits, particularly coltan. In the eastern provinces, at present, over 50 rebel formations have been registered and, in recent months, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the poorest countries in the world with over four million internal refugees, has also faced one of the worst epidemics in the history of the Ebola virus.
In 1950, the UN made Somalia a trust territory of Italy to prepare it for independence which it gained in 1960. The first president of the country was Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke who was however assassinated a few days before the military coup in October 1969, bringing General Muhammed Siad Barre to power. The new leader of the former Italian colony launched a “scientific socialism” experiment based on a Soviet model and was watched with interest by global powers. He waged a bitter struggle against clan institutions, prevented any encroachment by the religious sphere in politics and launched a literacy campaign that achieved significant results. His rule proved authoritarian and repressive and then, following a severe famine and defeat in the war against Ethiopia, he was hit by a serious economic crisis, finding himself isolated on an international level. Somalia was in a desperate situation from the late 70s to the late 80s. The country was overwhelmed by civil war and in January 1991 the Barre regime collapsed. Aidid and Ali Mahdi, the leaders of the struggle against the regime, never managed to reach an agreement. They started a bloody conflict that led the country into a catastrophic state with dozens of militias, under the orders of ‘warlords’, to impose a single law of weapons and violence. The nation was also struck by a ferocious famine, and the distribution of international aid was made harder than ever by internal struggles and looting. There were about 300,000 deaths and the sending of a military contingent under the auspices of the UN as part of the Restore Hope operation (1992-95) did not help resolve the fate of a country that had become the epitome of a failed state. The first of a long series of peace conferences was held in Djibouti in 2000, allowing a provisional government to be formed in 2004. Meanwhile in Somalia, however, the problem of Islamic fundamentalism emerged in an increasingly radical way, first with the Islamic Courts Union, then with Al Shabaab. Al-Qaeda jihadists had still not ended its war against the central government and, although the first elections have taken place in recent years since the days of independence, and the people of Somalia have shown that they want a return to normal, however disorderly, piracy off the coast and the crisis situation continue, as demonstrated by attacks killing hundreds of people between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.
The West African state became independent on August 1, 1960, retaining the name of Dahomey. The first years of the new state were marked by serious political instability caused by the conflicts between northern and southern ethnic groups, the lack of experienced leaders and scarcity of raw materials. It was for this reason that, from 1960 to 1972, there were five constitutions, ten presidents and continuous clashes and coups d’état. A radical change occurred in 1972, when Major Mathieu Ahmed Kérékou took power, introduced a single-party regime, transformed the nation into a Marxist-style republic and sought to ensure the country’s relative political and social stability. In 1975, the name of the state was changed to Benin, the most important sectors of the economy were nationalized and, in 1979, a new constitution was established. A serious economic crisis, and an authoritarian government in difficulty, marked the end of the Kérékou government in 1989 and from that moment a process of political democratization and economic liberalization began. In 1991, Nicéphore Soglo won the Western-style elections, and a new wave of political and social unrest ignited the country between 1996 and 2000. However, with the appointment of economist Thomas Yayi Boni first and then Patrice Talon as president of the Republic, the African state waged a bitter fight against corruption, improved its economic situation thanks also to the discovery of oil fields, and committed itself to stabilizing the region by supporting contingents engaged in the war against Boko Haram.
Senior Member of the French National Assembly Hamani Diori was the first President of the Republic of Niger and, during his rule, the country enjoyed considerable political stability and a healthy economy thanks to the discovery of rich uranium deposits. In April of 1974 Diori was deposed by a coup. Seyni Kountché, chief of staff of the armed forces, took charge of the reins. On the one hand he suspended the constitution and on the other he maintained excellent relations with France. The second half of the eighties was marked by serious ethnic conflicts but also by the nation’s progressive democratization. 1993 was the year of the first open elections in Niger’s history but the democratic turning point did not last long, as a new coup brought the military back to power until 2000 when a new constitution was promulgated and Mamadou Tandja became president. But the new leader also tried to centralize state power in his hands by dissolving parliament. Only a military putsch led to his dismissal in 2010, the formation of a transitional government and the call for open elections in 2011, seeing current President Mahamadou Issoufou victorious. In recent years Niger has renewed uranium mining contracts with the Avrea company and has also become a crossroads for African migrants traveling to Europe.
On August 5, 1960 Upper Volta was proclaimed independent with President Maurice Yaméogo, leader of the Voltaic Democratic Union (UDV). In January 1966, Colonel Sangoulé Lamizana carried out a coup d’etat and created a military regime with very unique characteristics. Although the army and Lamizana retained power, a certain amount of freedom was still granted to civil society: political parties and unions were authorised and a new constitution was established. In 1974, a power struggle between the pretenders to the throne of Upper Volta’s supreme leader, and a serious economic crisis, led Lamizana assuming absolute power until 1977 when a new constitution restored democracy. A radical change in the history of the African country and the entire continent took place in the 1980s when Colonels Saye Zerbo, Jean Baptiste Ouedrago and Thomas Sankara took power, renaming the country Burkina Faso (land of the honest men), and started a real revolution. Sankara sought to develop a policy aimed at cultural independence, economic emancipation from the West, environmental protection and nationalization of raw materials. Due to his express desire to stop paying off their debts, Sankara was killed in October 1987 during a coup d’état, allegedly ordered by France and led by Captain Blaise Compaoré. The Compaoré regime was bloody, repressive and ruthless as witnessed by illustrious arrests and murders as that of journalist Norber Zongo. After twenty years of repression, in 2014 and 2015 a real popular uprising brought down the dictatorship and led to the formation of the new government with President Christian Kaboré. Hit by a severe drought and environmental crisis, Burkina Faso has now become one of the countries hardest hit by the growth of Islamic jihadism. The northern area of the region is now in the hands of groups linked to the world of black flags.
After the Ivory Coast gained independence, a presidential republic was established and, for thirty years, Félix Houphouët-Boigny was confirmed as leader every five years. An anomalous situation but it allowed the country, for its first years as a sovereign nation, to enjoy a stability rarely seen in Africa. Problems emerged in the second half of the 1980s when the collapse in coffee and cocoa prices caused a serious economic downturn and while social tensions worsened. In response to the protests in May 1990, Boigny, as a token gesture, declared himself willing to welcome a multi-party system but it was only a political statement. In 1993 Boigny died and was succeeded by Henri Konan Bédié. A serious internal crisis erupted in 1999, when Bédié had several hundred opponents arrested and a coup d’état dismissed the president at the end of the year, bringing a military junta to power. In October 2000, power passed into the hands of Laurent Gbagbo, but an attempted coup in 2002 threw the country back into chaos and a fierce civil war. Only in 2007, following repeated negotiations, a new transitional government was inaugurated with Gbagbo president and Guillaume Soro, a rebel leader, prime minister. The presidential elections of 2010, which were hoped to be an event capable of bringing peace to the region, instead marked a return to tensions as both Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara emerged victorious and formed, in their respective areas of influence, two different governments. So, in the early months of 2011, the crisis rekindled, until Ouattara re-assumed the position of president and made a strong commitment to reviving the economy and reconciling the country. In recent years the Ivory Coast has supported the manufacturing sector to such an extent that today it has the best economy in West Africa, but political tensions have never entirely waned and the elections scheduled for the end of 2020 will be a pivotal moment.
The history of Chad, from independence to the present day, is one of the most troubled in Africa. The country in fact, because of its profound criticalities: few resources, an unfortunate geographical location and strong ethnic tensions, was always upset by civil wars and bloody dictatorships. The first president of Chad was François Tombalbaye who—from 1963 onward—started a single-party and repressive regime that represented only the interests of the southern ethnic groups. In 1966, against this political line, the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT), backed by Libya, started the first phase of the Chadian Civil War that opposed the north, supported by Muammar Gaddafi who in 1973 occupied the Aouzou belt, in the pro-government south. On April 13, 1975, a military coup brought General Félix Malloum to power, but the civil war continued. In August 1979, thanks to an agreement between Malloum and Hissène Habré, leader of a rebel faction, a temporary division of power came. However a battle between the two sides in the capital N’Djamena, sanctioned the de facto victory of northern rebels. Peace did not last long because a rift within the insurgent front sparked a new conflict, this time between Hissene Habre and Goukouni Oueddei. Habre opposed Libya’s pursuit of the Aouzou belt, while the latter Oueddei proved to be getting closer to the Libyans, envisaging the union of Chad and Libya. Thanks to French support, Hissène Habré’s troops conquered the capital in June, 1982 and Habré proclaimed himself president, creating one of the bloodiest regimes in all of Africa, so much so that he was nicknamed the “African Pinochet”. At the beginning of the 1990s, however, a new front opened in the Ouaddaï region which saw the rebels of Idriss Deby and the government army clash. The former unleashed an offensive that resulted in the fall of the president and the seizure of power by Deby, who is still leading the Sahelian state.
Uprisings and military escalations marked the first decade of the 2000s, but today Chad is faced with two new enemies: Boko Haram, which has established one of its strongholds in the basin area of Lake Chad, and climate change which is leading to a desertification of country’s entire northern area and an uncontrolled increase in poverty and misery.
Central African Republic
The national hero who guided the country to independence was Barthélemy Boganda, although he died a year before CAR became independent. After his death in 1959, David Dacko became head of state and government, but Colonel Jean Bedel Bokassa seized power in 1965 and established a terrible dictatorship, abolishing all individual freedoms and unleashing pathological delusions to then proclaim himself empire in 1976. In September 1979, David Dacko dismissed Bokassa and restored the republic with a coup, but in September 1981 General André Kolingba seized power until 1986, when a new constitution was approved. The country’s economic situation, due to the rulers’ reckless policies and the nation’s extreme backwardness, has always been critical and the continued state of insecurity has contributed to making the Central African Republic one of the poorest and most problematic countries on the African continent. In 2012, a civil conflict broke out that saw Christian and Muslim communities clash and that state of war continues to this day, condemning the inhabitants of the Central African Republic to live in a perpetual state of insecurity and crushing poverty.
Republic of the Congo
The first years of independence were marked by political clashes and coups. In 1963, the military seized power and Alphonse Massamba-Débat was proclaimed president, and immediately drew closer to the socialist bloc. A radicalisation of Marxist ideology in the country took place between 1968 and 1970 when Massemba-Débat had to resign and was replaced by Captain Marien Ngouabi who, in 1970, proclaimed the birth of the “People’s Republic of the Congo”. The Congo then became an increasingly important point of reference for African revolutionary movements. Within the country there were several coup attempts culminating in the assassination of Marien Ngouabi in 1977. Colonel Denis Sassou Nguesso has been president since 1979 and, in 1990, accepted the introduction of a multi-party system and abandoned Marxism-Leninism. The end of the Marxist experience and military regime saw ethnic tensions heighten and a serious economic crisis escalate. It was in this context that, in 1997, Deniss Sassou Nguesso, took the power he still holds today with a coup. Over the years, the country has managed to improve its economic situation thanks mainly to exporting the raw materials it is rich in (oil, timber, sugar, cocoa, coffee and diamonds) and which guarantee revenue of over five billion dollars a year.
Gabon is an African country that has never known true democracy since its independence in 1960. A country rich in resources (oil, natural gas, diamonds, manganese, uranium, gold, iron ore, hydroelectric energy and timber), it has only experienced long periods of authoritarianism from independence to the present day. Léon M’Ba, who founded the Gabonese Democratic Bloc (BDG) in 1946, was the first president of independent Gabon and ferried the country towards a one-party system and personal control. When he died in 1967, power was taken by Vice President Omar Bongo who sought to strengthen the economy through the exploitation of mineral resources (uranium, manganese) and oil fields and centralised all the power in his hands. After his death in 2009 he was replaced by his son, Ali Ben Bongo who, despite several riots and an attempted coup d’état at the beginning of 2019, still holds firm the reins of a country that, in matters of domestic politics, has only known the authoritarianism of the Bongo family for the past 40 years.
Nigeria, the most populous country on the African continent with 190 million inhabitants, has had a complex and articulated history since its origins. The 1954 constitution made Nigeria a federal state, a choice made while taking into account the profound ethnic differences that exist and particularly the fundamental rifts between the Northern, Western and Eastern regions. On October 1, 1960, the country became independent under the leadership of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a member of the Northern People’s Congress party. The north of the country strengthened politically, to the detriment of other regions and ethnic groups that lived in the east and south. This rift quickly led to an armed confrontation. On January 15 1966, a coup took place that brought General Ironsi of the ibo ethnic group to power but on 29 June of the same year he was assassinated, and the leadership of the new military government was taken by General Yakubu Gowon, of Hausa ethnicity, rooted in the northern regions. It was at this point that Colonel Ojukwu declared the Eastern region independent and proclaimed the birth of the republic of Biafra (30 May 1967). In those days the conflict was known globally as the “Biafra war” which opposed the mostly Hausa north and the Ibo-populated southeast, and only ended in 1970 when the separatists surrendered.
A desperate economic situation, a huge waste of resources and a tragic loss of human lives (about 1.5 million dead and injured) were all factors that contributed to the birth of Nigeria, which for the next thirty years knew only military regimes, coups d’état and an improvement in wealth for northern lobbies who, through governments close to them, managed to get their hands on the proceeds from the sale of oil in the Southern. The dictatorship ended in 1999 when General Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was elected president in the general elections, who pledged to bring peace to the country. Despite these efforts, however, Nigeria was hit by two new conflicts. In the south guerrilla warfare from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) developed, which mainly attacked foreign oil refineries. Meanwhile, in the north the jihadist sect Boko Haram was born and made their name. Over the years, despite the alternation in power between the south with GoodLuck Jonathan, and north with the current President Muhammadu Buhari, the country has still not managed to reach stability. If the war in the South by the MEND independence activists dropped in intensity, the conflict in the North intensified and the jihadist sect linked to the self-styled Islamic State has expanded. The African nation is pervaded by the scourge of corruption, boasting a debt of over 35 billion dollars. Despite revenues from crude oil sales, 65% of the population live in extreme poverty.
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania gained independence under the leadership of Moktar Ould Daddah, who remained in power until 1978. In domestic politics he tried to modernise the country, while in foreign politics he initially committed to a moderate pro-French position. He then approached the socialist bloc and in ’73 joined the Arab League. The country was always imbued with serious ethnic tensions due to the difficult relationship between Arab and African groups. Moreover, a critical economic situation and defeat in the war against the Polisario Front were events that made Ould Daddah so unpopular that, on July 10, 1978, he was overthrown by a coup. Until 1984, the Sahel was subjected to continuous military coup, and the clash with the southern Sahara independence activists also intensified. On 12 December 1984, Colonel Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya became head of state, who tried to steer the country towards general elections that took place only in the late 1990s. In the early 2000s, the country was marked by a new phase in political instability which, in 2008, brought General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to power. Today, Mauritania is one of the countries most committed in its fight against jihadism but also a country with a system of slavery that is still so rife that in 2018 the African Union reprimanded the country for not doing anything to eradicate “hereditary slavery” despite it being formally banned in 1991.