Sub-Saharan Africa Timeline, 1960-75

Kenya achieves independence from Britain, 1963



  • British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan makes “Winds of Change” speech in Capetown, South Africa.
  • Ghana’s first prime minister upon independence from Great Britain in 1956, Kwame Nkrumah elected the country’s first president. 
  • Guinea becomes a one-party state under its first and long-ruling president Sekou Toure (until 1984) after being the first of France’s African colonies to achieve independence, in 1958; allies itself with Soviet Union, then adopts Chinese form of socialism.
  • Granted autonomy in 1958, France grants independence to Dahomey on August 1, 1960 which renamed itself Benin; in the following dozen years, experienced terrible political instability between regional and ethnic groups. 
  • Ivory Coast independent from France; Felix Houphouet-Boigny becomes president until 1993.
  • Nigeria independent from Britain; Greater Yorubaland incorporated; becomes Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1963.
  • British Somaliland achieves independence.
  • Mali (nee French Sudan) achieves independence from France.
  • Niger granted independence by Fifth Republic France (July) after a large “Yes” vote in 1959. 
  • Senegal declares independence from France; poet-philosopher Leopold Senghor becomes first president.
  • Coup attempt in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia against Emperor Haile Selassie.
  • Congo achieves independence from Belgium in June to become the Republic of the Congo; civil war called the “Congo Crisis” begins immediately, results in 100,000 deaths, and lasts until 1965 involving secessionist provinces in the southeast (e.g. Katanga); becomes Cold War battleground as the USSR, China, and Cuba support the rebels; the UN and United States support the nationalists who prevail. Mobuto Sese Seko becomes dictator in 1965, rules until 1997.
  • France dissolves French Equatorial Africa territory in 1958: Cameroon, Chad, Central Africa Republic, French Congo, and Gabon become independent.
  • The Malagasy Republic achieves independence from France. 
  • Spain changes the status of Equatorial Guinea from a colony to a province.
  • Mau Mau Rebellion finally defeated in Kenya; transition to independence begins. 
  • The Belgians replace most Tutsi chiefs with Hutu in Rwanda; and create a Hutu-dominated republic that became independent in 1962. Tutsis began to leave the country in large numbers to escape Hutu persecution; low-level armed conflict begins that culminates in Rwandan genocide, April-July 1994


  • Sierra Leone and Tanganyika win independence from Britain, enter the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • The 30-year Eritrean War of Independence begins in September with the Battle of Adal; Ethiopia annexes previously autonomous Eritrea.
  • South Africa becomes a republic, abandons Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign, adopts presidential system, and leaves the Commonwealth; Natal province votes against resolution.
  • Construction begins on the Akosombo Dam in southeastern Ghana on the Volta River: financed by the American company, Kaiser Aluminum; built by an Italian company, Impreglio, which had just completed the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi; creates largest man-made reservoir in the world at 3,275 sq. mi (Rhode Island + Delaware).


  • Gabon produces its first oil two years after its independence from France.
  • Uganda, source of the Nile River, gains independence from the British after holding elections the previous year.
  • University of Lagos established.
  • Burundi monarchy restored after independence from Belgium; becomes one-party state in 1966.


  • Black majority government elected for the first time in Kenya, declares and is granted independence from Britain. Sultan of Zanzibar ceases to have sovereignty over the Protectorate of Kenya.
  • “Founding Father” Jomo Kenyatta becomes first prime minister of Kenya, then first president.
  • Organization of African Unity (OAU) established at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Leaders of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania meet in Nairobi to discuss the federation of their states into one (right).
  • Nkrumah publishes Africa Must Unite
  • The Central African Federation, formed in 1953 of the two Rhodesia’s (Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi), is dissolved with the withdrawal and subsequent independence of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). 
  • Former French Congo becomes a one-party state.
  • British Gambia granted internal self-government; independence in 1965 as constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as “Queen of the Gambia” within the Commonwealth of Nations. 
  • Malawi granted internal self government; Dr. Hastings Banda, M.D. becomes prime minister.
  • Attacks begin against Portuguese assets in Portuguese Guinea by rebels supported by Cuba and the Soviet Union, and coordinated with offensives in Portugal’s African colonies of Angola and Mozambique.   


  • Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) independent from Britain. The mineral rights of the British South Africa Company, chartered in 1889, ended; Kenneth Kaunda elected prime minister, then president (until 1991), when the country adopted a presidential system; Zambia adopts program of “African Socialism.”
  • Malawi independent from Britain (July).
  • “Rhodesian Bush War” begins in Southern Rhodesia (July); goes to December 1978: leads to independence from Britain, creation of Zimbabwe in 1980. 
  • The African majority in the Zanzibar archipelago revolt against the sultan, killing many Indians and Arabs; Tanganyika & Zanzibar merge to form the United Republic of Tanzania; Julius Nyerere becomes first president (until 1985).
  • Guerrilla warfare initiated against Portuguese rule in Mozambique (September).


  • Gambia independent from Britain.
  • Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) unilaterally declares itself independent from Britain.
  • Tutsi monarchy, extant since the 17th century, abolished in Burundi; becomes a one-party state.
  • A twenty MW nuclear reactor, SAFARI-1, with highly-enriched uranium delivered by the Allis-Chalmers Company to South Africa


  • Bloody failed coup by army officers from southeastern Nigeria (January; mainly Igbo, “Young Majors”) against central government and western and northern regions.
  • Bechuanaland (Botswana); capital moved from Mafikeng, South Africa to Gaborone; Sir Seretse Khama elected first president; begins 30-year economic expansion. 
  • Basutoland (Lesotho) independent from Britain.
  • Military coup ends presidency of Nkrumah in Ghana; transitions away from one-party state with new constitution in 1969.
  • Prime minister Milton Obote suspends the Ugandan constitution, centralizes power, abolishes tribes.
  • Bloodless nighttime coup topples Central African Republic’s first president, David Dacko.
  • Air Niger formed by the government of Niger with the assistance of Air France.
  • The British Crown colony of Basutoland becomes the constitutional monarchy of Lesotho.
  • The United Nations identifies apartheid as “a crime against humanity;” suspends South Africa from membership in 1974.


  • President Julius Nyerere makes Urusha Declaration outlining policy of Ujamaa (brotherhood) or “African Socialism” for Tanzania, a program followed also in their own ways by the newly-independent states of Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, and Zambia, among others. 
  • Igbo-dominated SE region of Nigeria declares independence as the Republic of Biafra; starts four-year civil war: nearly 4 million Igbo (children) deaths by starvation by 1970.
  • President of Senegal Leopold Senghor survives assassination attempt at Dakar’s Grand Mosque.
  • French Somaliland (Djibouti) decides in a plebiscite to stay associated with France. 
  • East African Community formed.


  • Swaziland kingdom independent from Britain; governed by the longest-ruling monarch in history, King Sobhuza II.
  • Equatorial Guinea achieves independence from Spain.
  • Sahel region enters into severe drought which would last until 1973.


  • Former French Congo becomes Africa’s first Marxist-Leninist state, the People’s Republic of the Congo.


  • Equatorial Guinea’s first president, Francisco Macias creates a one-party state, abrogates parts of the constitution, and establishes a dictatorship.
  • Gambia adopts a new constitution with a presidential system; abolishes monarchy, though within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
  • South Africa passes Homeland Citizens Act creating so-called “Bantustans.”


  • The Republic of Congo changes its name to Zaire (“river); a continuation of a process by President Mobuto of renaming places, such as cities, begun in 1966: for example, the former colonial capital, Leopoldville, became Kinshasa; Stanleyville became Kisangani; Elizabethville became Lubumbashi. 
  • Nigeria joins OPEC.
  • Hastings Banda becomes president of Malawi “for life.”


  • Tutsi genocide of Hutus begins in Burundi; genocide reprised terribly in 1993 with Hutus against Tutsis.
  • Idi Amin begins genocidal “Africanization” program in Uganda; expulsion of South Asians, mostly Gujaratis
  • First North-South civil war begins in Sudan. 


  • Zambian constitution amended to make the country a one-political party state (Choma Declaration).
  • The United Nations creates the Sahelian Office (UNSO) for issues of drought in the Sahel region.


  • Emperor Haile Selassie steps down after a 33-year rule in Ethiopia; succeeded by a military council (“Derg”) which abolished the monarchy (“Ethiopian Revolution”) and established a Marxist-Leninist government until 1991 (Selassie died in 1975 under mysterious circumstances).
  • Mali writes a new constitution that ensures a one-party state.
  • Benin becomes a Marxist-Leninist state and renames itself the People’s Republic of Benin.
  • “Portugal’s Vietnam” ends: Portuguese Guinea recognized as independent; changes names to Guinea-Bissau


  • Slumping copper prices cause economic crises throughout Zambia and in Zaire’s Katanga province.
  • The Treaty of Lagos establishes the Economic Community of West African States.
  • Mozambique achieves independence from Portugal.
  • Angola achieves independence from Portugal, civil war begins between two former liberation groups which lasts until 2002.
  • Gabon becomes a member of OPEC.
  • The Malagasy Republic changes its name to Madagascar.
  • South Africa signs Biological Weapons Convention.


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