June – A Month of Independence

The month of June comes with many celebrations. Here in Africa, the month of June is important in the calendar of many nations as it marks an end to an era and to a new beginning, a beginning of independence, self-rule and equality. Five African nations mark their independence day in this month and here is a list of the countries.

Republic of Djibouti, 27th June 1977

The Republic of Djibouti is a small country located on the horn of Africa. Djibouti gained its independence on 27 June 1977 from France. During the colonial era, the territory was named French Somaliland, a name that was changed to Djibouti its biggest city after independence. Being the last of France’s colonies in Africa, an independence referendum was held on 8th May 1977 in the French territory of Affars and the Issas present-day Djibouti, which declared the territory independent from France. After the referendum, Hassan Gouled Aptidon became the president of the Governing Council on 18 May 1977 and was later elected the first President of the Republic by the Chamber of Deputies, a post he held until 1999.

Republic of Djibouti

Lying on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, its port is the driving force of its economy as it serves as a gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Djibouti’s saline Lake Assal lies 155 meters below sea level, making it the lowest point on the continent. The lake is used for quarrying salt. The country is one of the least populated countries in the continent with a population of less than 1 million.

Independence Day celebrations are celebrated with businesses decorating their windows in the blue, green, white and the red star of the Djiboutian flag.

Democratic Republic of Congo, 30th June 1960

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the second largest country in Africa by area and is located in central Africa. The country fell under Belgian rule after King Leopold the Second founded the Congo Free State, a corporate state run exclusively by the King. During the 1885 conference in Berlin, King Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory and made the land his private property. 1908, after prevalent reports of murder and torture in the rubber plantations by the ‘Force Publique’, the colonial military unit and the Belgium government seized the Congo from King Leopold II and established the Belgian Congo.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Belgium started losing control after the wave of struggle for independence swept across the continent. Numerous uprisings by the Congolese people in Leopoldville now Kinshasa and beyond led Belgium to grant Congo its independence on 30th June 1960. Patrice Lumumba became the Prime Minister and Joseph Kasavubu the President. However, this did not last long as the two leaders disagreed and by September of the same year, President Kasavubu announced that he had dismissed Lumumba as Prime Minister. Lumumba on the other side went on radio to announce that he had dismissed Kasavubu as President. In the midst of this confusion, 29 year old minister of Defense, Mobutu Sese Seko announced that he is ‘neutralizing’ all politicians and is temporarily taking over the duties of government in the name of the army. He re-appointed Kasavubu President in February 1961. The same year also saw the arrest and execution of Patrice Lumumba. Mobutu seized power again in 1965 and became President a post he held until 1997 when his government was overthrown by Laurent-Desire Kabila. During his time, Mobutu renamed the country Zaire. It was later renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo when Kabila came into office. Laurent Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2001 and his son Joseph Kabila succeeded him.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the continent’s richest in natural resources such as rubber and diamonds. The country has a population of over 80 million and is the most populated Francophone country and the fourth most populated nation in Africa.

Independence Day in DRC is celebrated in style as soldiers take part in parades which are broadcasted on television. The media also shows various films with the theme of their struggle to independence.

Mozambique, 25th June 1975

The Republic of Mozambique is a Southern African coastal nation. It gained independence from Portugal on 25th June 1975 after 10 years of the Mozambican War of Independence. This war was an armed conflict between the guerrilla forces of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and Portugal.  FRELIMO was formed in the 1960’s and started revolts trying to oust the Portuguese. They made frequent attacks on Portuguese envoys and military installations, strengthening its base in northern rural areas and concentrating on wresting control of Portuguese areas. Samora Machel the then Chairman of FRELIMO became the first president after independence, a post he held until 1986 when his presidential aircraft crashed near the Mozambique-South African border.

Republic of Mozambique

During his tenure, Machel, a Marxist, had established a one party state and received diplomatic and some military support from Cuba and the then Soviet Union and went ahead to crack down on the opposition. This led to resistance and plunged the country into a long and violent civil war between the opposition forces of anti-Communist Mozambican National Resistance rebel militias and the FRELIMO regime. After Samora’s death, Joaquim Chissano took over as president transforming the war-torn country into one of Africa’s most successful democracies. The coastal nation boasts of rich and extensive natural resources. Agriculture is the main economic driver and the country is experiencing growth in industries mainly food and beverage, chemical manufacturing together with aluminium and petroleum production.

They celebrate their independence day with parades and processions in Maputo, the capital city. The celebrations are presided over by the president and prime minister and often use the day to champion various government transformations.

Madagascar, 26th June 1960

The Republic of Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South East Africa. The country which was previously called the Malagasy Republic is the fourth largest island in the world and they gained their independence on 26th June 1960 from France. The struggle for independence in Madagascar started in 1945 through legal channels but escalated in March 1947 when Malagasy nationalists armed mainly with spears, coordinated surprise attacks against military bases and French-owned farms in the eastern part of the island. The nationalist cause was rapidly adopted in the south and spread to the central highlands and the capital of Antananarivo by the following month, with the number of Malagasy nationalist fighters estimated at over one million. The uprising dubbed as the Malagasy Uprising was tamed after several months of fighting, but at the cost of many lives.

Republic of Madagascar

The French then created reformed institutions in 1956 paving way for a peaceful transition towards independence. The Republic of Malagasy was declared on October 14, 1958, within the French community. Full independence was declared on June 26, 1960, under the leadership of French-appointed President Philibert Tsiranana. His tenure was characterised by a continuation of strong economic and political ties to France. This led to a popular resentment and a series of protests by farmers and students opposed to his tolerance of what they viewed as neo-colonialism. He was overthrown in 1972 by Gabriel Ramanantsoa, a major general in the army who took over as the interim president and later on as prime minister. The country has witnessed major political and constitutional changes since independence and today it is led by a democratically elected President, Hery Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana.

The country boasts of diverse natural resources including a variety of unprocessed agricultural and mineral resources. The main economic drivers include agriculture, fishing and forestry. The island nation is the world’s major supplier of vanilla, cloves and Cananga tree.

They celebrate their independence day by holding colourful festivals in the streets as well as various contests such as eating and drinking competitions.

Seychelles, 29th June 1976

The Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago made up of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. The country gained its independence from Britain on 29th June 1976. 1964, the country had its first political parties the Seychelles People United Party (SPUP) led by France Albert Rene and championing socialism, calling for independence from Britain. The other party formed was Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), a pro-business party led by James Mancham who was advocating for closer integration with the United Kingdom. In 1966 they held their first legislative elections which the SDP won. Following the elections, in March 1970, the colonial and political representatives of Seychelles met in London for a constitutional convention. Negotiations were started with the British which resulted in an agreement that made Seychelles an independent Republic in 1976.

Republic of Seychelles

The newly knighted Sir James Mancham became the nation’s first President forming a coalition government with Frank Albert René as Prime Minister. In June 1977, Mancham was overthrown while on a trip overseas and France Albert Rene became President. The Seychelles became a one-party state, with the SPUP becoming the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF). Rene held the office of President until 2004 when he stepped down. During his tenure, he managed to transform Seychelles from a poverty-stricken, least developed country to a middle income well-governed state, with universal health coverage and a literacy rate over 90%.

Independence Day in Seychelles is celebrated by a parade usually held in the capital Victoria. The celebrations always feature high profile appearances led by the President, Vice President, Police Commissioner and other dignitaries. Cultural events promoting the togetherness of the people are also common, and sometimes a helicopter with the national flag draped below will appear.

 

Maurice Oniang'o
Maurice Oniang'o is a versatile award-winning Kenyan Journalist. He has produced for highly rated Television programs such as Project Green, an incisive environmental show and Tazama, a half-hour documentary series, which were broadcast on Kenya Television Network (KTN). He has a keen interest in stories about environment, corruption, technology, security, health, education, human rights and governance. He has won various awards including: Environmental Reporter TV- AJEA, Thomson Foundation Young Journalist of the Year (FPA), among others. He is a Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa Fellow (Financial Journalism), Africa Uncensored Investigate 101 Fellow and a member of Journalists for Transparency (J4T), a collective of journalist and storytellers that seek to explore issues of transparency and corruption around the globe. Maurice is currently a Freelance Documentary Filmmaker and Writer based in Nairobi, Kenya.