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May-June 2010

16 African states marking 50 years of independence in 2010

Daniel TseghayWebsite

Colonies freed in 1960’s “Year of Africa” ended up on very different paths

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the “Year of Africa,” when 16 African countries successfully achieved independence from their European colonizers.

Since then, the graduates of the 1960 decolonization movement have gone on to do some great—and some not-so-great—things. Below we highlight five of these countries and their current statuses.

SOMALIA
Most Depressing
This Horn of Africa country has not had a functioning government since 1991 and instead is run by warlords and terrorists. One of these groups, al-Shabab, maintains connections with al- Qaeda, making Somalia a place of interest in the United States’ War on Terror. Oxfam International has called Somalia Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis and no wonder: About three million of its residents depend on foreign food aid.

CONGO (KINSHASA)
Most Influential (but not in a good way)
Africa is in the grips of its own world war and this central African state was at the middle of it. For five years (from 1998-2003), Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe had been fighting against Uganda and Rwanda over the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its mineral wealth. Over 500,000 have been driven from their homes by soldiers, and about 5.5 million have died from war-related causes since 1998.

GABON
Most Stable (though not necessarily for the right reason)
Since it’s home to 40 ethnic groups, one might reasonably expect this West African state to have experienced some conflicts. But no, Gabon is stable and, thanks to oil reserves, relatively prosperous. But while stable, the country is anything but democratic: there have only been two presidential administrations since independence, a family dynasty of one leader followed by his son.

NIGERIA
Most Uncertain
This African powerhouse is both the diplomatic centre of West Africa and the continent’s leading oil producer. It’s also internationally recognized for its freedom of the press. However, economic inequality brought about by unequal access to the fruits of oil production is bringing Nigeria to the brink of division along ethnic lines. A corruption-prone government doesn’t help matters.

BENIN
Most Hopeful
First the bad news: Benin has the alarming title of the least developed country out of the 16 who gained independence in 1960. But on the positive side, this small West African nation has a fairly robust civil society and, unlike Gabon, boasts a number of established political parties the people can choose from.

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