Part V: Post-Independence Africa
mid- to late 20th century
African Timelines Table of Contents History, Orature, Literature, & Film
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Short Cuts on this web page to brief Discussions on:
Kofi Awoonor | Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart | Neocolonialism, Negritude Movement Wanes  
& Disillusionment & Critique | Anti-Apartheid Literature | Nelson Mandela |
Flora Nwapa's Efuru, African Women Break Their Silence & Ama Ata Aidoo |
Cheikh Anta Diop | Ngugi wa Thiong'o | the Question of Languages & Audiences
Access, Censorship & Exile
| African Cinema | Africa in the News Today |
In Memoriam:
Leopold Sédhar Senghor

Routes to Independence in Africa (Dr. Jim Jones, African History courses at West Chester Univ., Pennsylvania) with in-depth discussion of Four Case Studies: Algeria: A Settler Colony; Egypt: A Modernized Colony; Gold Coast (Ghana): A Non-Settler Colony; & Belgian Congo: A Colony Unprepared:
1957 GHANA BECOMES FIRST INDEPENDENT BLACK STATE IN AFRICA under Kwame Nkrumah through Gandhi-inspired rallies, boycotts, and strikes, forcing the British to transfer power over the former colony of the Gold Coast.
1957-1958 Ghana's Kofi Awoonor, respected African poet and critic, begins systematically collecting and translating (into English) traditional African oral art forms and orature, such as Ewe dirges. These he would weave into contemporary experience in his poetry and fiction (e.g. Night of My Blood, 1985; This Earth, My Brother, 1971], seeking to recover/reinvent pre-colonial traditional African culture and orature, and to affirm the continuity with indigenous creative forms as the key to survival. The last four decades of the 20th century have seen intensified efforts by anthropologists, historians, artists and others to preserve, collect, record, translate, and publish African oratures.
1958 Chinua Achebe (Nigeria): Things Fall Apart, written in "African English," examines Western civilization's threat to traditional values and reaches a large, diverse international audience. Like many other African writers, Achebe integrates his people’s rich oral traditions in his writing. African artists, writers, and filmmakers continue to draw upon the inspiration of African oral arts traditions in their work today.
1958 All-African People's Conference: Resolution on Imperialism and Colonialism, Accra, December 5-13, 1958 - Primary Text available from Paul Halsall's Modern History Sourcebook: 


1954 – 1962 French colonies (Francophone Africa) oppose continued French rule despite concessions, though many are eager to maintain economic and cultural ties to France--except in Algeria, with a white settler population of 1 million. Bitterly vicious civil war in Algeria ensues until independence is gained in 1962, six years after Morocco and Tunisia had received independence.
1961 Franz Fanon’s enormously influential Les damnes de la terre [trans. into English as The Damned in 1963; as The Wretched of the Earth in 1965, with an introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre] examines the psychological and material costs of colonization in the midst of the bitter Algerian war for independence (1954-1962).
1960 Sierra Leone's William Conton publishes African, accentuating cultural differences experienced by a young African educated in England.
1960 D.T. Niane publishes Soundjata ou l’Epoque Mandiginue, a written French translation of the Sundjata oral epic as performed by modern Mande djeliba (griot) Djeli Mamdou Kouyate, passed from djeliba to djeliba in his family for 700 years; in 1965, translated into English as Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, by G. D. Pickett

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1958 White [Dutch-descent] Afrikaners officially gain independence from Great Britain in South Africa.
Late 50s – early 60s Anti-Apartheid Literature: The effects of South African racial policy on private lives increasingly treated in works of internationally known white South African writers in English, including Doris Lessing (Children of Violence series); novelist and short-story writer Nadine Gordimer, and playwright Athol Fugard.
1963 Dennis Brutus, prominent black South African poet (exiled and now living in the U.S.), depicts the effects of racial repression on everyday life, life in prison, in urban slums, in exile in Sirens Knuckles Boots--also themes in later works Letters to Martha (1969), Stubborn Hope (1978).
1964 Nelson Mandela, on trial for sabotage with other ANC leaders before the Pretoria Supreme Court, delivers his eloquent and courageous Speech from the Dock* before he is imprisoned for the next 25 years in the notorious South African prison Robben Island.


1960 -
Zaire (formerly Belgian Congo, the richest European colony in Africa & setting of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness) becomes independent from Belgium in 1960.  Then in Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), "charismatic nationalist Patrice Lumumba was ... martyred in 1961, with the connivance of the [U.S.] Central Intelligence Agency and a thirty-year-old Congolese colonel who would soon become President of the country, Joseph Deséré Mobutu."  (Bill Berkeley, "Zaire: An African Horror Story," The Atlantic Monthly, August 1993; rpt. Atlantic Online  
Berkeley's article explores "how, through a regime of corruption, violence, and shrewd manipulation, Mobutu ... managed to keep a grip on power since he first took over Zaire, with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency, in the 1960s, . . . despite (or perhaps thanks to) a state of near anarchy in which inflation has reached more than 6,000 percent and unemployment has stood at 80 percent."
1962 Algeria (of Arab and Berber peoples) wins independence from France; over 900,000 white settlers leave the newly independent nation.
1963 Multi-ethnic Kenya (East Africa) declares independence from British.

Charter of the Organisation of African Unity, May 25 1963, Primary document available from Paul Halsall's Modern History Sourcebook: 

1963, 1964 East Africans produce important autobiographical works, such as Kenyans Josiah Kariuki’s Mau Mau Detainee (1963), and R. Mugo Gatheru’s Child of Two Worlds (1964).
mid-60s Most former European colonies in Africa gain independence and European colonial era effectively ends. NEOCOLONIALISM, however, plagues many new African nations: Western economic and cultural dominance, and African leaders’ and parties’ corruption intensify the multiple problems facing the new nations. (As Achebe points out (in his interview with Bill Moyers: see Hum 211 African Film), colonial rule does not teach subjects how to rule themselves). Indigenous ethnic groups often feel stronger loyalty to traditional cultural ties and geographical homelands than to the arbitrary political boundary lines, first drawn by European colonizers, of independent African states.
1965 Rhodesia: Unilateral Declaration of Independence Documents, 1965, Primary documents available from Paul Halsall's Modern History Sourcebook: 
  • Excerpt from Soviet Government Statement: The Situation in Southern Rhodesia, November 15, 1965:  "The colonialists have committed a new crime against the African peoples. On November 11 the racialist régime of Ian Smith proclaimed the 'independence' of Southern Rhodesia [from the U.K.]. These actions are aimed at perpetuating in Southern Rhodesia a colonial system based on inhuman oppression of the Zimbabwe people, four million strong, by a handful of racialists and on ruthless suppression of the lust struggle of this people for real independence, freedom and social justice."
1960s – 1970s Negritude movement wanes after most African colonies achieve independence, and a new generation of African writers and intellectuals (e.g. Wole Soyinka in Myth, Literature and the African World, 1976) sharply criticized Negritude concepts, which they felt reinforced racial stereotypes and were largely irrelevant to the new problems facing post-colonial Africa. Negritude poets had "defended the humanity of those whose humanity had been denied on the basis of race, a step that was unquestionably necessary," but in so doing they idealized the precolonial past and affirmed an racial essence they claimed was "natural" to Africans (e.g. love of nature, rhythm, spirituality) (Julien in Martin and O’Meara 300).
DISILLUSIONMENT & CRITIQUE: Increasingly in post-independence Africa, arts and literatures of disillusionment and protest develop against neocolonial abuses and corrupt African political systems, leaders, and military regimes.
Wole Soyinka’s novel The Interpreters (1965), a satirical analysis of modern Nigeria and its ancient traditions, is one of several works that establish Soyinka as an outspoken critic of Nigeria's military regime. Achebe’s A Man of the People (1966) is a political satire on corruption in an unnamed African country.
1966 Shakespeare's Julius Caesar translated into Swahili in 1966 by Tanzania's then president, Julius Nyerere, still a widely read work in East Africa. In the same era, Jean Joseph Rabéarivelo, who had modeled earlier poems on French symbolist writings, turns to brilliant use of the native vernacular ballad form of Madagascar.

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1966 Flora Nwapa's Efuru is the first novel published by a woman writer in Nigeria, a pioneer in breaking the silence of black African female writers in English, regarding their lives, and the tensions between women’s desires and the strictures of African womanhood, at the same time that many male writers portray precolonial Africa as a golden age.
AFRICAN WOMEN BREAK THEIR SILENCE: From the early chorus of African voices denouncing colonialism, female voices were absent. "The ‘first generation’ of male writers critique the imperial and colonial project for its racism and oppression, but they nonetheless (and not unlike the European objects of their critique) portray these matters as they pertain to men, and they formulate a vision of independence or of utopias in which women are either goddesses, such as muses and idealized mothers, or mere helpmates." Powerful new African women writers since Nwapa, including Ama Ata Aidoo
Bessie Head, and Tsitsi Dangarembga, have filled the silences surrounding African women’s lives and perspectives, and writing by women has developed rapidly in recent years (Julien in Martin and O’Meara 300-301).

Third World & Third World Women (Nicola Graves, Postcolonial Studies at Emory Univ.):

African Women Writers (George A. Smathers Libraries, Univ. of Florida): 
African Writers: Voices of Change
(George A. Smathers Libraries, Univ. of Florida) 
includes Ama Ata Aidoo, Mariama Ba,
Buchi Emecheta, and Bessie Head


1968 Ayi Kwei Armah, Ghanaian novelist, depicted the end of the regime of Ghana's president Kwame Nkrumah in The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born a novel of disillusionment and alienation. Social criticism also marks the work of Sembene Ousmane, Senegalese filmmaker and author of Gods Bits of Wood (1970), and Mongo Beti, Cameroonian author of The Poor Christ of Bomba (1956).
1968 Malian Yambo Ouologuem writes the controversial Le Devoir de violence (1968; trans. in English as Bound to Violence in 1971), of the fictionalized West African empire Nakem from 13th c. to 1947, drawing on oral traditions and Islamic chronicles of the Songhai Empire to challenge versions of the African past, and criticize the African elites still ruling the modern Sahel region despite independence. Ouologuem negates Negritude’s claim of African pre-colonial goodness and seems to assert instead an inherent African violence.
1968 James Ngugi [who later adopted the traditional Gikuyu name Ngugi wa Thiong'o], Henry Owuor-Anyumba, and Taban Lo Liyong call for "the Abolition of the English Department" at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, arguing that a Department of African Literature and Languages be set up in its place featuring study of the African "oral tradition, which is our primary root."
late 1960s - late 1970s Popular genre painting--"acrylics or oils on canvas reclaimed from flour sacking"--by self-educated Shaba artists flourished in urban, industrial Katanga region of Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire).  The paintings "recalled ancestral origins, colonial history, the fight for independence, post-colonial struggles for power, and the predicaments of urban African life."  Foremost among these painters was Tshibumba Kanda Matulu, who completed, in 1973-1974, a "complete History of Zaire in one hundred pictures and a narrative." 

Tshibumba and his work are the subject of Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire, by Johannes Fabian (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), as well as "The history of Zaire as told and painted by Tshibumba Kanda Matulu in conversation with Johannes Fabian," Archives of Popular Swahili 2.1 (6 Nov. 1998) -  Language and Popular Culture in Africa
(multi-part article is in both Swahili and English):

1970s Portugal loses African colonies, including Angola and Mozambique.


1971 Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana) "Certain Winds from the South" [rpt. In African Short Stories ], from her early collection of short stories No Sweetness Here, voices women’s concerns as they face problems of urbanization, Westernization, sexism, absence of husbands and fathers, prostitution, clashing values and expectations. Aidoo is also a playwright [Dilemma of a Ghost, 1971; Anowa, 1980] and novelist [Our Sister Killjoy, 1966; Changes—A Love Story, 1991]. A significant development in post-independence African literature is the emergence of African women writers like Aidoo, Flora Nwapa, Mariama Ba, Eno Obong, Aminata Sow Fall, Awa Keita, and Khady Sylla.
1974 Kofi Awoonor (Ghana) publishes Guardians of the Sacred Wood: Ewe Poetry.
1975 Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), writing in English but drawing inspiration from Yoruba myths, produces a considerable body of poetry and plays, such as Death and the King's Horseman (1975).
1976 Cheikh Anta Diop (Senegal, 1923-1986), one of the great African intellectuals of the 20th century, publishes the influential and controversial book, The African Origin of Civilization, his project to "identify the distortions [about African history] we have learned and correct them for future generations" (Asante and Abarry 113). Diop’s body of work has altered the historiography of Africa, as well as scholarship in anthropology, Egyptology, physics, sociology, and politics.


1977 Bessie Head (Botswana; b. South Africa) publishes "Snapshots of a Wedding" in The Collector of Treasures. Rpt. in African Short Stories], one of her fictions of village life in rural Botswana. Head’s earlier novels When Rain Clouds Gather (1968), Maru (1971), and A Question of Power (1974), capture her experience of discrimination into tightly constructed art, and reveal interlocking oppressions of race, gender, and a patriarchal God.
1977 Ngugi wa Thiong’o publishes Petals of Blood, a major novel in English attacking present-day Kenyan society, joining his earlier novels [Weep Not, Child, 1964; The River Between, 1965; A Grain of Wheat, 1967], short stories, and plays dealing with many aspects of Kenyan lives within colonialism and neocolonialism, the impact of Christianity and Westernized education, the cultural practice of excision, religious conflict and collective struggle. ["Minutes of Glory," from Secret Lives - rpt. in African Short Stories.] Forced into exile from Kenya since 1982 when many Kenyan students and teachers were imprisoned, Ngugi lived in Europe, pursuing an interest in filmmaking and publishing children’s stories. As of 1998, Ngugi wa Thiong'o is Professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, and Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Languages, at New York University.
THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGES & AUDIENCES: Ngugi’s next play, critical of the Kenyan government, landed him in prison and led him to adopt his native Gikuyu, rather than the colonizer’s language English, in his future creative works. Ngugi has championed the controversial position that true African literature and orature must be written/spoken/performed in African languages for African peoples. Ngugi’s turn to plays reflects the conviction that performance media like theater, cinema, television, or radio are best suited for authors wishing to reach large, non-literate indigenous audiences—a position shared by many African filmmakers, though ironically, African films attract larger audiences abroad than in their native Africa. Achebe leads other African writers who continue to write creative works in European languages, Africanized and "appropriated" for African purposes and themes. Achebe discusses the issue of writing in a foreign language in "The African Writer and the English Language," from Morning Yet on Creation Day (London: Heinemann, 1975). As Julien points out, "foreign publishers and (paying) readerships, and still lower literacy rates in national than in European languages, militat[e] against the use of African languages. But there are indeed many thriving African-language literatures, such as those in Yoruba, Swahili, Poular, and Zulu, and these will continue to grow" (Julien in Martin and O’Meara 303-304).
ACCESS, CENSORSHIP, & EXILE: "Within Africa, college students in…Cote d’Ivoire may, in fact, have never read Ngugi of Kenya, either because of francocentric and anglocentric educational legacies, or because they cannot afford to buy books, were books available. American students have far greater access to African literature than do most African students. Books by African writers are likewise more likely to be published and marketed in Paris and London than in Dakar or Lagos; or those published in major overseas capitals are more likely to garner international acclaim" (Julien in Martin and O’Meara 305).

"One of the terrible, ironic testimonies to the vitality of African literature, to its resolute denunciation of all forms of domination, is the fact that writers—Kofi Awoonor, Mongo Beti, Bessie Head, Dennis Brutus, Nuruddin Farah, Jack Mapanje, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Wole Soyinka, to name some of the most prominent—are routinely censored and forced into exile, when they are not incarcerated and tortured. African writers often wander, teach, and write on foreign shores because they cannot do so at home" (Julien in Martin and O’Meara 304-305).

NADINE GORDIMER ON FREE SPEECH & CENSORSHIP: "While we rejoice at new freedom for writers in many countries long denied it, and work for freedom for writers in those countries where the many devices of censorship still prevail, we must also remember that writers are never freed of the past. Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever. Where censorship appears to be swept away in the rubble of toppled regimes, let us make sure that it does not rise again to the demands of some future regime, for the generations of writers who will grow up, anywhere in the new world in the making. As African National Congress Secretary of Culture Barbara Maskela has said bluntly, and surely for all of us: "We are not prepared to see culture become a case of arrested development, frozen at the point of liberation. Nor will we be content with a culture vulnerable to becoming the fiefdom of some future oppressive ruling class.’"—from Gordimer’s speech entitled "Censorship and Its Aftermath," June 1990. [Contemporary authors (1981- 1991); Detroit : Gale Research Co.(1992 )].

Claiming Art/Reclaiming Space: Post Apartheid Art from South Africa
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art presents online exhibition examining the effect of Apartheid and Post-Apartheid era on artists' creative expression:


1979 Mazisi Kunene publishes Emperor Shaka the Great: A Zulu Epic, in the oral tradition of the great Zulu praise singers of Zulu kings, reflecting the post-independence period of African nationalism, a Pan-Africanist vision of union and romanticization of the past.
1979 Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria), in The Joys of Motherhood, its title ironic, examines marriage and family in the village and colonial city from a woman’s perspective.
1980 Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) gains independence from large white settler population after years of hostilities.

The soil of our country South Africa is destined to be the scene
of the fiercest fight and the sharpest struggles
to rid our continent of the last vestiges of white minority rule.
--Nelson Mandela, June 1980
(qtd. "Racism" Bloomsbury Thematic Dictionary of Quotations, Bloomsbury
, 1997) 

1970s –1980s Police state of South African white minority rulers hardens to maintain blatantly racist and inequitable system of apartheid, resulting violence, hostilities, strikes, massacres headlined worldwide.

[Map] South Africa: Black Homelands (CIA 1982, Univ. of Pennsylvania):

1982 Athol Fugard's "Master Harold"…. & the Boys (1982; for a description of the film version, see Hum 211 African Films), joins his earlier plays, such as The Blood Knot (1961), Boesman and Lena (1969), Sizwe Bansi Is Dead (1976, co-authored with black South Africans John Kani and Winston Ntshona) in openly defying South African government policies, presenting spare dramas of survivors ensnared in apartheid.
1984 J. M. Coetzee, author of The Life and Times of Michael K. (1984), is one of many white South Africans writing in both Afrikaans and English, including poets D. J. Opperman and Breyten Breytenbach; their themes are concerned particularly with the damaging effects of the apartheid policy.
1985 Breyten Breytenbach, formerly a supporter of Afrikaner nationalism now in exile in Paris, writes The Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (1985) in English; renouncing his native language Afrikaans in this unflinching exploration of the effects of his seven years in South African prisons on charges of terrorism.

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1985 Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes, eds., publish African Short Stories, a collection of short fiction by African writers from all over the continent.
1985 African Cinema: Ousmane Sembene (Senegal), Souleymane Cisse (Mali), and other leaders of African cinema, create WAFCO (West African Film Corp.), advocating inter-African film as an instrument of education, change, cultural preservation and revival, and the most effective way to reach indigenous non-literate African audiences

FESPACO (Festival of Pan-African Cinema), the most important pan-African film festival 
held biannually in Ouagadougou, Burkina Fasso, has adopted this motto:

"No people should be hungry for their own image."

Yeelen (Mali, 1987), dir. Soulemane Cisse, shown at 10th FESPACO
(See Hum 211
African Films and African Contexts: Film on Yeelen and FESPACO.) 

1986 Nigerian poet-dramatist-prose writer Wole Soyinka awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature; fellow Nigerian John Pepper Clark uses Ijaw myths and social situations in poetry and plays, and poet-novelist Gabriel Okara, author of The Voice, concentrates exclusively on African characters and values.
1988 Egyptian novelist and short story writer Nabuib Mahfouz awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first prizewinning writer with Arabic as his native tongue.
  • The Nobel Prize in Literature 1988: Naguib Mahfouz, "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" (Nobel Foundation):
1988 Tsisi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe) publishes Nervous Conditions, a rebellious young woman’s coming of age story, moving from countryside to city, struggling against racism, classism, and sexism in colonial Rhodesia.
1990 I Is a Long-Memoried Woman (UK, Frances Anne Soloman, dir.), based on the Diasporic poetry of Grace Nichols (Guyana-UK).

"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society
in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunites
...if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Nelson Mandela, Speech, 11 Feb 1990, after his release from prison.
Mandela was reiterating his words at his trial in 1964
(qtd. "Racism" Bloomsbury Thematic Dictionary of Quotations, Bloomsbury
, 1997) 

1990 Dramatic freeing of long-time black political prisoner Nelson Mandela by Afrikaner President de Klerk in South Africa. Ethnic violence erupts between Zulu and Xhosa factions and bitter rivalries evident among South African black majority groups and white Nationalist groups.
1991 South African Nadine Gordimer wins the Nobel Prize for Literature (official Nobel Foundation site with photo & biography of Gordimer: ), noting "her work comprises novels and short stories in which the consequences of apartheid form the central theme." (Gordimer authored short story "The Bridegroom" rpt. in African Short Stories)


Apartheid is abolished, and South Africa begins preparing for multiracial elections.

Mandela and de Klerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their leadership towards a democratic South Africa.

1994 In South Africa’s first multiracial elections in April, Nelson Mandela is elected President, instituting black majority rule.
1992 Afrique, Je Te Plumerai, dir. Jean-Marie Teno (Cameroon).
See Hum 211 African Films & Film Contexts
1993 An Aroma of Coffee by Dany Laferriere (Haiti-Canada) .
1994 Leaf and Bone: African Praise Poetry, ed. Judith Gleason.
1994 Keita: The Heritage of the Griot , dir. Dani Kouyate (Burkina Faso).
See Hum 211 African Films

Map of The "New" Africa, 1990 
(Ralph et al's World Civilizations, Examination Chapters, W. W. Norton):  

"Consider the map of the world, with its 190 or so countries,
each signified by a bold and uniform color: this map,
with which all of us have grown up, 
is generally an invention of modernism, 
specifically of European colonialism."

--Robert Kaplan, "The Coming Anarchy" Atlantic Monthly Feb. 1994
Rpt. Atlantic Online 

Map of "Africa" - 1885 from Black’s General Atlas of the World.
While this map of Scottish cartographer John Bartholomew was being printed in Edinburgh,
"representatives of the major European powers were gathered in Berlin
poring over similar maps and drawing lines on them—
lines that would become the political boundaries for colonial empires
that would dominate African history for the next 75 years.
Teaching with Maps
, Newberry Library, 2000 



The Hutus massacre up to a million Tutsis in Rwanda; then fearing reprisals from the new Tutsi government, more than a million Hutu refugees fled Rwanda in a panicked mass migration that captured the world's attention. 

500,000 Hutu refugees streamed back into Rwanda to escape fighting in Zaire, "yet another episode in the increasingly long history of tension and warfare between the Hutus and the Tutsis -- and of the West's equivocation about whether to intervene."  "Violence and Unrest in Central Africa," 22 Nov. 1996, Atlantic Online / Flashbacks: 

  • "The Atlantic Report: Rwanda" (June 1964) traces "how the Tutsi minority came to govern the Hutu majority through a system of feudalism dating back four centuries."  Rpt. Atlantic Online / Flashbacks
  • Stanley Meisler,  "Rwanda and Burundi" The Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 1973); rpt. Atlantic Online / Flashbacks
  • African Viewpoint: Letter from Dr. Joseph L. Mbele [of Tanzania] on "the Rwandan issue":  

"While tensions between Hutus and Tutsis created the recent refugee crisis, the civil unrest caused by Zairean rebels trying to overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko was the spark. Bill Berkeley's "Zaire: An African Horror Story" (August, 1993) explored how, through a regime of corruption, violence, and shrewd manipulation, Mobutu has managed to keep a grip on power since he first took over Zaire, with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency, in the 1960s."

"Africa now... Yes, there's disappointment, pain, sorrow. But I say to myself, when was it in the last 500 years that Africa has not been in great pain and sorrow and disappointment? The answer is, very rarely.

"There's an Igbo proverb that says of a particular kind of rodent we have--the grass cutter, which when chewing through the grass makes a lot of noise--even if there's only one of them left, you'll hear this sound. That's a rather grim kind of hope, but the alternative is to give up and kill yourself. I don't like that option.

"You celebrate whatever achievement you can. Somebody asked me recently how I could talk about African literature as a celebration in view of Africa's problems. I said that I'm simply basing my attitude on something very old in my culture. We had celebrations where there were carvings of the white district officer, of the earth goddess, of the gods of thunder and of smallpox. If you don't bring terrifying characters into your celebration, they'll be out there plotting something else. You bring them in and keep an eye on them."

--Chinua Achebe, qtd. "Chinua Achebe: Views of Home from Afar"
Interview with Gayle Feldman, Publishers Weekly 3 July 2000 


1999 South Africa's second democratic elections were free of violence and disorder. The ANC (African Nation Congress) wins another commanding victory, some attributing this fact to Nelson Mandela's efforts to foster racial reconciliation and peaceful transition. Mandela's hand-picked successor Thabo Mbeki assumes the national presidency in the face of formidable challenges posed by the 21st century. For some headline news reports, see:

African Impact: Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century
An initiative of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, 2000-2001:

Titles Nominated
as of June 2000: 

Conference: "Home and Exile: Achebe at 70" in Celebration of Chinua Achebe's 70th Birthday, 3-4 Nov. 2000, Bard College: incl. author's works, awards, prizes, lectures, honorary doctorates; speakers: Nuruddin Farah, Nadine Gordimer, Ali Mazrui, Toni Morrison, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Wole Soyinka. 
2001 After 38 years in existence, the Organisation for African Unity (OAU: ) is replaced by the African Union, loosely modeled on the European Union.  The Pan-African Movement says that the creation of the African Union brings the dream of a common African currency, foreign policy, defense structure and economic program closer to reality.

Africa in the News

  • AllAfrica.com 
  • BBC News: Africa: 
  • CNNI: Inside Africa ( 
  • Daily Mail & Guardian (from South Africa): 
    (from South Africa): 
  • (Web Wombat) 
    This metasite indexes and links to the homepages of 10,000 online newspapers from around the world, by country, province or state.
    (My thanks to Brenda Sanchez, Winter 2002 Hum 211 student, for recommending this African news website!)

    PANAPRESS: About Us: (and following):
    PANA = Pan African News Agency
    , created in 1979 by OAS (Organization of African States), an “intergovernmental body” determined to present a balanced view of African and combat stereotypes of the continent “as rife with famine, civil war and disease."   PANAPRESS, Ltd., came into being in 1997, an “international news and information service,” with correspondents and stringers in 51 countries, supported by UNESCO--”committed to providing an accurate, objective, yet fresh view of African peoples, politics, and business climates” offered from ”THE AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE.”

  • Voice of America News

In Memoriam: Leopold Sédhar Senghor
We mourn the passing of the founding father of Negritude
and independent Senegal, who died 22 Dec. 2001, at the age of 95.
"I feel that if I had remained a teacher, 
my poetry would have been gratuitous and more impoverished,
for what feeds it is the communal life, the life of my people.
In my poetry I certainly express my personal life,
but I express myself as a black man, an African."

--Leopold Sédhar Senghor, qtd. in Melvin Dixon (trans.) 
The Collected Poetry / Leopold Sédhar Senghor.
CARAF Books Series
.  Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1991. Xxxix.

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African Timelines Table of Contents History, Orature, Literature, & Film
Part I | Part II | Part III |
Part IV | Part V | Works Cited | Bibliography

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mid- to late 20th century
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