After World War II the process of decolonization of the African continent gathered momentum as African countries began to strive for more political rights and independence.
In some parts of the continent, colonial powers reluctantly, and grudgingly, relinquished power as the African people moved against the recalcitrant colonial regimes.
Between 1945 and 1965 a significant number of African countries gained independence from European colonial powers.
Ghana became the first country south of Sahara to gain independence on 6 March 1957. Their independence also inspired other African countries that were struggling against colonial rule. As a result, Ghana played a pivoted role in the struggle against the power of colonial racism and foreign occupation. In just over a year after Ghana gained independence, they were placed under the leadership of NKRUMAH.
The first conference of independent African states was held on 15 April in Tunisia. (There were also representatives from National Liberation Front of Algeria, and the union of Cameroonian people.) At this point, there were only eight African countries who were independent, and the conference was unequivocal in its rejection of colonial and imperial domination in Africa.
The conference brought together various countries and so became the first (PAN) African conference to be held on the continent. The conference also became a collective platform which allowed African countries the opportunity to co-operate with each other and discuss the movement towards the struggle against colonialism.
To further encourage and enforce a common movement to fight against colonial rule, the conference called for the observance of African freedom day once a year.
This allowed the liberation movement to be marked and helped build support within the African continent. This day was used as a symbol for the African people to remain determined to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.
It was further declared that 15 April would be named African Freedom Day (or African Liberation Day) and later it was officially named ‘Africa Day’. Besides the conference that was held annually in April, there was also a second conference (held on 08-13 December 1958) known as the ‘All African Conference’ (AAPC).
The (AAPC) was attended by both independent and dependent countries as representatives of the liberation movement.
The African National Congress (ANC), which would have represented South Africa, was not permitted to attend the conference due to the legislation and laws of the apartheid government; however, a memorandum was sent to the conference informing them of the situation.
The organisation agreed to have an annual assembly of heads of state, a council of ministers, a general secretariat, and a commission of mediation and arbitration. This committee gave support to both the ANC and PAC and their struggle against apartheid.
There were various changes that took place once the (OAU) was formed, namely the date of Africa day celebration was changed from 15 April to 25 May.
After the first democratic elections in 1994, South Africa joined the (OAU) on 23 MAY, and later the African Union was formed on 25 MAY 2001.
Nesbitt, F.N (2004), Race for sanctions: African American Against Apartheid,1961-1994. (Indiana University Press), pp77-79.
Pambazuka News, (2010),African Liberation Day: A celebration of resistance, from Pambazuka News, issue 584, 5 May (online)
BBC, 1963: African state unite against white rule from BBC -on this day (online) at http://news.bbc.co.uk
Organization of African Unity (OAU)/ African Union (AU) from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.(online) Available at www.dfa.
[IMAGE SOURCE: Salt Magazine]