Africa At 50 - Wind Of Change

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This year is very special for Africa: Seventeen African states that gained political independence in 1960 are celebrating 50 years of existence as self-governing nation-states.

And the number of countries gaining independence was to double over the next three years, as the wind of change swept through Africa.

In Africa at 50: The wind of Change, Tanzanian journalist Adam Lusekelo presents some personal reflections and reminiscences from five Africans living through those momentous events in five former British colonies.

We hear from Elizabeth Ohene who was 12 years old when the Gold Coast achieved independence from Britain in 1957.

As Africa's first post- independence leader, Kwame Nkrumah became a hero to millions all over the continent, inspiring others in their struggles against colonial powers.

Ghana was the forerunner in the race to independence, which for many other countries was just beginning as the wind of change swept through Africa.

But Elizabeth's father remained unimpressed.

He opposed the union of the British protectorate of Togoland with the newly-independent state of Ghana, and kept the young Elizabeth home from school so that she could not take part in independence celebrations.

As a result she was suspended from school- the first of many run-ins she would subsequently have with authorities.

Elizabeth Ohene describes how by 1960, Ghana had become a magnet for many other would-be independence movements, and several future leaders found inspiration and funding in Accra.

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for Radio 4.

A series of personal reflections and reminiscences about the independence era in Africa.

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Earlier this month, Nigeria celebrated 50 years as an independent nation after a long period of colonial rule by Britain.

On October 1st 1960, the Union Jack was lowered and the green-white-green of Nigeria hoisted, signalling a new dawn for Africa's most populous country.

It was one of the main events of 1960- Africa's year.

Nigeria was the largest- 30 million people gained their right to self-governance, and the number of countries gaining independence was to double over the next three years, as the wind of change swept through Africa.

Adewale Maja-Pearce was seven at the time of independence and remembers his father's elation as newly elected Prime Minister Alhaji Tafawa Balewa assumed leadership of the government with a promise of a bright future for Nigeria.

Born in London in 1953 to Yoruba and British parents, Maja-Pearce grew up in Lagos, and returned there after being educated in the UK.

He's written a great deal about modern Nigeria, and many of his views are outspoken and controversial.

Despite the early euphoria of independence, and despite the fact that he's chosen to make Lagos his home, he is personally very pessimistic about the future of his country.

Maja-Pearce reflects on 50 years of Nigeria's independence, on the country's failure to build a shared sense of national identity, on corruption and the curse of oil, and questions the viability of modern Nigeria.

Presented by journalist Adam Lusekelo

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans Production for BBC Radio 4.

A series of personal reflections and reminiscences about the independence era in Africa.

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Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana gained independence in 1957 and Julius Nyerere's Tanganyika followed in 1961.

Nkrumah wanted immediate unity of the continent; Nyerere wanted political independence first, as half of Africa was still under colonial rule.

He called for a candle to be lit on Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, as a beacon for the liberation of the rest of Africa.

Some of the 53 African countries gained independence through peaceful negotiations with the colonial power, and some had to fight for independence.

Tanzania played a key part as a frontline state hosting and supporting many of the southern African liberation movements.

In Part 3 of Africa at 50: The Wind of Change, retired Brigadier General Hashim Mbita reflects on his country's role in the liberation struggle.

As a civil servant, army officer and journalist, he was central to many of the key events of the time.

As Chief Executive of the OAU Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, which was based in Dar es Salaam, he played a pivotal part in the funding and training of the armed struggles for independence where it was not granted through negotiation.

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans Production for BBC Radio 4.

A series of personal reflections and reminiscences about the independence era in Africa.

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When Kenya gained its independence from Britain in December 1963, young Zarina Patel had great hopes for the future.

Everyone felt it was going to be a united Kenya and there would be no differences between Africans and Asians.

Zarina Patel is a third generation Kenyan Asian.

Her grandfather Alibahi Mulla Jivanjee, came to Kenya from Karachi in 1890, and established himself as the most prosperous Asian businessman of his day.

Zarina grew up during colonial rule, and today she's a prominent writer and human rights activist, and in which her research has revealed that many Asians played an important part in the fight for Kenya's independence.

"Looking back at history we are amazed at the role Asians played", she says.

Their involvement in Kenya's independence struggle through the East African National Congress, was set up by her grandfather and modelled on Indian National Congress.

Many other Asians were influential in the Trades Union movement and supplied weapons to the Mau Mau movement through their links to India.

Despite this involvement, after independence many East African Asians found themselves 'surplus to requirements', as politicians whipped up 'anti-Asian' sentiment.

"That forced me to think about my identity and my role and rights here in Kenya", says Zarina.

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans Production for BBC Radio 4.

A series of personal reflections and reminiscences about the independence era in Africa.

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Malawi was the first country in the south to gain independence.

By 1958, Nyasaland - as it was then called - was experiencing a mounting tide of political unrest.

Dr.

Hastings Banda, a respected medical doctor based for many years in the UK and Ghana, returned to lead the struggle for independence.

Professor Thandika Makandawire was still at school when a state of emergency was declared in Malawi in 1959, and Banda was arrested.

It was a turning point in his life, and he became more active with the youth league of the nationalist movement.

"You could see colonial rule was coming to an end", says Makandawire.

"It was very exciting for a young person."

When Harold Macmillan toured southern Africa in early 1960, Makandawire took part in a rowdy demonstration outside his hotel.

The police reacted violently, and he was arrested.

But he believes that the incident dispelled the "myth of peaceful natives" and helped inform Macmillan's "Wind of Change" speech.

In 1962, Thandika Makandawire won a scholarship to study in the USA.

"The dream was that I'd go to the US and come back as soon as I could." But within three months of independence, the new government was convulsed by a cabinet crisis and Makandawire's passport was withdrawn.

Unable to return to Malawi, he spent 30 years in exile.

Despite the price he paid, Makandawire is proud of the role he played in the independence struggle.

"In my lifetime, I have seen the whole of the continent liberated.

That's priceless."

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans Production for BBC Radio 4.

A series of personal reflections and reminiscences about the independence era in Africa.