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Decolonization of French black Africa

This map is part of a series of 14 animated maps showing the history of Decolonization after 1945.

Following recommendations made during the Brazzaville Conference in 1944, France’s Constitution creating the Fourth Republic in 1947 allowed for the integration of its African territories. The French Empire was thus replaced by the French Union.

La Réunion became a French department, and its inhabitants were granted French citizenship. France’s other African colonies were given the status of overseas territories with the right to representation at the French Parliament and the French Union’s Assembly, as well as in local councils.

Modernization of these territories was financed by France’s Investment Fund for Economic and Social Development (FIDES)

But France had every intention of keeping control over its territories. In Madagascar in March 1947, a major protest in favour of greater autonomy was brutally repressed.

During the 1950s, pressure from the Africans forced the French government to change its position, while the international community was increasingly critical of colonial domination.

France’s black African colonies were finally granted independence in three phases:

-       In 1956, the Defferre reform acts established the concept of semi-autonomy with a broad range of powers awarded to local assemblies that were elected by universal suffrage;

-       In 1958, the Constitution for the 5th Republic included articles proposed by General de Gaulle for granting autonomy as part of a French Community. Following a referendum on 28 September 1958, all France’s African territories accepted this status, with the exception of Guinea, which preferred to declare its independence immediately.

-       In 1960, many countries challenged their autonomous status and began negotiations for full independence. The first country to become independent was Cameroon in January, followed by Senegal in April, and Mali and Madagascar in June.

During the summer, a number of other countries declared their independence: Niger, Upper Volta, Chad, Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Gabon, and Congo Brazzaville.

Finally, Mauritania became independent in November.

Later, Dahomey and the Upper Volta changed their names to Benin and Burkina Faso respectively.

By the end of 1960, France’s vast colonies in black Africa had been reduced to just one, French Somaliland. The 1967 referendum confirmed this territory’s desire to remain linked to France. It was then renamed the Territory of the Afars and the Issas. Later in June 1977, following a second referendum, it became the independent state of Djibouti