North African Independence

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Where in Africa is Algeria?
Colonization and Independence of Algeria. Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission.

An atlas of North African colonization and independence.

From the disputed territory of the Western Sahrara to the ancient lands of Egypt, North Africa has followed its own path to independence heavily influenced by its Muslim heritage.

Official name: Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria

Independence from France: 5 July 1962

French conquest of Algeria began in 1830 and by the end of the century French settlers had taken most of the best land. War was declared against the colonial administration by the National Liberation Front in 1954. In 1962 a cease-fire was agreed between the two groups and independence declared.

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History of Algeria

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Where in Africa is Egypt?
Colonization and Independence of Egypt. Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission.

Official name: Republic of Egypt

Independence from Britain: 28 February 1922

With the arrival of Alexander the Great, Egypt began an extend period of foreign domination: Ptolemeic Greeks (330-32 BCE), Romans (32 BCE-395 CE), Byzantines (395-640), Arabs (642-1251), Mamelukes (1260-1571), Ottoman Turks (1517-1798), French (1789-1801). There followed a brief interlude until the British arrived (1882-1922). Partial independence was achieved in 1922, but the British still maintained significant control over the country.

Full independence was achieved in 1936. In 1952 Lieutenant-Colonel Nasser seized power. A year later General Neguib was proclaimed president of the Republic of Egypt, only to be deposed by Nasser in 5194.

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History of Egypt

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Where in Africa is Libya?
Colonization and Independence of Libya. Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission.

Official name: The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

Independence from Italy: 24 December 1951

This region was once a Roman province, and had been colonized along the coast by the Vandals in ancient times. It was also invaded by the Byzantines and then absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. In 1911 the Turks were expelled when the country was annexed by Italy. An independent monarchy, under King Idris, was created in 1951 with help from the UN, but the monarchy was abolished when Gadaffi took power in 1969.

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History of Libya

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Where in Africa is Morocco?
Colonization and Independence of Morocco. Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission.

Official name: Kingdom of Morocco

Independence from France: 2 March 1956

The region was conquered by the Almoravids in the second half of the eleventh century and a capital founded at Marrakech. They eventually had an empire which included Algeria, Ghana and much of Spain. In the second part of the twelfth century the region was conquered in turn by the Almohads, also Berber Muslims, who took over the empire, and extended it to the west as far as Tripoli.

From the fifteenth century, Portuguese and Spanish attempted to invade coastal areas, taking several ports, including Ceuta -- they met strong resistance. In the sixteenth century, Ahmad Al-Mansur, the Golden overthrew the Sonhai empire to the south and retook coastal areas from the Spanish. The region became a major destination for trans-Saharan slave trade despite internal conflict over whether free men could be made slaves under Islamic law. (Slavery of Christians was "abolished" by Sidi Muhammed in 1777.)

France incorporated Morocco into its Trans-Saharan empire in the 1890's after a long struggle to remain independent. It finally achieved independence from France in 1956.

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History of Morocco

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Where in Africa is Tunisia?
Colonization and Independence of Tunisia. Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission.

Official name: Republic of Tunisia

Independence from France: 20 March 1956

Home of the Zenata Berbers for many centuries, Tunisia is linked to all the great North African/Mediterranean empires: Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Ottoman and finally the French. Tunisia became a French protectorate in 1883. It was invaded by the Axis during the Second World War, but was returned to French rule when the Axis were defeated. Independence was achieved in 1956.

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History of Tunisia

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Western Sahara

Where in Africa is Western Sahara?
Colonization and Independence of Western Sahara. Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission.

Disputed territory

Released by Spain on 28 February 1976 and immediately seized by Morocco

Independence from Morocco not yet achieved

From 1958 to 1975 this was a Spanish Overseas Province. In 1975 an International Court of Justice granted self-determination to Western Sahara. Unfortunately this prompted Morocco's King Hassan to order 350,000 people on the Green March, and the Saharan capital, Laayoune, was captured by Morocco's forces.

In 1976 Morocco and Mauritania partitioned Western Sahara, but Mauritania renounced its claim in 1979 and Morocco seized the whole country. (In 1987 Morocco completed a defensive wall around Western Sahara.) A resistance front, the Polisario, was formed in 1983 to fight for independence.

In 1991, under UN jurisdiction both sides agree to a cease fire but sporadic fighting still continues. Despite a UN referendum, the status of western Sahara remains in dispute.

Find out more:
History of Western Sahara