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Mugabe: the last of Africa’s ‘fathers of independence’

Published on 06/09/2019

Robert Mugabe was the last living African head of state to have fought for his country’s independence before becoming its leader.

obert Mugabe was the last living African head of state to have fought for his country’s independence before becoming its leader.

Below are the main founding fathers of post-colonial Africa:

– Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana –

Born in 1909, Nkrumah fought on two fronts: for independence for the British Gold Coast and for pan-Africanism, calling for the creation of a United States of Africa.

He was prime minister upon independence in 1957, becoming president in 1960 of what became Ghana.

He imposed a veritable personality cult, demanding that he be called “Osagyefo”, or “redeemer”. Ousted during a coup in 1966, he died in exile in Romania in 1972.

– Ahmed Sekou Toure, Guinea –

Sekou Toure was Guinea’s dictatorial first president after independence in 1958 until his death in 1984.

He was the only African nationalist leader to have rejected a Franco-African community proposed by General Charles de Gaulle, preferring outright independence to limited autonomy.

– Leopold Sedar Senghor, Senegal –

The poet and statesman became Senegal’s first president in 1960, stepping down of his own accord 20 years later and retiring to France, where he died in 2001 aged 95.

Like other key players in the decolonisation of francophone Africa, Senghor had taken part in French politics while fighting for his country’s emancipation.

– Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ivory Coast –

A former French deputy and minister, Houphouet-Boigny was president of Ivory Coast from independence in 1960 until his death in 1993. Known as the Old One, he was one of the pioneers of the African emancipation struggle.

– Julius Nyerere, Tanzania –

Nyerere in 1954 founded the independence-oriented Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), which led the British colony to independence.

A supporter of African socialism, the founding father of what became known as Tanzania in 1964 was nicknamed the Teacher and led the country from 1961 to 1985, stepping down of his own accord.

– Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya –

A former independence activist, imprisoned for several years, Kenyatta led Kenya from independence from Britain in December 1963 to his death in 1978.

His US-educated son Uhuru was elected president in 2013 and then re-elected.

– Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia –

Dubbed the “African Gandhi” for his non-violent independence-oriented activism, he became the first president of independent Zambia in 1964.

He went on to lead the country, known as Northern Rhodesia under British rule, for 27 years under a single-party system. In 1991 he accepted free elections, at which he was defeated.

– Kamuzu Banda, Malawi –

In 1966 prime minister Hastings Kamuzu Banda became Malawi’s first president, exercising a grip on power for three decades.

In 1993, under international pressure, he accepted a referendum on multi-party rule and was defeated at the first democratic elections in 1994. He died in South Africa three years later.

– Seretse Khama, Botswana –

Seretse Khama co-founded the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 1962, becoming prime minister in 1965. He helped negotiate the terms of Botswana’s independence from Britain in 1966.

Botswana’s first post-independence president, the highly-popular Khama died in 1981 while still in power. His party has ruled Botswana since independence and his son Ian Khama was president from 2008-2018.

– Samora Machel, Mozambique –

Having fought against the Portuguese colonial power at the head of Marxist movement Frelimo, Machel became Mozambique’s first president in June 1975.

He died in October 1986 when his plane crashed in South Africa in circumstances which remain unclear. His widow, Graca, then married South Africa’s president Nelson Mandela in 1998.