Experiencing rapid economic, political, and social revolutions, Africans have seen violence and sadness along with moments of hope and change in African history. There are countless stories of heroism, solidarity, and success. Here are 10 defining moments that strengthened nations and expedited justice and prosperity for future generations. Many are still in transit, but all are pointing towards greatness.
The colonization of Algeria by France since 1834 led to a pressure rupture after the National Liberation Front was formed in the 1950s. This grassroots army resisted French occupation with acts of guerilla warfare, and grew in numbers and strength. France sent 400,000 troops in 1954, and until 1962 the Algerian War raged in the street of Algiers and other major cities. The Evian Accords of ’62 were the result of a Charles DeGaulle-brokered Algerian vote for independence, forging an independent nation.
Tunisia was ruled for decades by an autocrat who drove the economy down and sustained high levels of unemployment and corruption. Then Mouhamed Bouazizi, an unemployed Tunisian, set fire to himself in the street after police confiscated his vegetable stand in 2010. Mass protests erupted in every major city, and President Zine el Abedine Ben Ali was deposed. A new, moderate Islamist was elected. It was the start of the multi-country Arab Spring.
In 2011, one of the greatest anti-governmental protests occurred in Egypt. Since 1981, President Hosni Mubarak had successfully ruled with a tight fist, suppressing any sign of political contrariness and jailing thousands of dissidents without charges. After 18 days of protest, he was overthrown and subsequently put on trial for the murder of more than 800 protesters during his ousting. Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood party took over in Egypt’s first-ever competitive presidential election, but after a year of complete disappointment, Egyptians took to the streets again in even greater force, and the military intervened, removing Morsi.
Perhaps the most brilliant decolonization event in history, apartheid (which means “separation” in Afrikaans) ended in 1992 after 40-plus years of institutionalized segregation by the white-ruled South Africa Nationalist Party. Protests and riots increased in the 1980s as a response to legalized racism and violence against unarmed civilians. The international audience played a huge role, supporting economic sanctions, but these were slowed by the non support of U.S. and Britain. In 1992 apartheid ended, political prisoner Nelson Mandela was released and elected president in 1994, and South Africa is now the leading economy — and democracy — in Africa.
Not just the zenith of hope and triumph for black Americans, Obama’s election was epic for all Africans. Kenya especially erupted in televised jubilation in November 2008. Obama’s father was born in the Western Kenya village of Kogelo. Finally, a world leader who represents the world! Pictured above: Obama and his granny.
Once considered a hopeless financial mess, many African countries have experienced economic boom in the last decade, surpassing even Japan in annual growth rate. Oil, tourism, coffee from Rwanda, an open market economy in Tanzania…there’s still lots of room for growth and a constant call for ending corruption and economic human enslavement, but Africa is on its way! (Source: economist.com).
In 2010, a scattering of cities in South Africa hosted the largest football (soccer) event, the FIFA World Cup championship. The continent was selected for the first time as a host, with five countries (Egypt, South Africa, Morocco and Libya/Tunisia jointly) putting in bids. Improvements were made in infrastructure within major cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Pretoria, and the world turned its eyes to the beautiful country’s celebration of sporting brotherhood.
After his long reign of genocidal terror as the dictator of Uganda, Amin fled to Saudi Arabia following the country’s salvation by rebels in exile and Tanzanian forces. He is responsible for killing more than 300,000 Ugandans, mostly from the Lango and Acholi ethnic groups. Since 1971, Amin had ordered the expulsion of more than 60,000 Asians, which helped drive the economy to ruin.
Actor Don Cheadle is wonderful playing real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina in the film Hotel Rwanda, but here’s a brief synopsis of the actual events: The Rwandan genocide of 1994 left nearly one million people dead, mostly ethnic Tutsis at the hands of Hutu militias. Rusesabagina, a living Oskar Schindler, hid 1,268 refugees in the luxury hotel he managed, saving their lives. Rusesabagina has since founded the Hotel Rwanda Foundation, its goal to bring awareness to preventing future genocides.
Courageous and altruistic individuals and groups often go unnoticed for their humanitarian work in Africa — not only foreign workers and volunteers but native domestic heroes. From the near eradication of guinea worm in South Sudan, to cleaner water in Uganda; rebuilding governments and communities in Sierra Leone, and increased sanitation in Darfur, the list goes on and on.