Arts & Culture
African Liberation Day
25 May 2022
Online | Free
African Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (now known as the African Union) on this day, 25 May, in 1963. It aims to celebrate African unity.
After World War II, the process of decolonisation of the African continent gathered momentum as Africans increasingly agitated for more political rights and independence. While in some parts of the continent colonial powers reluctantly and grudgingly relinquished power, in other parts African people launched protracted struggles against the recalcitrant colonial regimes. Thus, between 1945 and 1965 a significant number of African countries gained independence from European colonial powers. Ghana became the first African country south of the Sahara to gain independence on 6 March 1957. Its independence served as an inspiration to other African countries struggling against colonial rule and as a result Ghana occupied a central role in the struggle against colonial rule.
Just over a year after its independence Ghana, under the leadership Kwame Nkrumah, convened the first Conference of Independent African States on 15 April 1958. Amongst those countries that attended were Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Liberia, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. There were also representatives of the National Liberation Front of Algeria and the Union of Cameroonian Peoples. It is worth noting that there were only eight African countries who were independent at this time. The conference was an unequivocal assertion of Africa’s rejection of colonial and imperialist domination of the continent. It became the first Pan African conference to be held on the continent bringing together various African countries. Furthermore, the conference became a collective platform from which African countries sought to cooperate in the struggle against colonialism.
To further encourage and forge a common goal of fighting against colonial rule, the conference called for the observance of African Freedom Day once a year, to mark “the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolise the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”
From 1959 to 1963 African Liberation Day was celebrated in Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana and by African people in Britain, China, Soviet Union and the United States (US). Other conferences were held in January 1960 in Tunisia followed by another one in Egypt in March 1961. As more African countries became independent, the need for an organisation that would articulate aspirations of African people and their struggle arose. Consequently on 25 May 1963, leaders of 32 African nations converged in Ethiopia‘s capital Addis Ababa and formed the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
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