In the modern history of Africa some years ending with the figure five have been landmarks. In 1884-85, six European nations held a conference in Berlin at which they resolved to partition and share Africa without wars.
These countries were Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal. Possibly also Italy and Spain. There were observers from the United States of America (USA) whose interest was mainly Liberia which it had curved out of West Africa for freed slaves.
These nations agreed that each country was to claim that part of Africa where its nationals were already trading or building missions, such regions were called spheres of influence.
Some Africans put up resistance using spears, bows and arrows, as well as axes. They were no match for armies equipped with guns and gunboats. Notable examples were the Ashanti in Ghana, the Zulu in South Africa, the Ndebele in Zimbabwe, the Yao in Malawi, the Hehe in Tanzania and the Somali in Somalia. The only successful resistance was that of the Ethiopians who defeated Italians at Adowa in 1896. By the beginning of the 20th century, only Ethiopia and Liberia were independent of European control.
While in some parts of Africa European rule was accepted tolerably, in others it was resented. In the year 1915, there was an uprising in Nyasaland led by American trained pastor, John Chilembwe.
From the turn of the 19th century, Africans of the diaspora in the West Indies and the USA had been forming associations for the liberation of Africa. The best known of these was the Pan African Congress whose president was Dr W. B. du Bois. A more revolutionary one led by Marcus Garvey did not last.
In 1945, the Pan African Congress held its fifth conference in Manchester, England.
Du Bois of the USA and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya were joint chairpersons while the secretary was Kwame Nkrumah of the then Gold Coast (Ghana). Other prominent speakers were Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and George Padmore of the West Indies.
History records Nkrumah, Banda and Kenyatta became life-long friends. At that conference, Nkrumah made presentations on west African problems, Kenyatta spoke on land problems in East Africa while Banda spoke on African problems on what used to be called British Central Africa. That is Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
While practising medicine in London, Banda retained keen interest in what was happening not only in his country, but also in the Rhodesias. He was the best educated African from this part of Africa at the time and he felt that while talking about his country, he had a duty to refer to African problems in the two other central African countries.
In that year, 1945, Banda wrote the president general of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) Charles Matinga and applied for life membership by paying 10 pounds. This was a very large amount those days since you could buy three cows and a calf with that amount.In 1957, the Gold Coast became the independent state of Ghana.
In 1952, there was an outbreak of a revolt in Kenya called Mau Mau. Kenyatta was accused of managing it. He and the executive of the Kenya African Union were imprisoned for nine years. But in 1963, Kenyatta became President of Kenya. In 1958 Nkrumah invited leaders of political associations and trade unions to Accra to attend the All African Conference which was chaired by a young Kenyan, Tom Mboya. The conference issued a command to colonial powers to leave Africa.
In 1958, Charles de Gaulle of France gave self government to all French colonies. Guinea opted for immediate independence. In that year, Dr Banda returned to Nyasaland to head NAC. The following year there was a state of emergency in the country.
In 1960, all the French colonies became independent followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria. By 1965, almost all the whole of Africa was free, except Mozambique and Angola, where Portugal was saying they were not colonies but provinces. South Africa and Zimbabwe had minorities controlling the government. In 20 years after the Manchester congress, Africa had been emancipated.