Decolonization may involve either nonviolent revolution
or national liberation wars
by pro-independence groups. It may be intranational
or involve the intervention of foreign powers acting individually or through international bodies such as the United Nations
. Although examples of decolonization can be found as early as the writings of Thucydides
, there have been several particularly active periods of decolonization in modern times. These include the breakup of the Spanish Empire
in the 19th century; of the German
, and Russian
empires following World War I
; of the British
, and Japanese
colonial empires following World War II
; and of the Soviet Union
at the end of the Cold War
Decolonization has been used to refer to the intellectual decolonization from the colonizers' ideas that made the colonized feel inferior.
Issues of decolonization persist and are raised contemporarily. In Latin America
and South Africa
, such issues are increasingly discussed under the term decoloniality
Methods and stages
Comorians protest against Mayotte referendum
on becoming an overseas department of France, 2009
As world opinion began to favour independence for colonies following World War I
, there was an institutionalized collective effort towards decolonization through the League of Nations
. Under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, a number of mandates
were created. The expressed intention was to prepare these countries for self-government, but the mandates are often interpreted as a mere redistribution of control over the former colonies of the defeated powers, mainly the German Empire
and the Ottoman Empire
. This reassignment work continued through the United Nations
, with a similar system of trust territories
created to adjust control over both former colonies and mandated territories.
The Five Stages of Decolonization
There are five proposed stages to decolonization. These are the most commonly found stages in the method of decolonization with Hawaii (post 1959) being a prime example of how these stages manifest themselves.
- The first is called rediscovery and recovery, where a colonized of previously colonized region actively rediscovers it roots in order to reclaim the superiority of its own culture, history and traditions of its own particular region. This stage, for example, has been observed in Hawaii beginning around the 1960's, with new movements in Hawaiian music and literature.
- The second stage is labelled as the stage of mourning, where people as a community process and understand any victimization that the colony may have experienced. This is often expressed in the form of frustration and protest.
- The third stage of decolonization, often labeled as the most crucial, is the process of building the future of the proposed independent colony. This takes place most commonly through debate or consultation where discussions involve the future of the colony, the governing procedures and body and the reestablishment of culture.
- The fourth stage comes as a result of a successful third stage, where the fourth stage is about commitment to a single decided cause and direction for the colony. This stage is a collection of all of the people's voices that are unified in a direction so clear cut that the colony can proceed to the final stage.
- The fifth and most commonly final stage of decolonization is the action towards said unified goal, which can express itself in a variety of ways, namely through violence and reclaiming what was once a colony. The process of the previous four stages sometimes cannot be afforded to a colony if they are under serious threat, in which case the fifth stage tends to manifest itself faster. Although often unavoidable, this could lead to potential issues, such as a lack in unification of further future goal of the colony.
After the end of World War II
, the British public had other priorities than the Empire after 1945. With a new welfare state
to finance, they had little enthusiasm for military action to hold onto overseas territories against their will.
In referendums, some dependent territories
have chosen to retain their dependent status, such as Gibraltar
and French Guiana
. There are even examples, such as the Falklands War
, in which a geopolitical power goes to war to defend the right of a dependent territory to continue to be such. Colonial powers have sometimes promoted decolonization in order to shed financial, military, and other burdens that tend to grow in those colonies where the colonial governments have become more benign.
The final phase of decolonization may concern handing over responsibility for foreign relations and security, and soliciting de jure
recognition for the new sovereignty
. However, even following the recognition of statehood, a degree of continuity can be maintained through bilateral treaties between now equal governments involving practicalities such as military training, mutual protection pacts, or even a garrison and/or military bases.
Beginning with the emergence of the United States in the 1770s, decolonization took place in the context of Atlantic history
, against the background of the American and French revolutions. Decolonization became a wider movement in many colonies in the 20th century, and a reality after 1945.
Although European empires have decayed since 1945, and the separate nation-states of Europe have been eclipsed as centres of political power by the melding of peoples and nations occurring under the aegis of both the American and Russian governments, it remains true that, since the end of World War II, the scramble to imitate and appropriate science, technology, and other aspects of Western culture has accelerated enormously all round the world. Thus the dethronement of western Europe from its brief mastery of the globe coincided with (and was caused by) an unprecedented, rapid Westernization of all the peoples of the earth.:566
In the same book, McNeill wrote that "The rise of the West, as intended by the title and meaning of this book, is only accelerated when one or another Asian or African people throws off European administration by making Western techniques, attitudes, and ideas sufficiently their own to permit them to do so".:807
Great Britain's Thirteen North American colonies
were the first colonies to break from their colonial motherland by declaring independence as the United States of America in 1776, and being recognized as an independent nation by France in 1778 and Britain in 1783.
The chaos of the Napoleonic wars
in Europe cut the direct links between Spain and its American colonies, allowing for the process of decolonization to begin.
With the invasion of Spain by Napoleon in 1806, the American colonies declared autonomy and loyalty to King Ferdinand VII. The contract was broken and the regions of the Spanish Empire had to decide whether to show allegiance to the Junta of Cadiz (the only territory in Spain free from Napoleon) or have a junta (assembly) of its own. The economic monopoly of the metropolis was the main reason why many countries decided to become independent from Spain. In 1809, the independence wars of Latin America began with a revolt in La Paz, Bolivia. In 1807 and 1808, the Viceroyalty of the River Plate
was invaded by the British. After their 2nd defeat, a Frenchman called Santiague de Liniers was proclaimed a new Viceroy by the local population and later accepted by Spain. In May 1810 in Buenos Aires
, a Junta was created, but in Montevideo
it was not recognized by the local government who followed the authority of the Junta of Cadiz. The rivalry between the two cities was the main reason for the distrust between them. During the next 15 years, the Spanish and Royalist on one side, and the rebels on the other fought in South America and Mexico. Numerous countries declared their independence. In 1824, the Spanish forces were defeated in the Battle of Ayacucho
. The mainland was free, and in 1898, Spain lost Cuba
and Puerto Rico
in the Spanish–American War
. Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory
of the US, but Cuba became independent in 1902.
The Napoleonic Wars also led to the severing of the direct links between Portugal and its only American colony, Brazil
. Days before Napoleon invaded Portugal, in 1807 the Portuguese royal court fled to Brazil
. In 1820 there was a Constitutionalist Revolution
in Portugal, which led to the return of the Portuguese court to Lisbon. This led to distrust between the Portuguese and the Brazilian colonists, and finally, in 1822, to the colony becoming independent as the Empire of Brazil
, which later became a republic.
Cyprus was invaded and taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1570. It was later relinquished by the Ottomans in 1878.
The Cypriots expressed their true disdain for Ottoman rule through revolts and nationalist movements. The Ottomans only suppressed these revolts in the harshest of fashion but that only ended up fuelling the revolts and desire for independence.
The Cypriots desired to merge with Greece because they felt a close connection with Greece. They were tired of 3 centuries of Turkic rule and openly expressed their desire for enosis
. The Cypriots would embrace Greek culture and traditions. They abandoned Ottoman architecture and showed little respect for Ottoman rule.
All these acts of defiance could be attributed to decolonization. When the Cypriots made acts of nationalism, they were participating in a form of decolonization because they were attempting to remove all trace of Turkic and Muslim influence within their society.
The Greek War of Independence
had major affects on Cyprus and after the Ottomans had left, Cyprus continued to create a Greek culture they wished to be a part of.
A number of people (mainly Christians
in the Balkans
) previously conquered by the Ottoman Empire
were able to achieve independence in the 19th century, a process that peaked at the time of the Ottoman defeat in the Russo-Turkish War
The Ottoman Empire had failed to raise revenue and a monopoly of effective armed forces.
This may have caused the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Greek War of Independence
In the wake of the 1798 French Invasion of Egypt
and its subsequent expulsion in 1801, the commander of an Albanian
regiment, Muhammad Ali
, was able to gain control of Egypt
. Although he was acknowledged by the Sultan
in 1805 as his pasha
, Muhammad Ali, and eventually his successors, were de facto monarchs of a largely independent state managing its own foreign relations. However, despite this de facto independence, Egypt did remain nominally a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire obliged to pay a hefty annual tribute to the Sultan. Throughout the 'long 19th century', Muhammad Ali would send scores of Azhar scholars to France and other European countries to be educated in the empirical sciences (due to the heavy inferiority complex ingrained from French defeat); however, such scholars would unwittingly participate in their country's intellectual colonization throughout this century and establish the national public educational system on Secular Humanist (Enlightenment) philosophy and principles and Western culture in general to this day.
Upon declaring war on Turkey in November 1914, Britain unilaterally declared the Sultan's rights and title over Egypt abolished and proclaimed its own protectorate
over the country.
The Greek War of Independence (1821–1829) was fought to liberate Greece from three centuries of Ottoman
occupation. Independence was secured by the intervention of the British
and French navies
and the French
and Russian armies
, but Greece was limited to an area including perhaps only one-third of ethnic Greeks, that later grew significantly with the Megali Idea
project. The war ended many of the privileges of the Phanariot
Greeks of Constantinople
. After nine years of war, Greece was finally recognized as an independent state under the London Protocol
of February 1830. Further negotiations in 1832 led to the London Conference
and the Treaty of Constantinople
; these defined the final borders of the new state.
The independence of the Principality of Montenegro
from the Ottoman Empire was recognized at the congress of Berlin
in 1878. However, the Montenegrin nation has been de facto independent since 1711 (officially accepted by the Tsardom of Russia
by the order of Tsar Petr I Alexeyevich-Romanov
. In the period 1795–1798, Montenegro once again claimed independence after the Battle of Krusi
. In 1806, it was recognized as a power fighting against Napoleon, meaning that it had a fully mobilized and supplied army (by Russia, through Admiral Dmitry Senyavin
at the Bay of Kotor
). In the period of reign of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš
, Montenegro was again colonized by Turkey, but that changed with the coming of Knyaz Danilo I
, with a totally successful war against Turkey in the late 1850s ending with a decisive victory of the Montenegrin army under Grand Duke Mirko Petrović-Njegoš
, brother of Danilo I, at the Battle of Grahovac
. The full independence was given to Montenegro, after almost 170 years of fighting the Turks, Bosniaks, Albanians and the French (1806–1814) at the Congress of Berlin
The emergence of Indigenous political parties was especially characteristic of the British Empire
, which seemed less ruthless in controlling political dissent. Driven by pragmatic demands of budgets and manpower the British made deals with the local politicians. Across the empire, the general protocol was to convene a constitutional conference in London to discuss the transition to greater self-government and then independence, submit a report of the constitutional conference to parliament, if approved submit a bill to Parliament at Westminster to terminate the responsibility of the United Kingdom (with a copy of the new constitution annexed), and finally, if approved, issuance of an Order of Council fixing the exact date of independence.
Egypt became independent in 1922, although the UK retained security prerogatives, control of the Suez Canal
, and effective control of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
. The Balfour Declaration of 1926
declared the British Empire dominions
as equals, and the 1931 Statute of Westminster
established full legislative independence for them. The equal dominions were six– Canada
, Australia, the Irish Free State
, New Zealand
, and the Union of South Africa
; Ireland had been an integral part of the United Kingdom until 1922 and not a colony. However, some of the Dominions were already independent de facto, and even de jure and recognized as such by the international community. Thus, Canada was a founding member of the League of Nations in 1919 and served on the Council from 1927 to 1930.
That country also negotiated on its own and signed bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions from the early 1900s onward. Newfoundland ceded self-rule back to London in 1934. Iraq
, a League of Nations mandate, became independent in 1932.
In response to a growing Indian independence movement
, the UK made successive reforms to the British Raj
, culminating in the Government of India Act (1935)
. These reforms included creating elected legislative councils in some of the Provinces of British India
. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
, India's independence movement leader, led a peaceful resistance to British rule. By becoming a symbol of both peace and opposition to British imperialism, many Indians began to view the British as the cause of India's problems leading to a newfound sense of nationalism
among its population. With this new wave of Indian nationalism, Gandhi was eventually able to garner the support needed to push back the British and create an independent India in 1947.
British Empire in 1952
Africa was only fully drawn into the colonial system at the end of the 19th century. In the north-east the continued independence of the Empire of Ethiopia
remained a beacon of hope to pro-independence activists. However, with the anti-colonial wars of the 1900s (decade) barely over, new modernizing forms of African
Nationalism began to gain strength in the early 20th-century with the emergence of Pan-Africanism, as advocated by the Jamaican journalist Marcus Garvey
(1887–1940) whose widely distributed newspapers demanded swift abolition of European imperialism, as well as republicanism in Egypt. Kwame Nkrumah
(1909–1972) who was inspired by the works of Garvey led Ghana
to independence from colonial rule.
Independence for the colonies in Africa began with the independence of Sudan
in 1956, and Ghana
in 1957. All of the British colonies on mainland Africa became independent by 1966, although Rhodesia
's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 was not recognized by the UK or internationally.
Some of the British colonies in Asia were directly administered by British officials, while others were ruled by local monarchs as protectorates
or in subsidiary alliance
with the UK.
Violence, civil warfare and partition
Significant violence was involved in several prominent cases of decolonization of the British Empire; partition was a frequent solution. In 1783, the North American colonies were divided between the independent United States, and British North America
, which later became Canada.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857
was a revolt of a portion of the Indian Army. It was characterized by massacres of civilians on both sides. It was not a movement for independence, however, and only a small part of India was involved. In the aftermath, the British pulled back from modernizing reforms of Indian society, and the level of organised violence under the British Raj
was relatively small. Most of that was initiated by repressive British administrators, as in the Amritsar massacre of 1919
, or the police assaults on the Salt March
Large-scale communal violence broke out between Muslims and Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs after the British left in 1947 in the newly independent dominions
of India and Pakistan
, which came under full British control in 1914 from the Ottoman Empire, was culturally divided between the majority Greek element
(which demanded "enosis
" or union with Greece) and the minority Turks. London for decades assumed it needed the island to defend the Suez Canal; but after the Suez crisis of 1956, that became a minor factor, and Greek violence became a more serious issue. Cyprus became an independent country in 1960, but ethnic violence escalated until 1974 when Turkey invaded and partitioned the island. Each side rewrote its own history, blaming the other.
After World War I, the colonized people were frustrated at France's failure to recognize the effort provided by the French colonies (resources, but more importantly colonial troops – the famous tirailleurs
). Although in Paris
the Great Mosque of Paris
was constructed as recognition of these efforts, the French state had no intention to allow self-rule
, let alone grant independence
to the colonized people. Thus, nationalism
in the colonies became stronger in between the two wars, leading to Abd el-Krim
's Rif War
(1921–1925) in Morocco
and to the creation of Messali Hadj
's Star of North Africa
in 1925. However, these movements would gain full potential only after World War II.
After World War I, France administered the former Ottoman territories of Syria
, and the former German colonies of Togoland
, as League of Nations mandates. Lebanon declared its independence in 1943, and Syria in 1945.
Although France was ultimately a victor of World War II, Nazi Germany's occupation of France and its North African colonies during the war had disrupted colonial rule. On October 27, 1946 France adopted a new constitution creating the Fourth Republic
, and substituted the French Union
for the colonial empire. However power over the colonies remained concentrated in France, and the power of local assemblies outside France was extremely limited. On the night of March 29, 1947, a Madagascarnationalist uprising
led the French government headed by Paul Ramadier
) to violent repression: one year of bitter fighting, 11,000–40,000 Malagasy died.
Captured French soldiers from Điện Biên Phủ
, escorted by Vietnamese troops, 1954
In 1956, Morocco
gained their independence from France. In 1960, eight independent countries emerged from French West Africa
, and five from French Equatorial Africa
. The Algerian War of Independence
raged from 1954 to 1962. To this day, the Algerian war – officially called a "public order operation" until the 1990s – remains a trauma for both France and Algeria. Philosopher Paul Ricœur
has spoken of the necessity of a "decolonisation of memory", starting with the recognition of the 1961 Paris massacre
during the Algerian war, and the decisive role of African and especially North African immigrant manpower in the Trente Glorieuses
post–World War II economic growth period. In the 1960s, due to economic needs for post-war reconstruction and rapid economic growth, French employers actively sought to recruit manpower from the colonies, explaining today's multiethnic population
Western European colonial powers
Czechoslovak anti-colonialist propaganda poster: "Socialism opened the door of liberation for colonial nations."
The New Imperialism period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which included the scramble for Africa
and the Opium Wars
, marked the zenith of European colonization. It also accelerated the trends that would end colonialism. The extraordinary material demands of the conflict had spread economic change across the world (notable inflation), and the associated social pressures of "war imperialism" created both peasant unrest and a burgeoning middle class.
created stakeholders with their own demands, while racial
issues meant these people clearly stood apart from the colonial middle-class and had to form their own group. The start of mass nationalism
, as a concept and practice, would fatally undermine the ideologies of imperialism.
The Great Depression
, despite the concentration of its impact on the industrialized world, was also exceptionally damaging in the rural colonies. Agricultural prices fell much harder and faster than those of industrial goods. From around 1925 until World War II
, the colonies suffered. The colonial powers concentrated on domestic issues, protectionism
and tariffs, disregarding the damage done to international trade flows. The colonies, almost all primary "cash crop
" producers, lost the majority of their export income and were forced away from the "open" complementary colonial economies to "closed" systems. While some areas returned to subsistence farming
) others diversified (India, West Africa
), and some began to industrialize. These economies would not fit the colonial straitjacket when efforts were made to renew the links. Further, the European-owned and -run plantations
proved more vulnerable to extended deflation
than native capitalists
, reducing the dominance of "white" farmers in colonial economies and making the European governments
and investors of the 1930s co-opt Indigenous
elites – despite the implications for the future. Colonial reform also hastened their end; notably the move from non-interventionist collaborative systems towards directed, disruptive, direct management to drive economic change. The creation of genuine bureaucratic government boosted the formation of Indigenous bourgeoisie
A union of former colonies itself, the United States approached imperialism differently from the other Powers. Much of its energy and rapidly expanding population was directed westward across the North American continent against English and French claims, the Spanish Empire
and Mexico. The Native Americans were sent to reservations, often unwillingly
. With support from Britain, its Monroe Doctrine
reserved the Americas as its sphere of interest, prohibiting other states (particularly Spain) from recolonizing the newly independent polities of Latin America
. However, France, taking advantage of the American government's distraction during the Civil War, intervened militarily in Mexico and set up a French-protected monarchy. Spain took the step to occupy the Dominican Republic and restore colonial rule
. The Union victory in the Civil War in 1865 forced both France and Spain to accede to American demands to evacuate those two countries. America's only African colony, Liberia
, was formed privately and achieved independence early; Washington unofficially protected it. By 1900 the US advocated an Open Door Policy
and opposed the direct division of China.
After 1898 direct intervention expanded in Latin America. The United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 and annexed Hawaii in 1898. Following the Spanish-American war
in 1898, the US added most of Spain's remaining colonies: Puerto Rico
, and Guam
. Deciding not to annex Cuba outright, the U.S. established it as a client state
with obligations including the perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay
to the U.S. Navy. The attempt of the first governor to void the island's constitution and remain in power past the end of his term provoked a rebellion that provoked a reoccupation between 1906 and 1909, but this was again followed by devolution. Similarly, the McKinley administration
, despite prosecuting the Philippine–American War
against a native republic
, set out that the Territory of the Philippine Islands
was eventually granted independence.
In 1917, the US purchased the Danish West Indies
(later renamed the US Virgin Islands
) from Denmark
and Puerto Ricans became full U.S. citizens that same year.
The US government declared Puerto Rico the territory was no longer a colony and stopped transmitting information about it to the United Nations Decolonization Committee.
As a result, the UN General Assembly
removed Puerto Rico from the U.N. list of non-self-governing territories
. Four referenda showed little support for independence, but much interest in statehood such as Hawaii and Alaska received in 1959.
The Monroe Doctrine was expanded by the Roosevelt Corollary
in 1904, providing that the United States had a right and obligation to intervene "in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence" that a nation in the Western Hemisphere became vulnerable to European control. In practice, this meant that the United States was led to act as a collections agent for European creditors by administering customs duties in the Dominican Republic
(1915–1934), and elsewhere. The intrusiveness and bad relations this engendered were somewhat checked by the Clark Memorandum
and renounced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt
's "Good Neighbor Policy
The Fourteen Points
were preconditions addressed by President Woodrow Wilson
to the European powers at the Paris Peace Conference
following World War I
. In allowing allies France and Britain the former colonial possessions of the German and Ottoman Empires, the US demanded of them submission to the League of Nations mandate
, in calling for V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable government whose title is to be determined.
See also point XII.
After 1947, the U.S. poured tens of billions of dollars into the Marshall Plan
, and other grants and loans to Europe and Asia to rebuild the world economy. Washington pushed hard to accelerate decolonization and bring an end to the colonial empires of its Western allies, most importantly during the 1956 Suez Crisis
, but American military bases were established around the world and direct and indirect interventions continued in Korea
, Latin America (inter alia
, the 1965 occupation of the Dominican Republic
), Africa, and the Middle East to oppose Communist invasions and insurgencies. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States has been far less active in the Americas, but invaded Afghanistan
following the September 11 attacks
in 2001, establishing army and air bases in Central Asia
U.S. troops in Korea
, September 1945
Before World War I, Japan had gained several substantial colonial possessions in East Asia such as Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910). Japan joined the allies in World War I, and after the war acquired the South Seas Mandate
, the former German colony in Micronesia, as a League of Nations Mandate
. Pursuing a colonial policy comparable to those of European powers, Japan settled significant populations of ethnic Japanese in its colonies while simultaneously suppressing Indigenous ethnic populations by enforcing the learning and use of the Japanese language
in schools. Other methods such as public interaction, and attempts to eradicate the use of Korean
, and Hakka
among the Indigenous peoples, were seen to be used. Japan also set up the Imperial Universities
in Korea (Keijō Imperial University
) and Taiwan (Taihoku Imperial University
) to compel education.
In 1931, Japan seized Manchuria
from the Republic of China, setting up a puppet state under Puyi
, the last Manchu emperor of China. In 1933 Japan seized the Chinese province of Jehol
, and incorporated it into its Manchurian possessions. The Second Sino-Japanese War
started in 1937, and Japan occupied much of eastern China, including the Republic's capital at Nanjing
. An estimated 20 million Chinese died during the 1931–1945 war with Japan.
In December 1941, the Japanese Empire
joined World War II
by invading the European and US colonies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including French Indochina
, Hong Kong
, the Philippines, Burma, Malaya
, Portuguese Timor
, and others. Following its surrender to the Allies
in 1945, Japan was deprived of all its colonies with a number of them returned to the original colonizing Western powers. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August 1945
, and shortly after occupied and annexed the southern Kuril Islands
, which Japan still claims.
The Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian empires collapsed at the end of World War I, and were replaced by republics. Finland
, and Czechoslovakia
became independent countries. Yugoslavia
expanded into former Austro-Hungarian territory. The Soviet Union
succeeded the Russian empire in the remainder if its former territory, and Germany, Austria, and Hungary were reduced in size.
In 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and part of Czechoslovakia, and in 1939, Nazi Germany and the USSR concluded a pact to occupy the countries that lie between them; the USSR occupied Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and Germany and the USSR split Poland in two. The occupation of Poland
started World War II
. Germany attacked the USSR in 1941. The USSR allied with the UK and USA, and emerged as one of the victors of the war, occupying most of central and eastern Europe.
Planning for decolonization
U.S. and Philippines
In the United States, the two major parties were divided on the acquisition of the Philippines, which became a major campaign issue in 1900. The Republicans, who favored permanent acquisition, won the election, but after a decade or so, Republicans turned their attention to the Caribbean, focusing on building the Panama Canal. President Woodrow Wilson
, a Democrat in office from 1913 to 1921, ignored the Philippines, and focused his attention on Mexico and Caribbean nations. By the 1920s, the peaceful efforts by the Filipino leadership to pursue independence proved convincing. When the Democrats returned to power in 1933, they worked with the Filipinos to plan a smooth transition to independence. It was scheduled for 1946 by Tydings–McDuffie Act
of 1934. In 1935, the Philippines transitioned out of territorial status, controlled by an appointed governor, to the semi-independent status of the Commonwealth of the Philippines
. Its constitutional convention wrote a new constitution, which was approved by Washington and went into effect, with an elected governor Manuel L. Quezon
and legislature. Foreign Affairs remained under American control. The Philippines built up a new army, under general Douglas MacArthur
, who took leave from his U.S. Army position to take command of the new army reporting to Quezon. The Japanese occupation 1942 to 1945 disrupted but did not delay the transition. It took place on schedule in 1946 as Manuel Roxas
took office as president.
Belgium had an empire forced upon by international demand in 1908 in response to the malfeasance of its King Leopold in greatly mistreating the Congo
. It added Rwanda and Burundi as League of Nations mandates from the former German Empire in 1919. The colonies remained independent during the war, while Belgium itself was occupied by the Germans. There was no serious planning for independence, and exceedingly little training or education provided. The Belgian Congo
was especially rich, and many Belgian businessmen lobbied hard to maintain control. Local revolts grew in power and finally, the Belgian king suddenly announced in 1959 that independence was on the agenda – and it was hurriedly arranged in 1960, for country bitterly and deeply divided on social and economic grounds.
The Netherlands, a small rich country in Western Europe, had spent centuries building up its empire. By 1940 it consisted mostly of the Dutch East Indies
(now Indonesia). Its massive oil reserves provided about 14 percent of the Dutch national product and supported a large population of ethnic Dutch government officials and businessmen in Jakarta and other major cities. The Netherlands was overrun and almost starved to death by the Nazis during the war, and Japan sank the Dutch fleet in seizing the East Indies. In 1945 the Netherlands could not regain these islands on its own; it did so by depending on British military help and American financial grants. By the time Dutch soldiers returned, an independent government under Sukarno
, originally set up by the Japanese, was in power. The Dutch in the East Indies, and at home, were practically unanimous (except for the Communists) that Dutch power and prestige and wealth depended on an extremely expensive war to regain the islands. Compromises were negotiated, were trusted by neither side. When the Indonesian Republic successfully suppressed a large-scale communist revolt, the United States realized that it needed the nationalist government as an ally in the Cold War. Dutch possession was an obstacle to American Cold War goals, so Washington forced the Dutch to grant full independence. A few years later, Sukarno seized all Dutch properties and expelled all ethnic Dutch
—over 300,000—as well as several hundred thousand ethnic Indonesians who supported the Dutch cause. In the aftermath, the Netherlands prospered greatly in the 1950s and 1960s but nevertheless public opinion was bitterly hostile to the United States for betrayal. Washington remained baffled why the Dutch were so inexplicably enamoured of an obviously hopeless cause.
United Nations Trust Territories
When the United Nations was formed in 1945, it established trust territories. These territories included the League of Nations mandate
territories which had not achieved independence by 1945, along with the former Italian Somaliland
. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
was transferred from Japanese to US administration. By 1990 all but one of the trust territories had achieved independence, either as independent states or by merger with another independent state; the Northern Mariana Islands
elected to become a commonwealth of the United States.
The emergence of the Third World (1945–present)
Czechoslovak anti-colonialist propaganda poster: "Africa – in fight for freedom".
The term "Third World
" was coined by French demographer Alfred Sauvy
in 1952, on the model of the Third Estate
, which, according to Abbé Sieyès
, represented everything, but was nothing: "...because at the end this ignored, exploited, scorned Third World like the Third Estate, wants to become something too" (Sauvy). The emergence of this new political entity, in the frame of the Cold War
, was complex and painful. Several tentative attempts were made to organize newly independent states in order to oppose a common front towards both the US's and the USSR's influence on them, with the consequences of the Sino-Soviet split
already at works. Thus, the Non-Aligned Movement
constituted itself, around the main figures of Jawaharlal Nehru
, the first Prime Minister of India, Sukarno
, the Indonesian president, Josip Broz Tito
the Communist leader of Yugoslavia
, and Gamal Abdel Nasser
, head of Egypt who successfully opposed the French and British imperial powers during the 1956 Suez crisis
. After the 1954 Geneva Conference
which put an end to the First Indochina War
, the 1955 Bandung Conference
gathered Nasser, Nehru, Tito, Sukarno
, the leader of Indonesia, and Zhou Enlai
, Premier of the People's Republic of China
. In 1960, the UN General Assembly
voted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples
. The next year, the Non-Aligned Movement was officially created in Belgrade
(1961), and was followed in 1964 by the creation of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
(UNCTAD) which tried to promote a New International Economic Order
(NIEO). The NIEO was opposed to the 1944 Bretton Woods system
, which had benefited the leading states which had created it, and remained in force until 1971 after the United States' suspension of convertibility from dollars to gold. The main tenets of the NIEO were:
- Developing countries must be entitled to regulate and control the activities of multinational corporations operating within their territory.
- They must be free to nationalise or expropriate foreign property on conditions favourable to them.
- They must be free to set up associations of primary commodities producers similar to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, created on September 17, 1960 to protest pressure by major oil companies (mostly owned by U.S., British, and Dutch nationals) to reduce oil prices and payments to producers); all other states must recognise this right and refrain from taking economic, military, or political measures calculated to restrict it.
- International trade should be based on the need to ensure stable, equitable, and remunerative prices for raw materials, generalised non-reciprocal and non-discriminatory tariff preferences, as well as transfer of technology to developing countries; and should provide economic and technical assistance without any strings attached.
The UN Human Development Index
(HDI) is a quantitative index of development, alternative to the classic Gross Domestic Product
(GDP), which some use as a proxy to define the Third World
. While the GDP only calculates economic wealth, the HDI includes life expectancy
, public health
as fundamental factors of a good quality of life
. Countries in North America
, the Southern Cone
, East Asia
, and Oceania
generally have better standards of living than countries in Central Africa
, East Africa
, parts of the Caribbean
, and South Asia
The UNCTAD however wasn't very effective in implementing this New International Economic Order (NIEO), and social and economic inequalities between industrialized countries and the Third World kept on growing throughout the 1960s until the 21st century. The 1973 oil crisis
which followed the Yom Kippur War
(October 1973) was triggered by the OPEC which decided an embargo against the US and Western countries, causing a fourfold increase in the price of oil, which lasted five months, starting on October 17, 1973, and ending on March 18, 1974. OPEC nations then agreed, on January 7, 1975, to raise crude oil prices by 10%. At that time, OPEC nations – including many who had recently nationalized their oil industries – joined the call for a New International Economic Order to be initiated by coalitions of primary producers. Concluding the First OPEC Summit in Algiers they called for stable and just commodity prices, an international food and agriculture program, technology transfer from North to South, and the democratization of the economic system. But industrialized countries quickly began to look for substitutes to OPEC petroleum, with the oil companies investing the majority of their research capital in the US and European countries or others, politically sure countries. The OPEC lost more and more influence on the world prices of oil.
Decolonization of Africa
British decolonisation in Africa
The decolonisation of North Africa, and sub- Saharan Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s, very suddenly, with little preparation. There was widespread unrest and organised revolts, especially in French Algeria, Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo and British Kenya.
In 1945, Africa had four independent countries – Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and South Africa.
After Italy's defeat in World War II, France and the UK occupied the former Italian colonies. Libya
became an independent kingdom in 1951. Eritrea
was merged with Ethiopia in 1952. Italian Somaliland was governed by the UK, and by Italy after 1954, until its independence in 1960.
By 1977 European colonial rule in mainland Africa had ended. Most of Africa's island countries had also become independent, although Réunion
remain part of France. However the black majorities in Rhodesia
and South Africa were disenfranchised until 1979 in Rhodesia
, which became Zimbabwe-Rhodesia
that year and Zimbabwe the next, and until 1994 in South Africa. Namibia
, Africa's last UN Trust Territory, became independent of South Africa in 1990.
Most African countries became independent as republics
, and Swaziland
remain monarchies under dynasties that predate colonial rule. Burundi
gained independence as monarchies, but all four countries' monarchs were later deposed, and they became republics.
The organization No White Saviors
was founded in 2018 and is an advocacy campaign led by a majority female and African team of professionals that are based in Kampala, Uganda
. The main goal of NWS is to bring awareness to the harms that mission trips, inter-country adoptions
, and western media have on the effect of black empowerment. Their work has found correlations between white savior complex
and sex trafficking. Their mission statement
is to create a new normal in Africa, one without the imperialist gaze.
- United Kingdom: Sudan (1956); Ghana (1957); Nigeria (1960); Sierra Leone and Tanganyika (1961); Uganda (1962); Kenya and Sultanate of Zanzibar (1963); Malawi and Zambia (1964); Gambia and Rhodesia (1965); Botswana and Lesotho (1966); Mauritius and Swaziland (1968)
- France: Morocco and Tunisia (1956); Guinea (1958); Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Mauritania (1960); Algeria (1962); Comoros (1975); Djibouti (1977)
- Spain: Equatorial Guinea (1968)
- Portugal: Guinea-Bissau (1974); Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe and Angola (1975)
- Belgium: Democratic Republic of the Congo (1960); Burundi and Rwanda (1962)
Decolonization in the Americas after 1945
Decolonization of Asia
Western European colonial empires in Asia and Africa all collapsed in the years after 1945
Japan expanded its occupation of Chinese territory during the 1930s, and occupied Southeast Asia
during World War II. After the war, the Japanese colonial empire
was dissolved, and national independence movements resisted the re-imposition of colonial control by European countries and the United States.
The Republic of China
regained control of Japanese-occupied territories in Manchuria and eastern China, as well as Taiwan. Only Hong Kong and Macau remained in outside control.
The Allied powers divided Korea into two occupation zones, which became the states of North Korea
and South Korea
. The Philippines
became independent of the US in 1946.
The following list shows the colonial powers following the end of hostilities in 1945, and their colonial or administrative possessions. The year of decolonization is given chronologically in parentheses.
Decolonization in Europe
Italy had occupied the Dodecanese
islands in 1912, but Italian occupation ended after World War II, and the islands were integrated into Greece. British rule ended in Cyprus
in 1960, and Malta
in 1964, and both islands became independent republics.
Soviet control of its non-Russian member republics weakened as movements for democratization and self-government gained strength during the late 1980s, and four republics declared independence in 1990 and 1991. The Soviet coup d'état attempt
in August 1991 accelerated the breakup of the USSR, which formally ended on December 26, 1991. The Republics of the Soviet Union
become sovereign states—Armenia
, Byelorussia (later Belarus
. Historian Robert Daniels says, "A special dimension that the anti-Communist revolutions shared with some of their predecessors was decolonization."
Moscow's policy had long been to settle ethnic Russians in the non-Russian republics. After independence, minority rights has been an issue for Russian-speakers in some republics and for non-Russian-speakers
in Russia; see Russians in the Baltic states
Meanwhile, the Russian Federation continues to apply political, economic, and military pressure on former Soviet colonies. In 2014 it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, the only such action in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
Decolonization of Oceania
The decolonization of Oceania occurred after World War II when nations in Oceania achieved independence by transitioning from European colonial rule to full independence.
After independence, the new states needed to establish or strengthen the institutions of a sovereign state – governments, laws, a military, schools, administrative systems, and so on. The amount of self-rule granted prior to independence, and assistance from the colonial power and/or international organisations after independence, varied greatly between colonial powers, and between individual colonies.
From the perspective of language policy
(or language politics
), "linguistic decolonization" entails the replacement of a colonizing (imperial) power's language with a given colony's indigenous language in the function of official language
. With the exception of colonies in Eurasia, linguistic decolonization did not take place in the former colonies-turned-independent states on the other continents ("Rest of the World").
The persistent absence of linguistic decolonization is known as linguistic imperialism
The Black Star Monument
, built by Ghana
's first president Kwame Nkrumah
to commemorate the country's independence
Nation-building is the process of creating a sense of identification with, and loyalty to, the state.
Nation-building projects seek to replace loyalty to the old colonial power, and/or tribal or regional loyalties, with loyalty to the new state. Elements of nation-building include creating and promoting symbols of the state like a flag and an anthem, monuments, official histories, national sports teams, codifying one or more Indigenous official languages
, and replacing colonial place-names with local ones.
Nation-building after independence often continues the work began by independence movements during the colonial period.
Decolonization is not an easy matter in colonies where a large population of settlers lives, particularly if they have been there for several generations. This population, in general, was often repatriated
, often losing considerable property. For instance, the decolonization of Algeria
by France was particularly uneasy due to the large European population (see also pied noir
which largely evacuated to France when Algeria became independent.
, former Rhodesia
, Robert Mugabe
targeted white African farmers
, seizing their property by force, and many either died or emigrated.
Other ethnic minorities that are also the product of colonialism may pose problems as well. A large Indian community lived in Uganda
– as in most of East Africa – as a result of Britain colonizing both India and East Africa. As many Indians had considerable wealth Idi Amin expelled them
for domestic political gain.
Newly independent states also had to develop independent economic institutions – a national currency, banks, companies, regulation, tax systems, etc.
Many colonies were serving as resource colonies which produced raw materials and agricultural products, and as a captive market for goods manufactured in the colonizing country. Many decolonized countries created programs to promote industrialization
. Some nationalized industries and infrastructure, and some engaged in land reform
to redistribute land to individual farmers or create collective farms.
Some decolonized countries maintain strong economic ties with the former colonial power. The CFA franc
is a currency shared by 14 countries in West and Central Africa, mostly former French colonies. The CFA franc is guaranteed by the French treasury.
Effects on the colonizers
John Kenneth Galbraith
argues that the post–World War II decolonization was brought about for economic reasons. In A Journey Through Economic Time
, he writes:
"The engine of economic well-being was now within and between the advanced industrial countries. Domestic economic growth
– as now measured and much discussed – came to be seen as far more important than the erstwhile colonial trade.... The economic effect in the United States from the granting of independence to the Philippines was unnoticeable, partly due to the Bell Trade Act
, which allowed American monopoly in the economy of the Philippines. The departure of India and Pakistan made small economic difference in the United Kingdom. Dutch
economists calculated that the economic effect from the loss of the great Dutch empire in Indonesia was compensated for by a couple of years or so of domestic post-war economic growth. The end of the colonial era is celebrated in the history books as a triumph of national aspiration in the former colonies and of benign good sense on the part of the colonial powers. Lurking beneath, as so often happens, was a strong current of economic interest – or in this case, disinterest."
In general, the release of the colonized caused little economic loss to the colonizers. Part of the reason for this was that major costs were eliminated while major benefits were obtained by alternate means. Decolonization allowed the colonizer to disclaim responsibility for the colonized. The colonizer no longer had the burden of obligation, financial or otherwise, to their colony. However, the colonizer continued to be able to obtain cheap goods and labor as well as economic benefits (see Suez Canal Crisis
) from the former colonies. Financial, political and military pressure could still be used to achieve goals desired by the colonizer. Thus decolonization allowed the goals of colonization to be largely achieved, but without its burdens.
Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
has written about colonization and decolonization in the film universe. Born in Ethiopia, filmmaker Haile Gerima
describes the "colonization of the unconscious" he describes experiencing as a child:
...as kids, we tried to act out the things we had seen in the movies. We used to play cowbows and Indians in the mountains around Gondar...We acted out the roles of these heroes, identifying with the cowboys conquering the Indians. We didn't identify with the Indians at all and we never wanted the Indians to win. Even in Tarzan movies, we would become totally galvanized by the activities of the hero and follow the story from his point of view, completely caught up in the structure of the story. Whenever Africans sneaked up behind Tarzan, we would scream our heads off, trying to warn him that 'they' were coming".
In Asia, kung fu cinema
emerged at a time Japan wanted to reach Asian populations in other countries by way of its cultural influence. The surge in popularity of kung fu movies began in the late 1960s through the 1970s. Local populations were depicted as protagonists opposing "imperialists" (foreigners) and their "Chinese collaborators".
Four international organizations whose membership largely follows the pattern of previous colonial empires.
Due to a common history and culture, former colonial powers created institutions which more loosely associated their former colonies. Membership is voluntary, and in some cases can be revoked if a member state loses some objective criteria (usually a requirement for democratic governance). The organizations serve cultural, economic, and political purposes between the associated countries, although no such organisation has become politically prominent as an entity in its own right.
Assassinated anti-colonialist leaders
- Tiradentes was a leading member of the Brazilian seditious movement known as the Inconfidência Mineira, against the Portuguese Empire. He fought for an independent Brazilian republic.
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, nonviolent leader of the Indian independence movement was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse.
- Ruben Um Nyobé, leader of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), killed in a plane crash on September 13, 1958. No clear cause has ever been ascertained for the mysterious crash. Assassination has been alleged with the French SDECE being blamed.
- Barthélemy Boganda, leader of a nationalist Central African Republic movement, who died in a plane-crash on March 29, 1959, eight days before the last elections of the colonial era. The French SDECE or his wife are the main suspects.
- Félix-Roland Moumié, successor to Ruben Um Nyobe at the head of the Cameroon's People Union, assassinated in Geneva in 1960 by the SDECE (French secret services).
- Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was assassinated on January 17, 1961.
- Burundi nationalist Louis Rwagasore was assassinated on October 13, 1961, while Pierre Ngendandumwe, Burundi's first Hutu prime minister, was also murdered on January 15, 1965.
- Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of Togo, was assassinated on January 13, 1963.
- Mehdi Ben Barka, the leader of the MoroccanNational Union of Popular Forces (UNPF) and of the Tricontinental Conference, which was supposed to prepare in 1966 in Havana its first meeting gathering national liberation movements from all continents – related to the Non-Aligned Movement, but the Tricontinal Conference gathered liberation movements while the Non-Aligned were for the most part states – was "disappeared" in Paris in 1965, allegedly by Moroccan agents and French police officers.
- Nigerian leader Ahmadu Bello was assassinated in January 1966 during a coup which toppled Nigeria's post-independence government.
- Eduardo Mondlane, the leader of FRELIMO and the father of Mozambican independence, was assassinated in 1969. Both the Portuguese intelligence or the Portuguese secret police PIDE/DGS and elements of FRELIMO, have been accused of killing Mondlane.
- Mohamed Bassiri, Sahrawi leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Wadi el Dhahab was "disappeared" in El Aaiún in 1970, allegedly by the Spanish Legion.
- Amílcar Cabral was killed on January 20, 1973 by PAIGC rival Inocêncio Kani, with the help of Portuguese agents operating within the PAIGC.
Timeline of independence
This list includes formerly non-self-governing territories, such as colonies, protectorates, condominia
, and leased territories. Changes in status of autonomy leading up to and after independence are not listed, and some dates of independence may be disputed. For details, see each national history.
18th century to World War I
The United Nations
, under "Chapter XI: Declaration Regarding Non-Self Governing Territories" of the Charter of the United Nations, defines Non-Self Governing Nations (NSGSs) as "territories whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government"—the contemporary definition of colonialism
After the conclusion of World War II with the surrender of the Axis Powers in 1945, and two decades into the latter half of the 20th-century, over three dozen "states in Asia and Africa achieved autonomy or outright independence" from European administering powers.
As of 2020, 17 territories remain under Chapter XI distinction:
United Nations NSGS list
[i]: "On 26 February 1976, Spain
informed the Secretary-General
that as of that date it had terminated its presence in the Territory of the Sahara and deemed it necessary to place on record that Spain considered itself thenceforth exempt from any responsibility of any international nature in connection with the administration of the Territory, in view of the cessation of its participation in the temporary administration established for the Territory. In 1990, the General Assembly reaffirmed that the question of Western Sahara was a question of decolonization which remained to be completed by the people of Western Sahara."
On 10 December 2010, the United Nations
published its official decree
, announcing the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism
wherein the United Nations declared its "renewal of the call to States Members of the United Nations to speed up the process of decolonization towards the complete elimination of colonialism".
According to an article by scholar John Quintero, "given the modern emphasis on the equality of states and inalienable nature of their sovereignty, many people do not realize that these non-self-governing structures still exist".
Some activists have claimed that the attention of the United Nations was "further diverted from the social and economic agenda [for decolonization] towards "firefighting and extinguishing” armed conflicts". Advocates have stressed that the United Nations "[remains] the last refuge of hope for peoples under the yolk of colonialism".
Furthermore, on 19 May 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
addressed the attendants of the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization, urging international political leaders to "build on [the success of precedent decolonization efforts and] towards fully eradicating colonialism by 2020".
The sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago
in the Indian Ocean is disputed
between the United Kingdom and Mauritius
. In February 2019, the International Court of Justice
in The Hague
ruled that the United Kingdom must transfer the islands to Mauritius as they were not legally separated from the latter in 1965.
On 22 May 2019, the United Nations General Assembly
debated and adopted a resolution that affirmed that the Chagos Archipelago "forms an integral part of the territory of Mauritius."
The UK does not recognise Mauritius' sovereignty claim over the Chagos Archipelago.
In October 2020, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth
described the British and American governments as "hypocrites" and "champions of double talk" over their response to the dispute.
Indigenous decolonization theory
theory views Western Eurocentric
historical accounts and political discourse as an ongoing political construct that attempts to negate Indigenous peoples and their experiences around the world. Indigenous people of the world precede and negate all Eurocentric colonization projects and the resulting historical constructs, popular discourse, conceptualizations, and theory. In this view, the independence of former Western-European colonies, such as the United States, Australia, and Brazil, is conceptualized as part of a neo-colonization project and not as decolonization. The creation of these states merely continued ongoing European colonialism. Any former European colony not free of Western European influence, such as South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, etc. fit such a conceptualization.
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- ^ Jacques Foccart, counsellor to Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou and Jacques Chirac for African matters, recognized it in 1995 to Jeune Afrique review. See also Foccart parle, interviews with Philippe Gaillard, Fayard – Jeune Afrique (in French) and also "The man who ran Francafrique – French politician Jacques Foccart's role in France's colonization of Africa under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle – Obituary" in The National Interest, Fall 1997
- ^ Spain proffered a treaty of recognition in 1857, but it was rejected by the Argentine legislature.
- ^ a b The Japanese rule over French Indochina is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.
- ^ The Italian rule over Ethiopia is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.
- ^ Occupied by Germany.
- ^ a b The Japanese rule over the Dutch East Indies is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.
- ^ Occupied by Germany.
- ^ The Japanese rule over large parts of China is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.
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- ^ "Milestones: 1945–1952 – Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
- ^ a b "Non-Self-Governing Territories | The United Nations and Decolonization". www.un.org. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
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- ^ "Residual Colonialism In The 21St Century - United Nations University". unu.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
- ^ a b "United Nations Should Eradicate Colonialism by 2020, Urges Secretary-General in Message to Caribbean Regional Decolonization Seminar | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases". www.un.org. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
- ^ "Chagos Islands dispute: UK obliged to end control – UN". BBC News. 25 February 2019.
- ^ Sands, Philippe (2019-05-24). "At last, the Chagossians have a real chance of going back home". The Guardian. Britain’s behaviour towards its former colony has been shameful. The UN resolution changes everything
- ^ "Chagos Islands dispute: UK misses deadline to return control". BBC News. 22 November 2019.
- ^ "Chagos Islands dispute: Mauritius calls US and UK 'hypocrites'". BBC News. 19 October 2020.
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