Why don't Ghanaians want West Togoland to be separated?

Separatism in Africa: A Legacy of Colonialism

For Toyin Falola, colonialism is the root of all separatist movements in Africa. The history professor, who teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, points out how the European colonial powers divided the continent between them between the Berlin Congo Conference in 1884/85 and the end of the First World War: "They have hundreds of peoples and nations that were before existed, cobbled together in around 50 countries. " Regardless of existing structures or religious and ethnic affiliations. The first two examples, Ambazonia and West Togoland, can be traced back to such arbitrary demarcation.

However, the situation is often not clear. However, it is not always possible to say exactly when an area belonged to whom and whether or not parts should be handed over to other forces today, explains Lotje de Vries, assistant professor at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. Zanzibar in Tanzania or Cabinda in Angola are such examples.

De Vries is co-editor of the book "Secession in African Politics" and she was faced with the challenge of how to categorize the various separatist movements in Africa. For the editors, in the end it was not the historical origin that was decisive, but how the movements developed.

At the end of September, separatists in West Togoland unilaterally declared their independence from Ghana

1. Ambazonia, Cameroon

After the First World War, Cameroon, until then a German colony, was placed under British and French mandates. In 1961 a referendum sealed the future of British Cameroon: the northern part decided to join Nigeria, the southern part aspired to the Republic of Cameroon - the former French part.

In today's Cameroon, the English-speaking population is in the minority - and they feel disadvantaged compared to the French-speaking majority. This resulted in a violent conflict that has now resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. Both separatists and the army are accused of serious human rights violations. Three years ago, the two English-speaking provinces in the west symbolically declared their independence and proclaimed the Republic of Ambazonia.

For de Vries, Ambazonia is one of the movements that seriously strives for independence - mainly because the people's own identity is in danger.

2. West Togoland, Ghana

The history of origin here is similar to that in Cameroon: After the First World War, the previous German colony of Togo was divided between Great Britain in the west and France in the east. The British part was ultimately absorbed in what is now Ghana.

At the end of September, the situation in eastern Ghana, i.e. western Togoland, became acute again. Separatists declared the area a sovereign state. Similar attempts have been made earlier. Parts of the local population do not feel sufficiently represented by the Ghanaian government.

Like Ambazonia, the region is part of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, which represents the interests of those who are not recognized as states by the United Nations.

3. Biafra, Nigeria

In some conflicts it plays a role how the states dealt with the colonial legacy after independence. One example is the Biafra region in southeastern Nigeria. A few years after independence, a civil war broke out there (1967-1970), in which it is estimated that between 500,000 and three million people died.

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    Two and a half years of war

    Between 1967 and 1970, civil war raged in southeastern Nigeria. One part of the country declared its independence under the name of Biafra, whereupon the government completely cordoned off the area. A humanitarian crisis ensued, with an estimated two million people starving. Theophilus Chukwuemeka Amadi survived - also because children of the village caught lizards that he could feed on.

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    The children of Biafra: images of want

    Amadi was one of the children whose pictures went around the world at that time: emaciated and yet with a bloated stomach. The disease is called Kwashiorkor. It is caused by a lack of protein in the diet. "Once someone had kwashiorkor, it usually meant death," explains Amadi. His little brother did not survive.

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    Still united

    The cohesion in the family was and is strong: "When I got sick, everyone was worried. Everyone wanted to make sure that this boy would survive," says Amadi. The whole family supported his mother (on the right in the picture) so that little Amadi could get the help he needed.

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    "You made me survive"

    The fact that Amadi was able to celebrate his sixth birthday in 1971, one year after the war, is also thanks to aid organizations that took care of medical care and food aid. "If it hadn't been for the helpers, I would not have survived. They sacrificed their time. They sacrificed their money," says Amadi. The NGO Save the Children, which was also active at the time, now portrayed him for a project.

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    against forgetting

    Amadi studied religious education and now works in the War Museum in Umuahia. During the war, the city was temporarily the capital of Biafra. The 54-year-old says he is happy when survivors come to the museum: "They help to preserve the memory of the war for those who did not experience it."

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    Reports from a contemporary witness

    When he leads visitors through the exhibition and comes to pictures of the victims, he also tells them that he himself suffered from kwashiorkor around 50 years ago.

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    Burned in memories

    Although Amadi was still a small child during the war, he can remember a few things very clearly: "I can remember people running away, looking for cover from air raids, hiding from soldiers. And there was no food." This picture shows the city of Umuahia in 1969, shortly after the Nigerian army shelled the center.

  • Biafran war: escaped starvation

    For a bright future

    Today Amadi has four children himself. He wants to create a better future for his and all other children by keeping the memories of Nigeria's dark past alive.

    Author: Uta Steinwehr


According to the historian Falola, the cause was the way in which the federal structure was implemented in Nigeria in the 1960s - "post-colonial mismanagement," as he puts it. A key question was: How do you distribute power and economic revenue in the state? "Every time you centralize something too much, there are new subordinate crises. Because you can't centralize a lot without marginalizing someone," says Falola.

Separatist efforts flared up again and again in the southeast. "The conditions that led to (the war in) Biafra are still there," says Falola. In Lotje de Vries' book, however, Biafra is classified in the category of cases in which the threat of secession is seen more as a means of exerting pressure to gain a hearing and gain more political weight.

4. Zanzibar, Tanzania

Historically, the Zanzibar archipelago was under different rule: Portugal was the first colonial power to exercise its influence, later the Sultanate of Oman and Great Britain. In between, Zanzibar was an independent sultanate. After independence from the United Kingdom, a revolution broke out in 1964. A few months later, Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

The former sultan's palace on Zanzibar - now a museum

However, Zanzibar is partially autonomous. The archipelago has its own government and parliament, among other things. The idea of ‚Äč‚Äčnationalism is firmly anchored. Some parties actively pursue the goal of independence. In the book "Secession in African Politics" it says on Zanzibar that the desire for detachment is "also an expression for the search for the best system of government after federalism has not kept its promise".

5. Cabinda, Angola

When it comes to wanting to split off from a state, economic interests always play a role. Both Toyin Falola and Lotje de Vries emphasize this. It is about access to resources, the power to control that access, and the distribution of profits. Cabinda is an example of this par excellence.

The province belongs to Angola, but as an exclave it is separated from the much larger part of Angola by the mouth of the Congo, which belongs to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cabinda was a Portuguese protectorate until Portugal added it to Angola.

The province is responsible for 60 percent of Angolan's oil production. The separatists' anger is also sparked by the fact that the central government is making huge profits from it. There have been repeated bloody clashes and attacks by separatists in Cabinda since the 2000s.