5 historic times African countries attempted to merge but failed

Presidents of Senegal and Gambia whose countries merged for 8 years in 1982

Africa is the only continent in the world that was divided among European colonialists in 1884 in what was termed the Scramble for Africa. So many tribes were divided by colonial borders while others were merged with other tribes.

Following the independence struggle in the continent, Tanzania became the only African country formed by a merger of two states, Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

However, there were several attempts by other states during the post-colonial era to merge politically and economically, yet failed to come to a consensus.

Another attempt is being made by the six-member East African Community (EAC) consisting of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

They attempted to merge politically after a proposal was made in 2004 to create the East African Federation. In 2016, they instead, favoured a confederation which is yet to be finalized.

Before the EAC, history has recorded five attempts made by African nations to merge but failed. Read about them below.

Senegambia Confederation (1982-1989)

In 1982, Senegal and Gambia agreed to form the Senegambia Confederation to establish cooperation between the two neighbours. Senegal was the most interested party as they feared national instability caused by uprisings in the Gambia.

An attempt to have a unified state in the 8 years of signing the agreement failed and Senegal dissolved the confederation in 1989 as the Gambia showed no interest. This 8-year union is one of the longest in Africa.

Federation of Arab Republics (1972-1977)

In 1972, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi attempted to build a Pan-Arab state and succeeded in merging his country with Egypt and Syria under the umbrella Federation of Arab Republics. He also invited Iraq and Sudan to join the Federation.

The federation was formed after the three states approved a referendum in each country. However, they disagreed on many terms of the merger which broke down relations among the countries.

Arab Islamic Republic (1974)

In 1974, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi proposed a merger with Tunisia to be called the Arab Islamic Republic. This was during the difficulties he faced in creating the Federation of Arab Republics with Egypt and Syria.

The two heads of state agreed to the merger but it was never implemented.

The 2004 proposed East African Federation flag

East African Federation (1960-1964)

In 1960, prior to the declaration of independence in Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Zanzibar, a union between the four British territories was proposed.

Tanganyika wanted to delay its imminent independence in 1960 so that the four territories could achieve independence together as one federation.

All the leaders agreed in 1963 to work towards a federation, but by 1964, the plan collapsed after disputes over the leadership of the federation among others. Tanganyika and Zanzibar eventually united in 1964 to form Tanzania.

United Arab Republic (1958-1961)

This was a short-lived Pan-Arab state born out of the union of Egypt and Syria. The republic was led by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser who carried out a crackdown against Syrian Communists and opponents of the union immediately after taking leadership.

The UAR adopted a flag based on the Arab Liberation Flag of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, but with two stars to represent the two parts of the UAR. This has been the official flag of Syria since 1980.

So many issues started marring the republic including displeasure that the UAR turned into a state completely dominated by Egyptians. Nasser demanded that all political parties in Syria be dismantled, thereby diminishing Syrian political life.

All the power fell in the hands of the Egyptians and there was growing tension in Syria. In 1961, the Syrian military staged a coup and declared Syria’s independence from the UAR.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on face2faceafrica.com

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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