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Welcome to the Country Studies section of the web site.
Here you will find information on various African nations that were
deeply affected by World War II. Each
of these nations are different and the ways the war affected them are different,
but all have one thing in common -- the war touched each nation and sparked eras
of change in each nation.
Each entry has a map of the nation as it stands today and a listing of its name, capital, current leader, what nation(s) it belonged to as a colony, when it gained its independence, and from whom. Following each listing is a brief story regarding the nation and how World War II affected it, its people, and its eventual standing as a nation.
Please use the table below to navigate the page.
Country Name: Egypt
Current Leader: President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
Colonial controlled by: Great Britain
Date of Independence: February 28, 1922
Granter of Independence: Great Britain1
Although Egypt was technically a sovereign nation during World War II, it
was largely still under the control of Great Britain.
The Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 ensured that Egyptian independence was
"almost meaningless" due to its stipulations.
By citing the treaty, which stated the Egyptians would furnish, whenever
called upon, "all the facilities and assistance in [their] power, including
the use of ports, aerodromes, and means of communication," Britain drew
Egypt into the war. During the
Second World War, Egypt, with its capital city of Cairo, became home to large
contingents of British forces -- supposedly to defend the Suez Canal.
The large numbers of troops were in actuality a "virtual
occupation" of Egypt during the war.2
Egypt is an unusual case in African history because Egypt was actually a free state at the beginning of World War II. It was one of only three nations -- Liberia and Ethiopia were the other two -- that were not colonies during the war.3 However, because of their treaty, England, the imperialist power that once ruled Egypt, drew is ex-colony into the war. Ethiopia, discussed later in this document, also joined the war, but under different circumstances. However, all three nations remained largely uninvolved in the freedom movements of other African nations that came after the war. Ali Mazrui wrote in conjunction with Michael Tidy, "[the] internal problems of Egypt...effectively distracted [the nation] from any pan-African or anti-colonial movement. He goes on to write "Egypt under King Farouk, before the 1952 Revolution, was too conservatively Arab in outlook to consider African unity." He also states that Farouk's government was "reactionary and corrupt" and "had no interest in nationalist radicalism...[relying] heavily on British military power."4 Despite the fact that Farouk's regime was not interested in it, nationalism grew in Egypt through the war years and beyond. In 1952, the growth culminated in a military coup that instituted a republic in place of the monarchy. Prior to this, Egypt had been one of the Arab states that attempted to block the creation of Israel.5 By the time Egypt became a republic, it had forced Great Britain out of its internal affairs.
After becoming a republic in 1952, Egypt, a member of the Arab League, had several more conflicts with Israel over territory. The nation later ceded the Gaza Strip to Israel. Today, the pair of nations are the number one and number two recipients of US foreign aid.
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Country Name: Ethiopia
Capital: Addis Ababa
Current Leader: President Negasso Gidada
Colonial controlled by: Occupied by Italy
Date of Independence: Occupied from 1936-1941
Granter of Independence: Liberated from Italy in 19416
For hundreds of years, Ethiopia was a monarchy.
Throughout most of the twentieth century, the ruler of this nation was
Emperor Haile Selassie. From his
ascension to his overthrow in 1974, only five years passed when Haile Selassie
did not rule in Ethiopia.
Those five years were the years when Italy conquered and occupied Ethiopia during World War II. The Ethiopians were "ruthlessly oppressed" by the Italians but staged many uprisings against the forces occupying their nation.7 The invasion and occupation violated a 1928 treaty between Italy and Ethiopia and a second treaty two years later, this one between the Axis powers, “[made] Ethiopia...better exposed to Italian aggression.”8 Mussolini wanted Ethiopia because “Ethiopia [was] the last part of Africa that [was] not owned by the Europeans.”9 Mussolini’s statement shows the true imperialist spirit of the Europeans and exactly how superior they felt. Further perpetuating this idea and starting a trend that would cost dearly, Britain and France took it upon themselves to “[partition] Ethiopia in such a way as to allocate most of it to Italy while maintaining respective British and French interests in accordance with the 1906 Tripartite Treaty...[and] had the audacity to send the [Hoare-Laval Plan] to Ethiopia for approval by the Emperor [Haile Selassie].”10 During this invasion, the Ethiopians certainly did little to change this image, attempting to repulse the invasion with “the most antiquated arms, no tanks of armoured vehicles, and an eleven-plane ‘air force’, of which only three of four were serviceable.”11 It was only after five years and some British leadership and training that Ethiopian troops marched with the Gideon Force to free Ethiopia from the Italians, who had been using the nation as a staging ground for forays into Sudan, Kenya, and British Somaliland.12
After the war, Ethiopia suffered from internal problems that kept it largely out of the independence movements of other African states. However, unlike Egypt, Africans held up Ethiopia as a “[symbol] of African independence.” The nation, however, did not become truly involved in pan-African affairs until the All African People’s Conference at Accra, which was in 1958.13 However, the conservatism and slow reaction of its ruler that kept Ethiopia out of most affairs and damaged its internal affairs did not last forever, nor did the reign of Haile Selassie. Emperor Haile Selassie I was the last emperor of Ethiopia. A military coup deposed him in 1974 and Selassie died the next year in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Abba.14 Today, Ethiopia is a democracy and smaller than it was in decades past -- in 1993, Eritrea, once part of Ethiopia, gained its independence.
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Country Name: Morocco
Current Leader: King Mohamed VI
Colonial controlled by: France
Date of Independence: March 2, 1956
Granter of Independence: France15
Morocco, like Egypt and Ethiopia, is somewhat unique when discussed in
the context of World War II and decolonization.
Unlike Egypt and Ethiopia, Morocco was a colony, and a colony of two
nations, at that. France and Spain
held sway over Morocco until the 1950s, when the effort of holding crumbling
empires together became too much. France
was the primary holder of Moroccan territory and is widely regarded as the major
colonial power in the area. This is
not to say that the Moroccans suffered colonization in silence -- French and
Spanish forces had a hard time putting down various revolts in the region in the
decades leading up to World War II.16
Despite fielding a force 47,000 strong to prevent the fall of France to
Germany, many Moroccans were pro-German during the war.
The Vichy government of France during the war years encouraged those
However, many others, like Sultan Sidi Muhammad, patiently awaited
American intervention in this affair -- the Sultan himself had more than one
conversation with Franklin Delano Roosevelt regarding the fate of Morocco.18
In 1942, during Operation Torch, American forces invaded Morocco and from
there on in, the area was a major supply post for the Allies.
One of the most famous Allied meetings of the war, in fact, occurred in
Morocco -- 1943’s meeting in Casablanca, southwest of the capital of Rabat.
France decolonized Morocco in 1956, with the Spanish following suit soon after. By 1969, all of Morocco was free and under the control of the Sultanate. Sidi Muhammad died in 1961 and his son, Hassan II, succeeded him. Succeeding Hassan was his son, Mohamed VI. Thanks to Hassan II, Morocco is now a constitutional monarchy and is free from its colonial ties.19 Morocco is one of the North African Arab states and among those who, along with the rest of the Arab League, opposed the creation of Israel.20
Old Wall, Rabat, Morocco.
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All maps courtesy of The World Factbook 2001 published by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. For the full citation, please click here.