Why did political structures in post-1960 British and French colonies change drastically?

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Decolonization was the primary reason for the dramatic change in political structures among formerly British and French territories. In 1960, also known as "the Year of Africa," multiple African territories gained their independence from European colonial rule. Even in 1960, colonial rule had a significant impact on the political structure of many African nations. The collapse of the colonial rule led to a political restructure that eventually placed more power in the hands of the native African populations.

The Sharpeville Massacre

Another major event that affected the political structure of formerly British and French colonies was the Sharpeville massacre that took place in South Africa. South African police, given power and authority by the white minority rule in the region, opened fire on a crowd of peaceful protestors. Sixty-nine protestors were killed, sparking an international controversy and turning many against the European colonial rule of African nations. Seventeen African nations that had been under European rule became recognized as part of the United Nation's General Assembly, forever changing the political structure of the region.

The Effects of Decolonization

While South Africa served as a focal point for the racial tensions that developed as a response to British and French colonial rule in Africa, the entire continent was affected. Support for African independence around the world not only led to greater self-governing authority within these regions but a better understanding of the complex and diverse political structures across African nations. The effects of decolonization continued all throughout the Cold War, when fears of Soviet influence led the United States to take a greater interest in African political systems. The absence of British and French authority was seen as an opening for Soviet influence, and many African leaders were polarized in their alliances.

Lack of Structure

There was no unified process of decolonization, which made it difficult for decolonized nations to adjust and transfer authority. In some nations, decolonization was peaceful, while in others it was chaotic. The growing influence of the United Nations gave a voice to advocates of continued decolonization, especially as membership expanded in the 1970s, but it was a slow and arduous process. Nonetheless, it was the first time that leaders from "third world" nations had been heard by such a wide audience on an international stage.

The Neo-Colonialism of the 1960s

Anti-colonial intellectuals of the 1960s described neo-colonialism as a new form of European exploitation of African people and natural resources. Newly appointed African leaders faced difficulty in having their authority recognized, which threatened the nascent political structures of all decolonized African nations. Strained relations with the former rule of the British and French nations made political alliances and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa difficult to navigate. On an internal level, many newly sovereign African nations found it difficult to extricate themselves from the lingering political structures of their colonial authorities. While these nations were independent in a technical sense, there were still deeply ingrained factions based on regional alignment and ethnicity that made it difficult for them to exercise their sovereignty. This is an issue that persists in many modern-day African countries. With an absence of national identities that were separate from colonial influence, the political structures of these countries remained vulnerable to foreign influence.

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