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perjantai 29. huhtikuuta 2016

Liberia, Cool Facts #111

<= 110. Lesotho                                                                                                              112. Malawi =>

1. Pepper Coast 

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive at the present-day Liberia in 1461 and they named it as the Pepper Coast. The reason was the melegueta pepper, which could be found abundantly in the region. The pepper was also known as the grain of paradise, which gave Liberia the alternative name of Grain Coast.

Different "Coasts" in Africa: 

Pepper Coast (Grain Coast) = Liberia
Ivory Coast = Ivory Coast or Cote d'Ivoire
Gold Coast = Ghana
Slave Coast = areas in present-day Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana

Malagueta grain 
Old map of Liberia

2. First and Oldest African Republic

Liberia is the first and oldest republic in Africa. It became independent in 1847. 

In 1816 the American Colonization Society was established in USA and it aimed to find settlements for the freed slaves in America. The ACS bought land from the Pepper Coast and established the first settlement in 1822, which was named as Monrovia according to the contemporary US president James Monroe

The former slaves from USA had no ties with the indigenous people with whom they had conflicts. These Americo-Liberians became the ruling class in Liberia until 1980, when Liberia got its first president with indigenous origins. 

A meeting of the American Colonization Society

ACS certificate

3. Liberian Civil Wars 

Liberia has had two civil wars in the recent history. 

First Liberian Civil War 1989-1997: 

In 1980 Samuel Doe had overthrown the government and in 1985 he held elections that were considered fraudulent. There had been an unsuccessful coup attempt against Doe's government. In 1989 the former government minister Charles Taylor moved to Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire to start an uprising against Doe's government. 

President Doe was killed during the civil war, foreign involvement and peace negotiations led to a ceasefire, which was once broken. The war ended in 1997 when Charles Taylor was elected as the president. 

Demonstration during the first civil war

Second Liberian Civil War 1999-2003: 

In 1999 a rebel group backed by the government of Guinea emerged in the north and in 2003 another rebel group emerged in the south. 

By June-July 2003 Taylor's government controlled only about a third of the country. The warring parties signed a peace treaty in August 2003 a transitional government ruled until the elections in 2005.The Liberian civil war was notable for its human sacrifice and ritualistic killing. Drugs were also used to make the soldiers more effective in battle, they were given even to child soldiers.

Fighter in the second civil war

4. Liberian Society 

Liberia is unique in its way of granting citizenship only to black people. The constitution of 1847 is still valid stating that a person can get the citizenship only if the person is a negroid descendent.

No other country in the world defines the right to citizenship according to ethnic background.

The freed slaves "Americo-Liberians" from America are the most influential population group in Liberia, which has 16 indigenous tribes.

English is the official language in Liberia but there are 31 local languages in the country.

Liberian people

5. Gender-based Religions

Liberia has unique gender-based indigenous religious secret societies. The Poro is a secret society for males and the Sande for females. The societies govern the entire native population by its code of laws. They make the laws and decides on war and peace.

Poro - Male secret society

A secret society operating in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. Boys join it at puberty in a rite of passage.

Poor society members

Sande - Female secret society

Operates also in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. Initiates girls into adulthood by rituals including for example female genital mutilation.

Sande society initiates


1100s The region was inhabited by indigenous people like the Dei, Bassa, Kru, Gola and Kissi
1461 The Portuguese were the first Europeans in Liberia naming it the Pepper Coast but it was later known as Grain Coast due to the abundance of the melegueta pepper grains
1602 The Dutch established a trading post but destroyed it a year later
1663 The British installed trading posts in Pepper Coast
1816 The American Colonization Society was established by Charles F. Mercer and Robert Finley
1820 "Mayflower of Africa" ship departed New York for West Africa carrying 88 settlers
1822 The American Colonization Society started sending African-American volunteers to Pepper Coast to establish a colony for the freed slaves
1838 All the established colonies came together to create the Commonwealth of Liberia
1847 Liberia declared its independence and until 1980 the Americo-Liberians dominated the country's politics and economics
1880s Liberia started expanding to the inland as a response for Great Britains and France's colonial conquests in the neighboring countries
1926 Firestone, an American rubber company, created the world's largest rubber plantation in Liberia
1944 William Tubman became the president and he gave the right to vote for the indigenous people, who were the majority in Liberia
1971 William Tolbert became the president
1971 Liberia had the world's largest rubber industry and was the third largest iron ore exporter
1979 President Tolbert had ordered firing demonstrators protesting against the plans to raise the price of rice and that started riots throughout Liberia leading to the military coup next year
1980 William Tolbert killed in a military coup led by Samuel Doe from the Krahn tribe declared himself the president and forbid political activity during his term, he was the first non-Americo-Liberian president
1985 Failed coup against Doe
1989 The first Liberian civil war started and ended in 1996
1990 President Doe was captured and killed during the civil war
1996 Ruth Perry was the first female president when he was chosen as the president during the transitional period before new elections after the end of civil war
1997 Charles Taylor was elected as the president
1997 The second Liberian civil war started and ended in 2003
2002 Women in Liberia started protesting against the violence and the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace helped achieving peace in the country as the movement became a political force against violence and their government
2005 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as the president
2014 Liberia was struck by the Ebola epidemic

torstai 21. huhtikuuta 2016

Lesotho, Cool Facts #110

<= 109. Kenya                                                                                                                111. Liberia => 

In 1822 the Basotho Kingdom was established by King Moshoeshoe, who unified the Sotho tribes. He was a skilled diplomat and strategist and managed to keep the Basotho Kingdom independent despite the threats that the Zulus, Voortrekkers and the Imperial Britain had imposed.

After several wars against the Orange Free State of the Boers King Moshoeshoe asked the British for help against the Orange Free State and thus Basotho Kingdom was annexed to the British Empire as a protectorate.

The Basotho Kingdom heartlands were in the current Free State province in South Africa and in Lesotho. The Basotho Kingdom lost lost areas to the Boers after the Senekal War in 1858 and the Seqiti War in 1865.

King Moshoeshoe

1868 Basotho Kingdom became a British protectorate after King Moshoeshoe asked Queen Victoria for help against the Free State. Basutoland was a separate protectorate for 3 years before the administration of Basutoland was transferred to Cape Colony in 1871.

Cape Colony was not popular among the Basotho and led to Basuto Gun War in 1880-1881. The Cape Colony forces fought against the Basotho chiefs, after the Basotho were forbidden to have arms. In 1884 Basutoland got its Crown colony status back.

In 1910 a council of tribe leaders in Basutoland decided not to join South Africa. Bechuanaland and Swaziland had the same opportunity but they refused it as well.

In the 1950 political activity was allowed and so the Basotho Congress Party with Ntsu Mokhehle as the leader started demanding for independence and resisting against apartheid. In 1959 Basutoland got autonomy and the first parliamentary elections were arranged in 1965.

The Basotho National Party won the elections and their leader Leabua Jonathan became the first prime minister of Kingdom of Lesotho, which had become independent in 1966.

3. Flag of Lesotho 

The first flag of Lesotho wore the colors of the BNP party and had the traditional Sotho cap called "Mokorotlo". The shape of the headgear resembles the Qiloane mountain near Thaba Basiu, behind which King Moshoeshoe's rebelling son Masupha hid in the late 1800s when he resisted the European colonial power. 

The first flag was replaces by a flag, which was in use between 1966-1987. The second flag had the symbols of the kingdom, which were the shield, lance and the club. The second flag was taken in use after a military coup, which overthrew the BNP after 20 years in power. 

The third flag was taken in use in 2006 to honour the 40th anniversary of independence and to demonstrate the peaceful orientation of Lesotho, which had suffered from political chaos and military coups since its independence. 



4. Geography of Lesotho

Lesotho is a land-locked country surrounded by South Africa. It's nearly exactly the same size as Belgium, being just a bit smaller but still a little bigger than Armenia. 

Lesotho is the only country in the world, which lies entirely above 1000m above the sea level. The lowest point in Lesotho is in 1400m, which is the highest altitude in the lowest point from all the countries. Over 80% of the country is above 1800 meters.

Minimum altitude in the world Top 5: 

1. Lesotho - 1400m
2. Rwanda - 950m
3. Andorra - 840m
4. Burundi - 772m
5. Uganda - 621m

5. Society in Lesotho

85% adult literacy rate, which is one of the highest in Africa 
88,3% female literacy rate exceeds male literacy 70,1%, which is rare 
12% of the GDP invested in education, one of the Top 10 highest in the world 
23,6% HIV/AIDS prevalence one of the highest in the world 
One of the lowest life expectancies in the world 
One of the highest rape rates in the world 


1500-1700s The Sothos fled to their current area of residence after wars against the Zulu and Ndebele
1822 The Sotho tribes unified under King Moshoeshoe attempting to prevent the invasion of the Zulu people and the Boers
1838 Trekboers from Cape Colony claimed land rights on the western borders of Basutoland
1851 A British force was defeated by the Basotho army at Kolonyama
1854 The British pulled out of the area
1858 Senekal War against the Orange Free State of the Boers
1865 Seqiti War against the Boers, Moshoeshoe had to cede large territories to the Free State when the war ended in 1866
1867 War broke again when the Basotho weren't satisfied with the peace treaty of the previous war
1868 Moshoeshoe had to ask help from the British and accept the annexation of Basotho Kingdom to the British Empire
1869 Administration of Basutoland colony was transferred from Thaba Basiu to Maseru
1871 Administration of Basutoland colony was transferred to the Cape Colony
1880-1881 Basuto Gun War between Cape colony forces and Basotho chiefs over the right of natives having arms
1884 Basutoland got its Crown colony status back 
1910 A council of tribe leaders in Basutoland decided like Bechuanaland and Swaziland not to join South Africa
1950s Political activity was allowed and Basotho Congress Party with the leadership of Ntsu Mokhehle started demanding for independence and resisting against apartheid
1959 Basutoland got autonomy
1965 The first parliamentary elections were won by BNP (Basotho National Party), which enjoyed the support of South Africa
1966 Basutoland became independent as the Kingdom of Lesotho and BNP's leader Leabua Jonathan became the country's first prime minister
1970 BNP lost the general elections, Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan refused to cede power to BCP and imprisoned BCP leadership
1980s South Africa imposed an embargo against Lesotho, which allowed ANC to operate in Lesotho
1986 Leabua Jonathan was overthrown in a military coup led by Justinus Lekhanya
1990 King Moshoeshoe II was replaced by his son Letsie III after disputes between general Lekhanya and King Moshoeshoe II
1991 General Lekhanya was overthrown in a coup and replaced by Major General Elias Phisoana Ramaema
1993 Ramaema handed over power to a democratically elected BCP government 
1994 Letsie III staged a military coup deposing the BCP government, which refused to reinstate his father as the head of state
1995 King Moshoeshoe II was reinstated as head of state which was the condition to reinstate the BCP government
1996 King Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident and Letsie III war crowned as the King
1997 Leadership crisis in the ruling BCP party and as a result of that Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle formed a new party LCD (Lesotho Congress for Democracy)
1998 LCD won the general elections but the opposition started rebelling with the army. South Africa and Botswana sent troops to calm down the situation
2002 First peaceful elections in Lesotho when LCD won again and Pakalitha Mosisili continued as the Prime Minister
2006 Lesotho changed its flag 

torstai 14. huhtikuuta 2016

Kenya, Cool Facts #109

<= 108. Ghana                                                                                                               110. Lesotho =>

1. Tippu Tip Slave Trade on Swahili Coast 

Between the Portuguese and British rule in present-day Kenya's areas the Omani Arabs ruled the coastal areas known as the Swahili coast from the late 1600s until the late 1800s. Slave trade was flourishing at the area as the traders from Oman and Zanzibar traded slaves to meet the demands of plantations in Oman and Zanzibar which needed more workforce.

One of the most notorious slave trader was Tippu Tip from Zanzibar. Tippu Tip had mixed origins having roots in respected Omani families and he also had Bantu and coastal Swahili blood. He traded slaves, ivory and led expeditions into Central Africa. He was known as Tippu Tip by the people of the Great African lakes after the sounds that his guns made.

As a result of centuries of trade of slaves and other resources since the 900s the coastal areas of that part of Africa started speaking Swahili, which became the lingua franca. That's why Swahili got many Arabic, Persian and other Middle Eastern and South Asian loandwords. Recently even English loanword.

Tippu Tip 1837-1905

Swahili Coast history

2. Tsavo man-eaters

The German's had established a protectorate in Kenya in 1885 but it was acquired by the British in 1890 who had established the Imperial British East Africa Company in Kenya. The Arab rule was finally over in 1895 as present-day Kenya became part of the East Africa Protectorate.

Soon the British started the constructions of the Uganda railway in 1896. The constructions started from Mombasa and ended in 1901 in Kisumu, on the shore of Lake Victoria. The railway was called Uganda Railway even though the original railway was entirely in the present-day Kenya.

One of the most notorious events during the constructions occurred in 1898 where the railway constructions were in progress over the Tsavo River. The leader of the project there was Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, who reported that during nine months two maneless male lions had killed an estimated 135 people.

Patterson finally managed to shoot the both lions, who tried to sneak into the camp and kill the workers. After the events the lions got the nickname Tsavo Man-Eaters.

Uganda Railway poster
One of the Tsavo Man Eater lions

3. 1952 Elizabeth visit 

The current Queen of Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth visited Kenya in 1952. Princess Elizabeth was staying at the Treetops Hotel when his dad King George VI died in his sleep. Princess Elizabeth returned home immediately to attend the funeral of her father and to get his throne.

She had became the Queen of the UK and the British Commonwealth. She was then crowned as Queen at Westminster Abbey in 1953. So you could say that Queen Elizabeth went to Kenya as a princess and arrived back as a queen.

Queen Elizabeth

4. Mau Mau Uprising: Weep Not, Child 

"Weep Not, Child" was the first English novel published by an East African. It was written by James Ngugi in 1964 about the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. The uprising was a military conflict in British Kenya between 1952-1960 between the Kikuyu dominated troops and the British army. 

The Mau Mau failed to get widespread public support because of the British divide and rule policy, which caused internal division in tribes and between the different tribes. 

By the end of 1956 the Mau Mau was crushed. In 1960 the period of colonial transition started leading to the independence in 1963. 
James Ngugi author of "Weep Not, Child"
Photo during the Mau Mau Uprising

5. Somali conflicts in Kenya  

Shifta War 1963-1967

Ethnic Somali rebels tried to annex the Northern Frontier District of Kenya into the Somali Republic. The area has been historically been inhabited almost exclusively by ethnic Somalis.

Garissa massacre 1980 

Kenyan government forces internet people at Garissa Primary School football pitch for three days without food and water. Non-Somali people were allowed to leave because the forces attempted to find a local Somali gangster called Abdi Madobe who had set fire to Bulla Kartasi village and killed and raped women.

About 3000 died and the Somali government threatened to overthrown the Nairobi regime and occupy Kenya if they didn't release the rest of the detained people, which the Kenyan government then did.

Wagalla massacre 1984 

Kenyan security forces massacred ethnic Somalis in Wajir County. An estimated 5000 Somali men were taken to an airstrip and were prevented from food and water for five days before they were executed by Kenyan soldiers. Originally the Kenyan soldiers had arrived to the area with the reported goal of helping to diffuse clan-related conflicts.

Demographics map of Kenya

Around 500 BC Nilotic people from present-day South Sudan started migrating to Kenya and later during the first millennium AD Bantu-speaking people arrived at the area
900s Permanent Arab settlements and flourishing cities are born since this century on coast like Malindi and Mombasa
1414 Zheng He the Chinese trader and explorer visited the coast representing the Ming Dynasty
1498 Portuguese Vasco da Gama arrived at the Kenyan coast
1500s The Portuguese conquered the harbor cities of the coast and ruled them until the late 1600s
1600s The Swahili coast came under direct rule of Omani Arabs in the end of the century
1885 Germany established a protectorate in the coast
1888 The Imperial British East Africa Company arrived and in 1890 acquired Germany's coastal holdings
1895 Arab rule is finally ended after the establishment of the East Africa Protectorate in Kenya
1896 The Kenya-Uganda railway constructions started
1920 The East Africa Protectorate was turned into a colony called Kenya according to its highest mountain
1940s White settlers established coffee and tea plantations in the land taken from the Africans and the local people were transferred to cramped reserves
1944 KANU aka the Kenyan African National Union was established and it was led by Jomo Kenyatta
1952 Princess Elizabeth was visiting Kenya when his father died, Elizabeth cut short her trip and returned home where she was crowned as Queen in 1953 at Westminster Abbey
1952 Mau Mau Uprising against the British started lasting until 1960
1953 Kenyatta was prisoned 
1961 Kenyatta was released 
1963 Kenya became independent and Kenyatta became the first leader of the country
1963-1967 Shifta War in the north where ethnic Somali rebels demanded the area to be annexed to the Somali Republic
1964 Kenya became a republic and thus Kenyatta became the first president of Kenya
1978 Daniel arap Moi became the president after Kenyatta's death and under his rule the government transformed into more corrupt and authoritarian worsening the social conditions in the country also
1980 Garissa massacre, Kenyan government killed ethnic Somalis in the North Eastern Province
1984 Wagalla massacre of ethnic Somalis by Kenyan security forces in Wajir County
1991 Opposition was allowed again
1992 and 1997 Daniel arap Moi re-elected in democratic multiparty elections
2003 Mwai Kibaki became the president
2007 Violent unrests after elections which were accused as false, about 1500 people died and a half a million fled their home areas. The crisis was resolved by allowing Kibaki to continue as the president and making Odinga the prime minister
2011 Worst drought in East Africa in 60 years after two missed rainy seasons 
2013 Jomo Kenyatta's son Uhuru Kenyatta became the president

perjantai 8. huhtikuuta 2016

Ghana, Cool Facts #108

<= 107. Gambia                                                                                                               109. Kenya => 

1. Ghana Name Origins

Ghana became independent in 1957 from Great Britain. It changed its name from Gold Coast to Ghana and adopted a new flag. The name Ghana was taken from the ancient Ghana Empire, which didn't even rule in the areas of current Ghana but in the present-day Mali and Mauritania.

The Ghana Empire ruled there about between 300-1200 roughly. The introduction of camel in Sahara and the Muslim conquests of North Africa gave the Ghana Empire the chance to became wealthy thanks to the trade routes.

The name Ghana means a "warrior king" in mande language.

Ancient Ghana Empire and Modern Ghana

2. Ashanti Kingdom

The Ashanti Kingdom was established in 1670 and in 1701 they conquered Denkyira thus getting access to the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean trade with the Europeans. The Akan people of the Ashanti Kingdom had prospered due to their gold resources even before the arrival of the Europeans.

In 1827 slavery was abolished but before that and until the mid-1800s the Ashanti Kingdom participated in the slave trade by capturing people from neighboring areas and selling them to the Europeans.

The Ashanti Kingdom lost independence in 1901 when it was annexed to the British Gold Coast. The Ashanti Kingdom imposed a threat to the British as they tried to maintain strong control over the coastal areas. This led to the four Anglo-Ashanti wars in the 1800s.

Four Anglo-Ashanti wars: 

1823-1831 First war
1863 Second war
1873-1874 Third war
1895-1896 Fourth war

1900 War of the Golden Stool 

In 1935 the Ashanti Kingdom got self-rule within the British Gold Coast colony. Later in 1957 when Ghana got independence from the UK, the Ashanti Kingdom entered a state union with Ghana was is still in effect. So the Ashanti monarchy continues as a sub-nation within Ghana and being constitutionally protected.

Battle at the Anglo-Ashanti war

3. Gold Coast 

The Portuguese were the first to arrive at Ghana in 1471 naming the area Gold Coast. The naval trade routes stunted the caravan routes across Sahara causing the decline of the northern Empires and the rise of the Ashanti Empire as it traded gold and slaves with the Europeans. 

The Dutch arrived in 1598 slowly capturing the forts and trade posts of the Portuguese. Soon the British and Danes arrived rivaling the Dutch at the area. 

In 1867 the possessions of the British trading company "African Company of Merchants" in Ghana were transformed into the crown colony of Gold Coast. 

The British fought against the Ashanti Kingdom throughout the 1800s and allied with the Fante people because they were the enemies of the Akan people of the Ashanti Kingdom. 

Establishment of the different Gold Coasts: 
1482 Portuguese Gold Coast (ceded to the Dutch in 1642) 

1598 Dutch Gold Coast (ceded ceremonially to the British in 1872) 
1682 Brandenburger/Prussian Gold Coast (sold to the Dutch in 1721) 
1650 Swedish Gold Coast (seized by the Danes in 1663) 
1658 Danish Gold Coast (sold to the British in 1850) 
1821 British Gold Coast (Ghana becomes independent 1957) 

4. Ghanaian Flag

Ghana adopted its current flag in 1957, which was flown until 1962 and then readopted in 1966. Between 1962-1966 had a flag where yellow was replaced by white. 

Ghana's flag was the first state flag with a black star. The idea came from the father of the Pan-African ideology, Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican politician who had a shipping company called "Black Star Line". The company had transported former slaves from the Americas and the Caribbean back to Africa using a flag with a black star in his ships.

For a while Ghana had a variation of their flag with three black stars representing the loose union with Guinea and Mali as the countries had plans to develop a common currency and a unified foreign policy, but in the end none of the plans were implemented in the member countries

Marcus Garvey's Black Star Line shipping company

Union of the African States flag and map (Guinea, Mali, Ghana)

5. Democracy in Ghana

The first president Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 when he was in Vietnam with China's leader and trying to stop the Vietnam War. The country fell into political turmoil as there were six coups between 1966 and 1981. 

In 1979 flight lieutenant Jerry Rawlings led a coup and handed the power to a civilian government, which wasn't able to solve problems so Jerry Rawlings and the soldiers took the power in 1981 installing the Provisional National Defense Counsil being the Chairman himself.

The PNDC started fighting against corruption, made elementary school mandatory and free and healthcare was improved.

In 1992 Ghana made a new constitution and restored the multi-party system and restricted the maximum amount of presidential terms into two. Since instituting this Fourth Republic of Ghana the country has remained democratic as the power has changed democratically without any coups.

Jerry Rawlings

400s BC The Akans settled firmly at the area
1000s The Akans had a state called Bondman
1200s The Akans establish other states like Ashanti, Denkyira, Mankessim Kingdom and Akwamu
1471 The Portuguese arrive in Ghana and start trading gold and established the Portuguese Gold Coast with Elmina as the capital city
1598 The Dutch people joined the Portuguese in gold trading and established the Dutch Gold Coast
1617 The Dutch capture the Olnin Castle and in 1642 Axim from the Portuguese
1600s Sweden and Denmark-Norway joined the gold trading in the middle of the century
1701 Ashanti regions created an independent federation with Kumas as the capital city
1850 The British bought the Danish Gold Coast 
1872 The British bought the Dutch Gold Coast 
1902 Ashanti Kingdom defeated by the British after years of fighting since 1824 in Anglo-Ashanti wars
1922 British Togoland was annexed to Gold Coast
1947 Kwame Nkrumah published his famous work "Towards Colonial Freedom"
1951 Gold Coast gets autonomy
1957 Gold Coast became independent as Ghana from Great Britain
1960 Ghana was declared a republic 
1966 Nkrumah was overthrown by the military in "Operation Cold Chop" while Nkrumah was abroad with China's Zhou Enlai in Vietnam trying to help end the war
1966-1981 Six military coups, which ended when Jerry John Rawlings became the president and made some reforms like banning of political parties which stabilized the situation in Ghana
1992 A new constitution restored Ghana to multi-party system
1992 and 1996 Jerry Rawlings won the presidential elections
2001 John Kufuor, the opposition leader, won the presidential elections 
2009 John Atta Mills became the president
2013 John Dramani Mahama became the president