United African Republic: Origin of ‘Alkebulan’ and 15 countries that once had a name change

Following the commencement of zonal public hearings by both houses of the National Assembly as part of preparations for a 5th alteration of the 1999 Constitution, Nigerians have continued to express themselves on key areas of the document they want amended.

There have been recommendations on thorny issues like state creation, diaspora voting, inclusion of referendum in the constitution and surprisingly; a change of name to United African Republic or United Alkebulan Republic (meaning: United Mother of Mankind Republic). An idea, the proponent argues would physically and psychologically reflect a new beginning.

READ ALSO: United African Republic: Will a name change finally solve Nigeria’s hydra-headed challenges?

While varied reactions have greeted the proposal, especially on the rationale behind the name ‘Alkebulan,’ this piece attempts to explain its origin and present a number of countries on the continent that have made a name change at critical periods in their history:

What is the origin of Alkebulan?

As contained in Kemetic History of Afrika, Dr. Cheikh Anah Diop argues that “the ancient name of Africa was Alkebu-lan “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden.”

He went further to describe Alkebulan as the oldest and only word of indigenous origin used by the Moors, Nubians, Numidians, Khart-Haddans (Carthagenians), and Ethiopians.

The origin of Africa, the current name which is believed to be a misnomer is however debatable. Studies say that it was given to the continent by the ancient Greeks or Romans.

Most importantly, the name ‘Africa’ came into Western use through the Romans, who used the name Africa terra“land of the Afri” (plural, or “Afer” singular) — for the northern part of the continent, as the province of Africa with its capital Carthage, corresponding to modern-day Tunisia.

The origin of Afer may either come from:

-the Phoenician `afar, dust;
-the Afri, a tribe—possibly Berber—who dwelt in North Africa in the Carthage area;
-the Greek word aphrike, meaning without cold;
-or the Latin word aprica, meaning sunny.



  1. Gold Coast to Ghana
    On 6 March 1957, the British Colony of Gold Coast gained independence as a country, and was renamed Ghana by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah; first prime minister of the country.
  2. French Soudan (Soudan Français) to Mali
    The area of French Soudan formally proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali on 20 August 1960, after it exited the Malian federation which earlier achieved independence on 20 June 1960.
  3. Republic of Dahomey to Benin Republic
    The Republic of Dahomey gained independence in 1960 from the French. It was however renamed Benin Republic by President Mathieu Kerekou on 30th November 1975 – fifteen years after attainment of self rule.

    The announcement of the change in name was made during ceremonies to mark the first anniversary of the proclamation of what was called a “Marxist‐Leninist scientific socialism” in the country.
  4. Haute Voltaire or Upper Volta to Burkina Faso
    Socialist revolutionary and former President, Colonel Thomas Sankara (1983 – 1987) changed the name of the country to Burkina Faso (Land of Incorruptible People) on 4th August 1984; the first anniversary of his administration in 1984.

1. Ubangi-Shari to Central African Republic (CAR)
Named after the Ubangi and Chari rivers, it was renamed the Central African Republic (CAR) on December 1, 1958; and gained independence on August 13, 1960

2. Nyasaland to Malawi 
The country’s first President, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, rechristened then Nyasaland as independent African state of Malawi on 6th July 1964; ending 73 years of British colonial rule.


1. Rwanda
Having been jointly administered by Belgium as a single mandate under the name Ruanda-Urundi, Rwanda adopted the new name with the break up of the union along traditional lines on 1 July, 1962.

2. Burundi
The Kingdom of Burundi took up the name when it became independent from the Ruanda-Urundi union administered by Belgium from 1922 to 1962.

3. Djibouti
Formerly known as French Somaliland (1896–1967) and the French Territory of the Afars and Issas (1967–77), the country took Djibouti as its name when it gained independence from France on June 27, 1977.


  1.  Northern Rhodesia to Zambia
    The former Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on 24 October 1964, ending 73 years of British rule.
  2. Basutoland to Lesotho
    Previously known as Protectorate of Basutoland, the country was renamed Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the United Kingdom October 4, 1966.
  3. Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.
    On 18 April 1980, the British Colony of Southern Rhodesia became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe.
  4. Bechuanaland to Botswana
    Following the attainment of independence of the country on September 30, 1966; Bechuanaland became the independent Republic of Botswana after 80 years as a British protectorate.
  5. Portuguese East Africa to Mozambique
    Adopted the name, Mozambique when it became independent in 25 June, 1975
  6. South West Africa to Namibia
    On the attainment of independence on 21 March 1990, from South African control, the country adopted the name, Republic of Namibia.
  7. Swaziland to eSwatini
    King Mswati III, the country’s monarch, on April 19, 2018 announced a name change from Swaziland to eSwatini.

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