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French Equatorial Africa

French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Équatoriale Française or AEF) was the federation of French colonial possessions in Middle Africa, extending northwards from the Congo River to the Sahara Desert.

Established in 1910, the federation contained four territories - Gabon, Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo), Oubangui-Chari (or Ubangi-Shari, now the Central African Republic) and Chad, although the last was not organised as a separate entity until 1920. The governor-general was based in Brazzaville with deputies in each territory.

During World War II the federation rallied to the Free French Forces (August 1940) and became the centre for their activities in Africa.

Under France's Fourth Republic (1946-1958), the federation was represented in the French parliament. When the territories voted in the September 1958 referendum to become autonomous within the French Community, the federation was dissolved. In 1959 the new republics formed an interim association called the Union of Central African Republics, before becoming fully independent in August 1960.

Postage stamps

The postal administrations of the four territories were separate until 1936, each issuing its own stamps. In that year, stamps of Gabon and Middle Congo were overprinted AFRIQUE / ÉQUATORIALE / FRANÇAISE. A definitive series for the colony followed in 1937, featuring local scenes and key (French) figures in the formation of the colony, with various color and value changes each year through 1940.

The 1937 series was overprinted AFRIQUE FRANÇAISE / LIBRE or just LIBRE in 1940 by the Free French, and in 1941 they issued an series depicting a phoenix rising from the flames.

A new definitive series, featuring local scenery and people, was issued in 1946, and another 20-odd stamps came out during the 1950s, with the last being the omnibus Human Rights issue on 10 December 1958.

See also: French colonial empire