The colonisation of Africa by European powers
provoked an enormous amount of resistance from different quarters - both rulers
and people - all over the continent. Conflict and frustration was sparked off
as African rulers tried to retain or even increase power while acquiring European
support to fight their enemies.
The colonial powers, in turn, took advantage of this to increase their spheres
of influence. By the 1880's one of the main points of contention was trade,
as African rulers tried to hang on to their monopolies and right to impose tariffs,
and Europeans pressed for free trade, which put the new big trading houses in
Europe at an advantage.
A number of rulers were not prepared
to compromise with European powers. Sometimes
this ended in humiliation, as was the case with the Asante. For the Baganda
under Mwanga it was a time of total confusion as he changed sides constantly.
For the neighbouring Bunyoro, resistance proved useless. For the Ethiopians
resisting the Italians ended in a resounding success. Emperor Menelik
defeated the Italians at the battle of Adowa.
to Professor Bahru Zewde, Addis Ababa University, describing the Battle
The Asante (in modern Ghana) came into conflict
initially over the question of slave owning. Kumasi was ransacked by the British
in 1874 and the Asantehene (King Prempeh) was fined.
to a British Officer's description of Prempeh I
In 1895 the new Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, began to pursue an aggressive
colonial policy, based on enforced submission and humiliation. In 1896, the
Asantehene was forced into exile in the Seychelles via Sierra Leone and the
Asanti fell under the authority of the Governor in Accra.
There followed a full-scale military revolt, led by the indefatigable Yaa Asantewa (Queen Mother ). This culminated in the Governor being besieged in Kumasi. Yaa Asantewa was only defeated by a British expeditionary force in July 1900. In 1901, Asante was annexed by the British.
Mwanga Kabaka (the king) of the Baganda was
deeply suspicious of the British; he ordered the murder of the Anglican Bishop
Hannington and had thirty pages in his court put to death because they had learnt
to read. His policy towards Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, and Muslim
emissaries fluctuated. Factions sprang up among the Baganda chiefs, and Mwanga
fled from his kingdom. He later returned to his throne with a wide range of
foreigners in tow: British Missionaries, French priests, Swahili traders, German
adventurers, even an Irish trader in German uniform (Charles Stokes) - all hoping
for a profitable agreement.
Finally Buganda was made a Protectorate in 1894. Already under suspicion of
planning a rebellion against the British, Mwanga decided to throw in his lot
with his neighbour, the King of the Bunyoro (the Kabarega). Both kings were
captured and sent into exile in 1899.
Now there were three African kings in
the Seychelles under order of the British. The Kabarega of the Bunyoro returned
to his homeland in 1923. King Prempeh did not return to his homeland until
1924. Kabaka Mwanga died in the Seychelles in 1903.
The ill-prepared Italian attempt at colonisation
of Ethiopia (Abyssinia as it was known then) ended in a resounding defeat
for Italy in 1896 at the battle of Adowa. The Italians lost of 7,000 troops.
Ethiopia lost 6,000. In October Emperor Menelik had the satisfaction of
witnessing Italy recognise "absolutely and without reserve the independence
of the Ethiopian Empire" in the Treaty of Addis Ababa.
news was greeted with rejoicing in St. Petersburg - Russia and Ethiopia
enjoyed a special relationship because each had an Orthodox Church. Under
Emperor Menelik's rule Ethiopia experienced unprecedented modernisation and
economic growth. Foreigners were welcomed for their expertise.