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King Prempeh 1
Royal Resistance

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.

TRADE
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.

Listen HereListen to Professor Bahru Zewde, Addis Ababa University, describing the Battle of Adowa


Kings in exileHUMILIATION
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.

Listen 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.

CONFUSION
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.

TRIUMPH
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.

The 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.