The Story of Africa


- Black explorers


- White explorers


- The European scramble


- The African scramble


- Egypt and Sudan


- Religious conversion and resistence


- Royal and political resistence


- Tax and trade wars


- Railways

Royal and political resistence


Royal resistance

Asantehene King Prempeh I
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 1880s 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.



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.


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.
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.

Political 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.

British colonial rule was less centralised. French colonial rule was more so. In the early 1900s a desire for change began to be expressed in the form of regional movements and delegations to conferences overseas.

At this stage politics was not national in character, except in North Africa, but rather centred on people's relationship to their chiefs and rulers, on the one hand, and colonial officials, on the other.

An educated urban minority emerged which began to conceive of a new kind of society which would be determined neither by Europe nor by traditional rulers, neither by the past nor the present. It lay in the future, although what that might be precisely was not yet clear.

Aborigines' Rights Protection Society was formed in the Gold Coast in 1897 as an association critical of colonial rule. In 1908, the People's Union was founded in Nigeria. The Young Senegalese Club was founded in 1910. And in 1912, Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society was founded in Nigeria. It was in Southern Africa that the first two political movements in Sub-Sahara emerged in 1912.


Liga Angolana

Liga Angolana was formed by a group of educated civil servants (African and mestico) with the rather vaguer aim of improving the lot of Angolans.


The ANC was founded under the name of the South African Native National Congress. The issues at stake were loss of land and voting rights - the Cape was the only part of the Union of South Africa with universal franchise, irrespective of ethnic origin. The ANC was conceived as an organisation representing the Rhodesias (modern Zambia and modern Zimbabwe), Basutoland (modern Lesotho), Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) and Swaziland.

Journalists and writers

The first newspapers in Sub Saharan Africa appeared in Liberia and Angola. In the second half of the 19th century they contained increasing criticism of the European presence.

In West Africa two leading critics were: P.Jackson, the Liberian editor of the Lagos Weekly Record, and Edward Blyden, who emigrated to Liberia from the West Indies and believed that an European style education was damaging to African people. He believed that Islam was better suited to their customs and outlook. He argued for African history to be taught and a university to be founded in West Africa.

" must see at once that when a youth is sent for education from African to Europe, he must lose a great part of the very training for which he has been sent to school - viz to prepare for the work of his life. The man who, in the process of his education has not imbibed a large race feeling, in whom there is not developed pride of race, has failed in a great part of his education.

And whatever else may be acquitted in Europe, it is evident that, for the Negro, race feeling must be kept in abeyance. And what is a man without this feeling? It is this strong race feeling - this pride of race having been instilled in the mind of the Jew from his earliest infancy, which has given to that peculiar people their unquenchable vitality."

In Angola a vociferous and energetic circle of writers and journalists emerged in the 19th century. They have been described by historians as 'proto-nationalists' and include Jose de Nascimento (1838-1902), Joaquim Dias Cordeiro da Matta (1857-94) and Jose de Fontes Pereira (1838-91).

In Mozambique, a comparable group of educated people formed the Associao African, and in 1910, published one of the earliest protest journals, Brado Africano.
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