. 3
( 12)


ning of the nineteenth century, it led in a sense right across the conti-
nent. Portuguese merchants themselves seldom left Luanda: indeed,

Western Central Africa, 1800--1880 79

9. Western Central Africa, 1800“1880: trade routes.

the Portuguese government always did its best to prevent them from
doing so. It knew that relations with the peoples of the interior went
much more smoothly if trade was handled by the pombeiros. These,
as we noted in Chapter 2, were African, or sometimes Mulatto, agents
from the colony. They were employed by the Portuguese government
or by private traders to lead caravans into the interior and to reside at
the feiras, or garrisoned marketplaces. Peoples living beyond the Por-
tuguese borders would bring their produce for sale to these markets.
The most distant feira on the Luanda route was about 500 km (275
miles) up-country at Kasanje. It had been founded in the seventeenth
century as the capital of a tributary state, the inhabitants of which
80 Africa since 1800

were a people called the Imbangala, who had originally formed a part
of the Luba“Lunda dispersion. The pombeiros did not normally go
beyond Kasanje. From there to the Mwata Yamvo™s kingdom, trade
was organised by the Imbangala. The Mwata Yamvo sent his own
caravans still farther inland to the Mwata Kazembe™s capital on the
Luapula River. And, by the end of the eighteenth century, the Mwata
Kazembe in his turn was in commercial contact with the Portuguese
station at Tete on the Zambezi “ the usual carriers on the last stretch
of the route being the Bisa people of the north-eastern part of mod-
ern Zambia. At the end of the eighteenth century and several times
during the early nineteenth century, the Portuguese tried to survey
this route. They hoped by this means to extend their own power and
in¬‚uence from coast to coast. In 1798, an expedition commanded by
Lacerda reached the Kazembe™s capital from Tete, but had to turn
back. In 1806, however, two pombeiros called Pedro Joao Baptista
and Amaro Jos´ were sent out from Luanda and accomplished the
double journey to Tete and back on foot, with no greater hardship
than that of being detained for nearly four years on the outward jour-
ney at the court of the Mwata Kazembe. Baptista wrote of the king
in his journal:

The Kazembe is powerful in his capital, and rules over a great many people. His
place is rather smaller than the Mwata Yamvo™s. His orders are harsh, and he
is feared by all the great chiefs, who are also lords in their own lands . . . When
there are no travellers trading at his capital, he will order slaves and ivory to
be collected, and will go with his ambassadors to chastise such chiefs as stop
the way to traders coming from Tete to his country. The territory of Kazembe is
supplied with provisions all the year round “ manioc ¬‚our, millet, maize, beans,
bananas, sugar-canes, potatoes, yams, gourds, ground-nuts, and much ¬sh from
the rivers Luapula and Mouva which are near. He owns three salt districts . . . He
possesses victuals and oxen . . . which he sends and buys from the Huizas [Bisa]
in exchange for slaves . . . King Kazembe has tea-pots, cups, silver spoons and
forks . . . and gold money. He has a Christian courtesy: he doffs his hat and gives
good day.1

The pombeiros noticed that the Kazembe, whose capital was almost
in the middle of the continent, would normally export his slaves
westwards via the Mwata Yamvo™s kingdom to Luanda, whereas he

Lands of the Cazembe: Lacerda™s Journey to Cazembe . . . Also the Journey of the Pombeiros, tr. R. F.
Burton (London, 1873), p. 231.
Western Central Africa, 1800--1880 81

sent his ivory eastwards to Tete. This was probably a just re¬‚ection
of the market for slaves and ivory in the trade of the Atlantic and
Indian Oceans at that time.

The Ovimbundu and the Chokwe

By the middle of the nineteenth century, great changes had taken
place along the old transcontinental route. On the one hand, as we
shall see, the trade eastwards from Kazembe had changed its direc-
tion from the Portuguese on the Zambezi to the Swahili Arabs of
the Zanzibar coast. On the other hand, the old Luanda route to the
Mwata Yamvo, using the Imbangala as intermediaries, had been su-
perseded by a more southerly route from Benguela. Trade on this
route was in the hands of the Ovimbundu of the Bihe plateau. The
Ovimbundu, like the Imbangala, were people who had been organ-
ised into small states by conquering migrants from the Lunda area.
From the eighteenth century on, they had been joined by consider-
able numbers of European refugees “ some escaped convicts, some
deserters from the Portuguese army. These people had passed on
to their hosts their own skill with ¬rearms and had helped to make
them the greatest traders of the whole of the dry, upland region of the
Congo“Zambezi watershed to the south of the Mwata Yamvo™s king-
dom. By 1850, their caravans, usually numbering two or three hun-
dred porters, had penetrated south-eastwards into the Lovale and
Lozi countries of the upper Zambezi valley, eastwards as far as the
Lamba of the Zambian Copperbelt, and northwards right across the
Mwata Yamvo™s country and down the Kasai as far as the southern
fringes of the Congo forest. In part, the decline of the Luanda route
and the rise of the Benguela one re¬‚ected a change in the commodi-
ties exported. The Luanda route had been, above all, a slaving route,
and the Imbangala had for two-and-a-half centuries been specialists
in the supply of slaves. Luanda continued to export slaves openly
and actively until 1838, when slavery was of¬cially abolished in all
the Portuguese possessions. Illegal shipments continued for another
two decades, but from lesser ports and not from the capital of the
colony. Hence, the downfall of the Imbangala. And, simultaneously
with the abolition of the slave trade, the Portuguese lifted the gov-
ernment monopoly of the ivory trade. This opened up new trading
82 Africa since 1800

opportunities, which the Ovimbundu were better placed to ex-
ploit than the Imbangala. The Ovimbundu were traders rather than
hunters. But their eastern neighbours, the Chokwe, were the great
ivory-hunting specialists of the mid-nineteenth century. Their meth-
ods were ferocious in the extreme. They were well supplied with
¬rearms and were continuously on the warpath. They lived by pil-
lage, taking slave-prisoners and incorporating them in their own
war-bands, seizing stocks of dead ivory, and hunting out the ele-
phants systematically in one region after another. The Ovimbundu
traders, in fact, advanced behind a screen of Chokwe hunters and
warriors, buying their ivory and supplying them with ¬rearms in ex-
change. Thus, the Chokwe, a small and almost unheard-of people in
1800, had by the end of the century conquered large areas between
the upper Zambezi, the Kwango, and the middle Kasai Rivers and
western Katanga, and it was they who in 1885 at last made an end
to the great kingdom of the Mwata Yamvo.

The Nyamwezi and the Arabs
While the Ovimbundu and the Chokwe were displacing the Lunda
and the Imbangala at the western end of the transcontinental route,
the Mwata Kazembe, in the centre of it, was likewise being displaced
by newcomers from East Africa. The story of the Nyamwezi and
Swahili Arab penetration of East Africa during the nineteenth cen-
tury is told in Chapter 7: here, we are concerned only with that part
of the movement which affected Western Central Africa. As early
as 1832, the Kazembe rebuffed a Portuguese trade mission which
visited him, saying that he was already getting all the foreign goods
that he needed from the Zanzibar coast and that he no longer wished
to trade with the Portuguese on the Zambezi. If he had foreseen the
consequences of these new East African trading contacts, he might
have been more cautious in rejecting the Portuguese proposals. For,
about 1856, a Nyamwezi merchant, Msiri (the ˜Mosquito™), who had
already made several trading expeditions to Katanga, settled down
with an armed following at Bunkeya, on the northern edge of the
Kazembe™s kingdom. There, he steadily built up his power and in¬‚u-
ence until he was strong enough to defy the Kazembe and to make
himself the effective overlord of a large region, which included the
Western Central Africa, 1800--1880 83

whole of the north and west of the Kazembe™s kingdom. He also
spread into the Luba kingdoms to the north of it. Msiri, with his
Nyamwezi warriors, known in Katanga as the Bayeke, now added
to his trading pro¬ts with regular tribute in ivory, salt, and copper
levied from the chiefs who had formerly paid it to the Kazembe or
to the Luba kings. Like the Kazembes before him, he traded these
products in many directions. The salt and copper (cast in small bars
or crosses) went down the Kasai and the Lulua Rivers to the peoples
of the forest margin like the Kuba and the Songye, who traded it for
ivory. The ivory Msiri exchanged for guns, obtained from both the
Ovimbundu and the Portuguese in the west and from the Swahili
Arabs in the east. Msiri™s empire, known to the early European ex-
plorers as Garanganze, lasted until the coming of the Belgians in
1891, when Msiri himself was shot in a scuf¬‚e with a Belgian of¬cer.
His Bayeke followers continued “ even after independence “ to form
an important element in the politics of Shaba. Godfrey Munongo, for
example, who was minister for the interior in Tshombe™s Congolese
government, was a Yeke “ and a grandson of Msiri himself.
What Msiri was doing in southern Katanga was occurring simul-
taneously in northern Katanga and the Kivu region by other groups
of East Africans, led in this case mostly by Swahili Arabs from the
Zanzibar coast. They had ¬rst crossed Lake Tanganyika about 1840
from their lakeside ferry-port of Ujiji. By about 1860, there was a reg-
ular Arab settlement at Nyangwe on the Lualaba (the upper Congo).
Soon they were trading and raiding over the whole area between
Lake Tanganyika and the Lomami River, where they came within
the sphere of the Chokwe raiders coming from the west. Like the
Chokwe, they could penetrate where they wished, as the posses-
sion of ¬rearms made them all-powerful, and the ancient Luba and
Songye kingdoms were even more defenceless than the Lunda king-
doms to the south. Like the Yeke invaders to the south of them and
the Chokwe to the south-west, they were ruthless and rapid in their
exploitation of the ivory resources of the country. They hunted ele-
phants in armies, and the armies lived off the local populations and
savaged them, levying tribute in foodstuffs and ivory, and burning
and looting the villages at the slightest signs of resistance.
Nevertheless, behind the ¬rst line of advance of the elephant-
hunters, the invaders of eastern Zaire settled down to an organised
84 Africa since 1800

10. Western Central Africa, 1800“1880: tribal areas and migrations.

way of life. Their townships, many of which still exist, were equipped
with mosques, and the principal houses had all the little luxuries
of urban life on the East African coast “ beds, furniture, coffee ta-
bles, even the beautifully carved doorways of Zanzibar. Around their
settlements, the Arabs developed thriving agricultural plantations.
Europeans were much impressed by these Arab achievements, as
can be seen from the following description of Kasongo, written by
Sidney Hinde, the English medical of¬cer of the Congo Free State
forces that conquered the Arab lands of eastern Congo in 1893:

Kasongo was a much ¬ner town than even the grand old slave capital Nyangwe.
During the siege of Nyangwe, the taking of which was more or less expected,
Western Central Africa, 1800--1880 85

the inhabitants had time to carry off all valuables, and even furniture, to places
of safety. At Kasongo, however, it was different. We rushed into the town so
suddenly that everything was left in its place. Our whole force found new out¬ts,
and even the common soldiers slept on silk and satin mattresses, in carved beds
with silk mosquito curtains. The room I took possession of was eighty feet long
and ¬fteen feet wide, with a door leading into an orange garden, beyond which
was a view extending over ¬ve miles. We found many European luxuries, the
use of which we had almost forgotten; candles, sugar, matches, silver and glass
goblets and decanters were in profusion. The granaries throughout the town
were stocked with enormous quantities of rice, coffee, maize and other food; the
gardens were luxurious and well-planted; and oranges, both sweet and bitter,
guavas, pomegranates, pineapples, mangoes and bananas abounded at every
turn. The herd of cattle we found in Kasongo was composed of three distinct
breeds . . .
I was constantly astonished by the splendid work which had been done in the
neighbourhood by the Arabs. Kasongo was built in the corner of a virgin forest,
and for miles round all the brushwood and the great majority of trees had been
cleared away. In the forest-clearing ¬ne crops of sugar-cane, rice, maize and
fruits grew. I have ridden through a single rice-¬eld for an hour and a half.2

Tippu Tip
In the early days, each of these Arab settlements was ruled by its
founder and followers, who exercised a kind of loose political author-
ity over the local African chiefs. The man who brought the Arabs of
this region together, to recognise his own supremacy and, ultimately,
that of the sultan of Zanzibar, was Muhammed bin Hamed, more
generally known by his nickname of Tippu Tip. He was born in 1830
in Zanzibar, and his mother was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class.
His father and his paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had
taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. His pa-
ternal grandmother had been the daughter of a Nyamwezi chief, and
Tippu™s own earliest journeys were with Nyamwezi caravans travel-
ling round the south end of Lake Tanganyika to Katanga. He was for
a time associated with Msiri, but later left him and set up his own
headquarters at Kasongo on the Lualaba, where he described himself
as sultan of Utetera. This was in the late 1860s and the early 1870s.
From then on, for twenty more years, Tippu Tip was the most pow-
erful man in the eastern part of what later became the Democratic

S. L. Hinde, The Fall of the Congo Arabs (London, 1897), pp. 184, 187.
86 Africa since 1800

Republic of Congo (DRC). He was loyal to the sultan of Zanzibar,
yet “ unlike most of the Arabs “ he maintained excellent relations
with the Nyamwezi. The Nyamwezi territory lay between him and
the east coast, controlling his line of communications with Zanzibar.
In 1877, he met the explorer Stanley “ at Nyangwe and accompanied
him down the Lualaba to Stanley Falls (later Stanleyville), thus ex-
tending his ivory-hunting and other trading activities into the Ituri
forest region.
By the 1880s, Tippu Tip was said to have 50,000 guns at his com-
mand. His territory touched that of the Chokwe in the south-west,
while his station at Stanley Falls was only a fortnight™s journey for the
river-steamers which Stanley “ by then in the employment of King
Leopold of the Belgians “ had launched at Lake Malebo. Tippu Tip re-
alised that the European powers were closing in on tropical Africa.
From 1883 to 1886, therefore, he made a great effort to rally the
Arabs of eastern Zaire to acknowledge the political authority of the
sultan of Zanzibar, in the hope that the sultan™s dominion over East
Africa would be recognised by the Europeans. In this way, Tippu Tip
hoped that his rule in eastern Congo would become more permanent.
But his efforts were in vain: the European powers at the Berlin Con-
ference (see Chapter 9) did not uphold the sultan™s claims over the
interior of East Africa. Tippu Tip™s last years in the Congo (1877“92)
were spent in the improbable role of King Leopold™s ˜governor™ at
Stanley Falls. After his eventual retirement to Zanzibar, his former
lands were conquered, as we have seen, by European forces. How-
ever, as with Msiri™s Katanga, the Belgians took over many of the in-
stitutions of Arab rule in eastern Zaire and employed many Swahili
in positions of subordinate authority. In fact, the Swahili language,
known locally as Kingwana, remains the common language of this
part of the DRC to this day.

The Lower Congo Region and the Congo River Route
The part of Western Central Africa least known to Europeans at the
beginning of the nineteenth century was the region north and south
of the lower Congo, which at the end of the century was to be the main
centre of interest and of the struggle for political control. The most
important factor in this region was the geographical one. The Congo
Western Central Africa, 1800--1880 87

River and its tributaries that converge upon Lake Malebo provide
some 6,500 km (4,000 miles) of waterways which are navigable with-
out interruption. But the 400 km (225 miles) of river between Lake
Malebo and the Atlantic Ocean passes through a district of steep
and broken hill country in a series of cataracts and waterfalls. This
country is as hard to travel through as any in the world. Only with
immense dif¬culty did Stanley and other of¬cials of the Congo Free
State have a road cut across the stony hills and forested valleys to
transport parts of steamships up to Lake Malebo to be reassembled
for use on the navigable waterways. But prior to this, so long as
water transport on the upper river was by canoe and so long as
head porterage was the only means of transport over the cataract
region, the economic possibilities of the Congo River system were
limited. At the beginning of the century, when the Portuguese govern-
ment maintained its monopoly of the ivory trade, a certain amount
of ivory and other traf¬c used the northward-¬‚owing tributaries of
the Congo in order to bypass Portuguese territory. This trade did
not come together at Lake Malebo, which was not yet “ as it later
became “ a commercial bottleneck. Instead, it passed from the rivers
to the scores of European trading factories scattered along the coast
to the north of the Portuguese possessions in Angola, along numer-
ous side routes through the forest and down the streams that ¬‚owed
directly into the Atlantic. The staple product of this trade was ivory,
but, as the nineteenth century went on, it came to include also palm-
oil and palm-kernels, beeswax, coffee, raw cotton, and rubber. By the
1870s, the volume of British trade alone from the Western Central
African coast rivalled that from the Oil Rivers district of southern
It was ivory, however, which formed the backbone of the trade. It
was ivory which had the highest value and which did not deteriorate
in transport. It was ivory, therefore, which came from farthest a¬eld “
from the Lunda-dominated countries of the Kwango and the Kasai,
and from the forest peoples of the main river. Among these, the Teke
from the northern shores of Lake Malebo acted as the main traders
and carriers for the whole region below Bolobo. Above Bolobo, the
Bobangi took their place as far as Irebu and, beyond that, the Ngala,
who traded as far as Lisala, 1,600 km (1,000 miles) from the sea.
This was the farthest point from the west coast where Stanley found
88 Africa since 1800

European merchandise during his journey down the Congo in 1877.
The European guns and cloth which he saw here had taken ¬ve years
to reach their destination.
North of the main river, in the region between the Ubangi and
the coast, the part taken by the Chokwe farther south was played
by the Fang (French: Pahuin) people. They were immigrants into
Western Central Africa from the interior of Cameroun. They had
moved southwards from the savanna into the rain forest and had
become the preeminent ivory-hunters, exchanging their ivory, gen-
erally through African middlemen, for European goods, especially
guns, at the factories on the Gabon coast. The Fang at this time were
very ¬erce and were widely reputed to be cannibals. Mary Kingsley,
a courageous Englishwoman who travelled through their country in
1894, described how the inhabitants of a Fang village tried to sell
her their store of elephant tusks and india rubber:

I did not want these things then, but still felt too nervous of the Fangs to point
this out ¬rmly, and so had to buy . . . I found myself the owner of balls of rubber
and some tusks, and alas, my little stock of cloth and tobacco all going fast . . . To
be short of money in a Fang village is extremely bad, because these Fangs, when
a trader has no more goods to sell them, are liable to start trade all over again by
killing him and taking back their ivory and rubber and keeping it until another
trader comes along.3

The whole of this pattern of trade which found its way by lateral or
side routes to European trading factories scattered along the coast
from Mount Cameroun to Angola was, however, placed in danger
by Stanley™s journey down the Congo in 1877 and by his demonstra-
tion that above the lower Congo cataracts, there were thousands of
miles of smoothly ¬‚owing waterways, easily navigable by steamers.
The British government was satis¬ed with the old pattern of trade
and took no action when Stanley returned to England and told of
his discoveries. However, King Leopold of the Belgians, who had
by this time spent nearly twenty years studying the colonial activ-
ities of other nations and looking for an opportunity to establish
an empire of his own, listened with interest to Stanley™s stories. Al-
ready Leopold™s eyes were ¬xed upon the Congo basin, though he was

˜Some Unpublished Travels™, cited in Stephen Gwynn, The Life of Mary Kingsley (London, 1933),
pp. 109“10.
Western Central Africa, 1800--1880 89

planning to approach it from the east, using the Swahili Arab routes.
With Stanley™s report before him, he completely changed his plans:
he would bypass the cataracts on the lower river with a railway and
launch steamers on the upper river. At once the Congo would become
a bottleneck, funnelling the trade of the whole vast river basin into
his net. The Arab and Nyamwezi empires would be rolled back. The
Chokwe would cease to be of any commercial importance. Under a
European reorganisation of its trade, the region as a whole would
resume its natural unity.
King Leopold™s design, as we shall see, did more than anything
else to spark the European scramble for Africa. It brought to an end
an old chapter of African history. When the Portuguese ¬rst came to
Western Central Africa in the ¬fteenth century, they had opened its
trade westwards “ to the coast and to the lands across the Atlantic
Ocean. Through their subsequent concentration on the slave trade,
however, and through their unenlightened attempt to hold down the
price of ivory by a royal monopoly, they allowed the East Africans
during the ¬rst three-quarters of the nineteenth century to divert
most of the ivory trade away from its natural Atlantic outlets into
the trading system of the Indian Ocean. From the point of view of
geography, this was all wrong. Stanley Falls and Bunkeya (Msiri™s
capital) were both much nearer to the west coast than to the east.
But it took Stanley™s journey and King Leopold™s commercial vision
to reverse the swing of the pendulum, which otherwise would have
left Western Central Africa a dependency of Eastern Central Africa
and a part of the Muslim world.
SEVEN. Eastern Central Africa,

E astern Africa, for the purposes of this chapter, includes not
only the modern states of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, but
also northern Mozambique, Malawi, Burundi, and Rwanda. All these
lands were to fall under some kind of European rule before the end
of the century, but, from 1800 until 1884, the predominant outside
in¬‚uences were not European, but Swahili Arab or Turco“Egyptian.
Before 1884, only a handful of Europeans attempted trading ven-
tures of their own in the interior. In general, European and Ameri-
can enterprise was limited “ like that of the Indians from the British
empire in India “ to supplying Arab and Egyptian merchants with
manufactured goods, especially cloth and ¬rearms, in exchange for
ivory and a few less important products such as hides, beeswax,
and gum arabic. It was the Muslim merchants who traded directly
with the African peoples. The work of Christian missionaries was
the main European activity in East Africa before the partition took
place. The missionaries, however, arrived in this region much later
than the Muslim traders, and their work was still in the pioneer stage
when the colonial period began. They were not responsible for the
establishment of European political control, which came, when it
did, mainly as the result of happenings outside East Africa.

The Penetration of the Interior by the Swahili Arabs
The evolution of the Swahili Arab population in the coastal belt
of East Africa and on Zanzibar and the other offshore islands is

Eastern Central Africa, 1800--1884 91

described in Chapter 2, as are the origins of trade between the in-
terior and the coast. This trade from the interlacustrine kingdoms
and from Katanga, most of which was carried originally by the
Nyamwezi, seems to have been mainly a peaceful activity. Early Eu-
ropean travellers were much impressed by the prosperity and suf-
¬ciency of many of the inland districts they visited. For example,
Sir Richard Burton, who was by no means prejudiced in favour of
African achievements, wrote after his journey to Lake Tanganyika
in 1858: ˜The African is in these regions superior in comforts, better
dressed, fed and lodged than the unhappy Ryot [peasant] of British
India. His condition, where the slave-trade is slack, may indeed be
compared advantageously with that of the peasantry in some of the
richest of European countries.™ Traditions among peoples who were
to suffer from the violence that was to come recall, in the exaggerated
way that people often do, the good old days:

In the old times, long long ago, in their old homes, the Yao were in accord and
united. If a quarrel arose they used to ¬ght without rancour, avoiding bloodshed.
If strangers came to a village, would they have to pay for their food? No, it was
bestowed on them free; directly a man heard that a stranger was at his door, he
would rejoice and say ˜I have the plant of hospitality at my door, bringing guests.™1

As the nineteenth century approached, however, two factors com-
bined to hasten changes in the old way of life. The ¬rst was the rapidly
growing demand at the coast for ivory and slaves. The second was the
great desire of the peoples in the interior for more and more ¬rearms.
There was still, as there had always been, a ready market for domestic
and plantation slaves in and around all the coastal towns, as well as in
Oman and the other states of Arabia and the Persian Gulf. From the
mid-eighteenth century until the mid-nineteenth, the French added
greatly to the demand with their labour requirements for the sugar
and coffee plantations in R´ union (and, until the Napoleonic wars, in
Mauritius). In the early nineteenth century, the Portuguese, because
of the restrictions imposed on the West African slave trade north of
the equator, shipped an increasing number of slaves round the Cape
from Mozambique to Brazil and Cuba. And, above all, the nineteenth
century saw a vast development of the plantation agriculture of the

Yohannah B. Abdullah, The Yaos, ed. and tr. M. Sanderson (Zomba, 1919), p. 11.
92 Africa since 1800

Swahili Arabs, and with it a growing demand for slaves from the in-
terior. But, as the nineteenth century went on, the demand for ivory “
and, therefore, the prices paid for it “ became even greater than that
for slaves. The age-old market for East African ivory was the Asian
one. By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, demand in Eu-
rope and America had very greatly increased. Wealth derived from
the industrial and commercial changes taking place in European
countries and in North America had developed an almost insatiable
appetite for the luxury objects made from ivory, such as knife-
handles, piano keys, billiard balls, and ornaments of every kind.
A few of the Swahili Arabs who had been settled on the coast for
centuries began to respond to these opportunities at the end of the
eighteenth century, soon after the Nyamwezi traders had pioneered
the routes. The great advance of the coastal people, however, devel-
oped only during the long and brilliant reign (1806“56) of Seyyid
Said, imam of Muscat and hereditary overlord of the Arab settle-
ments along the Zanzibar coast. Said was both an able commander
and an economic genius, and it did not take him long to see that his
East African empire was more worthy of his attention than the rocks
and deserts in his little state of Oman on the western shores of the
Persian Gulf. But ¬rst he had to reconquer it. He possessed ef¬cient
armed forces. The ships of his navy had been provided by Britain un-
der the terms of a treaty made with him, and his army consisted of
Baluchi mercenaries recruited from the borders of Persia and India.
With these, he occupied Zanzibar and made effective his nominal
control over the coastal towns from Warsheikh in the north to Lindi
in the south, including the important cities of Mombasa and Kilwa,
which had for long been practically independent. Under Said™s in-
¬‚uence, Zanzibar became the central market for the whole of the
East African coast. After his introduction of the clove tree from the
East Indies, the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba soon came to grow
most of the world™s supply of cloves. The plantations were invariably
worked by slaves who were imported from the interior. In 1840, af-
ter a series of increasingly long visits to his African dominions, Said
actually transferred his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar, where he
was usually given the title of sultan. After his death in 1856, the scat-
tered empire was divided, one son taking Oman, and another, Majid,
becoming sultan of Zanzibar.
Eastern Central Africa, 1800--1884 93

11. Eastern Central Africa, 1800“1884.
94 Africa since 1800

Sultans Said and Majid encouraged Arabs to settle in Zanzibar
as plantation owners, and they also encouraged the coastal people
to trade in the interior. The sultanate provided the background of
security necessary for large-scale trade: debts could be collected at
Zanzibar and contracts enforced. The ¬nancial arrangements for the
trade were made by Indian merchants of Zanzibar and the coastal
towns, who had strong commercial ties with their fellow countrymen
across the ocean in India. They supplied credit to coastal traders
to enable them to stock up caravans with goods and journey up-
country, sometimes not returning with their purchases of ivory and
slaves until several years later. In a letter dated 21 November 1872
(which was sent back to England with his body), Livingstone wrote
of these Indian traders, ˜The Banians have the Custom House and all
the public revenue of Zanzibar entirely in their hands and by their
money, arms, and ammunition and goods a large and cruel Slave
trade had been carried on™.2
The Nyamwezi traders resisted the competition of the newcom-
ers and were able to retain a near-monopoly of trade routes from
central Tanzania to Katanga. But the coastal people were better or-
ganised and armed and had greater ¬nancial resources behind them.
They were able to supply African rulers with guns and ammunition,
which were beyond the means of the Nyamwezi traders. As the cen-
tury went on, and as European armies were reequipped with more
and more modern varieties of ¬rearms, so more and more of the out-
of-date models found their way on to the African market. By the end
of the 1830s, Arab traders had penetrated to Lake Tanganyika and,
in 1844, the ¬rst Arab visited the court of Buganda. So extensive was
the Arab trading in the interior that it was said as a joke that ˜when
they pipe in Zanzibar, people dance on the shores of the great lakes™.
Arabs established settlements at certain key points, such as Tabora
in the Nyamwezi country and Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. These were
mainly commercial depots, but, in time, they grew to exercise a cer-
tain military and political control over the surrounding countryside.
When Burton and Speke visited Tabora in 1858, the former wrote:

The Arabs live comfortably, and even splendidly. The houses, though single-
storied, are large, substantial and capable of defence. Their gardens are

Quoted in Zo¨ Marsh, East Africa through Contemporary Records (Cambridge, 1961), p. 44.
Eastern Central Africa, 1800--1884 95

extensive and well planted; they receive regular supplies from the coast; they are
surrounded by troops of slaves, whom they train to divers crafts and callings;
rich men have riding asses from Zanzibar, and even the poorest keep ¬‚ocks
and herds.3

Generally, the Arabs obtained their ivory and slaves from the local
rulers, who, armed with the imported guns, sent their warriors to
hunt elephants and to raid the forests of neighbouring peoples, of-
ten capturing slaves in the process. In most of East Africa, however,
slaving was more a by-product of the ivory rush than the primary
object of the trade. Only the country around Lake Malawi was pri-
marily a slaving region, where the powerful Yao chiefs raided the
ill-organised and defenceless peoples of the eastern lakeshore. The
Bemba, and later the Ngoni, did the same on the west. It was along
the trade route from Lake Malawi to the coast that Livingstone noted
some of the worst atrocities that he witnessed in all his long travels:

We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead . . . We saw others tied
up in a similar manner, and one lying on the path shot or stabbed for she was
in a pool of blood. The explanation we got invariably was that the Arab who
owned these victims was enraged at losing his money by the slaves being unable
to march . . . Today we came upon a man dead from starvation . . . One of our
men wandered and found a number of slaves with slave-sticks on, abandoned by
their master from want of food . . . We passed village after village and gardens, all

Elsewhere, however, the emphasis was on ivory, although slaves were
bought and sold at every stage along the trade routes. The Nyamwezi,
for example, were great buyers of slaves, whom they employed in
agricultural work while they themselves were absent on long trading

The Ngoni and Mirambo

The situation in Tanzania was complicated toward the middle of the
nineteenth century by the incursions of the Ngoni from the south.
Bands of warriors who had broken away from Shaka™s Zulu kingdom
(see Chapter 8) were swollen by the attachment of the remnants
of peoples they had defeated on their long northward trek. They

R. F. Burton, Lake Regions of Central Africa (London, 1860), vol. I, p. 328.
Last Journals, ed. Horace Waller (London, 1874), vol. I, p. 70.
96 Africa since 1800

spread across much of western and southern Tanzania to the east and
west of Lake Malawi, where they ¬nally settled as ruling aristocra-
cies. Far beyond the range of their settlement, their outlying raiders
and their military tactics were absorbed into the new groupings of
tribes that were taking place in Tanzania. Warrior bands, called ruga-
ruga in Nyamwezi country, and maviti and magwangwara elsewhere,
roamed the countryside, usually pillaging on their own account, but
ready to be employed by ruthless warlords or Arab traders. Some-
times their raids caused their victims to combine against them. The
centralised state of the Hehe, for instance, in south-central Tanzania,
was formed in this way. On the other hand, a young Nyamwezi chief,
Mirambo, actually took groups of Ngoni ruga-ruga into his service
and used them to build up and extend his hereditary chiefdom in the
western part of Unyamwezi. Mirambo became powerful enough, in
the 1870s, to rival the Arab merchant princes. By 1880, he had gained
control of the Ujiji trade route to Lake Tanganyika and was able to
threaten even the route leading north-westwards to Buganda. It was
with Mirambo, and not with his fellow Arabs, that Tippu Tip allied
himself in his commercial exploitation of eastern Congo, which is
described in Chapter 6.

The Interlacustrine Region

North of the Nyamwezi country, the trade with the rich interlacus-
trine region developed, from the 1840s on, mainly under the control
of Swahili Arab merchants. The main trade route ran from Tabora
through Karagwe, where there was a large Arab commercial set-
tlement at Kafuro near the capital, to the Kagera River. Here it
divided, a westerly branch leading off through the plains of east-
ern Ankole to Bunyoro, and an easterly branch following near the
shoreline of Lake Victoria towards the capital of Buganda. The Tutsi
kingdom of Rwanda, though still at the height of its power, would
admit no strangers within its frontiers, and such outside trade as
there was passed by Rwanda caravans to and from Karagwe. Ankole
was nearly as hostile to foreigners as Rwanda. The big trading
countries were Bunyoro and Buganda, for “ in addition to her pow-
erful armies “ Buganda was the chief naval power of Lake Victoria.
As the nineteenth century went on, ¬‚eets of the great Buganda ca-
noes made of planks sewn together, with their high prows visible
Eastern Central Africa, 1800--1884 97

far over the water, came regularly to the southern shores of the lake,
competing with the overland trade routes. In this way, Kabakas Suna
and Mutesa, who reigned through the middle years of the century
from about 1832 until 1884, steadily built up their stocks of cloth
and guns and used them to arm and pay ever-more-ef¬cient armies,
which harried the Basoga to the east and the Bahaya to the south and
nibbled more cautiously at the renewed military power of Bunyoro
to the north-west.
It was not only from the south-east, however, that the outside world
was forcing itself upon the interlacustrine states. As we saw in Chap-
ter 3, the trading frontier of the Egyptian Sudan had been estab-
lished since the 1840s in the Bari country to the south of the Nile
swamps; by the 1860s, the Khartoum-based ivory traders were oper-
ating among the Acholi people of the northern province of modern
Uganda. The Egyptians established their ¬rst contacts with Bunyoro
by intervening in the succession struggle following the death of
the ruler, Kamurasi, in 1869. In that year, the Khedive Ismail of
Egypt sent the British explorer Samuel Baker to be governor of this
˜Equatorial Province™ of the Sudan. Baker tried unsuccessfully to oc-
cupy Bunyoro and had to be content with establishing forts along
its northern edge. In 1873, however, he was succeeded by Charles
Gordon, who had de¬nite instructions to extend the Egyptian domin-
ions to the Great Lakes. Thus, in 1874, Gordon™s emissaries reached
the court of Kabaka Mutesa of Buganda.
Mutesa knew enough of the outside world to guess what was afoot.
An Egyptian garrison was detained by the Kabaka and given a taste
of Buganda™s power to hurt, and then allowed to retire unharmed.
Meanwhile, Mutesa strengthened his links with the strangers from
the east coast, buying more arms, listening to the Islamic teachings
of his Arab friends, even learning to write the Swahili language in
Arabic characters. His fears of the Egyptians were described by the
Anglican missionary Alexander Mackay a few years later, in his bi-
ography which was written by his sister:

Egypt has always been an object of great suspicion in the eyes of the Baganda.
Captain Speke, who formed Mtesa™s acquaintance a dozen years before Stan-
ley, tells how the king objected to his passing through Uganda to Egypt via the
Nile . . . The Egyptian station of Mruli was regarded by Mtesa with very jealous
feelings, and the Arabs lost no opportunity to fan the ¬‚ame. Knowing well that
with the presence of the white man the hope of their gains was gone, they told
98 Africa since 1800

him that Colonel Gordon and the Turks (as they called the Egyptians) would
soon come and ˜eat the country™. The Baganda constantly had the word Baturki
on their lips. Mtesa never wearied in narrating to Mackay all his intercourse with
white men: how Speke brought Grant, and then sent Baker; how Colonel Long
(Gordon™s agent) came and was followed by Stanley. ˜What do they all want?™
asked Mtesa. ˜Are they not coming to look for lakes, that they may put ships and
guns on them? Did not Speke come here by the Queen™s orders for that purpose?™5

It was almost certainly the presence of a second Egyptian delegation
at his court at the time of the explorer Stanley™s visit in 1875 which
caused him to encourage Stanley to let it be known in Europe that he
would like Christian missionaries to come and settle in his country.
Mutesa was an exceptionally intelligent and open-minded man, and
no doubt he was genuinely impressed by what his European visitors “
¬rst Speke (1862) and then Stanley “ had told him of Christianity and
European civilisation. As a statesman, he realised that if Buganda
was really threatened by the Egyptian advance from the north, it
would be wise to increase the number of his other foreign contacts,
so as to be able to play them off against the Egyptians. Church of
England missionaries from Britain, therefore, arrived in Buganda in
1877, and Roman Catholic missionaries from France in 1879, and,
so long as the Egyptian threat lasted, both received a warm welcome.
In the course of the next six or seven years, Christianity became so
deeply embedded among a minority of the court circle in Buganda
that it was able to survive a brief but terrible persecution at the hands
of Mutesa™s successor, Mwanga, in 1885“6.

Peoples and Trade Routes of Kenya
Right up to the colonial period, the main trade outlet of Buganda
and the other interlacustrine states remained the south-easterly one,
linking up with the trans-Tanzanian route at Tabora. It was dif¬cult
to set up a more direct route from Buganda to the coast at Mombasa
because of the nomadic and warlike way of life of so many of the
peoples, notably the Masai, in what became Kenya. The Masai did
not merely attack strangers: throughout the nineteenth century, they
fought almost continuously among themselves for control of the best

J. W. H. Mackay, The Story of the Life of Mackay of Uganda (London, 1898), pp. 132“4.
Eastern Central Africa, 1800--1884 99

pasturelands. Thus, the whole region of the Kenya highlands was in
a perpetual state of unrest. Traders could only pass through this
country at great peril to themselves and their goods, and no regular
trading links could be set up by the Swahili Arabs with the densely
populated lands of the Luo and the Abaluhya in the Kavirondo re-
gion to the north-east of Lake Victoria until several decades after
they had taken over the Nyamwezi routes to the south and west of
the lake. The equivalent among the Kenya peoples of the Nyamwezi
were the Kamba, who lived some 300 km (180 miles) inland from
Mombasa. They made trading contacts with the Kikuyu on one side
and with the coastal peoples on the other as early as the 1830s, when
a series of disastrous famines caused them to leave their homelands
in search of food. The German missionary traveller Johann Krapf
noted how ˜The Swahili purvey to the Wakamba cotton fabrics (Amer-
icani), blue calico, glass beads, copper and brass-wire, red ochre,
black pepper, salt and blue vitriol (zinc), and receive in exchange,
chie¬‚y cattle and ivory™.6 The Kamba continued to monopolise
trade between Kikuyuland and Mombasa until the 1880s, when the
Arabs with their superior organisation and weapons drew off the
Kikuyu trade into their own routes. The Arabs did not thrust into
the hinterland of any part of the Kenyan or north Tanzanian coast
until the 1860s, when they managed to open routes to the Chaga
of the Kilimanjaro region. Thence they were able to work their way
across the narrowest part of the Masai plain and on westwards to
Kavirondo. By about 1880, these Arab traders in and hunters of ivory
had reached the country to the west of Lake Turkana. Here, in the
last unexploited ivory district of East Africa, they came into contact
with Egyptians from the southern Sudan and with Ethiopians, all
concerned with enriching themselves from the ivory trade.

The Summit of Swahili Arab Power in East Africa

We have seen that the most important development during the ¬rst
three-quarters of the nineteenth century in East Africa was the com-
mercial penetration of the whole region by the Swahili Arabs from

J. L. Krapf, Travels in Eastern Africa (London, 1860), p. 353.
100 Africa since 1800

the east coast. And now, for a brief period in the late 1870s and early
1880s, it seemed that the commercial empire of Zanzibar might turn
itself into a political one. In the eyes of the British consul-general at
Zanzibar, Sir John Kirk, this was a development very much to be
hoped for. Kirk had been in Zanzibar since 1864 and had built up a
remarkable degree of in¬‚uence, ¬rst with Sultan Majid and then with
his brother, Sultan Barghash. Neither Kirk nor his masters in London
wished for direct British intervention in East Africa. In their view, a
friendly and easily in¬‚uenced sultan of Zanzibar would be both the
cheapest and the most effective means of achieving their two objec-
tives: to end the East African slave trade and to prevent the interven-
tion of other European powers in the area. In 1873, Barghash was
persuaded to abolish the slave trade within his dominions, and from
then onwards, so far as the British government was concerned, the
wider the sultan™s dominions, the better. Inspired by Kirk, Barghash
engaged a British of¬cer to enlarge and train his army, and in the
late 1870s, he began to set up garrisons along the line of the main
trans-Tanzanian trade route. As Kirk watched the growing interests
of other European powers, especially of King Leopold of the Bel-
gians, he spurred Barghash to greater efforts. The Arab traders in
the far interior were encouraged to turn from commerce to conquest,
and did so “ ¬rst, Tippu Tip in the region round Lake Tanganyika;
next, the Arabs who were settled round the north end of Lake Malawi;
and, ¬nally, the Arabs in Buganda. In 1887, a special representative
of Sultan Barghash arrived in Buganda, where the previous year the
Kabaka Mwanga had executed a number of Christians at his court.
This representative plotted with the Muslim party in the kingdom to
depose Mwanga in 1888, and then to seize power for themselves. A
younger brother of Mwanga was declared to be Kabaka. This Muslim
success, however, was short-lived. By 1890, Mwanga had regained
power with the support of the Christian Baganda, in spite of his
previous persecution of their religion.
The achievements of Tippu Tip and other Arab chiefs marked the
summit of Arab power in East Africa; to the European missionaries
living scattered about in the interior, this appeared in a very differ-
ent light from that in which it had been conceived by Kirk at Zanz-
ibar. Where Kirk had imagined a Zanzibar dominion recognised by
the powers and responsive to British in¬‚uence, the missionaries saw
burning villages and starving refugees, and a new anti-European and
Eastern Central Africa, 1800--1884 101

anti-Christian attitude among the Arabs. The experience made them
long for and, in some cases, work for European colonial occupation.
In the event, however, Swahili Arab imperialism did not last long.
Before any missionary condemnation of it had time to take effect, a
handful of German adventurers had shown that the sultan™s power
in the interior of East Africa was nothing but a hollow sham. Neither
Carl Peters nor his associates in the Society for German Colonisation
had ever set foot in East Africa before 1884, but they had grasped
the essential fact that a mere 50 or 60 km (30 or 40 miles) inland
from the coast, there were African communities which owed no alle-
giance to the sultan of Zanzibar. They realised that the rulers of these
communities could be persuaded without too much trouble to sign
pieces of paper placing their lands under the protection of a Euro-
pean power. From that moment onwards, Kirk™s plan was doomed.
The European scramble for East Africa had begun.

King Nampoina™s conquests at the end of the eighteenth and the
beginning of the nineteenth centuries laid the foundations for the
great Merina state. This must rank as one of the most remarkable
political creations in the whole of Africa in the pre-colonial period.
Nampoina™s successor, Radama I (1810“28), transformed the war-
rior chiefdom into a nation comparable in many ways to the smaller
states of Europe. He rounded off Nampoina™s conquests, so that by
the end of his reign, two-thirds of Madagascar was under Hova dom-
ination (see Maps 3 and 4). The rich kingdom of Betsileo, in the
highlands around Fianarantsoa to the south of Tananarive, recog-
nised the control of Radama. The Merina army was equipped with
¬rearms, largely supplied by the British from the Indian Ocean is-
land of Mauritius. Radama was advised on military matters by an
unlikely trio “ a Scotsman, a Jamaican, and a Frenchman. The king,
however, did not con¬ne his attentions to conquests and military
reforms. In 1820, with royal permission, the ¬rst Christian mission-
aries, belonging to the British London Missionary Society, arrived
in Imerina. The fruits of their efforts were astonishing “ after seven
years, it was estimated that 4,000 Hova could read and write their
own language, and many had been trained to perform European
102 Africa since 1800

The animist priests and the older Hova upper class naturally felt
their positions threatened by the new religion and the young edu-
cated men, and there followed an almost inevitable reaction. Radama
I was succeeded in 1828 by the ¬rst of the queens of nineteenth-
century Imerina, Ranavalona. In 1835, she closed the London
Missionary Society™s schools and allowed only those foreigners to
enter her kingdom who could contribute directly to its military and
economic power. But the seeds of Christianity and of western educa-
tion could not easily be uprooted. After a violent struggle for power
at the death of Queen Ranavalona in 1861, a most remarkable man
became prime minister “ Rainilaiarivony, who remained in of¬ce un-
til the coming of the French expedition in 1894. He made certain of
his position by becoming the husband of three successive queens.
Missionary work was resumed and, in 1868, Rainilaiarivony himself
became a Christian. By the 1880s (by which time French Roman
Catholic missionaries were also active), there had been a massive
conversion to Christianity, and the proportion of Malagasy children
at school was comparable to that in western Europe. Animist beliefs,
however, did not wither away, and, indeed, continued to ¬‚ourish, in
many cases among converts to Christianity.
This continuation of traditional beliefs was one sign of the consid-
erable strain that was building up within the Merina state. Its subject
peoples resented the often harsh rule of the Hova aristocracy, and
many of the Hova resented the huge personal power of the prime
minister. Although the majority of Christians were converts of the
London Missionary Society, and although Britain kept close diplo-
matic links with Imerina, a great amount of the external trade of
Madagascar was in French hands. The Hova were proudly indepen-
dent and had no wish to be under the ˜protection™ of either Britain
or France. However, the French were determined to secure their
commercial interests and, in 1885, after the ¬rst of the Franco-
Malagasy wars, forced a treaty upon Imerina. As in the case of the
Wichale Treaty between Italy and Ethiopia (see Chapter 10), the
French and Malagasy versions of this treaty differed. The Malagasy
considered that they had maintained their independence; the French
thought that they had secured control over the external affairs of the
island and had thereby set up a protectorate over it. As in the case
of Ethiopia, the misunderstandings arising out of this treaty led to
increased friction between France and the kingdom of Imerina.
EIGHT. Southern Africa, 1800--1885

The Con¬‚ict between Boer and Bantu

In tropical Africa, the basis for the early meetings between Africans
and people from the rest of the world was trade. In South Africa, such
encounters were usually over land. In tropical Africa, European and
African merchants, even those engaged in the wretched slave trade,
met on an essentially equal footing. They treated each other with a
mixture of suspicion and respect. Europeans and Arabs were careful
to acknowledge the authority of African rulers and to pay attention
to the manners and customs of African peoples. In South Africa, the
Europeans were present from the beginning not as traders, but as
settlers. As their numbers grew and as they pushed inland from their
¬rst foothold on the Cape peninsula, they cast envious eyes on the
land of the local people. During the seventeenth and most of the eigh-
teenth centuries, this land was occupied by the San hunters and by
the Khoi herdsmen. Thereafter, it was the much more densely settled
land of the Bantu, who were agriculturalists as well as pastoralists.
The only way the Boers could gain possession of the fertile land of
the eastern Cape province was by conquest. Such a conquest might
take the form of a party of frontier farmers, on horseback and armed
with their hunting ri¬‚es, driving out the inhabitants of a nearby San
or Khoi encampment or Bantu village. Or it might be carried out by
the of¬cial forces of the colony, involved in a frontier war which was
the consequence of the raids and counter-raids of Dutch and African

104 Africa since 1800

farmers. Naturally, the conquerors felt superior to the conquered,
and justi¬ed their actions on the grounds of their superiority.
The Boers™ feeling of superiority is illustrated in an English trav-
eller™s account of a frontier farmer who was ¬‚ogged and imprisoned
by the British military authorities in 1798 for ill-treating a Khoi

For the whole of the ¬rst night his lamentations were incessant; with a loud voice
be cried, ˜Myn God! is dat een maniere om Christian mensch te handelen™. (My
God, is this the way to treat a Christian man.) His, however, were not the agonies
of bodily pain, but the burst of rage and resentment on being put on a level
with one of the Zwarte Natie [Black Natives], between whom and themselves the
Boers conceive the differences to be fully as great as between themselves and
their cattle.1

Here, we have the origins of the race attitudes characteristic of South
We have seen (in Chapter 2) that during the ¬rst thirty or so years
after the Boers and Bantu met on what came to be known as the
Eastern Frontier of the Cape Colony in the 1770s, a solution to the
con¬‚icts arising out of cattle-stealing and demands for more land
might have been found if the two groups had been kept apart. An
agreement to halt further expansion and the creation of a frontier
properly defended by soldiers, like those which exist between mod-
ern states, might still have been possible. After the ¬rst or second
decade of the nineteenth century, no solution along these lines had
any real chance of success. The demands of people on both sides of
the frontier for land could not be satis¬ed. The struggle for control
of the land of southern Africa had to be fought out until one side or
the other emerged as victor.

Shaka and the Zulu Nation
When the ¬rst clashes between white and black people took place
along the Fish River, the population of the Nguni-speaking Bantu was
increasing like that of the Boers. On the Bantu side of the frontier,
there was less and less available land on which people could live

Sir J. Barrow, An Account of Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa in the Years 1797 and
1798 (London, 1801), vol. I, p. 398.
Southern Africa, 1800--1885 105

and graze their cattle. Cattle, which required a large area of pasture,
were essential in the lives of the South African Bantu: they were the
outward sign of their wealth and power, and no man could marry
without handing over cattle to his bride™s family. In earlier times, this
pressure of man and beast upon the land would have been met by
further expansion along the coast in a south-westerly direction, at
the expense of the more thinly settled Khoi of the western Cape. This
line of expansion was now blocked by the Boer farmers, who, as we
have seen, were also hungry for fresh land. Thus, any Bantu people
seeking to enlarge their territory could do so only at the expense
of their neighbours, using military means. In the early years of the
nineteenth century, two groups at the northern end of the Nguni
country, the Swazi and the Zulu, militarised their social structure
and embarked upon careers of conquest, with the result that most of
South Africa was plunged into a period of destruction and violence
known to Africans as the Time of Troubles (Sotho: difaqane; Zulu:
The Zulu were originally a small clan living in the territory of one
of the Nguni rulers in Natal, Dingiswayo. Shaka, who was born in
1787, was one of the sons of the Zulu clan-chief. He quarrelled with
his father and took refuge at the court of Dingiswayo, where he grew
up to become a regimental commander. In 1816, after the death of
his father, he was made chief of the Zulu clan by Dingiswayo. Two
years later, Dingiswayo was murdered and Shaka took over the mil-
itary empire that he had started to build up. Shaka proved to be
a military leader of outstanding genius. He reformed the organisa-
tion, weapons, and tactics of Dingiswayo™s impi (Zulu: regiments).
The young warriors were formed into age regiments, and were not
allowed to marry until they had completed their military service at
the age of thirty, or even later. Adolphe Delegorgue, a French traveller
in the 1830s, wrote of the transformation brought about by Shaka
(the older spelling of his name was with ˜Ch™):

Before Chaka, the Zulus wore sandals, and in their battles they hurled the assagai
[Zulu: spear], as the Amakosa [Xhosa] still do. Above all, they charged in a mass,
and without observing any orderly arrangement. Chaka formed regiments of a
thousand men each. He did away with the sandal, in spite of the thorny nature
of the vegetation, and ordered every warrior to take but one assagai, which was
to be exhibited after a ¬ght, stained by the blood of an enemy. The struggle could
106 Africa since 1800

only be hand to hand. This new way of ¬ghting, unknown to the neighbouring
nations, greatly facilitated Chaka™s conquests.2

Shaka experimented with the new assagai before making it the stan-
dard weapon of his impis; a trader, Henry Fynn, who ¬rst visited the
great king in 1824, heard of the ˜sham-combat™ and recounted it in his
diary, as an example of Shaka™s thoroughness and of his ruthlessness:

Chaka disapproved of the custom of throwing the assagai. To substitute a differ-
ent mode of attack, he assembled two divisions of his followers, who were or-
dered to supply themselves with a reed each from the river-bank, that he might
be convinced of the effect which only one weapon would produce when used
at close quarters. The two divisions then opposed each other, the one throwing
their reeds, the other rushing on and stabbing their opponents. The result of this
collision met with Chaka™s entire satisfaction; few in the ¬rst division escaped
being wounded, and several severely. Chaka then ordered six oxen to be slaugh-
tered, and collecting the assagais of his followers, he ordered the shafts to be
broken and used in cooking the meat. The prime parts were given, hot, to those
who had been conspicuous for courage: the inferior parts, after being soaked in
cold water, were given to those who had been seen to shrink in the combat.3

Shaka™s impi, which in battle encircled the enemy like the horns of a
buffalo, were so effective and so highly disciplined that they proved
almost irresistible. The neighbouring Nguni chiefs were defeated and
their lands used by the Zulu for grazing cattle. Many of the young
men and women, however, were incorporated into the Zulu nation,
which under Shaka and his successor Dingane, who murdered his
royal brother in 1828, came to dominate most of the area of modern
Natal. As we shall see, it was the existence of this aggressive and
rapidly expanding kingdom in the rear of the Cape Colony™s eastern
frontier which made the policy of separation along the line of an
agreed and stabilised frontier impossible to carry out.

The Time of Troubles: Mohesh and the Basuto

The indirect effects of the Zulu expansion were felt throughout south-
ern Africa. In the hope of escaping from Shaka and his impi, fugi-
tives from Natal streamed across the Drakensberg mountains. To ¬nd

Voyage dans l™Afrique australe (Paris, 1847), vol. 2, p. 218.
The Diary of Henry Francis Fynn, ed. J. Stuart and D. McK. Malcolm (Pietermaritzburg, 1950),
p. 283.
Southern Africa, 1800--1885 107

room to settle, they had to become conquerors themselves, imitating
the Zulu methods of ¬ghting. Under their impact, the Sotho“Tswana
peoples of the highveld clashed upon one another like an avalanche
of stones rolling down a hillside. Thousands of displaced people wan-
dered over the veld or sought refuge in the mountains. Some were
driven out by famine to live by violence and pillage, and set out like
the Zulu on campaigns of conquest. The brunt of the invaders™ onset
was borne by the Batlokwa, who were ruled by a redoubtable chief-
tainess called Mantatisi and later by her son, Sikonyela. Assimilating
many of the refugees from Natal, Sotho peoples struck out against
the Sotho“Tswana peoples of the western Transvaal and Botswana
and threw them into utter disorder. Only after the middle of the cen-
tury did the various Tswana peoples, such as the Bakhatla and the
Bamangwato, reemerge as stable chiefdoms. One Sotho group, the
Bafokeng or Makololo, were driven northwards by Mantatisi. Their
leader, Sebetwane, is said to have appealed to his people in 1823 in
the following words:

My masters, you see that the world is tumbling about our ears. We and other
peoples have been driven from our ancestral homes, our cattle seized, our broth-
ers and sons killed, our wives and daughters ravished, our children starved. War
has been forced upon us, tribe against tribe. We shall be eaten up one by one.
Our fathers taught us Khotso ke nala “ peace is prosperity “ but today there is
no peace, no prosperity! What are we to do? My masters, this is my word: Let us
march! Let us take our wives and children and cattle, and go forth to seek some
land where we may dwell in tranquillity.4

Thereupon he led the Makololo northwards, in a running struggle
with their great enemies, the Ndebele, to the east of them. Finally,
about 1840, they settled on the upper Zambezi, after having over-
come the Lozi people of the Barotse kingdom and made them their
subjects. Their rule over the Barotse lasted only some twenty years,
but this was time enough for their Sotho language to become the
language of Barotseland.
In two other areas, refugees from the Mfecane were gathered to-
gether by very able chiefs who merged them into new nations strong
enough to withstand pressure from the Zulu and, later on, even from

Quoted in Edwin W. Smith, Great Lion of Bechuanaland: The Life and Times of Roger Price
(London, 1957), p. 367.
108 Africa since 1800

12. Early nineteenth-century migrations in South and East Africa.

the Europeans. One of these was the Swazi kingdom, created by
Sobhuza and his successor Mswazi. The other was Lesotho. The cre-
ation of this kingdom was the life™s work of Moshesh, one of the great-
est leaders southern Africa has known. His character and the steps he
took to build Lesotho were described by Eug` ne Casalis, the French
13. Southern Africa, 1800“1885: African migrations.

110 Africa since 1800

missionary who ¬rst entered the country in 1833 and who spent
many years as Moshesh™s adviser on ˜foreign affairs™. Casalis wrote
of Moshesh in the rather pompous language characteristic of many
Europeans at that time: ˜Moshesh has an agreeable and interesting
countenance, his deportment is noble and digni¬ed, his features be-
speak habits of re¬‚ection and of command, and a benevolent smile
plays upon his lips.™ Casalis was told of the peaceful times before the

At the time of Moshesh™s birth (about 1790) the country of Basutos was extremely
populous. Disputes arose from time to time between the various communities,
but generally little blood was shed. The green pastures of Butobute, Moshesh™s
home, and the steep hills where he and his companions hunted, are still cele-
brated in the national songs of the Basuto. At the moment when it was least
expected, these favourite sports were suddenly interrupted by disastrous inva-
sions from Natal. Desolation was carried into the peaceful valleys of Lesuto,
¬elds remained uncultivated, and the horrors of famine were added to those of
war. Nearly all the in¬‚uential men in the country were swept away by the tide
of war. Moshesh breasted the stream. Being of a very observant disposition, he
knew how to resist and how to yield at the right moment; procured himself allies,
even among the invaders of his territory; set his enemies at variance with each
other, and by various acts of kindness secured the respect of those even who had
sworn his ruin.5

In their struggles against both Zulu and Boers, the Basuto were aided
by the mountains of their country, which provided them with defen-
sive positions almost impregnable even by troops armed with ri¬‚es.
Moshesh™s great tactical and diplomatic skill, which enabled the Ba-
suto to exercise an in¬‚uence quite out of proportion to their numbers
and military strength, is shown in the way he treated the Zulu off-
shoot called the Ndebele after they had failed to capture his mountain
fortress of Thaba Bosiu in 1831:

Accustomed to victory, the Zulus advanced in serried ranks, not appearing to
notice the masses of basalt which came rolling down with a tremendous noise
from the top of the mountain. But soon there was a general crush “ an avalanche
of stones and a shower of spears, which sent back the assailants with more
rapidity than they had advanced. The chiefs who were seen rallying the fugitives,
and snatching away the plumes with which their heads were decorated, and
trampling them under foot in a rage, led their men again towards the formidable
rampart. But in vain. The next day the Zulus retired. At the moment of their

Eug` ne Casalis, The Basutos (1861) (Cape Town, 1965), pp. 15“16.
Southern Africa, 1800--1885 111

departure a Mosuto, driving some fat oxen, stopped before the ¬rst ranks, and
gave this message. ˜Moshesh salutes you. Supposing that hunger had brought
you into this country, he sends you these cattle, that you may eat them on your
way home.™ Moshesh was never troubled by these people again.6

Some Zulu groups, whose leaders had quarrelled with Shaka, left
Zululand to make their own conquests elsewhere. Soshangane took
his people, the Shangane, into Gazaland in southern Mozambique,
where they conquered and largely absorbed the Tsonga, who were
the earlier inhabitants of that region. Next, Zwangendaba and his
warriors swept northwards across the Limpopo and on to the Zim-
babwean plateau, where they destroyed the old Rozvi kingdom of the
Changamires, the rulers of the western plateau. Before long, how-
ever, Zwangendaba and his ˜Ngoni™ moved on, to settle ¬nally in the
highlands east and west of Lake Malawi. Some of the farthest-¬‚ung
of these Ngoni impi, always gathering fresh recruits from the peo-
ples they defeated, campaigned as far north as the southern shores
of Lake Victoria and as far east as the Indian Ocean. As we saw in
Chapter 7, they had a considerable effect on events in East Africa.
Lastly, Mzilikazi led his Ndebele (Sotho: Matebele) Zulu across the
Drakensberg and on to the highveld, in the wake of Mantatisi and
Sebetwane™s Sotho groups, until they were defeated near modern
Pretoria by the invading Boers in 1837. The Ndebele then retreated
north across the Limpopo and settled on the western part of the Zim-
babwean plateau (Matabeleland), making many of the local Shona
people, the former subjects of the Rozvi kingdom, into their tribute-
paying subjects.

The Expansion of the Boers: The Great Trek

Refugees also ¬‚ed from the Zulu armies into the eastern Cape Colony,
increasing the frontier con¬‚icts with the Dutch farmers, whose num-
bers were increased by 5,000 British settlers in 1820. The lawless-
ness on the frontier and the rough treatment by the Boers of their
semi-servile labourers shocked the humanitarians and missionary
societies in Britain. During the early years of the nineteenth cen-
tury, these groups forced the British government to adopt a more

Ibid., p. 63.
112 Africa since 1800

responsible concern for the non-white peoples of the British empire.
The most outspoken of the Christian missionaries in South Africa
was John Philip of the London Missionary Society. Mainly through
his efforts, the Khoi and San of the Cape Colony were brought under
the protection of the law in 1828. Later, after the abolition of slavery
in 1833, he extended his campaign to include the former slaves. In
the eyes of the Boers, the British government was more concerned
with giving legal protection to their servants than with helping them
to expand at the expense of the Nguni tribes. Every Dutch farmer™s
son considered it his birthright to possess a 6,000-acre ranch when
he got married, and in this wasteful way the available land within the
colony™s borders was soon exhausted. In 1836, a large area of land
on the eastern frontier, which had previously been annexed to the
colony was returned to the Africans because the British government
was not prepared to meet the expense of administering it. This was
more than the Boers would endure, and many trekked (trek, Dutch:
a journey, a migration) out of British territory and across the Orange
River to the north. Anna Steenkamp, the sister of one of the leaders
of the Great Trek, gave as one of their reasons for leaving the Cape

The shameful and unjust proceedings with reference to the freedom of our slaves:
and yet it is not so much their freedom that drove us to such lengths as their
being placed on an equal footing with Christians, contrary to the laws of God
and the natural distinction of race and religion, so that it was intolerable for
any decent Christian to bow down beneath such a yoke; wherefore we rather
withdrew in order thus to preserve our doctrines in purity.7

Livingstone later commented: ˜The Boers determined to erect them-
selves into a republic, in which they might pursue without molesta-
tion the “proper treatment of the blacks”. This “proper treatment”
has always contained the element of compulsory unpaid labour™.8
The Trekkers had learned from hunters and traders that fertile
parts of Natal had been virtually depopulated by the Zulu and turned
into grazing lands. They planned to in¬ltrate the Zulu lands by
moving across the Transvaal and descending through the Drakens-
berg passes into Natal. By this means, they hoped to out¬‚ank the
densely settled Nguni between the Fish River and Natal. At ¬rst, the

Quoted in John Bird, Annals of Natal (Pietermaritzburg, 1888), vol. I, p. 459.
Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (London, 1857), p. 29.
Southern Africa, 1800--1885 113

14. Southern Africa, 1800“1885: Boer migrations.
114 Africa since 1800

Zulu king Dingane successfully resisted this encroachment. By 1839,
however, the Boers under Pretorius had defeated the Zulu and had
set up a republic in Natal. This action brought them into con¬‚ict once
again with the British government, which would not allow the exis-
tence of a rival European state on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
It also rightly feared the effects of Boer penetration into Natal on
the encircled Nguni of the eastern Cape. Natal was, therefore, an-
nexed by Britain in 1845. Frustrated in this way, most of the Natal
Boers returned to the highveld, where other groups of farmers had
already driven the Ndebele across the Limpopo. The British govern-
ment half-heartedly followed the Boers north of the Orange river but,
in 1852 and 1854, recognised the independence of, respectively, the
Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
In the middle years of the nineteenth century, therefore, South
Africa consisted of two British colonies, the Cape and Natal; the
two Boer republics; and many independent African kingdoms and
chiefdoms, of which the Basuto and Zulu kingdoms were the largest.
The total white population was little more than 300,000; the African
population was between 1 million and 2 million. In 1853, the Cape
Colony was granted a constitution with an elected parliament and,
in 1872, full internal self-government, with ministers responsible to
parliament. The franchise was non-racial; that is, representatives
were elected by people of all races, provided they owned property of
a certain value or received a certain amount in wages. This liberal
political attitude of the Cape was not shared by the other Europeans
in South Africa. In the Boer republics, only white people were recog-
nised as citizens, and only white males exercised the vote.

The End of the Independent African States
The discovery of great diamond deposits near the junction of the
Orange and Vaal Rivers in 1868 hastened the inevitable process
whereby the self-governing African peoples and states lost their inde-
pendence and were brought under European rule. Already in 1856“7,
the situation had seemed so desperate to the Xhosa and Tembu living
immediately to the east of the Cape Colony that they followed the
prophecy of a girl, Nongquase. She stated that if, on a certain day,
the cattle were killed and the grain destroyed, the tribal ancestors
Southern Africa, 1800--1885 115

would drive the Europeans into the sea. The result, of course, was a
disastrous famine, in which thousands died, while thousands more
abandoned their land and went to seek work and food in the Cape.
The opening of the diamond mines greatly increased the demand for
labour, and Africans converged upon Kimberley from all over south-
ern Africa. In the early days of the mining, the companies regularly
paid these workers in guns and ammunition, and so thousands of
Africans returned to their homes with ¬rearms. This led to exagger-
ated fears on the European side of a ˜united native rising™. Fortunately
for the white men in South Africa, the wars that did break out were
no such thing, but they were extremely destructive because Africans
as well as Europeans were using ¬rearms.
In 1871, the Cape government assumed control over the Basuto,
who had been involved in a bitter land struggle with the Free State
farmers. Next, in 1877“8, it ¬nally broke the ¬ghting power of the
Xhosa and other Nguni tribes on the eastern frontier “ though at a
great cost in men and money. Again, in 1877, the British government
took over the Transvaal, where the forces of a poverty-stricken Boer
government could make no headway in the war which had broken
out against the Bapedi under their chief Sekukuni. This involved the
British (who in Natal had been friendly with the Zulu) in a quar-
rel between the Transvaal Boers and Cetshwayo, the nephew and
successor of Dingane, over an area of grazing land. Cetshwayo was
now provoked by Sir Bartle Frere, the British high commissioner in
South Africa, to armed con¬‚ict. The Zulu defeated one British army
at Isandhlwana before being crushed by the reinforcements which
the British hurriedly sent into Natal. The following year “ 1880 “
saw the outbreak of a long war between the Cape government and
the Basuto, sparked off by an attempt to disarm the Africans. The
Cape had to be rescued from this disastrous war in 1884, when the
British government took over direct responsibility for administer-
ing Basutoland. These were not the only troubles. Whites were also
involved in clashes with some of the Tswana tribes and with the
Korana (Khoi) people on the lower Orange River. In South-West
Africa, the mutual enmity of the Herero (Bantu) and Nama (Khoi)
peoples, both pastoralists in a dry land, was in¬‚amed by the activities
of European traders, who took sides in their disputes and supplied
them with both ¬rearms and liquor.
116 Africa since 1800

Just before the outbreak of all these wars and while they were in
progress, attempts were made “ in Britain by the colonial secretary,
Lord Carnarvon, and in the Cape by Frere “ to unite the white states
in South Africa into a single large territory under one government.
By the end of the 1870s, this attempt at confederation had failed.
The Boers in the Orange Free State had never forgiven the British
annexation of the diamond-bearing district of Griqualand West in
1871. At the end of 1880, the Transvaalers rose against the govern-
ment imposed upon them by Britain three years previously, and in
1881 defeated a British force sent to put them down in an action at
Majuba Hill.

The Road to the North
Much of the hostility between the British government and the Boers
was due to the presence of the Christian missionaries, whose ac-
tivities among the Africans were regarded by the Boers with great
suspicion. Missions were well established within the colonial bor-
ders of the Cape and Natal, though they could make little headway
among the still independent and warlike Nguni peoples, especially
the Zulu and the Ndebele. They were more in¬‚uential among the
Sotho and Tswana groups, however. The Paris Missionary Society
established a close relationship with Moshesh, as we have seen, and “
although neither he nor his successor was converted “ many thou-
sands of the Basuto became literate and Christian. Robert Moffat
of the London Missionary Society had worked among the Griqua (a
group of mixed Khoi and European descent) and Tswana peoples at
Kuruman, beyond the northern frontier of the Cape, since the 1820s.
Here, Boer encroachment upon Tswana lands during and after the
Great Trek added to the dislike of the missionaries for the Transvaal
government and made them determined to keep open a way to the
north which was free from Boer control. Livingstone began his ca-
reer in Africa as a missionary and explorer, working to open up this
˜missionary road™ “ the narrow strip of habitable Botswana between
the Transvaal and Kalahari desert, which led northwards to Mata-
beleland and Barotseland. Through Livingstone™s great journey from
Barotseland to Luanda and from there across Africa to the Zambezi
mouth (1853“6), European governments, traders, and missionaries
Southern Africa, 1800--1885 117

were made aware of the possibilities for Christianity and commerce
in the lands north of the Limpopo. The British government, in partic-
ular, realised the vital importance of the ˜missionary road™ between
South Africa and the interior. As soon as the Germans annexed the
South-West African coast in 1883, the British replied by declaring
a protectorate over Botswana (known during the colonial period
as Bechuanaland). This paved the way for Rhodes™s occupation of
Zimbabwe a few years later.
NINE. The Partition of Africa on Paper,

European Trading Interests in Africa before Partition

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, events took place
which changed the face of Africa and which can only be understood
by tracing their origin and development outside Africa. In 1879, more
than 90 percent of the continent was ruled by Africans. By 1900, all
but a tiny fraction of it was being governed by European powers.
By about 1914, the lives of almost all Africans were being deeply
affected by the changes brought about by these foreign rulers. The
European powers partitioned Africa among themselves with such
haste, like players in a rough game, that the process has been called
˜the scramble for Africa™. The motives for this partition, the reason
why the European powers acted as they did, and when they did, are
a part of European history rather than African history, and it is to
these European affairs that we must now turn our attention.
We have to remember, ¬rst of all, that throughout the ¬rst sixty-
¬ve years of the nineteenth century, the only great powers in western
Europe were Britain and France. Germany and Italy did not yet ex-
ist as separate and uni¬ed states. Of the lesser powers, Holland and
Denmark actually abandoned their African possessions (trading
posts on the Gold Coast) during the nineteenth century, leaving only
Portugal as a minor competitor with France and Britain. We also
have to remember that even France, despite its considerable mili-
tary strength, lagged well behind Britain in the race for commercial
and industrial development. Precisely because its manufactures were

The Partition of Africa on Paper, 1879--1891 119

inferior or more expensive than those of Britain, France pursued a
˜protectionist policy™ “ that is to say, it tried to reserve the trade of
French colonies for its own merchants. In the Senegal from 1815,
and from the 1840s in Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Gabon,
and Madagascar, there were, therefore, French naval and commer-
cial bases from which non-French traders were kept out. These areas
were, however, quite small. In the British possessions, the same cus-
toms dues were charged to British and foreign traders alike. In fact,
traders of all nations did the largest part of their business in Africa
on stretches of the coast over which no European ¬‚ag yet ¬‚ew. So
long as most of the trade was carried on near the coast, and so long
as most of the coastline was free to all comers, Britain, at least, had
no economic motive to annex large territories in Africa. Even France
found that its protected settlements were more of a ¬nancial burden
than they were worth.

The Development of Anglo“French Rivalry in West Africa
By the 1870s, however, a new situation was beginning to develop
in West Africa. The trade was no longer exclusively a coastal trade.
At the few key points where railways or river steamships could be
introduced, European trade was starting to penetrate the interior.
The French were thrusting deep into the Senegal valley, and it was
known that their objective was to connect the Senegal and the upper
Niger by a railway, which would attract the trade of a great part of
the West African interior into French hands. Here was a develop-
ment which must affect the British trading posts on the Gambia and
which might in time affect the trade routes leading to Sierra Leone
and the Gold Coast. Again, on the lower Niger, the penetration of
the interior markets by British ¬rms trading upriver in their own
steamers had reached a stage at which, to go farther, it was neces-
sary for them to come together and form a single company with a
monopoly over the trade. Only by this means could the essential in-
stallations be afforded and a united front be maintained in dealing
with the powerful Fulbe emirates of the interior. By 1879, George
Goldie amalgamated the British ¬rms trading up the Niger River,
only to ¬nd himself facing competition from French traders. This
he dealt with in a characteristically ruthless fashion by undercutting
120 Africa since 1800

their prices at a loss to himself and so forcing them to sell out their in-
terests to his own company. Thus, the French were left feeling that,
for the future at least, their commercial companies must be given
political support.

The Entry of New Powers

Already, in the early 1870s, Britain and France had considered parti-
tioning West Africa into ˜spheres of in¬‚uence™, in each of which only
the ¬rms of one country would be allowed to trade. It had been sug-
gested by the French that the Gambia should be given to France in
exchange for British control over the coastline from Sierra Leone to
Mount Cameroun. The scheme had fallen through in 1875, but, had
it not been for the intervention of other European powers, it would
probably have been revived in the 1880s so as to leave the French in
control of the upper Niger and the waterways leading to the Upper
Guinea coast, and the British in control of the lower Niger and the
coastlands of Lower Guinea. In the early 1880s, however, the slow


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