. 4
( 12)


movement towards an Anglo“French partition of West Africa, arising
from the commercial penetration of the interior, was both speeded
up and complicated by the appearance on the African scene of two
new European powers which had not previously shown any great in-
terest in Africa. The result of these interventions was to force all the
European powers, including France and Britain, to look far beyond
their immediate economic needs. What each power feared was that
its rivals would keep the trade of their new colonies to themselves by
enclosing them within high tariff (or customs) barriers. Therefore,
each power felt compelled to enter the scramble for territory in order
to reserve the largest possible sphere for its own future activities.

King Leopold and the Congo
The ¬rst of these newcomers was an individual rather than a nation
state. It was Leopold II, King of Belgium, a little country situated
uncomfortably between the European giants, France and Germany.
The Belgian people did not share the expansionist dreams of their
ruler. As early as 1861, Leopold had written, ˜The sea bathes our
coast, the world lies before us. Steam and electricity have annihilated
15. Europe at the time of the partition of Africa.
122 Africa since 1800

distance. All the non-appropriated lands on the surface of the globe
(mostly in Africa) can become the ¬eld of our operations and our
success™. Leopold was a master diplomat, a man of boundless ambi-
tion and, in his younger days, he had a genuine idealism “ a belief
in human progress and in the need to improve the conditions of less
privileged peoples. As he grew older, his idealism was largely sub-
merged by a growing love of wealth and power. As we saw in Chapter
6, Leopold™s opportunity came when Stanley™s schemes for the open-
ing up of the Congo basin, which the explorer had formed after his
descent of the river in 1877, were rejected by the British government.
In 1879, Leopold took Stanley into his service. During the next four
years, Stanley established road and river communications from the
Congo estuary to Stanley Falls (Stanleyville, Kisangani). Leopold on
the Congo, like Goldie on the Niger, was aiming at a commercial
monopoly, which would attract all the trade of the Congo basin into
his own river steamers and his own railway from Lake Malebo to the
Leopold did not at this stage attempt to obtain treaties of
sovereignty or legal possession from the African rulers of the lower
Congo area. He relied on his own mastery of the lines of commu-
nication. The immediate effect of his operations, however, was to
stimulate the competition of a rival French group, whose agent,
Savorgnan de Brazza, returned to Europe in the summer of 1882
with a treaty signed by Makoko, chief of the Bateke country on
the northern shores of Lake Malebo. This treaty placed his terri-
tory under French sovereignty. De Brazza toured France, stirring up
imperialist sentiment so successfully that he persuaded the French
government both to ratify his treaty with Makoko and to set in mo-
tion a large programme of treaty-making and annexation along the
Nigerian coast. This, in turn, led the British government to join in the
race for Nigerian territory and forced King Leopold to seek treaties
granting sovereign rights in the lower Congo area. The scramble for
West and Western Central Africa had thus begun in earnest.
Once he had started upon territorial annexation, King Leopold
skilfully prepared the way for international recognition of his claim
to rule the Congo basin. He persuaded the French government to
support him by a secret promise that the territory should revert to
France if he himself should prove unable to govern it. He also gained
The Partition of Africa on Paper, 1879--1891 123

the support of the German chancellor, Bismarck, just at the moment
when Germany herself was about to enter the colonial ¬eld. To En-
glish merchants, he held out tempting hopes of valuable contracts
and, with their help, he broke down the British government™s plan
to bar his access to the Congo by recognising Portuguese claims of
sovereignty over the river mouth. Finally, his American secretary,
Sanford, persuaded the United States to join France and Germany
in giving recognition to the Congo Free State.

Germany Enters the Scramble, 1883“1885
During the 1850s and 1860s, a great political and economic rev-
olution had taken place in Germany, in which most of the inde-
pendent states whose peoples spoke the German language became
united around the north German state of Prussia, under the leader-
ship of Bismarck. The basis of political uni¬cation was a customs
union which enabled Germany to embark upon industrialisation.
This combination of political amalgamation or uni¬cation and mod-
ern industrial growth resulted in the emergence of a great power in
Europe. By the 1870s, the new Germany was able to rival France mil-
itarily and Britain industrially. The former rivalry led to the Franco“
Prussian war of 1870“1, in which France was overwhelmed and lost
the frontier provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. In both
France and Germany, some political groups turned from this war to
thoughts of colonial expansion: the French as a form of compensa-
tion for the humiliation of defeat, the Germans out of the realisation
of newfound strength. For a long time yet, Bismarck personally re-
fused to take any outward interest in the colonial question. It was
left to merchant groups in the northern German ports to stir up
a national demand for colonies. These groups succeeded so well,
however, that from 1883 to 1885, Bismarck “ suddenly changing
his attitude “ was able to take the diplomats of Europe by surprise
in declaring German protectorates in four widely scattered parts of
Africa“Togo: Cameroun (known to the Germans as Kamerun), East
Africa, and South-West Africa.
Germany™s bid for colonies was not based on any substantial inter-
est that had built up in Africa beforehand. It was a simple assertion
of her new position among the world powers. There is much truth in
16. Africa on the eve of partition: African states and European settlements.
126 Africa since 1800

the view that Bismarck himself took part in the scramble mainly in
order to dominate the international politics of the European powers
which were connected with it. He wanted to turn French ambitions
away from the recovery of her lost provinces, and the best way to
do so was to involve her in rivalries with other powers for overseas
territories. He, therefore, supported French claims in West Africa
and the Congo basin and made his own African annexations in places
which would threaten British claims rather than French ones.
It was now that Britain™s peculiar position in Egypt became of
such vital signi¬cance in the diplomacy of partition. The British
occupation of Egypt, it will be remembered (see Chapter 3), had been
planned as a joint Anglo“French operation to crush Urabi Pasha™s re-
volt and to restore the authority of Khedive Taw¬q. It was originally
intended to be only a temporary intervention and, therefore, nothing
was done to alter the control of Egypt™s ¬nances by the International
Debt Commission. British rule in Egypt was thus dependent at every
turn on the goodwill of the commission, on which, since French
opposition to the continued British occupation was certain, the
German vote was of the utmost importance. Bismarck, throughout
the vital years of the participation, supported British rule in Egypt.
His price was British acceptance of Germany™s new annexations and
of his support of the claims of France and King Leopold to the north
and south of the lower Congo.
It was Bismarck, therefore, who dominated the ¬rst round of the
scramble, which came to an end at the Berlin Conference (1884“5).
The conference prepared the way for newcomers to the African scene
by requiring that claims to colonies or protectorates on any part of
the African coastline should be formally noti¬ed to the other pow-
ers taking part in the conference, and by insisting that such claims
must be backed by the establishment of an effective degree of au-
thority in the areas concerned. This put an end to the British idea of
informal empire. The conference also decreed that there should be
freedom of navigation on the Niger and the Congo “ thus, in theory
frustrating British attempts to close the Niger against the French
and the Congo against King Leopold. The years 1883“5, therefore,
saw Britain checked, surprised, or forestalled in one part of Africa
after another. The former large sphere of British in¬‚uence in Lower
Guinea was now broken up by a French protectorate in Dahomey
The Partition of Africa on Paper, 1879--1891 127

(B´ nin) and two German protectorates in Togo and Cameroun. The
Congo and the Gabon coast, where British trade had ¬‚ourished for
so long, was divided between France and King Leopold. The unity of
the southern African coastal regions, so long dominated by Britain,
was broken by a German protectorate in the south-west. The Merina
kingdom on Madagascar had signed a treaty with France, despite
the fact that British missionary in¬‚uence had been an outstanding
feature in the island since the 1830s. And the old area of informal
empire exercised through the sultan of Zanzibar in East Africa was
shattered by the German annexations in the interior from Dar es
Salaam. As bases from which Britain could build afresh, there re-
mained only Egypt, the scattered possessions in West Africa, and
the self-governing Cape Colony and Natal in the south.

Lord Salisbury and the Restoration of British Initiative,
The revival of British fortunes in Africa, and their conversion to
the new conditions of formal as opposed to informal empire, was
largely the work of Lord Salisbury. Salisbury was prime minister of
Britain from 1885 to 1892, and rivalled even Bismarck as a master of
diplomacy. His ¬rst act was to open a way for northward expansion
from the Cape Colony by declaring a protectorate over Bechuanaland
(now Botswana), the primarily desert area between German South-
West Africa and the independent Boer republic of the Transvaal (then
known as the South African Republic). This action was to gain in-
creased signi¬cance from the discovery in the following year (1886)
of the vast gold deposits of the Witwatersrand in the Transvaal. Al-
though these were in Boer territory, the exploiters were nearly all
English-speaking capitalists from the Cape Colony and from Britain
itself. These British exploiters were led by Cecil Rhodes, who had al-
ready made a fortune in the diamonds of Kimberley. He shared the
common belief that ˜a second Rand™ would be found in the highlands
north of the Limpopo River, and was determined that Britain should
control this potentially rich area. Bechuanaland was his ˜Suez Canal
to the North™, up which in 1890 there travelled the ˜pioneer column™
of white settlers who occupied Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Salisbury disliked and distrusted Rhodes, but he was prepared to use
128 Africa since 1800

his great wealth and energy to help carve out a belt of British terri-
tories in the highlands between the Portuguese colonies of Angola
and Mozambique.
Salisbury™s second action was to rescue for Britain what remained
of East Africa after the German annexations of 1884. In 1886, he
negotiated with Bismarck a division of the area into two ˜spheres
of in¬‚uence™, following the present boundary between Kenya and
Tanzania. In 1890, by ceding to Germany the North Sea island of
Heligoland, he persuaded Bismarck to sign a comprehensive series
of boundary agreements, under which Germany recognised British
claims to Zanzibar, Kenya, Uganda, Northern Rhodesia (now Zam-
bia), Bechuanaland, and eastern Nigeria. In the same year, Salisbury
concluded a treaty with France in respect of the western boundary
of Nigeria, in return for British recognition of the French protec-
torate over Madagascar (which the rulers of the island did not ac-
knowledge), and in 1891 an agreement with Portugal in respect of
Nyasaland (now Malawi) and the two Rhodesias.
Thus, by the end of Salisbury™s period of of¬ce in 1892, although
many interior boundaries remained to be drawn, the broad outlines
of the European partition of Africa had been sketched out. The cor-
nerstone of Salisbury™s African policy was the continued British oc-
cupation of Egypt. As he himself recognised, the consequence was
that Britain should give way to French claims for the predominant
place in West Africa. German claims, too, had to be admitted in
the four regions where they had been staked. The British West-
African possessions were con¬ned to a modest extension from the
pre-partition footholds. The main British share in the partition had
to be found in a northward expansion of British South Africa through
Bechuanaland to the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, and in a slice of East
Africa stretching from Mombasa to the upper Nile. Salisbury realised
that Egypt, with British help, would soon be strong enough to un-
dertake the reconquest of the Sudan from the Khalifa and that the
¬nal extension of British power would take place in this direction.
Salisbury admitted in a memorandum to the British cabinet that the
slogan ˜all British from the Cape to Cairo™ was a rough expression of
his African policy as a whole.
It is important to remember that the outline partition accom-
plished by 1891 was, in large measure, a partition which existed
The Partition of Africa on Paper, 1879--1891 129

only on paper. Despite the insistence of the Berlin Conference that
claims to African coastlines must be supported by effective occu-
pation, most of the claims recognised by the powers were, in fact,
based on a few scraps of paper obtained by consuls and concession-
hunters from African chiefs who had very little idea of what they were
doing and whose authority usually extended over only a very small
part of the areas claimed. There was not a single territory in Africa
where anything like effective occupation existed at the time of the
partition. The ¬nal division of territories re¬‚ected not so much the
strength of European interests on the ground as the political power
of the claimants in Europe. The partition was nevertheless impor-
tant. It represented the deliberate intention of powerful European
states to carry their in¬‚uence into the innermost parts of Africa, as
they had already done in much of Asia, in the Americas, and in Aus-
tralasia. No one could doubt that they had the necessary power. The
fact that they acted with so large a measure of mutual agreement
that the partition did not cause an outbreak of war between them
was probably of bene¬t to Africa as well as to themselves.
TEN. The Partition of Africa on the
Ground, 1891--1901

European Con¬‚icts in Africa

The ¬rst stages of the partition, when European states were lay-
ing claim to coastal regions and navigable rivers and were de¬ning
on paper the boundaries running inland from these ¬rst footholds,
were accomplished with surprisingly little bloodshed and con¬‚ict.
The reason for this was that very small numbers of European
forces were used in Africa during this time. The ¬rst occupying
groups consisted of small, mobile expeditions of European of¬cers
or chartered-company of¬cials, accompanied by a few dozen lightly
armed porters, scarcely distinguishable from the expeditions of the
¬rst explorers. Africa itself was so immense that these ¬rst little
groups of Europeans seldom came into contact with each other.
Their attitude to the African peoples had necessarily to be that of
negotiators rather than conquerors. They entered into the local poli-
tics of every region that they came to, supporting the groups and fac-
tions which had some reason to be friendly and avoiding those which
were hostile. In the later stages of the scramble, however, toward the
close of the nineteenth century when forces were somewhat larger
and when the ¬nal, interior frontiers were being claimed, meetings
between rival European expeditions became more frequent. Colli-
sions occurred between the occupying forces and those of the larger
and more organised African states, which often fought desperately
for their survival. Numerically, the armies of these states often out-
numbered the European expeditions by many hundreds to one, but

The Partition of Africa on the Ground, 1891--1901 131

the superiority of European weapons was overwhelming. A single
machine gun could put to ¬‚ight a whole army of undisciplined men
armed only with ancient guns and spears. As it raced toward its con-
clusion, therefore, the scramble produced increasing bloodshed. At
¬rst there were small incidents in West Africa, in the Congo, and in
East Africa. Then came the French ˜paci¬cations™ of Madagascar and
Morocco, the war between Ethiopia and Italy, and the reconquest of
the Sudan. Finally came the deadly struggle in South Africa, in which
white fought white.

The French Advance down the Niger

After the Berlin Conference, the French took steps to consolidate
their possessions on the West African coast. By 1893, the colonies of
the Ivory Coast and French Guinea had been of¬cially established. In
the same year, French troops entered Dahomey (B´ nin) and deposed
Behanzin, the last independent king of Dahomey. Dahomey became
a French colony in 1900. The main French expansion in West Africa,
however, took place from the basin of the Senegal River. Here, by
1879, the French advance up the river had brought them into con-
tact with the empire of Ahmadu Sefu, the son of al-Hajj Umar (see
Chapter 5). Indecisive clashes between General Gallieni™s Senegalese
troops and Ahmadu™s forces continued for many years, but Ahmadu™s
empire broke up once its military power had been destroyed. The
French entered the upper Niger valley and captured Bamako in 1883.
A more determined opposition to French penetration was put up by
Samori, a Muslim Mandingo from the interior borderlands of Guinea
and the Ivory Coast. In a series of conquests begun in the early 1870s,
this warlord had succeeded in uniting under his rule most of the
peoples in the vast area between the sources of the Niger and the up-
per Volta basin. Samori became the hero of the ¬ercely independent
southern Mande peoples in his relentless opposition to the French.
Although his homelands around Bissandugu were occupied in 1891,
he was not ¬nally defeated and exiled by the French until 1898.
Samori™s resistance delayed, but could not halt, French penetra-
tion down the Niger. Timbuktu was taken in 1894 and Say in 1896.
Beyond Say, the French advance was blocked by the British in Hausa-
land. Once in control of the upper and middle Niger, therefore, they
17. European partition: Western Africa.
134 Africa since 1800

turned their attention to ¬lling in the gaps between the Niger valley
and their possessions on the coast. This task was completed by the
turn of the century. It was at this stage that frontier incidents with
rival British expeditions in the Nigerian and Gold Coast interiors
became frequent.

British Expansion in the Gold Coast and Nigeria

We have seen (Chapter 9) that Britain was prevented by the wider
pattern of the diplomatic partition of Africa from pressing claims to
a large consolidated area of West Africa. All it could do was to extend,
by effective occupation on the ground, its existing footholds in Sierra
Leone, the Gold Coast, and Nigeria. In the Gold Coast, the local sit-
uation depended on relations between the coastal ˜colony™ and the
Asante empire, whose outlying dependencies were detached from
their allegiance by treaty-making expeditions as a preliminary to the
military occupation of Asante itself in 1896. In 1898, the Northern
Territories, part of which had been tributary to Samori, were de-
clared a protectorate in order to forestall expansion by the French
from the north.
Britain™s occupation of Nigeria was more complicated and took
place from three different spheres. The ¬rst was from Lagos, where
the small island colony expanded into a protectorate covering most
of Yorubaland. The second was from the Oil Rivers, where British
consuls supported the Liverpool ¬rms in breaking the power of the
African middleman chiefs like Jaja of Opobo as soon as the chiefs
tried to make treaties with other European nations. The third was
from Nupe and southern Hausaland. Here, Sir George Goldie™s Na-
tional African Company, which in 1886 became the Royal Niger Com-
pany, had powers under its Royal Charter to administer justice and
maintain order. Goldie secured the friendship of much of Hausaland
by a treaty made with the sultan of Sokoto in 1885. Nupe and the
emirate of Ilorin, however, were invaded and overrun by the Royal
Niger Company™s army, the West African Frontier Force. Goldie™s of-
¬cers, notably Captain Lugard, were involved in incidents with the
French, who were advancing down the Niger and up from the coast
into Dahomey. Borgu was occupied only after a French expedition
there had been forced to withdraw. These military operations against
The Partition of Africa on the Ground, 1891--1901 135

a rival European colonial power soon proved too expensive and too
dangerous for a private company. In 1898, the British government
brought the charter to an end, and two years later (1900) took over
the control of northern Nigeria. British expansion continued in the
direction of Bornu and Lake Chad. Kano was occupied in 1902.

The French in the Central Sudan: Rabih

The French moved into the central Sudan from three directions:
from the Niger valley, from Gabon, and from Algeria. By about 1900,
expeditions from all three were converging on Lake Chad. Goldie™s
Royal Niger Company prevented the French from occupying any
but the northern desert fringes of Hausaland as they moved east-
wards from Say on the Niger. In Gabon, the French government
had begun to occupy the interior after the Berlin Conference and,
by the late 1890s, was in a position to start pushing northwards to-
wards the Shari River basin. Finally, in the wake of Captain Lamy™s
pioneer trans-Saharan expedition of 1898“9, the French began to
occupy the principal oases: Tuat, Tamanrasset, A¨r, and Zinder. The
nomadic Tuareg of the surrounding deserts, however, remained prac-
tically unaffected by the French presence until after the Second
World War.
The ¬nal resistance to the French occupation of the central Sudan
was put up by the Sanusi order from its forti¬ed zawiyas in the Bilma
region and, above all, by Rabih, an Arab soldier from Sennar. He had
earlier served the Egyptian government in the Bahr al-Ghazal. After
refusing to submit to the Mahdi, he had set off westwards with his
armed followers. He failed in an attack against the sultanate of Wadai
in 1887, but, by 1892, he had conquered Bagirmi and much of eastern
Bornu. Here, he set up a slave-raiding state, which disposed of its
booty along the Sanusi trade routes leading to Tripoli and Benghazi.
As the French closed in on Rabih from all sides, he ¬ercely resisted
their advance. He was ¬nally defeated and killed in 1900.

The Reconquest of the Sudan: Fashoda
Before the French had defeated Rabih, the British in Egypt had re-
conquered the Mahdist state, which appeared to be threatened both
136 Africa since 1800

by the Italians in Eritrea and by the French advance from the Congo.
To forestall such moves, an Anglo-Egyptian military force, trained by
the British commander Kitchener, moved into the Sudan in 1896. In
1898, this force defeated the Mahdist armies at the battle of Om-
durman, in which 20,000 Sudanese were killed. Khartoum then fell
to Kitchener. A week later, news reached him that a French force of
African soldiers led by Commandant Marchand had installed itself at
Fashoda, some 300 km (180 miles) farther south, after an incredible
march from Gabon, which had lasted nearly two years. Kitchener
hastened up the White Nile with a much larger force. The hostile
camps faced one another for several months, while telegraphic mes-
sages ¬‚ashed to and fro between the Sudan and Europe. In the end,
the French gave way, and Marchand hauled down his ¬‚ag “ but not
before France and Britain had been brought to the brink of a major
A brief mention can be made here of the last two territories in
northern Africa to be seized by the European powers. In 1911,
Italy launched an unprovoked, but not unexpected, invasion of the
Ottoman province of Tripoli, and the next year pushed from there
into Cyrenaica. Here, the Italian armies met bitter opposition from
the bedouin tribesmen who belonged to the Sanusi order. Their resis-
tance continued until the 1930s (see Chapter 14). At the western end
of North Africa, Morocco escaped European control until 1912, not
because of the sultan™s ability to oppose it, but because the European
powers quarrelled among themselves over which of them should
occupy his kingdom. Their disagreements twice brought Europe
within reach of war. Finally, the two powers most concerned “
France and Spain “ partitioned Morocco, Spain taking the smaller
northern portion. Germany was bought off by being given extra ter-
ritory in Cameroun. A French protectorate was declared over the
main portion of the kingdom, the sultan remaining as the nominal
head of his country.

East Africa and the Congo Basin

In East Africa and the Congo basin, the Arabs put up the main op-
position to the occupation forces of the Germans, the British, and
the Belgians. This opposition did not come openly from the sultan
The Partition of Africa on the Ground, 1891--1901 137

of Zanzibar. His capital would have been an easy target for the guns
of European warships, and he therefore had to submit gracefully to
the declaration of a British protectorate over the islands of Zanzibar
and Pemba in 1890 and to the partition of his mainland territories.
These were divided between the British and the German chartered
companies, which were beginning to occupy what is now Kenya, the
mainland of Tanzania, and Uganda. In 1886, the mainland territories
of the sultan were declared by an international commission to extend
only 16 km (10 miles) into the interior. The Germans then bought
the coastal strip adjoining their treaty areas for a lump sum, while
the British company leased the coastal strip of Kenya for an annual
payment. That is why, throughout the colonial period, the red ¬‚ag of
the sultan continued to ¬‚y over Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, and other
Kenya ports. It may also be the reason why there was no Arab revolt
in the British coastal sphere.
The active opposition from the Swahili Arabs came from two di-
rections. The ¬rst was from the German part of the coast. The second
was from the former slave- and ivory-traders scattered over the in-
terior from Lake Malawi in the south, around both sides of Lake
Tanganyika, and up into Uganda in the north. The movement prob-
ably stemmed from the attempt of Sultan Barghash to consolidate
his mainland dominions on the eve of European partition. With its
central leadership withdrawn, however, it exploded in a series of
local uprisings, which the Europeans dealt with one by one. The
sharpest of these struggles, though also the shortest, was that in
1888“9 between the Germans and the east-coast Arabs under their
leader, Abushiri. Longer and more intermittent was that between the
British and the Arabs of northern Nyasaland, which began in 1887
and was ¬nally settled ten years later. King Leopold™s of¬cials fought
their campaigns against the Arabs of eastern Zaire between 1891 and
1894. In Uganda, as in Nyasaland, Arab opposition to European pen-
etration, though strongly in¬‚uenced by the German occupation of
the coast, began while the only Europeans in the area were mission-
aries. This opposition was an aspect of the local political situation.
The local Christians supported the entry of European in¬‚uence; the
local Muslims opposed it. In the kingdom of Buganda, the Christian
factions prevailed and made Buganda the principal ally of the British
in their occupation of the region as a whole. The Arabs and the local
138 Africa since 1800

Muslim faction retreated into the neighbouring kingdom of Buny-
oro, which remained the centre of resistance to British rule. It was
¬nally conquered by the British with the help of Buganda levies in a
series of campaigns which lasted from 1894 until 1899 (see Chapter
The one country in East Africa which successfully resisted Eu-
ropean attempts at occupation was Ethiopia. The European nation
involved in this attempt was Italy, which had entered late into the
scramble. Italy had occupied a part of the Eritrean coast of the Red
Sea in 1883, and in 1886 had participated in the division of the sul-
tan of Zanzibar™s mainland possessions by staking a claim to the
eastern Somali coast. In 1889, immediately after becoming emperor,
Menelik signed with the Italians the Treaty of Wichale. This treaty
de¬ned the boundary between Ethiopia and Italian Eritrea. It also
stated in its Amharic version that Menelik™s government might, if
it wished, use Italian diplomatic channels for its contacts with the
outside world. The Italian version of the treaty used a slightly more
de¬nite expression, implying that Menelik had agreed always to con-
duct his external affairs through Italian channels. It does not seem
that the Italian negotiators deliberately intended to deceive Menelik “
certainly, they never intended to create a protectorate. Nevertheless,
it was on the basis of this phrase that the Italian Foreign Of¬ce two
years later noti¬ed the powers which had taken part in the Berlin
Conference of Italy™s claim to a protectorate over Ethiopia. Italy now
attempted to enforce this invalid protectorate upon Menelik, and
disputes between the two sides resulted in the war of 1896. The Ital-
ian army was decisively defeated at Adowa, one of the ¬rst battles
of modern times in which a non-European army beat one of¬cered
by, and partly consisting of, Europeans. Menelik turned from his
victory over the Italians back to his lifelong interest, which was the
extension of his kingdom to the south. Some of this country had paid
tribute to the Ethiopian kings of the late medieval period and had
been lost since the Oromo invasions of the sixteenth century. Mene-
lik™s conquests, however, reaching to Lake Turkana in the south and
to the ancient kingdom of Kaffa in the south-west, more than dou-
bled the dominions which had come to him by inheritance and mar-
riage. They made Ethiopia almost a participant in the scramble for
The Partition of Africa on the Ground, 1891--1901 139

18. European partition: East Africa.
140 Africa since 1800

The French Conquest of Madagascar

In the late 1880s, the Merina kingdom began to break up under
the pressure of French commercial and diplomatic in¬‚uence. The
prime minister, Rainilaiarivony, would not admit that the 1885 treaty
gave France protectorate rights over the island. The French consid-
ered it did. Acting under what they understood were the terms of
the treaty, the French in 1894 sent a large military expedition to
Madagascar. This expedition entered Tananarive the following year
and removed the prime minister. A de¬nite treaty of protection was
forced upon the queen. This foreign interference was the signal for
one rebellion after another throughout Madagascar. Pagans turned
upon Christians, blaming the new religion for the troubles which
had come upon the island. The people of the old Betsileo kingdom
rid themselves of the hated Hova domination. French military ac-
tions against these rebellions only made matters worse. At one time,
Tananarive was the only place the French could hold. In 1895, Gen-
eral Gallieni came from his campaigns in West Africa to conquer
(or ˜pacify™, as this action used to be called) Madagascar, which was
declared to be a French colony. Nine years of bitter ¬ghting passed
before all the peoples of Madagascar had been forced by Gallieni and
his second-in-command, Lyautey, to accept French rule. The Merina
monarchy was overthrown “ the last queen, Ranavalona III, exiled
in 1897. The French administered the island as a unit, thus complet-
ing the work of uni¬cation begun by Nampoina more than a century

Rhodes and Central Africa

The occupation of Central Africa was left by the British govern-
ment very largely to Rhodes and his British South Africa Company.
The company was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1889 and was
empowered to develop the region between Bechuanaland and the
Zambezi, which was later to bear Rhodes™s name. In 1891, the com-
pany was allowed to extend into the lands north of the Zambezi
which became Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). South of the Zambezi,
Rhodes™s agents had extracted concessions from Mzilikazi™s succes-
sor, Lobengula, on the strength of which a body of farming and min-
ing settlers was sent in 1890 into Mashonaland, where they founded
The Partition of Africa on the Ground, 1891--1901 141

19. Southern Africa: the European partition “ Britain, France, and Germany.

the Southern Rhodesian capital at Fort Salisbury. Farther north,
Rhodes™s agents raced those of King Leopold to secure possession
of Katanga. The result of this scramble had, in fact, been decided
beforehand by the international agreement of 1885, which ¬xed the
142 Africa since 1800

20. Southern Africa: the European partition “ Leopold and Portugal.

Congo“Zambezi watershed as the limit of King Leopold™s terri-
tory. Most of Msiri™s kingdom (see Chapter 6), therefore, passed to
Leopold. Msiri himself was shot by a Belgian of¬cer in a brawl aris-
ing from the treaty-making. The lands on the Zambezi side of the
The Partition of Africa on the Ground, 1891--1901 143

watershed became British and later proved to include a substan-
tial part of the rich Copperbelt. The only part of Central Africa ex-
cluded from the company™s sphere was Nyasaland (Malawi), where
British missionaries and traders, who were hostile to the British
South Africa Company, had been active since the later 1870s. This
part of the country became a protectorate under the direct control
of the British government in 1891.
The early years of the colonists™ settlement in Southern Rhode-
sia were a time of constant ¬ghting. There were unof¬cial wars be-
tween the settlers and the Portuguese on the Mozambique border.
The settlers had to conquer the Ndebele, who soon became thor-
oughly resentful of their presence in neighbouring Mashonaland. It
is not pleasant to read how the colonists deliberately provoked the
con¬‚ict with the Ndebele, but the war was probably an inevitable
consequence of the European settlement. Lobengula died shortly af-
ter his regiments had been defeated in 1893. The seizure of land and
cattle by the victorious settlers provoked both the Ndebele and the
Mashona to make a last attempt to drive them out in 1896, when
the Africans™ will to resist the white man was ¬nally broken by the
machine gun.

The Anglo-Boer War
Rhodes was prime minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. In
addition, he directed the activities of the British South Africa Com-
pany in the territories to the north. Rhodes had visions of uniting
the whole of southern Africa, including the Boer republics, as a self-
governing dominion under the British ¬‚ag. He talked of ˜equal rights
for all civilised men south of the Zambezi™. It would seem that what
he meant by this was primarily an alliance between Boer and Briton
to develop the wealth of the country and to promote more white im-
migration. The Boer leader, Paul Kruger, president of the Transvaal,
had very different ideas. He wanted a South Africa dominated by the
Boers, who would retain their own language, Afrikaans (which had
grown out of the Dutch of the original settlers), their old-fashioned
pastoral way of life, and their refusal of political rights to Africans
or to Cape Coloured peoples. Although glad of the wealth from the
Witwatersrand gold mines, Kruger was well aware that they were
144 Africa since 1800

21. Africa: the ¬nal stage of partition, 1914.
The Partition of Africa on the Ground, 1891--1901 145

being developed mainly by British immigrants into the Transvaal,
who might soon become a majority of the white population. While
taxing them heavily, therefore, he denied them the vote. On the other
hand, he used the wealth with which they had provided him to build
up his defences and his railway links with the outside world.
Rhodes tried to persuade the disgruntled immigrants (Afrikaans:
uitlanders) to stage a revolution and topple Kruger™s government. A
raid on the Transvaal from Bechuanaland in 1895, led by Rhodes™s
henchman Jameson, was a total failure, and no uprising occurred.
The raid ended Rhodes™s political career, but elements in the British
government which had been implicated in the plot were now de-
termined on a decision with the Transvaal. The British high com-
missioner in South Africa, Sir Alfred Milner, deliberately incited the
Transvaal to war. This broke out in 1899, and the Orange Free State
stood beside its sister republic. The Boer armies “ and after they
were beaten, the irregular commandos “ fought the whole might of
Britain with tenacity and courage for more than two years. Destruc-
tion was widespread, and casualties on both sides were very high.
Before peace ¬nally came, the Boers had been inspired with an even
greater bitterness against Britain and British institutions than they
had had before. For the time being, however, the whole of South
Africa was in British hands.
ELEVEN. Colonial Rule in Tropical
Africa: (1) Political and Economic
Developments, 1885--1914

T he colonial period in tropical Africa lasted for about seventy
years. The ¬rst thirty years of this period may be called the
years of establishment, the next thirty the years of active develop-
ment, and the last ten the years of retreat. In this chapter, we deal
with the years of establishment mainly from the point of view of the
colonial governments. In the next chapter, we shall try to look at the
same years mainly from the point of view of the African peoples, and
to consider the changes which the colonial period introduced into
everyday life.

The Policies of the Colonial Powers
Once Africa had been divided between them, the European gov-
ernments lost much of their earlier interest in the continent. There
were few parts of Africa which were expected to produce immediate
wealth. The European nations had partitioned Africa mainly in or-
der to ensure that they would not be excluded from regions which
might prove valuable in the future. Possession was what mattered to
them, not development.
At the end of the nineteenth century, European states took a much
narrower view of the functions of government, even within their own
frontiers, than they do today. European states of those days had, for
example, no public health services or old-age pensions and no pub-
lic housing other than the workhouse. In most European countries,
state education was still a recent introduction, and it was not yet

Colonial Rule: Political and Economic Developments 147

provided for all children. Taxation was much lower than it is today.
Government spending was jealously controlled by the elected repre-
sentatives of the voters, who were still, for the most part, the wealthy
members of each community.
It is not surprising, therefore, that it was felt in Europe that the
main duty of governments in the new African colonies was to main-
tain law and order, and to do so without expense to the European
taxpayer. Education on the one hand, and economic development on
the other, were left almost entirely to the private enterprise of Chris-
tian missions and commercial companies. Even the work of govern-
ment was sometimes delegated to chartered companies, which were
empowered to recruit their own of¬cials and police forces, to collect
taxes, and to administer justice. Where European governments as-
sumed direct responsibility for the government of their new colonies,
the most strict economy was practised. Of¬cials were few in number;
military and police forces consisted of ill-trained and poorly armed
local recruits commanded by a few European of¬cers.
Such governments were at ¬rst obliged to seek allies among their
new subjects by entering into the web of intertribal politics and by
aiding the friendly groups in their struggles with their traditional
enemies. Unfriendly groups were often left severely alone for as long
as possible. If action against such groups proved necessary, the small
colonial forces, aided by their native allies, often burnt the villages of
the resisters and seized their cattle. Such raids were continued until
the authority of the colonial government was recognised. Only as
local revenues were slowly built up from customs duties and head-
taxes could colonial governments afford to employ regular civil ser-
vices and police forces which could effectively occupy and admin-
ister the whole of the territories under their rule. In most African
colonies, this position had barely been reached by the time of the
outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
The gravest obstacle in the way of any kind of economic develop-
ment of the new African colonies was the lack of any pre-existing sys-
tem of wage labour which could be employed for public works such
as building, road-making, and porterage. In these circumstances,
nearly all colonial governments made extensive use of forced labour
and, in practice, this often meant turning a blind eye to local in-
stitutions of slavery and tribute labour so that ˜chiefs™ could supply
148 Africa since 1800

the labour demands of the colonial administrators. In nearly every
instance, this led to abuses. Nevertheless, in most African colonies,
a surprising amount was achieved during this period and a founda-
tion laid for the period of active development which was to follow.
By 1914, the construction of railways and feeder roads had opened
most of tropical Africa to some kind of wheeled traf¬c, with the re-
sult that cash crops could be grown and marketed pro¬tably. The
great number of small, tribal sovereignties which had been such a
barrier to almost every kind of progress had been amalgamated into
approximately forty separate territories, most of which were capable
of growing into modern states with suf¬cient resources to stand on
their own feet. The greatest bene¬t “ and that which impressed itself
vividly on the memories of most Africans who had experienced the
pre-colonial period “ was the relative peace and security imposed by
all the colonial governments, even the harshest and most arbitrary
ones. It was, above all, ˜the colonial peace™ which freed energies for
new activities and which made possible not only economic develop-
ment, but also the spread of the universal religions of Christianity
and Islam and the beginnings of modern education and learning. It is
against this general background that we must now consider the var-
ious types of colonial government which emerged in different parts
of tropical Africa during the period between partition and the First
World War.

West Africa: The Realm of the Peasant Producer

The distinguishing feature of this region was that the peoples of
the coast had been trading for more than three centuries with the
peoples of Europe. Among them, the demand for European goods
had become so deeply ingrained that, after the abolition of the slave-
trade, they had made the most strenuous efforts to develop for them-
selves cash crops which could be exchanged for the imports which
they had come to regard as necessities. This meant that colonial
governments in West Africa had one supreme advantage over gov-
ernments in other parts of the continent. They could begin to build
up their revenues by taxing an established trade. Even a light cus-
toms duty on imported spirits and ¬rearms could yield them the
revenue out of which to pay their ¬rst small bodies of of¬cials and
military forces. It could provide them with a basis on which they
Colonial Rule: Political and Economic Developments 149

could borrow money. It was this fact, far more than any climatic
differences from other parts of Africa, which caused colonial gov-
ernments to seek to establish their revenues by building up peasant
production rather than by trying to attract concessionaire companies
or private settlers with gifts of land. They had inherited an economic
system on which they could build. Most colonial administrations in
Africa would have liked to build their economies on peasant produc-
tion. In West Africa, conditions enabled them to do so. At the begin-
ning of the colonial period, even in West Africa, it was only a small
part of the region that was affected by the growth of a cash econ-
omy. The basic economic activities of the majority of people still con-
sisted in producing food crops, housing materials, fuel, and clothing,
mostly for their own consumption. Although this involved a consid-
erable amount of local trade and even some long-distance trade, the
way of life was still of the kind called by economists a ˜subsistence
economy™ as opposed to a ˜cash economy™. It has been estimated that
in 1900, such activities accounted for about 90 percent of Nigerian
production and 75 percent of that of the Gold Coast. Yet, in spite of
the predominance of the subsistence economy, the beginnings of a
cash economy were in existence and provided a growing-point for the

French West Africa

The most consistent pattern of colonial rule was that developed by
the French in their West African possessions. This was not the result
of any imperial plan thought out beforehand. It was due to the fact
that the seven younger colonies of Soudan, Mauritania, Upper Volta,
Niger, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Dahomey were all in a sense exten-
sions or offshoots of the old colony of Senegal. Access to the ¬rst four
of these was, at ¬rst, mainly through Senegal. In all of them, the occu-
pation was carried out by military forces, of which the backbone was
the Senegalese army trained by Faidherbe and Gallieni in the course
of their struggles with al-Hajj Umar, Ahmadu Sefu, and Samori in the
region between the upper Senegal and the Niger Rivers (see Chapters
5 and 10). The ¬ghting with Samori continued until 1898. Because
the French had become so accustomed to ¬ghting for the occupation
of their territories, they were less willing than the British to negoti-
ate with those African rulers who might have been open to such an
150 Africa since 1800

approach. The kingdom of Dahomey, the Mossi states of Wagadugu
and Yatenga, and other important states were broken up. The French
administrative units (called cercles) which replaced them were more
uniform in size and more directly controlled “ ¬rst by military of¬-
cers and later by civilian of¬cials “ than their counterparts in British
The economic policy of the new French West African colonies was
likewise based on the example of the Senegal, where Faidherbe and
his successors had made the colonial administration self-supporting
by encouraging the African population to grow ground-nuts on their
own farms. This meant that the Senegalese peasants had a crop
which they could sell for cash, with some of which they could pay
the head-tax imposed by the government. As the French armies ad-
vanced into the interior, the civilian administration set up in the
newly conquered districts at once sought to introduce similar cash
crops. Particularly high hopes were set on the development of cotton-
growing in the Niger basin. As in all other parts of the African inte-
rior, however, the biggest obstacle was the lack of transport. The ¬rst
railway, built by the military as a strategic link between the upper
Senegal and the upper Niger “ although adequate for the movement
of troops and supplies “ proved useless for commercial cargoes.
The railway terminals could only be reached by small steamers
of shallow draught, and even they could only make the journey at
certain seasons of the year. The dif¬culty of navigation on the Senegal
was overcome only with the completion of the line from Dakar to
Kay` s in 1924. The uncertainties of navigation on the upper Niger
remain to this day. In some coastal parts of Guinea, the Ivory Coast,
and Dahomey, there was some early development in palm-oil, cocoa,
and other forest produce. Here again, the opening up of the interior
had to await the building of railways, and this was not begun until
the early years of the twentieth century. Indeed, the railways were
only starting to make signi¬cant progress by about 1914. The earliest
cash earnings of the people of Soudan and Upper Volta were in fact
those of migrant labourers who went to seek work in the ground-nut
areas of Senegal and the palm-oil and cocoa districts of the Gold and
Ivory Coasts.
It was the problem of economic self-support which led the French
to federate their West African territories in a single unit, in which the
Colonial Rule: Political and Economic Developments 151

richer and more accessible regions could help to support the poorer
and more remote. In 1895, the governor of Senegal had been given
supervisory powers over his colleagues. This had been mainly in or-
der to secure military coordination at a time when French armies
were ¬ghting with Samori around the interior frontiers of Soudan,
Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. Under French laws passed in 1902
and 1904, at the beginning of the great period of railway-building,
all the West African territories were grouped under a government“
general situated at Dakar. This government“general consisted of the
governor“general, his of¬cials, and advisory councils. It took an im-
portant share of the customs duties levied in all the coastal colonies.
With this revenue, the government“general negotiated loans for rail-
ways leading to the interior. This meant, in the early days, that Sene-
gal and Dahomey were between them contributing three-quarters
of the federal budget of French West Africa, although to the great
bene¬t of the region as a whole.

British West Africa
The British West African territories presented, at the beginning of
the period, a rather confused appearance. Not only were they geo-
graphically separated from one another, but their longer and more
divided history also had left them under three different kinds of gov-
ernment. As explained in the previous chapter, there were the four
Crown Colonies of the Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast Colony,
and Lagos. In eastern Nigeria, there was the Oil Rivers Protectorate,
administered by the Foreign Of¬ce. And, ¬nally, in northern Nige-
ria, there was the territory administered under charter by the Royal
Niger Company. These differences, however, were not as important
as they appeared. The Royal Niger Company, as we have seen, surren-
dered its charter in 1898. In 1900, Northern Nigeria became a British
protectorate, the same year as eastern Nigeria was taken over by the
Colonial Of¬ce. Thereafter, the British West African colonies came to
resemble more closely than any others in Africa their French neigh-
bours. They resembled them, above all, in the fact that they were eco-
nomically based on the production of cash crops by African peasants.
They resembled them further in that the prosperity of the coastal re-
gions was used to build up administration in and communications
152 Africa since 1800

22. Africa: colonial economies and administrations.
Colonial Rule: Political and Economic Developments 153

with the interior. Moreover, though geographically much smaller,
the British West African territories had more than double the popu-
lation “ and perhaps three or four times the wealth, of the whole of
French West Africa. And, so, despite the lack of a federation between
them, they developed more rapidly than the French territories.
The Gold Coast moved fastest. Here, the great political problem
was the continued unity and strength of the Asante nation, which had
largely recovered from its defeat of 1874. Two more serious military
campaigns in 1896 and 1900 were fought before Asante would sub-
mit to the authority of the British colonial government. Even before
the ¬nal defeat of the Asante, deep mining for gold by British compa-
nies had begun in Adansi and in parts of southern Asante which had
been annexed by Britain after the war of 1874. Mining provided the
impulse for the construction of the ¬rst railway in the colony, which
reached the gold-mining district of Tarkwa from Sekondi by 1901.
At the end of the nineteenth century, gold exports from the Gold
Coast were actually falling, from a value of some £80,000 in 1897
to £22,000 in 1901. After the railway reached Tarkwa, the value rose
rapidly: £97,000 in 1902, £255,000 in 1903, £1,165,000 in 1907, and
£1,687,000 in 1914. Within a few years of its extension to Kumasi
in 1903, to ensure military and political control over Asante, the sec-
ond great signi¬cance of the railway proved to be its opening up of
the forest region, ¬rst to rubber-tapping and then to cocoa-farming.
In 1901, the value of cocoa exported from the colony was £43,000;
it was £95,000 in 1902, £515,000 in 1907, and £2,194,000 in 1914.
By that year, cocoa amounted to 49 percent of all exports, and co-
coa alone was already paying for all the Gold Coast™s exports. The
exportation of timber, worth £169,000 in 1907, also resulted from
the building of the railway. Cocoa, gold, and timber made the Gold
Coast, by 1914, the most prosperous of all the African colonies.
In Nigeria, as in the rest of West Africa, it was the peasant produc-
ers of the coastal regions who, by the customs duties levied on their
imports even more than by their direct taxes, provided the revenues
out of which colonial administration and a modern system of com-
munications were gradually extended over the interior. The Lagos
protectorate in the south-west and the protectorate of Southern
Nigeria (the old Oil Rivers) in the south-east were amalgamated in
1906 as the self-supporting colony of Southern Nigeria. The North,
154 Africa since 1800

meanwhile, with its vast population, remained cut off from access
to world markets save by the long and precarious line of river com-
munications on the Niger and the Benue. The colonial administra-
tion there, despite continuing grants-in-aid from the British Trea-
sury, was able to maintain itself only by making the utmost use of
the existing Fulbe system of government. Under British overrule,
the Fulbe emirs continued to police, tax, and administer justice to
their Hausa subjects, while accepting advice from British residents
posted at their courts. The system worked, but it was scarcely pro-
gressive. Even Lugard, the ¬rst governor of the North (1900“6), who
was responsible for the system, realised that Northern Nigeria could
be modernised only when it had been politically amalgamated with
the South and linked by railways with the coast. Lugard returned to
Nigeria in 1912, and two years later (1914) became governor“general
of the whole territory. By this time, the differences between north and
south had hardened too much to be easily eliminated. Nevertheless,
the administrative uni¬cation of the country marked a great step

The Realm of the Concessionaire Company: France and
King Leopold in the Congo Basin
The region of Africa drained by the Congo and its tributaries was, as
we have already seen, a very different one from West Africa. At its
heart was the equatorial rain forest, inhabited sparsely by Africa™s
most isolated and, therefore, least developed peoples. The denser
and more complex societies of the area lived around the rim of the
river basin. Their former trading links had been in some cases north-
wards to Libya and Egypt, in some cases eastwards to the Zanzibar
coast, in some cases westwards to Portuguese Luanda. Before the
coming of river-steamers in the 1880s, little trade had passed by wa-
ter through the forest centre to the Congo mouth. Along the West-
ern Central African coast from Mount Cameroun to Luanda, the
trade established in the nineteenth century had been disrupted by
the activities of the Free State of¬cers on the lower Congo and of the
French in Gabon. There was no worthwhile exchange of European
manufactures against African produce on which the colonisers could
Colonial Rule: Political and Economic Developments 155

build, as they had been able to do in West Africa. No government
could support itself by levying customs on the trade passing through
Boma or Libreville, still less raise a loan for the building of railways
round the Congo cataracts or south from the upper Kasai to Katanga.
The ¬nance required for such projects was ˜risk capital™, which had
to be attracted by the possibility of large long-term gains in order
to offset the lack of immediate returns. In these circumstances, the
time-honoured solution was that followed in railway development in
North and South America “ private capital was attracted by grants
of land and mineral rights in the area to be opened up.
Such was, in fact, the origin of the system of concessionaire com-
panies which was to become the distinguishing feature of the colo-
nial history of this region. In 1886, King Leopold made the ¬rst
contract of this kind with the Compagnie du Congo pour le Com-
merce et l™Industrie (CCCI), under which the company agreed to
build a railway around the lower Congo rapids from Matadi to
Leopoldville, in exchange for which it could claim 1,500 hectares
(slightly more than 14 square kilometres) for every kilometre of line
constructed. Thus, the lower Congo railway alone involved the alien-
ation of nearly 8,000 square kilometres. No sooner was it completed
in 1898, than similar contracts were made with two other compa-
nies. These organisations undertook to build railways from the upper
Congo to Lake Tanganyika and from the limit of navigation on the
Kasai to the heart of Katanga. A variation on the railway concession
was that given in 1891 to the Compagnie du Katanga. This was at
the time when Rhodes was threatening to overrun Katanga from the
south and when King Leopold could not himself afford to under-
take the effective occupation of the region. He, therefore, chartered
the Katanga Company to do so in exchange for one-third of the
vacant lands and mineral rights in the area.
All the land conceded in this way was, in theory, ˜waste land™,
the villages of the Congolese and the land actually under cultiva-
tion by them being excluded. But because land was useless without
labour, every form of pressure was put upon the local inhabitants to
work for the concessionaire companies. The worst abuses occurred
during the period from about 1895 to 1905, when the invention of
pneumatic rubber tyres for bicycles and motorcars was causing a
156 Africa since 1800

great demand for rubber. In the long term, this demand was met
by the development of rubber plantations in South-East Asia. While
the boom in wild rubber lasted, however, very large pro¬ts indeed
were made by the concessionaire companies in the Congo. In the-
ory, these companies employed “ but in practice compelled “ their
Congolese neighbours to tap rubber in the forests, usually for token
rewards. The pro¬ts secured in this way aroused the greed of King
Leopold, who took over and managed himself large areas of Crown
land. Other areas he leased to private companies on a pro¬t-sharing
basis. The system proved so attractive that it spread into French
Equatorial Africa. Here, the French government saw in it a means
of reducing the large annual de¬cits which had been accumulating
since the beginning of colonial rule. In both territories, the worst
abuses of the system were brought to an end between 1906 and 1910,
when the end of the wild-rubber boom coincided with an outcry by
international public opinion. In 1908, King Leopold was forced to
cede the Congo to Belgium. In an effort to provide a more direct
administration and to cut down expenses, France in 1910 joined the
four territories of Gabon, Middle Congo, Oubangui-Chari, and Chad
into the federation of French Equatorial Africa. This was modelled
upon the government“general of French West Africa. Its capital was
at Brazzaville. Both the French and Belgian governments, however,
had contracts with the concessionaire companies which they could
ful¬l only by leaving the companies in possession of large areas of
land and with commercial monopolies over still larger regions. The
Belgian Congo was further burdened with an enormous debt which
King Leopold had incurred by borrowing money on the Congo™s ac-
count and spending it on his palaces and other public buildings in
Belgium. The interest alone on this debt at one time absorbed nearly
a ¬fth of the country™s revenue.
Certainly, the foundation of colonies in the Congo basin presented
a very different problem from that faced in West Africa. The region
was a very poor one, and the people who lived in it had practically
no sources of income that could be taxed to pay for the expenses of
government and of modern communications. The only possible way
to create such wealth was to reorganise the labour of the people. In
a very crude manner, the concessionaire companies did achieve this
Colonial Rule: Political and Economic Developments 157

The Realm of the European Settler: Britain, Germany, and
Portugal in East and Central Africa
Like the Congo basin and unlike West Africa, the new colonies of
East and Central Africa had at the time of their occupation no trade,
other than the declining trade in ivory, on which colonial revenues
could be built. Unlike the Congo territories, however, these colonies
in East and Central Africa were mostly crossed by the chain of high-
land country running from the Kenya highlands south-westwards
towards the Cape. Here were some lands fairly sparsely occupied by
African pastoralists, on which Europeans could settle as farmers. To
colonial governments in search of revenue, a policy of limited white
settlement by Europeans who would act as employers and organisers
of African labour appeared as an attractive solution.
The German government was committed in principle to promot-
ing settlement for its own sake. Germany at the end of the nineteenth
century had a large and growing rural population, and German peas-
ants had been emigrating in the hundreds of thousands to the United
States for many years. One of the main aims of the promoters of
the colonial movement had been to enable such emigrants to settle
in German lands overseas. In German East and South-West Africa,
Cameroun, and Togo, settlers were encouraged to make claims. Land
was set aside for them, particularly in the areas destined to be opened
up by railways.
The British government in London had no such ¬xed inclination
to favour European settlement. In Southern and Northern Rhodesia,
settlement was promoted by the British South Africa Company. This
was done for two reasons. First, the idea agreed with the ideals of
Cecil Rhodes, that the highlands of Central Africa would make an
excellent home for English-speaking farmers. The second was that
land grants were a means of rewarding the occupiers, who would
otherwise have had to be paid out of company funds. But, in Nyasa-
land, where a protectorate government was established in 1891, and
in Uganda and Kenya, when these countries were taken over from
the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1894“5, governors were
left by the British government to solve their own problems in their
own way. It is remarkable that the Uganda Railway, completed from
Mombasa to Kisumu on Lake Victoria by 1901, was paid for by the
158 Africa since 1800

imperial government out of an interest-free loan, which was later
written off as a gift. In Uganda, after ¬ve years of mainly military ac-
tivity, the colonial government settled its account with its Baganda al-
lies by signing a special agreement with them in 1900. This turned the
Baganda chiefs into a land-owning aristocracy and gave the Buganda
state a degree of recognition which would have made a policy of
European settlement almost impossible to carry out. The Baganda
responded to the situation by taking up the cultivation of cotton
on a scale which soon made the country independent of grants-in-
aid. Kenya, on the other hand, and also Nyasaland, were thought to
present revenue problems which could only be solved by encourag-
ing settler plantations.
The scramble for Africa among the more powerful European na-
tions infused new life into the ancient Portuguese colonies of Angola
and Mozambique. New settlers were encouraged to leave Portugal
to become farmers in the interior of these colonies. The Portuguese
looked upon this colonisation by settlers more as a means of con-
trolling their huge African possessions than as a means of devel-
oping them. In many parts of Angola and Mozambique, the settler
landowner was more like a one-man concessionaire company than
was his British or German opposite number. On his estate, he col-
lected taxes and administered summary justice to his African ten-
ants, from among whom he recruited both his labour and his private
police force. This was feudal Europe of the Middle Ages surviving in
twentieth-century Africa.
The Europeans who settled in East and Central Africa during the
period up to 1914 were very few in number “ some 10,000 in what is
now Zimbabwe; some 3,000 each in what are now Zambia, Kenya,
Tanzania, and Namibia; probably not many more in Mozambique
and Angola; and only a few hundred in Malawi and Uganda. Sev-
eral thousand Frenchmen settled in the highlands of Madagascar
and formed the largest group of French colons in Africa outside the
Maghrib. Numerically, the European settlers were much less sig-
ni¬cant than the Indians, who settled in the wake of the colonial
occupation as artisans and petty traders all over East Africa and in
parts of Central Africa as well. The Indians settled in the towns and
villages and lived by their own labour. The Europeans, on the other
hand, settled in competition with the Africans, on the land, and lived
Colonial Rule: Political and Economic Developments 159

as employers of African labour. Even so, only small areas were di-
rectly affected, and most of the areas of dense African population “
for example, those around Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi “ were
untouched. Indeed, throughout the greater part of all these coun-
tries, African communities lived their lives and were ruled by the
colonial administrators on much the same lines as in West Africa.
Unlike West Africa, however, instead of being encouraged to add cash
crops to the subsistence crops grown on their own land, the Africans
were encouraged to earn the money they needed to pay their taxes by
working, usually as migrant labourers, on European farms. Like the
concessionaire company in the Congo basin, the European farmer
settler of East and Central Africa was at this time chie¬‚y important
for the part he played in reorganising African labour by bringing
some of it into the market economy. Politically and socially, as we
shall see in the next two chapters, the European settler introduced
much more confusion into tropical Africa than the concessionaire
company. Whereas the company thought mainly of its pro¬ts, the
settler was apt to think mainly of his children and grandchildren
and of the position they would occupy in society. This posed a prob-
lem which grew steadily more important during the years after the
First World War. It had then to be decided whether these parts of
tropical Africa were to be developed in the interests of the settlers
or of the indigenous inhabitants. The result was a series of uneasy
compromises, which we shall examine in Chapter 13.
TWELVE. Colonial Rule in Tropical
Africa: (2) Social and Religious

The Impact of Colonial Rule

The impact of colonial rule on African societies varied greatly, not
only from one territory to another, but also from one part of a ter-
ritory to another. To some extent, the reasons for this sprang from
their social organisation or the way in which they made their living.
For example, specialised pastoralists, like the Masai in Kenya or the
Herero in South-West Africa, found it much more dif¬cult to adapt
themselves to the wishes of colonial governments than most of the
peoples who lived by agriculture. Then again, warrior groups, like
the Ndebele of Southern Rhodesia or the Ngoni of Northern Rhode-
sia and Nyasaland “ themselves the colonialists of an earlier period,
found it more dif¬cult to work and pay taxes than their former sub-
jects, the Mashona and the Chewa. Much more important than the
sociological reasons, however, were the sheerly accidental circum-
stances under which each group in a particular territory made its
¬rst contacts with the colonial government.
There were people who gained from colonial rule. In nearly ev-
ery territory, there were ˜favourite peoples™, those who by good luck
or good judgement made common cause with the colonial power
and received privileged treatment as a result. To such peoples, the
colonial period brought at ¬rst no shame, but, on the contrary, ex-
tended frontiers, enhanced prestige, and a sense of prosperity and
achievement. In Northern Rhodesia, for example, the Barotse “ who,

Colonial Rule: Social and Religious Developments 161

under the in¬‚uence of the missionary Coillard had written to ask
for British protection “ received special treatment from the British
South Africa Company. Because of their readiness to sign treaties
and concessions, they were recognised as the overlords of a wide
surrounding region. By signing away the land and mineral rights of
the peoples supposedly subject to them, they were able to protect
their own country from most kinds of European interference.
In German East Africa, it was the Swahili people of the coastal
towns who were the most favoured by the German colonial govern-
ment. The urban Swahili were the ¬rst to experience the tactless
and oppressive rule of the of¬cials of the German East Africa Com-
pany. In 1888, a rebellion was organised against them by Abushiri,
an Arab sugar planter in the Pangani district, who recruited his fol-
lowers from the former armed guards of the interior caravan trade.
The result was serious enough to cause the German government to
revoke the Company™s charter and to undertake the suppression itself
with the aid of 600 Sudanese mercenaries recruited in Egypt. There-
after, the troops were moved into the interior, and a form of civilian
administration was devised for the coastal towns which was concil-
iatory to Muslim feelings and made use of traditional leaders. The
system proved so successful that the Germans decided to concen-
trate their whole educational effort on the establishment of Swahili-
speaking schools, in the coastal towns. From these schools, there
gradually emerged a highly privileged class of Swahili policemen,
clerks and interpreters, who assisted the German administrators and
accompanied them as they extended their activities from the coastal
districts into the interior. These people understood the new system
of government and were able to turn it to their own advantage in a
variety of ways.
In Uganda, it was the Baganda who ¬lled this intermediate role be-
tween the British and the other peoples of the protectorate. Baganda
armies fought alongside the British in many early campaigns and re-
ceived their reward in the extension of Buganda™s boundaries at the
expense of its neighbours. Far beyond even these extended bound-
aries, the Baganda accompanied the expanding protectorate admin-
istration and were employed for a time as chiefs in nearly every
district in the country. Buganda got in ¬rst with every colonial
162 Africa since 1800

improvement. The new roads radiated from Buganda; the ¬rst
schools and hospitals were built there; it was there that the ¬rst cash
crops “ coffee and cotton “ were grown.
In Nigeria, to take one more example, there were two privileged
groups: the Fulbe ruling class in the north and the already educated
townsmen of the coast “ Yoruba from Lagos, E¬k and Ijaw from the
city-states of the Delta, Ibo from the river ports of the lower Niger.
The Fulbe were early resisters who swiftly came to terms with their
conquerors and, in consequence, found their system of government
supported, extended, and made more pro¬table than it had been
before. The success of the coastal people was more like that of the
Swahili. They were the clerks, the merchants, the schoolmasters,
who accompanied the British administrators as they moved inland,
and who helped to transform the institutions of the Yoruba city states
and the Igbo village communities into a pattern acceptable to the
colonial government.
These then were the people who gained from colonial rule. Those
who suffered from it were, by contrast, those who, through ill-luck
or ill-judgement, or simply from an excess of patriotism, challenged
the colonial power and found themselves disastrously overthrown.
In Madagascar, many of the people who had long been hostile to
the Hova ruling group seized the opportunity of its decline in power
at the time of the French invasion. They rose against the Hova and
the French. However, the rebellions were put down with a heavy
hand by the French. The condition of many of these groups was no
better under colonial rule than it had been under Hova domination.
In Southern Rhodesia, ¬rst the Ndebele and then the Mashona very
understandably rose in an attempt to drive out the white colonists,
who were visibly settling down in their land and taking it over for
their own use. The result of the war of 1893 and revolts of 1896“7
was that most Ndebele and Mashona found themselves driven off the
land they had previously grazed or farmed, and herded roughly into
˜reserves™. Here, they had to start life afresh, often without their cattle,
often without even the support of their old social groupings, which
had been broken up as a result of warfare and ¬‚ight. A still worse
fate befell the Herero of Sout-West Africa, who in 1904 rose against
the German settlers who had been in¬ltrating into their land. Two-
thirds of the Herero were exterminated in the course of the German
Colonial Rule: Social and Religious Developments 163

counter measures. The Herero country was declared the property of
the state, and the survivors were forbidden to keep cattle, since they
no longer possessed any land on which to graze them. A handful
of refugees escaped into Bechuanaland. The remainder passed into
European employment.
Nowhere else in tropical Africa were settlement and resistance
quite so unfortunately combined. North of the Zambezi, the areas
required for European settlement were very small, and the earlier
inhabitants of those areas were either left where they were or, at
worst, moved only a few miles. The largest displacement was that
of the northern Masai from the central part of the Kenya high-
lands, and this was brought about by agreement, not by force. The
groups which suffered most by the colonial occupation were not
those who lost a small part of their land to settlers. Rather, they
were those who, for one reason or another, found themselves oppos-
ing instead of supporting the spread of colonial power. The Banyoro
of Uganda are a particularly unhappy example of this. These peo-
ple opposed the British mainly because the British were supported
by their traditional enemies, the Baganda. Between 1890 and 1897,
Bunyoro became a place of retreat for Arab and Swahili traders, for
Muslim Baganda, and for all those who opposed the pro-British,
Christian parties dominating the Buganda scene. These refugees
included the rebellious Kabaka of Buganda, Mwanga. Advised by
their Baganda allies, the British came to regard Bunyoro as ready
for conquest. When this had been carried out with the assistance
of Baganda levies, the British deposed the ruler in 1899, carved off
the outlying districts of his kingdom, and gave them to Buganda.
For ten years or so, the British even forced the Bunyoro govern-
ment to employ a number of Baganda chiefs in key positions. The
result of all this was a feeling of helplessness and frustration, which
lasted right through the colonial period and which made Bunyoro
the last district in Uganda to adopt any of the useful innovations
that came with British rule. Bunyoro had its Tanzanian counter-
part in the kingdom of Uhehe, its Zairean counterpart in the Lunda
kingdom of Mwata Yamvo, its Nigerian counterpart in the kingdom
of Benin, its French West African counterpart in the kingdom of
Dahomey, its Ghanaian counterpart in the kingdom of Asante, and
so on.
164 Africa since 1800

The basic question in the social and religious history of any par-
ticular African people at the beginning of the colonial period was
whether it was swimming with the tide of advancing colonialism
or against it. Eventually, no doubt, all African societies suffered a
great blow through the loss of sovereignty, as the colonial govern-
ments progressively established the effectiveness of their overrule.
In African societies, as in all others, the ultimate sanction behind
authority was that of religion. The religious sanction began to be
undermined as soon as the authority ceased to be absolute. Though
the ordinary man in the ordinary village might continue to live his
life much as before and to be ruled for all practical purposes by
the same village headman, it could only be a matter of time before
he realised that there had been a change in the ultimate authority
which controlled his life. Sooner or later a murder would be com-
mitted, and the accused and the witnesses would be taken, not to the
chief™s court as of old, but to the court of the colonial power, with
its strange procedures and punishments. Sooner or later the Euro-
pean district of¬cer would appear on tour, with the local chief very
much a subordinate in his train. There would be demands for labour
to build roads, for porters to carry luggage or building materials or
trade goods. There would be talk of taxes to come, payable ¬rst in
kind, but later only in the unfamiliar pieces of minted coinage. It
might be necessary to obtain this money by working for others or by
trading in markets far outside the tribal area. Against these demands
the tribal authority offered no protection and, therefore, its divine
sanction was slowly undermined.

Christian Missions and Western Education
At this point in time, the Christian missionary or, in some parts of
tropical Africa, the Muslim missionary, was fortunately available to
help build up again what had been broken down. As we have seen,
the missionary had entered most parts of tropical Africa ahead of
the colonial governments. At any time up to 1914, and in most places
long after, he would have been a much more familiar ¬gure, in the
rural areas at least, than the government of¬cial. With the coming of
the colonial period, his activities took on, almost everywhere, a new
Colonial Rule: Social and Religious Developments 165

lease of life. It is a remarkable and often overlooked fact that the
colonial expansion of the nineteenth century provoked among the
young men and women of Europe a response not only from those
who wished to rule, but even more from those who wished to serve,
in the backward places of the world. Missionary societies of every
denomination experienced a boom in recruitment and in ¬nancial
support, with the result that missions all over tropical Africa were
able to be strengthened very greatly during the years between 1890
and 1914.
The object of all missionaries was to bring African people into
membership of the churches to which they themselves belonged. At
this period, they at last began to be outstandingly successful in doing
so. All over the previously animist parts of tropical Africa, from about
the seventh parallel of north latitude southwards, Africans ¬‚ocked to
join the churches “ and not only to join them, but also to serve them
actively as evangelists and catechists and ordained ministers. Only
where Islam was already well established “ in Senegal and Guinea,
in Soudan and Niger, in Northern Nigeria and the Chad territories,
in the northern Sudan and in Somalia, and in the coastal belt of East
Africa “ did Christian propaganda encounter any serious resistance.
Only in these areas did Islam itself carry out a comparable expansion,
spreading from its town bases into the surrounding countryside and
consolidating itself through the development of Koranic schools and
religious brotherhoods. In southern Nigeria, Yorubaland, poised be-
tween the Muslim north and the Christian coastlands, experienced
both movements simultaneously.
The main means used by all the Christian missions in their evan-
gelism was to found networks of village schools in which children of
all ages could be given a very simple education in reading, writing,
and arithmetic alongside the religious instruction leading to baptism
and church membership. These ˜bush-schools™, as they were called,
were not impressive places architecturally. This description, written
in Northern Rhodesia in 1912, would have been typical of much of
Africa: ˜The school consisted of a fence of grass, 6 feet high, sur-
rounding a big tree, a few poles laid across short, forked sticks for
seats, and a mass of wriggling, youthful humanity™. A little later, a
school like this would probably have developed into a building of
166 Africa since 1800

the kind so well described by Bishop Kitching in northern Uganda,
which served as a school on weekdays and a church on Sundays.
Kitching wrote:

Imagine a rough shed, built of mud and wattle and thatched with grass. Very
likely it is leaning sideways and is propped up with extra poles at varied angles.
A few gaps left in the mud serve for windows and doorways. At one end the ¬‚oor
is raised a few inches by way of a chancel, and a pole or bamboo runs across as
a Communion rail. At each side a mud-walled enclosure does duty as reading-
desk and pulpit. On the inside of the roof hang innumerable hornet™s nests, and
possibly a few bats. On the walls, suspended from little pegs, are sheets displaying
the alphabet, or rows of syllables, some of them nibbled by intrusive goats or
fretted by the ubiquitous termites. Look in at about 8.30 in the morning, and you
will see groups of readers of mixed ages and sexes, seated on the ¬‚oor in front of
the sheets, saying over the letters or syllables in a sing-song voice. Somehow they
get the syllables memorised, and are promoted to reading consecutive print.1

Such were the beginnings of western education in tropical Africa.
The ¬rst instructors were, of course, European missionaries, but
the brighter pupils who emerged from the system were given further
training as catechists and teachers. As a result, education soon devel-
oped into a popular movement, in which foreign missionaries occu-
pied only the supervisory positions and in which most of the teaching
and evangelistic posts were held by Africans. These educated people
constituted a new and very real kind of leadership rivalling that of
the traditional chiefs. In the Africa of 1900“14, these mission teach-
ers were the men and women who understood and felt at ease in the
new world of the colonial period. To the tribal beliefs of their parents,
they had added a faith which they knew to be shared by people of all
colours and all climates. Their religion taught them that all men had
the same capacity for improvement in this life and salvation in the
next. They were not, therefore, cast down by the changes which con-
fronted them, but rather regarded them as opportunities to be seized.
The development of the colonial administrations, of commercial and
mining companies, and of European plantations “ all increased the
demand for clerks and skilled craftsmen, especially for those who
knew a European language. The mission school soon emerged as
a clear avenue for advancement, along which the ambitious could

A. L. Kitching, From Darkness to Light (London, 1935), p. 31.
Colonial Rule: Social and Religious Developments 167

escape from the narrow discipline of village life into a wider world
of well-paid urban employment.

The Birth of Nationalism

Part of the signi¬cance of the Christian missions was that, in their
religious as well as their educational work, they were introducing
Africans to the wider, western world into which they were now enter-
ing. They were showing them how they could succeed in that world.
They were helping to make them into good colonial citizens. At the
same time, however unconsciously, the missionaries were teaching
the Africans to weigh up and criticise the in¬‚uences of Europe from
within. During the earliest years of the colonial period, opposition to
colonialism had been the opposition of the least westernised groups,
whose leaders simply wanted to drive out the Europeans and re-
store the situation which had previously existed. From the mission
schools, however, there was beginning to emerge, even before 1914,
a new kind of opposition to colonialism. This opposition did not aim
to restore the pre-colonial situation. On the contrary, the aim of the
mission-educated Africans was to capture the political and religious
institutions introduced into Africa from the West. This they meant
to do either by taking over these institutions from the inside and
gradually replacing their European masters, or by imitating them
from the outside and establishing similar alternatives to the colonial
These mission-educated Christians were, in fact, the ¬rst real
African nationalists. Some of them believed that the way forward
lay in joining the churches planted by the missions and in seeking
the best employment they could get in the service of colonial govern-
ments and commercial companies. They hoped that one day, their
children or grandchildren would rise naturally into the controlling
positions. Others already believed that this hope was vain and that
it would be necessary for Africans to found their own independent
churches and to prepare for an ultimate and revolutionary challenge
to the colonial authorities. Either way, these new nationalists were
thinking in modern terms “ not in terms of a reversion to tribal
beliefs and tribal organisations, but in terms of Christian churches
under African leadership and of African successor states based on
168 Africa since 1800

the existing colonial territories and governed along western rather
than along traditional African lines.
A pamphlet written in 1911 by a Nyasaland African called Charles
Domingo gives a perceptive picture of the outlook of the more radical
of these early nationalists. Domingo wrote:

There is too much failure among all Europeans in Nyasaland. The three com-
bined bodies “ Missionaries, Government and Companies or gainers of money “
do form the same rule to look upon the native with mockery eyes. It sometimes


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