. 5
( 12)


startles us to see that the three combined bodies are from Europe, and along
with them there is a title Christendom. And to compare and make a comparison
between the Master of the title and his servants, it provokes any African away
from believing in the Master of the title.
If we had power enough to communicate ourselves to Europe, we would advise
them not to call themselves Christendom, but Europeandom. Therefore the life
of the three combined bodies is altogether too cheaty, too thefty, too mockery.
Instead of ˜Give™, they say ˜Take away from™. There is too much breakage of God™s
pure law as seen in James™s Epistle, chapter ¬ve, verse four.2

As one can see, Charles Domingo was not a highly educated man.
His ideas were simple ideas. His use of English was far from per-
fect. But what is interesting about him is that he was judging the
Europeans he had met according to their own professed standard of
moral judgement, namely the New Testament. He evidently did not
doubt that the Epistle of James represented ˜God™s pure law™, nor did
the people for whom he was writing. The conclusion he drew from
the failure of Europeans to practise their Christianity was not that
Africans should abandon it, though he realised that was a danger, but
that they could and should practise it better under their own leader-
ship. Charles Domingo and those like him all over tropical Africa at
this time represented the most westernised element in the colonial
societies. Even on the equator, most of them dressed in all the elabo-
rate ¬nery of early-twentieth-century Europe. In every aspect of their
lives, they were the pioneers of European taste and customs. The in-
dependent churches founded at this period were mostly even more
European in their ritual and procedure than the mission churches.
Yet, for all their imitativeness, these early African nationalists had

George Shepperson and Thomas Price, Independent African (Edinburgh, 1958), pp. 163“4.
Colonial Rule: Social and Religious Developments 169

learned one thing above all others from their mission education: they
wanted to run their own lives for themselves.
Although historians now know that opinions such as these were
forming under the surface, they were not, in the years before 1914,
much in evidence to Europeans who lived or worked in Africa at
the time. Only in the coastal towns of West Africa, where some well-
to-do merchant families had been educating their children in the
western tradition for two or three generations, were there newspa-
pers owned and edited by Africans which made a habit of exposing
colonial abuses. Here, too, there was a sprinkling of Africans like
Sir Samuel Lewis, who had risen to the top level of the colonial civil
service of Sierra Leone, or James Johnson, the Yoruba bishop of the
Anglican Niger Delta Pastorate, whose opinions were far too pow-
erful to be ignored. Otherwise, the colonial governments, the mis-
sionaries, the settlers, and the commercial companies appeared to
be in complete control of their several spheres. Almost everywhere,
the ¬rst military stage of colonial occupation had been succeeded
by civil administration. Modern communications had penetrated to
most districts. Cash crops were being widely grown. Migrant labour-
ers were moving freely over long distances to various kinds of Euro-
pean employment. Taxes were being paid. At last, grants-in-aid from
the governments of the European countries were being steadily elim-
inated. Most Europeans imagined that the foundations of empire
were being laid down for a thousand years to come. To the extent
that they were aware of the mission-educated Africans “ the slowly
developing intelligentsia “ they wrote them off as an unrepresenta-
tive and unimportant minority. Even so great an administrator as
Lugard referred to them contemptuously as ˜trousered blacks™, from
whose exploitation the uneducated majority must be protected for
a long time to come. The eyes of the colonial administrations were
¬xed on the traditional chiefs and the old social hierarchy, whose in-
¬‚uence they were unconsciously doing so much to destroy by their
patronage. They ignored the new men and women, on whom the
future of Africa was really to depend.
THIRTEEN. The Inter-War Period,

The War and the Mandates System

The First World War, fought between 1914 and 1918, marked an im-
portant turning point in the history of the tropical African territories.
Before the war these colonies had been backwaters, each connected
with the mainstream of world events only through the single channel
linking it to one or another of the colonial powers. There had been
little overall policy. Each colony had been thought of as a separate
problem, and mainly as a problem of economic self-support. After
the war, things moved faster. Most African colonies were by now suf-
¬ciently established to be able to think of more than mere survival.
Their revenues were beginning to show modest surpluses over the
bare cost of law and order. Colonial governments were able for the
¬rst time to contemplate expenditure on education, on health, on
agricultural and veterinary services, and on economic development
of various kinds. After the war, too, colonial powers started to take
their colonial responsibilities more seriously. They tried to work out
consistent policies for the African colonies. They developed within
their colonial ministries important specialist departments and advi-
sory services designed to assist all the colonial governments under
their control. This increasing centralisation did much to break down
the previous isolation of individual territories.
The war also made the colonial powers somewhat responsible to
international opinion. The former German colonies were divided
among the victor nations. Britain took most of the former German

The Inter-War Period, 1918--1938 171

East Africa as Tanganyika Territory, and Belgium the remainder as
Ruanda“Urundi. South Africa took the former German South-West
Africa, and France and Britain each took adjoining parts of Camer-
oun and Togo (the British called their part ˜Togoland™; the French,
˜Togo™). The changes were not outright annexations in the manner
of the original partition. In the hope of avoiding further con¬‚icts,
the victorious powers had set up an international authority, the
League of Nations. Largely on the initiative of the American pres-
ident Woodrow Wilson, it was agreed that those powers taking over
German colonies should do so as ˜mandatories™ of the League. Those
undertaking the task were required to recognise that the interests
of the population concerned must have equal weight with those of
the administering power. In spite of the lead taken by Wilson, the
U.S. Congress would not agree to America joining the League. This
gravely weakened the organisation from the very start of its life. Nev-
ertheless, with strong British support, the establishment of a Man-
dates Commission of the League went forward. The mandatories
agreed to govern their territories as ˜a sacred trust of civilisation™
until such time as they were ˜able to stand on their own feet in the
strenuous conditions of the modern world™. Annual reports on each
of the mandated territories had to be sent to the League at its head-
quarters at Geneva in Switzerland and, in the Mandates Commission
of the League, it was possible for international opinion to have some
in¬‚uence on the policy of the mandatory powers.

The Dual Policy in British Africa

In practice, it turned out to be the mandatory powers themselves who
tended to dominate the Commission™s meetings. This was signi¬cant
because it showed that these powers were not merely concerned with
defending their actions in the mandated territories, but were also
seeking a defensible policy of colonialism which could be applied
to all their overseas possessions. Foremost among these practical
thinkers about colonialism was Lord Lugard, who had ended his ca-
reer as colonial administrator and had become the principal British
representative on the Mandates Commission. In 1922, he published
a book called The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, which
172 Africa since 1800
The Inter-War Period, 1918--1938 173

inspired a whole generation of colonial administrators and was ac-
cepted as a guide by politicians and civil servants in Britain. Lugard
started from the doctrine that a colonial power had a double re-
sponsibility: on the one hand to the colonial peoples under its rule
and on the other hand to the outside world. To the colonial peo-
ples, it owed material and moral advancement leading ultimately to
self-government. To the outside world, it had the obligation to see
that the natural resources of its colonies were developed and that
they found their way onto the world market. Lugard argued that,
properly balanced, these two obligations need not con¬‚ict with one
another. To secure a proper balance, it was necessary to ensure that
in the economic ¬eld as well as in that of government, the colonial
peoples were encouraged to do as much as possible for themselves.
In the ¬eld of government, Lugard prescribed a general adoption
of the system of indirect rule, which he had ¬rst evolved in Northern
Nigeria and later adapted to the differing circumstances of the South.
Indirect rule meant government through the traditional chiefs. In Lu-
gard™s words, a colonial of¬cial ˜would consider it as irregular to issue
direct orders to an individual native . . . as a General commanding a
division would to a private soldier, except through his commanding
of¬cers™.1 At the same time, indirect rule was not just a system for
concealing the exercise of power by the colonial government. It was
basic to Lugard™s thinking, although not always to that of his fol-
lowers, that the traditional local government of the chiefs should be
progressively modernised. The aim was that it should be able to take
on more and more responsibility, especially ¬nancial responsibility
for the raising and spending of public funds. Under indirect rule,
taxes were collected by the chiefs, who passed on most of the money
to the colonial government for national use. The chiefs were, how-
ever, allowed to keep a proportion of the taxes for their own ˜Native
Treasuries™ and to spend the money on local needs and largely at their
own discretion. This expenditure included the salaries of local gov-
ernment employees, such as clerks, messengers, and policemen, and
also local public works, such as of¬ces, courthouses, dispensaries,
markets, country roads, and footpaths. Lugard looked forward to

Lugard™s Amalgamation Report, 1919, p. 14, cited in Margery Perham, Lugard: Years of Authority
1898“1945 (Oxford, 1960), pp. 469“70.
174 Africa since 1800

a time when the smaller traditional chiefdoms would federate with
their neighbours to form larger units. In this way, he imagined that
a class of people would eventually emerge with the experience nec-
essary to take responsibility at a national level.
In economic development, Lugard was once again insistent that
the largest possible place should be left free for the enterprise of
Africans in their own countries. He recognised, of course, that large-
scale and long-term economic investment, such as that required for
railways and harbours, was clearly beyond the scope of local com-
munities. Equally, he thought that projects of this kind were too
important to be left to outside private enterprise; therefore, in these
matters he was a strong and early advocate of state ownership. In
other kinds of large industry, such as mining, he saw a legitimate
¬eld for outside enterprise, though he stressed that not only colonial
governments but also local ˜Native™ governments should receive an
interest in the pro¬t. In the ¬eld of agricultural production, however,
he was a ¬rm opponent of the outside enterprise that was seeking to
establish plantations for tropical produce in the West African coun-
tries. These European companies used arguments such as those put
forward in 1924 by Lord Leverhulme when he said, ˜The African
native will be happier, produce the best, and live under the larger
conditions of prosperity, when his labour is directed and organised
by his white brother who has all these million years start ahead of
him™.2 Lugard in the 1920s regretted the policy of white settlement in
East Africa, which he had himself advocated in the 1890s. He saw it
had the effect of obstructing African enterprise of the kind which had
¬‚ourished so successfully under the West African system of peasant
production. That Lord Leverhulme™s United Africa Company was re-
fused permission to acquire plantations in any of the British West
African colonies was due very largely to Lugard™s in¬‚uence.

The Dual Policy in East and Central Africa

Obviously, the part of tropical Africa where the dual policy was hard-
est to apply was in East and Central Africa, from Kenya south to

Speech, cited in Michael Crowder, The Story of Nigeria (London, 1973), p. 264.
The Inter-War Period, 1918--1938 175

Rhodesia. Here Europeans had been encouraged to settle, and here
they were now claiming the right to take an increasing share in gov-
ernment. In Rhodesia, this process had indeed gone too far to be
stopped. When, in 1923, the British South Africa Company asked to
be relieved of its governmental responsibilities, effective power was
transferred to the 33,000 white settlers. North of the Zambezi, how-
ever, the British government was already by this time showing signs
of its change of heart. The policy adopted in 1918 of encouraging
demobilised army of¬cers to settle in Kenya had led, within three
years, to an acute labour crisis. During this crisis, the colonial gov-
ernment had instructed its administrative of¬cers to put pressure on
the chiefs to direct their subjects into European employment. This
led to such an agitation by missionaries and by the administrative of-
¬cers themselves that public opinion in England was aroused. When
the settlers pressed for further political powers in 1922“3, they were
resisted. In July 1923, the British government issued a White Paper
stating that

Primarily Kenya is an African territory, and His Majesty™s Government think it
necessary de¬nitely to record their considered opinion that the interests of the
African natives must be paramount, and that if and when these interests and
the interests of the immigrant races should con¬‚ict, the former should prevail.
As in the Uganda Protectorate, so in the Kenya Colony, the principle of Trustee-
ship for the Natives, no less than in the Mandated Territory of Tanganyika, is

The following year (1924), the British government sent an all-party
parliamentary commission under the chairmanship of one of Lu-
gard™s greatest admirers, William Ormsby-Gore (later Lord Harlech),
to investigate the guiding principles of British policy in East Africa.
In its report, the commission reaf¬rmed that there need be no con-
¬‚ict between the interests of the settlers and those of the native in-
habitants. White settlement should not be allowed to hold back the
education of Africans or their training in economic skills, especially
training in the best use of their own land. Though it did nothing to at-
tack settlement, the Ormsby-Gore commission envisaged a great ex-
pansion in the functions of colonial governments, in the building up
of health services, education services, and agricultural and veterinary

Indians in Kenya Memorandum (HMSO, London, 1923), p. 6.
176 Africa since 1800

services. All these measures were directed toward the African popu-
lation of the territories. It was this report which helped to set British
policy in East Africa in line with that pursued in the West.

Education in the British Colonies

In 1925, Ormsby-Gore, now under-secretary of state for the colonies,
summoned the governors of the West and East African colonies to
London. He ordered them to pursue a much more active policy of
education by entering into partnership with the Christian missions
of all denominations and by subsidising the mission schools on con-
dition that they conformed to the proper standards of ef¬ciency. This
did not result in a great increase in the total number of African chil-
dren attending school, which remained at about a third of those of
school age. But, of those who did attend, the great majority now
stayed at school for at least four years. And, from this time on-
wards, there were government inspectorates in every colony. Sub-
sidies were given only on condition that teachers were trained and
that the prescribed syllabuses were followed. In Muslim areas, like
Northern Nigeria, local-authority schools were set up and staffed by
government-trained teachers. As a result, during the fourteen years
from 1925 to 1939, the standard of primary education was much im-
proved, and the effects were felt over the whole ¬eld of employment.
The higher standards were noticed in government “ and especially
in local government “ in the churches, in commerce, in industry, and
in every walk of life where a little clerical skill and a little knowledge
of the world was needed.
More revolutionary still, however, was the progress made in sec-
ondary education. Here, the numbers involved were very small in-
deed. Nigeria was probably the only country in British Africa which
in 1939 had more than a dozen secondary schools. In most coun-
tries, the output was between 100 and 200 students a year. Never-
theless, it was these few hundreds of secondary school students who
demonstrated that tropical Africans were capable of ¬lling a wide
range of posts of skill and responsibility, for which it had previously
been thought necessary to import Europeans. With the exception
of a few West Africans from well-to-do families who had been ed-
ucated abroad, it was from this generation that there emerged the
The Inter-War Period, 1918--1938 177

¬rst professional men and women. There were doctors and veteri-
nary surgeons, the ¬rst agricultural and forest of¬cers, the ¬rst man-
agers of retail stores, the ¬rst secondary schoolteachers, and, above
all, the ¬rst educated chiefs and local government of¬cials. Not all
of these secondary school students, however, consented to ¬ll the
occupations intended for them by the colonial authorities. It was in
this generation that most of the leaders of the nationalist revolution
received their secondary education: Kenyatta, Banda, and Azikiwe
toward the beginning of it; Nkrumah, Tafawa Balewa, and Oginga
Odinga toward the end of it. It is probably true that, had the colonial
governments and the Christian missions not provided the means of
secondary education during this inter-war period, there could have
been no successful nationalist revolution until long after the Second
World War.

The French Policy of Association

If it was Lugard and Ormsby-Gore who laid the foundations of
British colonial policy between the wars, their French equivalent was
Albert Sarraut, minister of colonies in 1920“4 and 1932“3. Sarraut™s
outlook was very different from that of the Englishmen. It was less
respectful of the African personality and, yet, at the same time more
fraternal toward the African. Sarraut never talked of ˜allowing the
African to develop along his own lines™. His dominant thought was
rather that France and its African colonies must be kept as united
in peace as they had been in war. The key to his plan was the rapid
economic development of the colonies, to provide France with raw
materials and with markets for French manufactured goods. ˜Our
colonies™, he wrote, ˜must be centres of production, and no longer
museums for specimens™. Assimilation of Africans into French cul-
ture remained the ultimate objective, but no special effort was made
to hurry it on. In 1936, apart from the four coastal communes of the
Senegal with their 80,000 black citoyens (citizens with full political
rights), only about 2,000 out of 14 million French West Africans had
received French citizenship. The immediate emphasis was on ˜as-
sociation™, meaning the collective association of the French colonies
with France. Economically, the French empire was to become as cen-
tralised as it already was administratively. There was no thought that
178 Africa since 1800

any of the colonies would ever become independent. African chiefs
were merely the ˜agents™ of the French administration, and there was
no intention at all of allowing their powers to grow. Indeed, the top-
grade chiefs, the chefs de canton, were really of¬cials of the French
administration. They were normally chosen from among the more
ef¬cient clerks and interpreters in the government service rather than
on any hereditary principle.
It was, above all, in education that French policy differed from
British. Although a few mission schools received government subsi-
dies for exceptional ef¬ciency, nine-tenths of the formal education
given in French Africa between the wars was given by the state.
Moreover, all teaching was in French. The aim of education was
neatly de¬ned by one governor“general of French West Africa as
˜instruire la masse et d´ gager l™´ lite™ (give primary education to the
e e
masses and win over the elite). Primary education was given in ˜re-
gional schools™, of which there were by 1937 about eighty scattered
over French West Africa. There was a very much smaller number in
French Equatorial Africa. Secondary education was limited to ¬lling
the needs of the government service. Nearly all of it was given in three
¬rst-class institutions in Dakar. The best-known of these institutions,
both academically and for its output of later nationalist leaders, was
the teacher-training college called the Ecole William Ponty.
In the Congo, the Belgians pursued between the wars a policy
which resembled the French policy insofar as rule was direct rather
than indirect. In 1919, the colony was being administered in no fewer
than 6,000 separate chiefdoms (chefferies). By 1934, this had been re-
duced by amalgamations to some 2,500, but even at this ¬gure the
African chief in the Belgian Congo was scarcely even the equivalent
of the French chef de canton. Like his opposite number in French
West Africa, he was strictly the agent of the colonial government.
In the Belgian colonial service, as in the French, administrative dis-
tricts were much smaller than in most British territories, and the
administrative staff was larger. Control, therefore, was correspond-
ingly closer. In education, the Belgians, like the British, preferred to
subsidise mission schools rather than to organise a state education
service. Unlike the British, however, they subsidised only ˜national™,
that is to say Roman Catholic, missions. Even more severely than the
French, the Belgians limited schooling to primary education only.
The Inter-War Period, 1918--1938 179

Their stated aim was to bring forward the inhabitants of the colony
at a uniform pace, and so to prevent the exploitation of the many by
the few. Actually, as it turned out, the result was to leave the coun-
try with few effective leaders at independence and with not nearly
enough educated people to operate the machinery of government.

Colonialism and Nationalism

Although by the 1920s the tropical African colonies of all the Euro-
pean powers were being run at least partly in the interests of their
African inhabitants, developments were still dominated by European
governors, administrators, and commissions of inquiry. No impor-
tant decisions were made by Africans and, in a sense, there were
fewer Africans of importance in this period than there had been in
the period before 1914, when a few of the old leaders still survived
from the pre-colonial period. By the 1920s, most of these older men
were either dead or in retirement. Their places had been taken by
men who owed their promotion to Europeans and who tended to be
the ˜trusties™ of the colonial administrations. A small but important
number of educated men and women were leaving the secondary
schools, but they were still young and inexperienced, and they held
as yet only minor jobs in government and commerce. A very few
were able to study in Europe and America and became doctors and
lawyers; however, on their return to Africa, they were often not given
the status merited by their quali¬cations. Most such people consid-
ered that their attainments deserved greater rewards. Out of these
individual grudges emerged a more general dissatisfaction with the
way their countries were being governed.
The earliest political associations were formed, naturally, in West
Africa, where the coastal people had been in contact with Europeans
for centuries and where a tiny minority had enjoyed western educa-
tion for several generations. In Sierra Leone, the leading freed-slave
families and in Senegal, the Creoles (descendants of marriages be-
tween French men and African women) had taken part in local pol-
itics since the middle of the nineteenth century. In the Gold Coast
and in Lagos, small associations had sprung up during the early
twentieth century among the lawyers, doctors, and businessmen. As
early as 1918, a Gold Coast lawyer, J. E. Casely Hayford, founded the
180 Africa since 1800

National Congress of British West Africa, which spread to Nigeria
in 1920. The Congress demanded that Africans should participate in
the government. For the most part, however, the activities of these
early politicians were con¬ned to local affairs, and they had little
in¬‚uence on the colonial governments. In French West Africa, polit-
ical consciousness centred upon the four coastal communes of Sene-
gal, where the 80,000 citoyens had as early as 1914 elected a black
Senegalese, Blaise Diagne, to the Chamber of Deputies in Paris. In
1917, Diagne became the under-secretary of state for the colonies of
metropolitan France, and this helped to set the fashion that politi-
cally conscious Senegalese should join the political parties of France.
From about 1936 onwards, increasingly left-wing governments were
elected in France. Socialists and communists were now able to ob-
tain appointments in the colonies, especially in the education service.
As a result, considerable numbers of French West Africans joined the
French socialist and communist parties.
In the ¬eld of Pan-African politics, student organisations in Britain
and France were the chief means of turning local and individual
grievances into a true spirit of nationalism. Much of the inspiration
of these organisations came from the writings and activities of Amer-
ican and West Indian Negroes, such as Edward Blyden, W. E. DuBois,
and Marcus Garvey, who stressed the similarities in the conditions
of black people on both sides of the Atlantic. Under their in¬‚uence,
Africans began to think in terms of taking over control of the politi-
cal units which the colonial powers had created and of uniting them
after the manner of the United States of America or the Union of So-
viet Socialist Republics. Foremost among the student organisations
was the West African Students™ Union, founded in 1925 in London
by the Nigerian Ladipo Solanke. The Italian invasion of Ethiopia in
1935 added fuel to the growing ¬re of nationalist feelings. The de-
cisive event in the history of nationalism in British West Africa was
undoubtedly the return in 1935 of Nnamdi Azikiwe from his stud-
ies in America and his launching “ ¬rst in the Gold Coast and then
in his native Nigeria “ of a popular press. This was the most essen-
tial step in getting the political ideas of pan-Africanism accepted by
a mass audience. Soon after his return, Azikiwe helped to send to
America eight Nigerians and four Gold Coasters, all of whom grew
into key ¬gures of the post-war nationalist revolution. The most
The Inter-War Period, 1918--1938 181

prominent of this group was a young Gold Coast teacher named
Kwame Nkrumah.
Most of the West African politicians were men who had broken
away from their tribal backgrounds. They organised their activi-
ties in a European way, using newspapers and popular agitation.
These caused riots at times, but were essentially non-violent. In East
Africa, discontent with European rule still assumed a mainly tribal
form. The history of nationalism in Kenya, for example, is largely
the history of Kikuyu dissatisfaction and resistance. The numbers
of the Kikuyu were increasing rapidly. Their natural path of expan-
sion out of the forests around Mount Kenya was blocked by the
European settlers. Many became squatters and farm labourers on
European estates, while others left the land and joined the growing
numbers of unemployed in Nairobi. In 1922, a clerk in government
service, Harry Thuku, started a political association which drew at-
tention to these problems. He was sacked from his job and arrested,
whereupon a large crowd assembled in Nairobi and was ¬red upon
by the police. Thuku was banished to the remote Northern Fron-
tier District, but political groups spread widely among the Kikuyu.
When, in the late 1920s, some missionary societies attempted to in-
terfere with Kikuyu initiation customs, many teachers left the mis-
sion schools and formed an Independent Schools Association. Jomo
Kenyatta ¬rst came to prominence as secretary of the main Kikuyu
party, the Kikuyu Central Association, before he left to study and
work in Britain in the 1930s. When Thuku was released from deten-
tion in 1931, he formed a moderate party which quarrelled bitterly
with the Kikuyu Central Association. The Kikuyu were thus unable
to present a united front to the government and the settlers “ and
this, of course, suited the Europeans very well.
Although between the wars Kenya appeared to be almost the only
troubled territory in tropical Africa, the apparent calm that prevailed
in other colonies was deceptive. During the early 1930s, the whole
momentum of colonial economic and social policy suffered a grave
setback due to the world slump of 1929“31, which had a disastrous
effect on the prices paid for primary products and, therefore, on the
revenues of all colonial governments. Huge cuts had to be made in
all public services, including even basic administration and secu-
rity. In some territories, the number of government employees was
182 Africa since 1800

reduced by more than half. In the view of some historians, this was
the moment when colonial rule began to unravel, especially in the
urban centres that were just beginning to grow into towns. During
the later 1930s, with the gradual return of economic buoyancy, some
of the lost ground was recovered, but there is no doubt that, under
the surface, African society was changing rapidly, and not in the way
Lugard had hoped for. The ˜trousered blacks™ rather than the long-
robed chieftains were setting the pace. Africa was seething with new
ideas and new ambitions, making ready to exert its will in opposi-
tion to the rule of European governments. Still, without the added
ferment of the Second World War, it is very doubtful if the authority
of the colonial governments would have been challenged until very
much later than it in fact was.
FOURTEEN. North and North-East
Africa, 1900--1939

The Pan-Islamic Movement

By 1914, North Africa and the Muslim lands of the Horn of Africa
were all in European hands. Only Ethiopia clung to a precarious
independence. The variety of political and social conditions in this
region was staggering. The contrast between Somali pastoralists on
one hand and the wealthy citizens of Cairo on the other was extreme.
Yet, they possessed a common faith and a single cultural tradition
which set them apart from most of the people of tropical Africa. The
European powers had to adapt their policies and their methods of
administration to the institutions of Muslim society. These were too
deeply rooted to be set aside. Warfare and political con¬‚ict loomed
larger over these countries throughout the colonial period than in
any other part of Africa. Resistance to the loss of independence was
in¬‚amed by the intense religious hostility long felt by Muslims for
the Christian peoples of Europe. As a result, revolts led by shaikhs
and holy men continued until the 1930s, by which time nationalist
opposition organised on modern political lines had developed. Na-
tionalism, here as elsewhere, was in¬‚uenced by European political
ideas absorbed in colonial schools and metropolitan universities.
Throughout this region, it was in¬‚uenced also by the pan-Islamic
reform movement.
The pan-Islamic movement was a reaction against the relentless
encroachment of Christian Europe upon the lands of Islam. It be-
gan among groups of educated Turks in the Ottoman empire in the

184 Africa since 1800

1860s and the 1870s. The movement owed something to the exam-
ple of the uni¬cation of Italy and Germany, which was taking place
about that time. The ideas spread to Cairo, Damascus, and other
Arabic-speaking cities of the Middle East. The central argument of
the pan-Islamists was that the only way the Muslim world could sur-
vive in the face of European aggression was for all Muslims to sink
their political and local differences and to unite against the com-
mon foe. Political uni¬cation could only be brought about through
a thorough rethinking of the principles and practices of the Muslim
religion. Al-Azhar University in Cairo became the main centre for the
teaching of pan-Islamic ideas, in spite of the British occupation of
Egypt after 1882. To al-Azhar came students from all over the Muslim
world, including the Maghrib and the Sudanic lands. These students
returned to their homes inspired by the reforming movement.

French Rule in the Maghrib

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Algeria had already been
ruled for many years as if it were a part of France, whereas in Tunisia
and Morocco the governments of the bey and the sultan survived
the establishment of the protectorates. They were, however, increas-
ingly staffed with French of¬cials. All three countries were poor,
suffering from perennial droughts, poor soils, and, above all, dif-
¬culties of communication caused by the mountainous interior. The
French now tackled these problems with determination, especially
that of communications. By the 1930s, it was possible to travel from
Marrakech to Tunis by train, and Maghribi roads were the best in
Africa. The growth of Casablanca offers an outstanding example of
development under French rule. In 1900, it was a tiny ¬shing vil-
lage. Even before the establishment of the protectorate in 1912, the
French had constructed an arti¬cial harbour, with rail links to the
iron and phosphate mines of the interior. By 1936, it had a pop-
ulation of a quarter million. Moroccans ¬‚ocked to Casablanca (as
Algerians did to Algiers and Oran) to work in the factories and port
installations, the more poorly paid among them living in shanty-
towns on the outskirts of the city.
In all three countries, Frenchmen were encouraged to settle as
colons. In Algeria, by the turn of the century, there were more than
24. The Maghrib: economic development during the colonial period.
186 Africa since 1800

25. North-East Africa under colonial rule: economic and political development.
North and North-East Africa, 1900--1939 187

500,000, and by 1936 they had grown to nearly 1 million. In the same
year, there were more than 200,000 colons in Morocco and nearly as
many in Tunisia. Undoubtedly, most of the economic development
which took place under French rule was attributable to these immi-
grants, though their presence in such numbers caused grave political
and social dif¬culties. Not only did they occupy much of the land, but
in every town, they also competed for jobs with the indigenous Mus-
lim population. The Muslim population too was growing rapidly:
in Algeria alone, it doubled itself, rising from 4.5 million to more
than 9 million during the ¬rst half of the century. With the best land
and the highest-paid jobs in European hands, the Muslims tended
to become poorer as their numbers increased. By the 1930s, many
thousands of Maghribis had migrated to France in order to earn a
better livelihood.
The colons of Algeria remained, in the fullest sense, citizens of
France. They elected their own deputies to the National Assembly
in Paris and exercised a steady pressure on French politics. Theo-
retically, the same rights of citizenship could be granted to educated
Muslims but only if they abandoned Muslim for Christian law, which
few of them cared to do. The colons, needless to say, did nothing to
encourage them. In 1913, a French writer summed up the settler
point of view as follows: ˜In a conquered country almost the only
kind of co-operation that can occur between the two races is one in
which the conquered work for the conquerors™.

Morocco: Lyautey and Abd al-Qrim

The territory which differed most from Algeria was Morocco. This
was partly because French rule there did not begin until 1912. It
was mainly because of the outstanding character of its ¬rst resident“
general, Marshal Lyautey, who held the of¬ce for thirteen years, from
1912 until 1925. Lyautey was a colonial ruler of the highest order.
He understood and respected the traditional institutions of North
African Islam, and was determined that they should be preserved
with dignity. At the same time, he had a sure grasp of economic af-
fairs, and the rapid modernisation of the Moroccan economy was
largely his work. When he came to Morocco, he found it ˜submerged
in a wave of anarchy™. In particular, he had to take on the task of
188 Africa since 1800

pacifying the tribes of the bilad as-siba (see Chapter 4). For centuries,
no sultan of Morocco had been able to subdue these tribes. Perhaps
Lyautey™s greatest achievement was the bringing of law and order
to areas that had never previously been controlled by the central
government of Morocco, and by means more humane than forceful
conquest. His principle was ˜to display force in order to avoid us-
ing it™. His policy of combining French interests with those of the
sultan and the tribal caids (chiefs) was similar to Lugard™s work in
Hausaland, and suffered from the same defects.
In the early 1920s, Lyautey™s paci¬cation was rudely interrupted by
the Rif War. The Berbers of the Rif mountains in the northern zone of
Morocco rose against the inef¬cient and often unjust Spanish mil-
itary government. Brilliantly led by a former qadi (Muslim judge)
called Abd al-Qrim, they defeated a Spanish force in 1921 and fol-
lowed this up by pushing the Spaniards into the coastal towns. Abd
al-Qrim proclaimed a ˜Republic of the Rif™. The term was modern, but
he had a thoroughly old-fashioned ambition “ to become sultan and
found a new dynasty in Morocco. Abd al-Qrim™s military successes
made him the hero of the Muslim world. This gave him the false con-
¬dence to extend his operations into the French zone. By doing so,
he brought down the whole might of the French army against him.
France and Spain, in the words of an American observer, ˜had en-
veloped the Rif in a wall of steel, employing every device of scienti¬c
warfare against the embattled tribesmen™. Once this had happened,
further resistance was futile. In May 1926, Abd al-Qrim

came riding astride a mule into the French lines. At one point he was crossing a
stream in which French soldiers were bathing. As soon as they saw who he was,
they came rushing towards him. Though naked, they saluted him in correct mil-
itary fashion, and expressed their great admiration for his qualities as a soldier
and a leader.1

The French exiled him to the island of R´ union, but, years later, he
returned to play a part in the Moroccan nationalist movement.
In 1925, Lyautey submitted his resignation to the French govern-
ment in protest against the delays in sending him the reinforcements
which he had asked for during the crisis of the Rif War. To his surprise

Rom Landau, Moroccan Drama (London, 1956), p. 128.
North and North-East Africa, 1900--1939 189

and grief, his resignation was accepted. It is said that he boarded
his ship at Casablanca with tears streaming down his face. His suc-
cessors, who were lesser men than he, soon pushed the old ruling
classes into the background, giving them no further opportunity to
modernise the traditional institutions. In 1927, when the old sultan
died, the French arranged for a young prince, Sidi Muhammad, to ac-
cede to the throne of Morocco. The French imagined that they could
educate the young sultan to rule entirely according to their wishes.
They could not have been more mistaken for, after the Second World
War, Sidi Muhammad became the leader of the Moroccan nationalist
movement. The French also attempted to play off the Berbers against
the Arabs: the result was to unite them in opposition to French

The Beginnings of Nationalism in the Maghrib

Nationalism in the Maghrib was a reaction against the realities of
French rule, which were at variance both with the theory of assim-
ilation in Algeria and with the terms of the protectorate treaties in
Tunisia and Morocco. As early as 1920, Lyautey had forecast that ˜a
young generation is coming along which is full of life, and which
needs activity. Lacking the outlets, which our administration offers
them so sparingly, they will ¬nd another way out, and will seek to
form themselves into groups in order to voice their demand™. In
Morocco and Tunisia, it was possible to foresee the emergence of
free, reformed, Muslim states. Moroccans looked back with pride
over a long and glorious past. Their sultan claimed descent from
the Prophet Muhammad and was the spiritual as well as the tem-
poral leader of the country. The young Sidi Muhammad did not
abandon his outward show of subservience to the French until after
the Second World War, but his sympathies were known long before.
The foundations of the nationalist movement, however, were laid
by others. One summer™s evening in 1926, ten young men met in a
garden in Rabat, sipping mint tea under the boughs of a mulberry
tree. They were addressed by an eighteen-year-old student, Ahmad
Balafrej, who was one day to be prime minister of Morocco. ˜Without
freedom™, he said, ˜the darkness of the grave is more comforting to
the spirit than the light of the sun™. The ten agreed to form a secret
190 Africa since 1800

association to oppose French rule by any and all means. Nearly
twenty years of preparation by journalism and political organisa-
tion were to be necessary before early movements like this one were
able to combine in 1943 as the Istiqlal Party, or Party of Indepen-
dence. The Istiqlal Party garnered the support of the sultan and a
large section of the Moroccan people.
In Tunisia, the beginnings of democratic political organisation
stretched far back beyond the colonial period to the middle of the
nineteenth century, when, as we saw in Chapter 4, the Destour
(Constitution) Party was formed to curb the power of the Ottoman
bey. The Destour Party remained active during the early years of
French rule, but represented mainly the wealthy citizens of the cap-
ital. In 1934, however, Habib Bourguiba broke away from the old
party to found the N´ o-Destour, composed of younger, more radical
groups, with a modern secular policy. Bourguiba proclaimed that
˜The Tunisia we mean to liberate will not be a Tunisia for Muslim,
for Jew, or for Christian. It will be a Tunisia for all, without distinc-
tion of religion or race, who wish to have it as their country and to
live in it under the protection of just laws™. But in 1934, Bourguiba
and his supporters had still a long struggle ahead of them. Being
generally sympathetic to France and French culture, they wanted to
negotiate Tunisia™s independence in a friendly way. The French and
Italian settlers in Tunisia were opposed to such an independence,
as were the French civil servants who staffed the Tunisian adminis-
tration in large numbers. Above all, the French military chiefs were
determined that Tunisia should remain French. They saw Tunis and
the naval station of Bizerta as a necessary base for the coming war
against Fascist Italy. Until after the Second World War, therefore,
the French dealt with the N´ o-Destour by imprisoning its leaders,
by banning its newspapers, and ¬nally by outlawing the party and
closing its of¬ces.
In Algeria, nationalism had to contend with an even more dif¬cult
situation. The political structure of the country had been entirely re-
fashioned by the French. Most educated Muslims had been to French
schools and spoke French better than they spoke Arabic. Yet, the
privilege of French citizenship was in practice denied to them. There
was little surviving from the past on which they could build. In 1934,
Ferhat Abbas wrote despairingly, ˜Men who die for a patriotic ideal
North and North-East Africa, 1900--1939 191

are honoured and respected. But I would not die for an Algerian
fatherland, because no such fatherland exists. I search the history
books and I cannot ¬nd it. You cannot build on air™. The sense of an
Algerian nationhood was born only during the bitter war fought with
France between 1954 and 1962, in which the more moderate nation-
alists of the 1920s and 1930s, like Ferhat Abbas, were swept aside by
younger, more extreme leaders. Nationalism in Algeria could hardly
make a beginning until nationalism in Tunisia and Morocco had all
but gained the victory.

The British in Egypt and the Sudan
After the British occupation of 1882, Lord Dufferin, who had been
ambassador in Istanbul, was sent to Egypt to report on a possible
system of government. He advised that the country could not be ad-
ministered from London with any prospect of success: ˜Any attempt
on our part to do so would at once render us objects of hatred and
suspicion to its inhabitants™. Unfortunately for both countries, this
warning went largely unheeded. As allies of the Ottoman sultan, who
was still the nominal sovereign of Egypt, Britain could not annex the
country outright. The khedive and his ministers continued outwardly
to govern the country. In reality, the British consul“general in Cairo
held absolute power in Egypt. Lord Granville, the British foreign
minister, wrote, ˜It is essential that in important questions affecting
the administration and safety of Egypt, the advice of Her Majesty™s
Government should be followed, so long as the provisional occupa-
tion continues. Ministers and Governors must carry out this advice
or forfeit their of¬ces™. Compared with other African countries, Egypt
was highly developed both socially and economically. Nevertheless,
the British carried out many improvements, especially in irrigation.
The Aswan dam was completed in 1902. It stored suf¬cient water
to irrigate the Nile valley year-round and, for the ¬rst time in 5,000
years, Egyptian agriculture became independent of variations in the
annual Nile ¬‚oods. In other ¬elds, however, the problem was not
the lack of modernisation, but the fact that modernisation had out-
stripped the ¬nancial resources of the country. Indeed, the foremost
aim of Lord Cromer, who as consul“general from 1883 until 1907
held the position of supreme power, was to simplify the elaborate
192 Africa since 1800

government of the khedives, and so to lighten the burden of taxation
upon the peasant fellahin.
Material bene¬ts, however, did not endear the British to the Egyp-
tians, and discontent soon developed into nationalist demands for
their withdrawal. Already by the 1890s, most Egyptian politicians
were nationalists and, from then on, Anglo“Egyptian relations ran
round in a vicious circle. The nationalists had only one demand: that
the British should quit Egypt. The British replied that they could not
do so until a strong and ¬nancially stable government had been es-
tablished. This was impossible because the nationalists would not
cooperate with the khedive and the British to form one. Thus, a
growing gulf of misunderstanding and hostility separated the rulers
from the ruled. In 1914, when Turkey sided with Germany in the
First World War, and when Britain as a counter-measure declared
a protectorate over Egypt, this gulf grew wider. Egypt became the
base for all British military operations in the Middle East. Egyptians
suffered real hardship from the foreign troops who were quartered
among them. These troops requisitioned their labour, their animals,
and their produce for military purposes. They voiced their resent-
ment against Wingate, the high commissioner for the protectorate,
in a popular song:

Woe on us Wingate, Who has carried off our corn, Carried off our cotton, Carried
off our camels, Carried off our children, Leaving us only our lives, For love of
Allah, now leave us alone.2

Egyptian resentment erupted into open revolt in 1919, when
Britain and France failed to keep their promises to grant indepen-
dence to the Arab provinces of the old Ottoman empire. Britain, now
realising that she could only hold the country by force, decided to
give way to Egyptian demands. But so suspicious had Egyptians be-
come of British intentions that no politician was prepared to risk his
reputation by signing a treaty with the occupying power. In 1922,
therefore, Britain issued a one-sided declaration, granting Egypt a
modi¬ed form of independence. British forces still remained in the
country, but, under a new constitution, the khedive was recognised

George Young, Egypt (London, 1927), p. 228.
North and North-East Africa, 1900--1939 193

as king, and the parliament was to be elected under a universal male
One of the immediate results of self-government in Egypt was to
show how unreal was the joint rule of Britain and Egypt over the
Sudan under the so-called condominium arrangement. The Sudan
had been ˜reconquered™ in 1898 by the Egyptian army with the aid of
British troops. The annual de¬cit in the Sudan™s budget, which had
persisted from then until 1913, had been met from the Egyptian,
and not from the British, Treasury. For twenty-¬ve years after the
reconquest, Egyptians had held all but a hundred or two of the most
senior posts in the army and the civil service. Nevertheless, all real
power in the Sudan was exercised by the British governor“general
and by the senior British administrators and military of¬cers. British
power was exercised on the assumption that the Sudan was a sepa-
rate country from Egypt, with interests of its own which were more
important than those of Egypt. For example, education in the Su-
dan was launched along English lines, very distinct from the largely
French tradition prevailing in Egypt. More sinister still from the
Egyptian point of view, the British were planning to use the Nile wa-
ters for a great irrigation project in the cotton-growing district of the
Gezira, south of Khartoum. This scheme was undoubtedly bene¬cial
to the Sudan, but it emphasised to every Egyptian that the waters of
the Nile “ the lifeline of Egypt “ were in the control of another power.
In fact, Egypt, which had ruled the Sudan in the nineteenth century,
had been squeezed out of it by Britain in the twentieth.
This resentment over the Sudan led, in 1924, to the assassination
by an Egyptian nationalist of the governor“general of the Sudan, Sir
Lee Stack, when he was passing through Cairo on leave. The British
reaction to the incident was severe. King Fuad was given twenty-
four hours in which to order the withdrawal of all Egyptian of¬cers
and army units from the Sudan, and there followed a replacement
of nearly all the Egyptian civil of¬cials by British or Sudanese. From
this time, the Sudan took on more and more the appearance of an or-
dinary British colony. ˜Indirect rule™ became the order of the day, and
with it there grew up a new concern for the non-Muslim population
of the southern Sudan. The British came to distrust the educated
Sudanese emerging from the northern schools. They were felt to be
disloyal to the government and sympathetic to Egypt. Just as the
194 Africa since 1800

Egyptians had been excluded from the government of the north, so
the northern Sudanese were now excluded from the government of
the south, with the result that the two halves of the country grew
farther apart instead of closer together. The north was accessible to
the outside world, and most of the economic development took place
there. The south, although protected from northern and Islamic in-
¬‚uences, remained equally isolated from the economic and social
developments which might have enabled it to stand on its own feet.
The results of this policy were to prove disastrous when, on Sudanese
independence, a mainly northern government had to undertake the
administration of the south.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, political power was alternating between the
Wafd Party and the court party of the king. The Wafd Party was led
by Zaghlul Pasha, a moderate nationalist, who had been forced by
the circumstances of the 1919 rebellion to take up a hostile attitude
to the British. By the 1930s, disillusionment with the intrigue and
corruption of the professional politicians had become general. Rich
Egyptians “ many of them of the old Mamluk, Turkish class “ seemed
to get richer, while the lot of the urban workers and the fellahin grew
harder. The mood of the country in 1935 was expressed by the young
Gamal Nasser, then still a pupil at secondary school, who wrote in
a school essay, ˜The nation is in danger, and the disputes among the
Parties are being fomented by Imperialism, the Palace, and the Party
leaders themselves. Thus they hope to keep the country divided and
busy with the race for lucrative posts, so that the Egyptians shall
forget that they have a right to freedom™. In their frustration, many
young people turned to political groups actively hostile to parlia-
mentary democracy. The most in¬‚uential of these was the ¬ercely
nationalistic Muslim Brotherhood. This body aimed at reestablish-
ing a truly Muslim state in which the great extremes of riches and
poverty would disappear.
In 1936, after years of fruitless negotiations, Britain and Egypt
signed a treaty, the fundamental provision of which was that British
troops were to be con¬ned to the Canal Zone. Although an attempt
was made to solve some of the problems of the Sudan, no real un-
derstanding on this territory was possible. Britain and Egypt agreed
to administer the Sudan in the interests of the Sudanese. Egyptian
army units rejoined the Sudan garrison, and the virtual exclusion
North and North-East Africa, 1900--1939 195

of Egyptian civilians from the Sudan was brought to an end. The
Egyptians had to face the fact that, as a result of the Anglo“Egyptian
estrangement, the sense of Sudanese separateness from Egypt had
gone too far to be undone. This, no less than the temporary re-
turn of British military government to Egypt during the Second
World War and the emergence of a western-supported Jewish state in
Israel, determined that in the long term Egyptian nationalism would
continue to grow in hostility toward the West.

The Italian Spheres of In¬‚uence: Libya
The remaining parts of Arabic-speaking Muslim Africa were those
subject to Italian domination, of which the most turbulent through-
out this period was Libya. We have already seen (see Chapter 10)
how in 1911“12 Italy conquered the Ottoman provinces of Tripoli-
tania and Cyrenaica. The elimination of the Turks, however, merely
gave the Italians possession of the coastal towns. They soon came
up against the real rulers of the interior, the shaikhs of the Sanusi
zawiyas described in Chapter 4. These zawiyas were by now estab-
lished in all the tribal territories of the nomadic bedouin of Cyrenaica
and the Fezzan. The shaikhs, though still primarily religious leaders,
had come to be regarded by the bedouin Arabs as their natural rep-
resentatives in all their dealings with the outside world. The shaikhs
had usually cooperated with the Turkish of¬cials, who had been
their fellow Muslims. When the Christian Italians conquered Tripoli
and Benghazi, they moved into solid opposition. What had been
mainly a religious movement now became a nationalist and political
one. In 1912, the head of the Sanusi brotherhood, Sayyid Ahmad,
moved his headquarters from the Kufra Oasis into southern Cyre-
naica, and during the next six years concentrated all his energies
on organising armed resistance to the Italians. His efforts were sup-
ported by Muslims throughout the Middle East. Gifts of money and
arms ¬‚owed in from unof¬cial committees in Egypt, Turkey, Syria,
and the Hijaz. When Italy entered the First World War in 1915 on the
side of the Allied Powers, Turkey, which was ¬ghting on the side of
Germany and Austria, began to give him of¬cial support. When the
Allied Powers emerged victorious from the world struggle, Sayyid
Ahmad retreated to Istanbul, retaining his position as head of the
196 Africa since 1800

Sanusi brotherhood but relinquishing his temporal power in Cyre-
naica to his nephew, Sayyid Idris, who was to become “ twenty-¬ve
years later “ the ¬rst king of Libya.
Between 1918 and 1922, Idris entered into a series of only half-
sincere agreements with the Italians, in which he undertook to
recognise Italian sovereignty in exchange for a large measure of au-
tonomy in the bedouin areas. In 1922, the Fascist Party of Benito
Mussolini seized power in Italy and denounced these agreements.
The Arab leaders of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica thereupon met in con-
ference and recognised Idris as amir of all Libya, and Idris “ having
accepted “ withdrew to Egypt in anticipation of the expected mili-
tary action of the Italians. This was launched at the end of the year.
From then onwards, for nine years, the Libyan bedouin fought a
war which, on a smaller scale, can be likened to the Algerian War
of 1954“62. There were never more than 1,000 bedouin under arms,
but with the secret support of the entire civil population, they en-
gaged the continuous attention of an Italian army of 20,000. They
forced the Fascists to adopt methods, such as aerial bombardment
and the isolation of the civilian population in concentration camps,
which sickened the whole of the civilised world. The main organiser
of this phase of Libyan resistance was a Sanusi shaikh, Sidi Umar
al-Mukhtar, whose capture and public execution by the Italians in
1931 brought military operations to an end. Italy thus enjoyed only
eight years of undisputed rule before its North African empire was
submerged in the Second World War, from which the Libyans under
Idris emerged with their right to independence recognised.

The Italian Spheres: Somalia and Ethiopia
We saw in Chapter 10 how the ¬rst round of Italian imperialist ex-
pansion in North-East Africa was brought to a halt in 1896 by the
decisive victory of the emperor Menelik at Adowa. In the peace treaty
that followed this battle, Italy managed to retain its foothold on the
Red Sea coast in Eritrea. It also had its protectorate treaties signed
in 1889 with the Majerteyn Somali sultans of Alula and Obbia, and
its lease from the sultan of Zanzibar of the Benadir ports of Brava,
Merka, Mogadishu, and Warsheikh. This lease was changed in 1905
into an outright purchase. Until 1905, the Italian government did
North and North-East Africa, 1900--1939 197

little to build on these earlier foundations. Eritrea centred upon the
declining port of Massawa, from which the Ethiopian trade was be-
ing increasingly diverted to the new harbour of Djibouti in French
Somaliland. A railway from Djibouti to Addis Ababa was begun in
1896 and completed in 1918. In Somaliland, the Alula and Obbia
protectorates were left to themselves other than occasional visits
by Italian gunboats. The Benadir ports were ineffectively adminis-
tered by two Italian commercial companies, the ¬rst of which went
bankrupt in 1896, the second in 1904.
In these circumstances, the ¬rst outburst of Muslim Somali re-
sentment against Christian imperialist domination fell not upon the
Italians, but upon the British. The small British protectorate on the
southern shores of the Gulf of Aden was home to a great religious
leader of the nomadic Somali, Sayyid Muhammad Abdile Hassan.
He was known to his British opponents as ˜the mad mullah™. Born in
1864 in the region inland from Berbera, Sayyid Muhammad gained
an early reputation for piety and learning. During his early travels
as a wandering shaikh, he visited Mogadishu, Nairobi, and parts
of the Sudan. In all these places, he became aware of the threat to
Islam of the expanding forces of western Christendom. When Sayyid
Muhammad returned home in 1891, he began to preach resistance to
the British and was declared by them to be an outlaw. He retreated
with his followers into the Haud and the Ogaden, the unadminis-
tered no-man™s-land between Ethiopia on the one hand and British
and Italian Somaliland on the other. From the Haud and the Ogaden,
Sayyid Muhammad launched attacks on the three neighbouring gov-
ernments. British, Italian, and Ethiopian troops were continuously
and expensively engaged in expeditions against him until his death in
1920. Sayyid Muhammad wrote a great number of letters to friends
and enemies. His letters to the British were frequently most expres-
sive in their de¬ance. In one of them he wrote

If the country were cultivated or if it contained houses or property, it would be
worth your while to ¬ght for it. But the country is all jungle [he meant that it
was uncultivated], and that is no use to you. If you want bush and stones you
can get these in plenty. There are also many ant-heaps, and the sun is very hot.
All you can get from me is war and nothing else.3

D. Jardine, The Mad Mullah of Somaliland (London, 1923), p. 185.
198 Africa since 1800

It was from Sayyid Muhammad that the 3 million or 4 million no-
madic Somali, until then conscious only of their clan loyalties, de-
rived their ¬rst sense of a wider national unity. Today, he is rightly
regarded in Somalia as the father of Somali nationalism. However,
unlike the founder of the Sanusi movement, whom he so much re-
sembled, Sayyid Muhammad left no successor. On his death, Somali
resistance to the British and Italians ceased. Normal colonial gov-
ernments were developed in British and Italian Somaliland.
The centre of political interest in North-East Africa now switched
to the renewed plans of the Fascist government of Italy to conquer
the kingdom of Ethiopia. This conquest had been long prepared, but
it could not be put into operation until Italian troops were freed from
the bitter war against the Sanusi in Libya. The excuse for the attack
was found in the disputed frontier between Somalia and Ethiopia
in the Ogaden. Here, the Italians intrigued with the Somali clans
who lived within Ethiopian territory and gradually advanced their
military posts far across the undemarcated border. At last, in De-
cember 1934, the expected clash occurred between an Ethiopian
escort patrol accompanying a boundary commission and the gar-
rison of an Italian military post at a place called Walwal. The em-
peror Haile Selassie appealed to the League of Nations. Haile Selassie
had been crowned in 1930, although he had been the real ruler of
Ethiopia since 1916, under his old name of Ras Tafari. In the League
of Nations, Britain and France supported his cause but did not show
suf¬cient determination to prevent the Italian aggression. In 1935,
therefore, Mussolini™s armies marched up the already prepared mil-
itary roads from Massawa in the north and Mogadishu in the
south-east. With their vastly superior weapons, they completed their
conquest by May 1936. The emperor was forced to become a refugee
in England. The Italian East African empire “ made up of Eritrea,
Ethiopia, and Somalia “ had become a reality, after being the dream
of many Italians since the time of partition of Africa. It was, however,
to last only ¬ve years.
The effects of Mussolini™s militaristic colonialism of the 1920s and
1930s were widespread. Although it has been argued that Italy was
only doing in a more ruthless way what other European countries
had done in the rest of Africa twenty or thirty years earlier, both the
place and the timing in fact made a vast difference. By the 1920s
North and North-East Africa, 1900--1939 199

and 1930s, the other colonial powers had gone far in reforming their
colonial policies in the interests of the governed. Britain, especially,
had recognised the ultimate right of colonial subjects to govern them-
selves. In Libya and in Somalia, Italy had turned the clock back. In
Ethiopia, she had committed naked aggression against an interna-
tionally recognised state which had shown considerable ability in
modernising itself without any outside interference. This was the
¬rst occasion on which the peace-keeping activities of the League
of Nations had been tested, and they were found wanting. Adolf
Hitler, who had recently come to power at the head of another Fas-
cist movement, in Germany, was not slow to read and respond to
the lesson. In the year of Mussolini™s victory over Ethiopia, Hitler
set out on the path of aggression which was to lead directly to the
Second World War. German troops invaded the Rhineland, the zone
between France and Germany which had been demilitarised after
the First World War. In the introduction to his history of the Sec-
ond World War, Winston Churchill drew attention to the in¬‚uence
of Mussolini™s action in Ethiopia. He wrote, ˜If ever there was an op-
portunity of striking a decisive blow for a generous cause it was then.
The fact that the nerve of the British government was not equal to
the occasion, played a part in leading to a more terrible war™. Within
Africa, the Italian conquest of Ethiopia was seen by every politically
conscious African as a colonialist crime which ¬nally impugned the
whole system. Haile Selassie, during his long exile in England, rep-
resented the imprisonment of a whole continent.
FIFTEEN. South Africa, 1902--1939

S outh Africa was the ¬rst African country to experience the social
stresses resulting from the transformation of an agricultural
into an industrial economy. The pace of change between 1900 and the
outbreak of the Second World War was faster “ and on a larger scale “
than in any other part of the continent. By 1939, the concentration
of mines and factories on the Witwatersrand was comparable to the
industrial regions of Europe and North America. In the centre of
the Rand stood Johannesburg, the largest city in Africa except for
Cairo. From the Rand, gold ¬‚owed to the banking houses of the
world, binding South Africa into the web of international ¬nance and
commerce. Yet, the fruits of this material prosperity were unevenly
distributed. Only gradually did even all the white people reach a high
standard of living. Africans, because of their colour, were excluded
from all but a meagre share. Political change in no way kept pace
with economic advance. The white rulers were restricted by attitudes
and policies which had taken root in the nineteenth century or even
earlier. They seemed incapable of any fresh approach to the racial
tensions which became sharper as more and more Africans were
integrated into the expanding economy.

South Africa after the Boer War

After defeating the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Or-
ange Free State in the Anglo“Boer War, the British felt guilty at
the way in which they had bullied the two small Boer republics.

South Africa, 1902--1939 201

They tried to conciliate the defeated enemy by yielding, amongst
other things, to their demands on the political status of the Africans.
Concession to the Boers was considered to be more urgent than
protection of African interests. One of the clauses of the Peace of
Vereeniging (1902) gave the white people in the conquered Transvaal
and the Orange Free State the right to decide whether or not to ex-
tend the parliamentary franchise to Africans. When Britain granted
self-government to the two territories in 1906 and 1907, political
power passed once again into Boer hands, and non-whites were per-
manently excluded from the vote.
The debate on African rights now shifted from Britain to the four
colonies themselves. The political leaders of these colonies wanted
to set up a union. They hoped by this means to put an end to the
disputes which had caused the war and to promote the economic
and political development of South Africa as a whole. At the heart
of the whole idea of union was the necessity evident to every white
politician of developing a single policy toward the Africans. As the
future Boer leader and statesman Jan Smuts had written in 1892,

The race struggle is destined to assume a magnitude on the African conti-
nent such as the world has never seen, and the imagination shrinks from
contemplating; and in that appalling struggle for existence the unity of the white
camp will not be the least necessary condition “ we will not say of obtaining
victory, but of warding off (or, at worst, postponing) annihilation.1

If union was to be achieved, three traditional white attitudes toward
Africans had somehow to be reconciled. The ¬rst was the Liberal
tradition of the Cape. The second was baaskap, the uncompromis-
ing inequality practised in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
The third was the policy of protective segregation which British
governors had tried to adopt in parts of Natal and the Cape, and
also in the three protectorates of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and
Swaziland. In addition, there was the problem of evolving a com-
mon policy toward the Indians, of whom there were by 1900 around
100,000 in Natal and 10,000 in the Transvaal.
Cape Liberalism was the tradition inherited from the British colo-
nial government of the Cape Colony, which accepted as citizens those

W. K. Hancock, Smuts, vol. I (Cambridge, 1962), p. 30.
202 Africa since 1800

Africans and other coloured people who conformed to white stan-
dards. Under this system, educated Africans who owned or leased
property of a certain value could register as parliamentary voters. In
1909, Africans formed 4.7 percent of the Cape electorate. Cape lead-
ers defended this system not only on grounds of idealism, but also on
grounds of expediency. Merriman, a distinguished liberal politician,
argued that the colour-blind franchise was a ˜safety valve™, for ˜to al-
low no African vote at all would be building on a volcano™. Sauer,
another Cape leader, in 1904 expressed more genuinely liberal be-
liefs when he said, ˜I do not believe that where representative insti-
tutions exist a class that is not represented will ever receive political
justice, because after all it is material interests that will eventually
prevail, and therefore the class having no political power will suf-
fer™. The Cape Liberals were supported by many educated Africans,
who were anxious to preserve their hard-won privileges (such as
exemption from the pass laws). They felt they could no longer iden-
tify themselves with the mass of tribal Africans, from whom they
had grown apart. For nearly thirty years, John Tengo Jabavu was
the mouthpiece of these enfranchised Africans. As early as 1884, he
had launched, with white ¬nancial backing, the newspaper Imvo
Zabantsundu (African Opinion), stating that ˜the time is ripe for
the establishment of a journal in English and Xhosa, to give un-
trammelled expression to the feelings of the native population™. But
Imvo™s criticism of white rule was very mild, and Jabavu™s faith in the
political future of the white Liberals became toward the end of his
life (he died in 1921) rather pathetic.
Baaskap was the simple exercise of white domination, which had
been evident from the earliest days of Dutch settlement on the Cape
frontier. The Boers brought this attitude along with them when they
trekked northwards, in the 1830s, and had written it into the consti-
tution of the South African Republic (Transvaal), which proclaimed,
˜There shall be no equality in State or Church between white and
black™. The miners from England and elsewhere who ¬‚ocked to South
Africa after the discovery of diamonds and gold quickly adopted the
baaskap attitude. They protected their high wages by an industrial
˜colour bar™ which prevented Africans from performing skilled work.
Baaskap led to the intermingling of the races of South Africa, not
to their separation. The Boers wanted as much African land as they
South Africa, 1902--1939 203

could get. Like the miners, they thought of the Africans only as cheap
labour which had no need of land of its own.
The physical separation of whites and Africans had been attempted
in the Cape, ¬rst by the Dutch and later by the British colonial govern-
ment. It had broken down because of the impossibility of controlling
the frontier. By the end of the nineteenth century, the frontier prob-
lem had been replaced by that of the various pockets of land or ˜re-
serves™ into which Africans had retreated before the white advance.
Separation found a new wave of support among missionaries and
administrators. This led to the demarcation of the Transkeian Terri-
tories by the Cape government. In addition, the British protectorates
of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland were established. A
commission set up after the Boer War by the British high commis-
sioner, Lord Milner, reported in 1905 in favour of the widespread
application of separation throughout South Africa. The Cape politi-
cian Merriman remarked that such a policy was at least a century
too late to be practicable. The advocates of baaskap, on the other
hand, who opposed separation in 1905, were to adopt it some thirty
years later. By then, there was proportionately less land available on
which Africans could lead a separate existence because the African
population had greatly increased.
The differing attitudes toward the Indian population shown in
Natal and the Transvaal were particularly revealing of the nature
of racial feelings in general. In Natal, where the economy turned on
sugar, Indian ˜contract labourers™ had proven since about 1860 to
be disciplined and uncomplaining workers on the plantations, and
those who wished to settle permanently at the end of their contracts
were encouraged to do so. Some of these immigrants then turned
to trading and other service industries and, in this guise, began to
penetrate the Transvaal, especially in the years following the South
African war. There, they were at once regarded as dangerous com-
petitors by the less skilled Dutch and British workers on the Witwa-
tersrand, and legislation was quickly introduced to prevent the fur-
ther immigration of Indians and to register all those already there.
It was in an attempt to secure the repeal of this ˜Black Act™ that
Mahatma Gandhi developed his technique of satyagraha, or ˜lov-
ing ¬rmness™, which he was to practise with such momentous con-
sequences in British India. Gandhi suffered his ¬rst sentence of
204 Africa since 1800

imprisonment in 1908 for his peaceful refusal to register as an Indian
immigrant in the Transvaal.

1910: Union

In the negotiations which led up to union, the white people of the two
northern colonies and Natal proved themselves more determined to
prevent the spread of liberalism than the Cape delegates were to pro-
mote it. At the National Convention of 1908“9, a compromise was
reached by which the ¬rst Union Parliament was to be elected on the
existing colonial franchises. This meant that quali¬ed Africans in the
Cape would retain the vote, whereas Africans in Natal, the Transvaal,
and the Orange Free State would have no political rights. It was fur-
ther agreed that not even in the Cape should any African be able to
stand as a parliamentary candidate. The Cape delegates did succeed
in entrenching the franchise provisions in the constitution, so that
they could only be amended by a two-thirds majority of both Houses
of the Union Parliament sitting together. This was not a very secure
safeguard, however, and the compromise as a whole was certainly
felt as a bitter blow by the educated Africans. For once, even Jabavu
joined forces with his more militant compatriots in trying to resist
the form of union decided upon by the National Convention. One of
the many meetings called by Africans at this time ˜noted with regret
that the contemplated Union is to be a Union of two races, namely
the British and the Afrikaners “ the African is to be excluded™. Only
one white Liberal, W. P. Schreiner, supported these African protests.
Alone in his community, he felt that human rights were more impor-
tant than union:

To embody in the South African constitution a vertical line or barrier separating
its people upon the ground of colour into a privileged class or caste and an
underprivileged inferior proletariat is as imprudent as it would be to build a
grand building upon unsound and sinking foundations. In our South African
nation there must be room for many free peoples, but no room for any that are
not free, and free to rise.2

A delegation which included both Schreiner and Jabavu went to
London, but failed to persuade the British government to change the

W. P. Schreiner to J. C. Smuts, 2 August 1908, Selections from the Smuts Papers, vol. 2, ed. W. K.
Hancock and Jean van der Poel (Cambridge, 1966), p. 450.
South Africa, 1902--1939 205

proposed Union constitution in any way. The Union of South Africa
was established on 31 May 1910. The British government maintained
that it could not interfere with the decisions of the National Conven-
tion. It declared, however, that the three protectorates of Basutoland,
Bechuanaland, and Swaziland would not be transferred to the new
South African State until it had become clear how the racial provi-
sions of the constitution would work in practice.
Though Jabavu soon reverted to his alliance with the white politi-
cians of the Cape, other more politically conscious Africans launched
in 1912 the (South) African National Congress (ANC), as a Union-
wide body to protect African interests. Solomon Plaatje, a highly cul-
tured Tswana journalist and writer, became the secretary“general of
the Congress. The ¬rst legislation denounced by the Congress was the
Natives Land Act of 1913, which prevented Africans from acquiring
land outside their own areas. Of this Act Plaatje wrote, ˜Awakening
on Friday morning, June 20th 1913, the South African Native found
himself a pariah [outcast] in the land of his birth™. Javabu wrote in
favour of the Act, because it had been introduced by Sauer, one of the
Cape Liberals in the government. This proved the end of the old man™s
in¬‚uence among his fellow Africans. His failure was but one sad
facet of the failure of the liberal cause in general. Liberalism became
hopelessly compromised by the discriminatory legislation of the
Union government. The attitudes that prevailed in South Africa were
summed up by an Afrikaner historian ¬fty years later when he said,

Particularly signi¬cant was the fact that the act and ˜compromise™ of Union en-
abled the ex-Republics of the Transvaal and the Free State to indoctrinate the rest
of the Union with their traditions and ideals. This was eminently true of the two
great principles which counted as corner-stones of the national existence of the
Afrikaner people: republicanism, and the practice and theory of the inequality
between white men and black men.3

Smuts and Hertzog
Smuts, who served under General Botha until 1919 and then be-
came prime minister of the Union, was a man of great learning, with
profound insights in the ¬elds of religion, philosophy, and science.
In 1917, he became a member of the British War Cabinet in the

D. W. Kruger, The Age of the Generals (Johannesburg, 1961), pp. 9“10.
206 Africa since 1800

war against Germany, and from then until his death in 1950, he was
looked upon as a statesman of world renown. He was a close friend
of Sir Winston Churchill during the Second World War and one of
the founders of the United Nations Organisation. Yet, on the racial
problem, which surely would have bene¬ted from the application of
such a penetrating mind, he lacked any constructive ideas. In 1906
he had written to Merriman,

I sympathise profoundly with the native races of South Africa, whose land it was
long before we came here to force a policy of dispossession on them. And it ought
to be the policy of all parties to do justice to the natives and to take all wise and
prudent measures for their civilisation and improvement. But I don™t believe in
politics for them . . . When I consider the political future of the natives in South
Africa, I must say I look into shadows and darkness; and then I feel inclined to
shift the intolerable burden of solving the problem to the ampler shoulders and
stronger brains of the future. Suf¬cient unto the day is the evil thereof.4

This timidity pervaded the ¬rst ten years of the Union™s history. Mean-
while, the racial problems were becoming more dif¬cult, and the
younger generation of white people seemed no more capable of solv-
ing them. The African policy of Botha and Smuts was muddled and
indecisive. It consisted of a further dose of baaskap, of colour bar
and pass laws, coupled with a half-hearted attempt to put into prac-
tice some of the recommendations of Milner™s commission on the
subject of separation.
In 1922, white mine-workers struck and seized control of the Rand
after the mine-owners threatened to employ Africans as skilled work-
ers at lower wages than the whites enjoyed. Smuts had to use soldiers
to put down this ˜rebellion™. This led to his defeat in the 1924 election
by a combination of the Labour Party, which represented the views
of the rebellious white miners, and the Afrikaner National Party. This
new party had been formed by General Hertzog in 1913. Although
he was one of the main architects of apartheid, Hertzog was one of
the most honest of the white politicians. He rightly said that it was
the fear of being overwhelmed and swept aside by the vastly supe-
rior number of Africans that was at the root of the white attitude:
˜The European is severe and hard on the Native because he is afraid
of him. It is the old instinct of self-preservation. And the immediate

Hancock, Smuts, vol. I, p. 221.
South Africa, 1902--1939 207

outcome of this is that so little has been done in the direction of
helping the Native to advance™. His policy was to remove this fear
by physically separating the races, so as to create two South Africas:
one white, the other African. Hertzog believed that when Africans
were deprived of political and other rights in the Union as a whole,
they should be given compensation in the form of more land and of
some measure of local self-government.
Hertzog never abandoned his Afrikaner principles. He stood for
the primacy of the Afrikaans language in South Africa and for the
abandonment of any deference to British policy in international af-
fairs. Nevertheless, he welcomed a reconciliation of the Dutch and
British elements in the white population. When the world economic
crisis of 1929“33 produced a demand among the white electorate for
a ˜national™ government, composed of the leaders of the two main
parties, Hertzog was prepared to enter a coalition with Smuts. In
1934, most of Hertzog™s Afrikaner National Party joined with most
of Smuts™s South African Party to form the United Party, which was
to remain in power till 1948. Smuts™s side of the compromise was to
support the Natives Representation Act, introduced in 1936, which
brought to an end the registration of quali¬ed Africans as voters on
the common roll with whites in the Cape province. Hertzog™s side
of the compromise was to modify his anti-British line, both inside
South Africa and in relation to the Commonwealth. Among Smuts™s
followers there was one “ the brilliantly clever and deeply religious
Jan Hofmeyr “ who spoke against the 1936 Act. Hofmeyr said,

By this Bill we are sowing the seeds of a far greater potential con¬‚ict than is
being done by anything in existence today. We have many educated and semi-
educated Natives in South Africa. Many of them have attained to, and many more
of them are advancing towards, European standards. They have been trained on
European lines. They have been taught to think and act as Europeans. We may
not like it, but those are the plain facts. Now what is the political future for
those people? This Bill says to these Natives ˜There is no room for you. You must
be driven back on your own people™. But we drive them back in hostility and
disgruntlement, and do not let us forget this, that all this Bill is doing for these
educated Natives is to make them the leaders of their own people, in disaffection
and revolt.5

Alan Paton, Hofmeyr (Cape Town, 1964), pp. 227“8.
208 Africa since 1800

Although Hofmeyr was a cabinet minister in the governments of
Hertzog and Smuts, his words were received in stony silence. Much
more signi¬cant than Hofmeyr in South African electoral terms were
the nineteen ˜Puri¬ed Nationalists™, led by D. F. Malan, who refused
to follow Hertzog into the coalition. These followers of Malan advo-
cated still sterner measures to ensure the survival of the white man in
South Africa. In 1934, they were not very important politically. But
in racially divided communities, where a minority race holds power,
˜the enemy is always on the Right™, that is, the racial extremists. The
future in South Africa lay with those nineteen members, whose suc-
cessors, in 1948, were to sweep the United Party from power and
introduce yet another round of racialistic legislation.

The African Predicament

By 1939, the economic and political grievances of the African popula-
tion in South Africa were already so great that a revolution would not
have been at all surprising. The material prosperity of the country
depended on the gold mines; the gold mines depended on African
labour. Yet, African workers in the mines, as also in the growing
number of industrial jobs, received about an eighth of the wages
paid to white men. They were supposed to have their homes in the
˜reserves™ and to come and work in the white towns as migrant labour-
ers without their families. The social and moral harm caused by this
frequent disruption of family life was generally ignored by the white
employers. Yet, the land left to the Africans was totally inadequate to
support them. In 1913, Africans, who formed nearly three-quarters
of the population, possessed only 11 percent of the land of South
Africa, and this amount was only with great dif¬culty increased to
13 percent by the late 1960s through government purchase under
Hertzog™s legislation of 1936. Many Africans had long before this
abandoned the impoverished reserves to live permanently in slums
on the outskirts of the white towns. By 1936, more than 1 million
(22 percent) Africans had become urban dwellers. Another 2 million
were working on white farms, completely subject to their masters.


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