Britain in Africa (African Arguments)

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To prevent this, the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck convened a diplomatic summit of European powers in the late nineteenth century.

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This was the famous Berlin West African conference more generally known as the Berlin Conference , held from November to February The conference produced a treaty known as the Berlin Act, with provisions to guide the conduct of the European inter-imperialist competition in Africa. Some of its major articles were as follows:. This treaty, drawn up without African participation, provided the basis for the subsequent partition, invasion, and colonization of Africa by various European powers. The European imperialist designs and pressures of the late nineteenth century provoked African political and diplomatic responses and eventually military resistance.

During and after the Berlin Conference various European countries sent out agents to sign so-called treaties of protection with the leaders of African societies, states, kingdoms, decentralized societies, and empires. The differential interpretation of these treaties by the contending forces often led to conflict between both parties and eventually to military encounters.

Britain in Africa – By Tom Porteous

For Europeans, these treaties meant that Africans had signed away their sovereignties to European powers; but for Africans, the treaties were merely diplomatic and commercial friendship treaties. After discovering that they had in effect been defrauded and that the European powers now wanted to impose and exercise political authority in their lands, African rulers organized militarily to resist the seizure of their lands and the imposition of colonial domination.

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Britain in Africa (African Arguments) [Tom Porteous] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Why has Africa become such an important priority for. Britain in Africa. About the Author. Tom Porteous has worked and travelled extensively in Africa as a journalist, UN peacekeeping official and for the Foriegn .

This situation was compounded by commercial conflicts between Europeans and Africans. During the early phase of the rise of primary commodity commerce erroneously referred to in the literature as "Legitimate Trade or Commerce" , Europeans got their supplies of trade goods like palm oil, cotton, palm kernel, rubber, and groundnut from African intermediaries, but as the scramble intensified, they wanted to bypass the African intermediaries and trade directly with sources of the trade goods. Naturally Africans resisted and insisted on the maintenance of a system of commercial interaction with foreigners which expressed their sovereignties as autonomous political and economic entities and actors.

For their part, the European merchants and trading companies called on their home governments to intervene and impose "free trade," by force if necessary. It was these political, diplomatic, and commercial factors and contentions that led to the military conflicts and organized African resistance to European imperialism. African military resistance took two main forms: guerrilla warfare and direct military engagement. While these were used as needed by African forces, the dominant type used depended on the political, social, and military organizations of the societies concerned.

In general, small-scale societies, the decentralized societies erroneously known as "stateless" societies , used guerrilla warfare because of their size and the absence of standing or professional armies. Instead of professional soldiers, small groups of organized fighters with a mastery of the terrain mounted resistance by using the classical guerrilla tactic of hit-and-run raids against stationary enemy forces.

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This was the approach used by the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria against the British. Even though the British imperialists swept through Igboland in three years, between and , and despite the small scale of the societies, the Igbo put up protracted resistance. The resistance was diffuse and piecemeal, and therefore it was difficult to conquer them completely and declare absolute victory. Long after the British formally colonized Igboland, they had not fully mastered the territory. Direct military engagement was most commonly organized by the centralized state systems, such as chiefdoms, city-states, kingdoms, and empires, which often had standing or professional armies and could therefore tackle the European forces with massed troops.

This was the case with the resistance actions of the Ethiopians, the Zulu, the Mandinka leadership, and numerous other centralized states.

In the case of Ethiopia, the imperialist intruder was Italy. It confronted a determined and sagacious military leader in the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II. As Italy intensified pressure in the s to impose its rule over Ethiopia, the Ethiopians organized to resist. In the famous battle of Adwa in , one hundred thousand Ethiopian troops confronted the Italians and inflicted a decisive defeat.

Thereafter, Ethiopia was able to maintain its independence for much of the colonial period, except for a brief interlude of Italian oversight between and This brought the parties into conflict. During this sixteen-year period, he used a variety of strategies, including guerrilla warfare, scorched-earth programs, and direct military engagement.

For this last tactic he acquired arms, especially quick-firing rifles, from European merchant and traders in Sierra Leone and Senegal. He also established engineering workshops where weapons were repaired and parts were fabricated. With these resources and his well-trained forces and the motivation of national defense he provided his protracted resistance to the French. Eventually he was captured and, in , exiled to Gabon, where he died in It is quite clear that most African societies fought fiercely and bravely to retain control over their countries and societies against European imperialist designs and military invasions.

But the African societies eventually lost out.

This was partly for political and technological reasons. The nineteenth century was a period of profound and even revolutionary changes in the political geography of Africa, characterized by the demise of old African kingdoms and empires and their reconfiguration into different political entities. Some of the old societies were reconstructed and new African societies were founded on different ideological and social premises. Consequently, African societies were in a state of flux, and many were organizationally weak and politically unstable.

They were therefore unable to put up effective resistance against the European invaders. The technological factor was expressed in the radical disparity between the technologies of warfare deployed by the contending European and African forces. African forces in general fought with bows, arrows, spears, swords, old rifles, and cavalries; the European forces, beneficiaries of the technical fruits of the Industrial Revolution, fought with more deadly firearms, machines guns, new rifles, and artillery guns.

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The trade was abolished in the early s and the British put a lot of effort into trying to wipe out slavery and the slave trade in all of Africa. They also found that their traditional crafts were sometimes destroyed by competition from goods produced in British factories. The view that points to a political convergence is supported by the plea the Minister had made to the USA and the IMF that Zimbabwe ought to be treated equally according to the same measure that has been used on countries with troubled pasts such as Burma. Although I teach survey and topical courses on all regions of Africa and on all periods , my research interest lies in Nigeria. Such cases included:. By the Boers ruled a South Africa that was virtually independent from Britain.

Thus in direct encounters European forces often won the day. But as the length of some resistance struggles amply demonstrates, Africans put up the best resistance with the resources they had. After the conquest of African decentralized and centralized states, the European powers set about establishing colonial state systems. The colonial state was the machinery of administrative domination established to facilitate effective control and exploitation of the colonized societies. Partly as a result of their origins in military conquest and partly because of the racist ideology of the imperialist enterprise, the colonial states were authoritarian, bureaucratic systems.

Because they were imposed and maintained by force, without the consent of the governed, the colonial states never had the effective legitimacy of normal governments.

Africa: The Scale of the UK's Involvement in Africa's Resources Is Staggering

Second, they were bureaucratic because they were administered by military officers and civil servants who were appointees of the colonial power. While they were all authoritarian, bureaucratic state systems, their forms of administration varied, partly due to the different national administrative traditions and specific imperialist ideologies of the colonizers and partly because of the political conditions in the various territories that they conquered. There was usually a governor or governor-general in the colonial capital who governed along with an appointed executive council and a legislative council of appointed and selected local and foreign members.

The governor was responsible to the colonial office and the colonial secretary in London, from whom laws, policies, and programs were received. He made some local laws and policies, however. Colonial policies and directives were implemented through a central administrative organization or a colonial secretariat, with officers responsible for different departments such as Revenue, Agriculture, Trade, Transport, Health, Education, Police, Prison, and so on.

The British colonies were often subdivided into provinces headed by provincial commissioners or residents, and then into districts headed by district officers or district commissioners.