[Part 2] The Invasion on Africa

Initially African coastal regions were in the hands of the old trading nations: Portuguese, Dutch, Britain and France. Within a few years, the whole of African continent was captured and scramble for colonies started, and the colonies of African continent were cut and divided among the European powers.

Colonization of Africa

Conditions in Africa

Until the mid-19th century, the interiors of Africa were almost unknown to the Europeans. European interest in Africa was aroused by the Explorers, Merchants and Missionaries. The Explorers aroused the European interest in the vast lands of Africa; The Merchants saw profits in the trade of gold, ivory and timber; while the Missionaries saw the continent as place for spreading Christianity. European governments supported all these interests by sending troops, and making conquests.

Europeans were able to win over the African colonies because:

  1. Financially, African states were no match to the economic might of the imperialist nations of Europe, and African Chiefs had not enough resources to wage wars against Europeans;

  2. Militarily, Europeans had superior arms and ammunitions, while the Africans fought with bows and axes;

  3. Politically, the African states were not united, and often conflicted among themselves, and sought help from the European nations in their internal rivalries. The Imperialist countries, on the other hand, were united as compared to the African states, in their scramble for Africa.

The Scramble for Colonies

scramble for Africa

All the European countries were eager to get the maximum of African territory in the shortest possible time. Often they competed and engaged in wars. But in every case, they avoided war and signed agreements as to who will get which part of Africa.

In 1884-85, European states organized a Congress in Berlin to decide how to share out Africa among themselves. No African state was represented at this Congress. Treaties were signed between European powers to settle disputes over claims to African territories between themselves.

Most of the treaties signed between the European powers and African chiefs were fraudulent and bogus. Europeans gave gifts to the African chiefs and made them to sign their treaties. Thereafter, those treaties were misinterpreted and manipulated to capture the territories. Thus, by the end of the 19th century, the partition of Africa was almost completed in this manner. This came to be known as Paper Partition, because the actual partition took longer. About 30% boundaries of the African continents are straight lines because they were made on partition maps, in the conference rooms of the Europeans.

Boer War (1899)

Boer War

In South Africa, the Dutch had established the Cape Colony. South Africa had a large number of Europeans, mainly Dutch, settled. These settlers were known as Boers. They owned large farms and plantations. Later, British took over Cape Colony and abolished slavery. Boers did not like it, so they went north and set up two states- the Orange Free State and the Transvaal- together called the Afrikaner republics. Transvaal was rich in gold, so the British plotted to overthrow Boer government. This led to the Boer War, in 1899. The Boers were defeated but they continued to live there.

Gandhi served from the British side, as an assistant superintendent of the Indian volunteer stretcher-bearer corps. He was awarded Boer war medal for his service.

Soon after this, the Union of South Africa was formed consisting of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange River Colony. It was ruled by the white minority- Boers, Englishmen, and a few settlers from other European countries. Later South African government declared itself a republic.

Zulu Rebellion (1906)

Zulu Rebellion

British had an interest in Zululand, and wanted the Zulu population to serve as labor in the diamond mines across South Africa. In the Zulu War of 1879, British suffered heavy losses but ultimately won.

In 1906, Zulu Rebellion broke out in Natal province of South Africa. It was actually a campaign against tax being imposed by the British on the Zulus, who were demanding their rights in their own land. However, the whites declared war against the Zulus. In this rebellion, Gandhi served from British side, as the officer in charge of the Indian volunteer ambulance corps. He was also given Zulu War Medal for his services.

Gandhi returned this medal back to the British in 1920 during the Khilafat movement, as a sign of protest.


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