The Scramble for Africa, also often referred to as the Partition of Africa and more accurately the Conquest of Africa, occurred in the decades after the Berlin Conference, which sought to properly divide up Africa between the European countries. As Europeans scrambled to partition, conquer, and colonize African nations they encountered an array of leaders, all of who wanted independence, but had different views on how to gain or keep that independence.
Europeans gave the illusion of choice to African leaders while in actuality they planned to enslave the nation and shut down all resistance (doc 4) against unjust treatment. Treaties such as that commissioned by the British government in Document one demonstrate this perfectly. The treaty states that the chief’s would cede their nation “forever,” giving no conditions as to proper conduct for the British government, therefore leading to the enslaving of any country who signed as is demonstrated by Ndansi Kumalo, “We were treated like slaves. They came and were overbearing,” (doc 4). They couldn’t take military action without consent (doc 1), making African leadership completely powerless, and the amount paid for land was to be decided by the European master, which in actually meant they could take any desired land. While African leaders may have imagined they had a choice in that they were signing a treaty, they were in actuality signing away their nations rights.
Some leader’s, however, saw through this European deception and decided to take a stand against European colonization. These leaders, such as Ashanti leader Prepheh I, did not want to fight but knew they “must remain as of old and at the same time remain friendly with all White men,” (doc 2). These leaders did not want war, they simply wished to be left alone and were even willing to become allies with the Europeans, so long as they were treated fairly. This desire to remain friendly led some of the men to remain passive requiring Ashanti queen mother, Y aa Asantewa to state of herself and other Ashanti women, “We will fight the White men. We will fight until the last of us falls on the battlefields,” (doc 6) Women played a larger role in decision making in Africa in general, but their role increased greatly during the Scramble for Africa as they refused to be enslaved.
Natives feared foreign rule and the social problems that came along with it. Some nations, such as Ethiopia (doc 3), relied on faith and in South Africa, the belief that death in battle would be better than slavery (doc 4, 6, 7 & 9), “Let us die fighting rather than die as a result of maltreatment, imprisonment or some other calamity,” (doc 7). Leaders, such as Menelik II, and their beliefs were reinforced in the general population with painting such as that of the Battle of Adowa (doc 5), which portrayed the Ethiopians with a much stronger army as well as heritage than the Italians. While the Ndebeke Rebellion did not fare as well, the African soldiers bravely resisted, “We made many charges but each time we were defeated,” (doc 4).
Some Africans were even against rebelling thinking remaining peaceful might preserve their nations from further conflict (doc 7), but this only led to the exploitation of their villages (doc 7). They too, soon began to rebel against unjust treatment. The Germans used African religious practices as a way to discredit African leaders’ and as propaganda to show how African soldiers were being manipulated (doc 8). While this may have gotten European peoples more invested, it did not change the determined African fighters.
In discussing African actions and reactions to the Scramble for Africa, it would be helpful to have the following additional documents. All but two of the documents given are from the 1890s or 1900s, thus it would be useful to have some documents explaining African views and action in the 1880s. In addition charts describing differing African stances would be beneficial. Further documents describing life under the treaties provided by Europeans would be profitable. Lastly, some documents describing the actions of the few passive leaders would aid the completion of this discussion.
Europeans saw Africa as cheap labor, limited competition, and an abundance of the resources not a giant landmass of individuals who desired to be treated fairly. African nations such as the Ashanti sought to preserve relationships with Europe while continuing to remain independent. Others such as Ethiopia relied on their faith to get through European colonization. Some remained passive. Thus, while Africans had different opinions on how to rebel, ultimately most African leaders declared together, “You think because you have guns you can take away our land and our possessions. You have sickness in your heads for this is not justice,” (doc 9) and refused to be ruled by this “sickness”.