African Resistance to Colonial Rule
Benjamin Talton writes; “The success of the European conquest and the nature of African resistance must be seen in light of Western Europe’s long history of colonial rule and economic exploitation around the world.
In fact, by 1885 Western Europeans had mastered the art of divide, conquer, and rule, honing their skills over four hundred years of imperialism and exploitation in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. In addition, the centuries of extremely violent, protracted warfare among themselves, combined with the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, produced unmatched military might.”
Talton explains further that ”After the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, at which the most powerful European countries agreed upon rules for laying claim to particular African territories, the British, French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, Belgians, and Portuguese set about formally implementing strategies, for the long-term occupation and control of Africa.
The conquest had begun decades earlier—and in the case of Angola and South Africa, centuries earlier. But after the Berlin Conference it became more systematic and overt” (Benjamin Talton – Temple University)
History records that; African Kings, Chiefs, Christian Bishops and Muslim Leaders all, “participated in the slave trade”. However there was also Africans who fought valorously against both colonialism and slavery.
Chattel slavery, as it existed, was the worst kind of human bondage. Africans fought against and resisted slavery in their homeland, on the seas and in America. There was continuous resistance against Europeans, during every phase of the slave trade. In response to the increasing rebellion, of the Africans, the European slave traders created laws and set up schemes, designed to reduce African resistance.
Much of the information about the resistance to slavery, came from written documents kept by the European sailors. There is enough information, including historical facts, which chronicles the resistance and dislike of the European slave trade. To further establish that the enslavement of Africans, was not universally accepted by the African people; African leaders and those opposing the European slave trade, organized and assigned large groups, to keep watch for slave ships traveling to the East and whose crews were well-known for kidnapping Africans along the coast.
For example, King Ansah of Ghana (1470-1486) had the Fante people watch for European ships, and prevented them from coming ashore. Many other African leaders, did not permit Europeans in their kingdoms. In Benin, the people had heard of the intentions of the Europeans, so they killed them as soon as they came ashore. There were some kings who agreed to trade with the Europeans, but attempted to stop it, once they saw the problems that were being created in their lands.
Through the tactics of several African leaders and kings, they were able to minimize the European slave trade, but they could not stop it completely. The treachery and greed of the Europeans, hurt the African economy and, damaged their trade relations.
African King Nzenga Maremba, tried to stop the slave trade in the Congo, only after he originally, participated in the trade, in exchange for military items and support from Portugal. King Maremba agreed to release his African prisoners of war to the Portuguese, who wanted the best young African men as a bargaining chips, to be sure that the King kept his word. The Portuguese, promised to train and educate the young men to become priests and later to return them to the Congo. King Meremba let the Portuguese convince him, to take the Christian name Alfonso, as a show of support. When Alfonso asked for the return of a few of his former prisoners, who they said had been trained, to serve as physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, assistants for shipbuilders and carpenters, his requests were denied. After having his requests denied several times, King Alfonso learned that his prisoners of war had been sold as slaves in Portugal. In 1526, King Alfonso wrote to King John III, the former King of Portugal, and asked for his help in ending the slave trade in the Congo. He explained the freedoms that he had given to the Portuguese, who had set up shops, become merchants in the Congo and had amassed fortunes. Yet the people in the Congo, could not do the same, because they had complied with the agreements and now, did not have the same abundance of wealth as the invaders. King Alfonso related that the damage was so great that his people and land were being seized daily. King Alfonso ended his letter to King John III, with another request for his help, because it was the will of the people in the Congo and other kingdoms that there should not be any trading of slaves nor markets for slaves.
Other countries that were resisting the slave trade throughout the continent of Africa were Senegal, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, and Angola.
In 1777, King Agadja, a Dahomey monarch, captured an Englishman and his slave raiding party who had entered his kingdom looking for more Africans. The Englishman and his crew were released after they promised to return all the Africans they had captured. King Agadja gave the Englishmen a warning to take to the rulers of England, that if any other slave traders were sent to his Kingdom, or other kingdoms, they would be killed.
In 1787, the Senegal King of Almammy, passed a law that made it illegal to take enslaved Africans through his kingdom. To let Europeans know how serious the law was, the king returned the presents French slave traders sent as bribes.
Queen Nzingha of Angola In 1626 Nzinga became Queen of the Mbundu when her brother committed suicide, in the face of rising Portuguese demands for slave trade concessions. Nzinga, however, refused to allow them to control her nation. In 1627, after forming alliances with former rival states, she led her army against the Portuguese, initiating a thirty year war against them. Despite repeated attempts by the Portuguese and their allies to capture or kill Queen Nzinga. The Portuguese finally negotiated a treaty with her in 1656. Their treaty remained in effect until she died. Nzinga died peacefully in her eighties on December 17, 1663. Queen Nzingha had a standing order, that any enslaved African, who reached her territory “was free”.(see warrior Queens and warrior queens cont.)