04.07.2019 in Informative

Reasons for the Scramble


By the beginning of the 19th century, many considered colonialism to have become time-barred.  By this time, Britain had already lost her thirteen Colonies in North America, Portugal and Spain had lost nearly all their colonies in South America and the Dutch were thinking of giving up the East Indies as retaining them as a colony was apparently proving not to be worth the trouble of maintaining them. However, various social, political, and economic conditions in Europe led to the scramble for and partition of Africa in the late 19th and early 20th century. The effects of this scramble and subsequent occupation of Africa had far reaching socio-political and economic effects both in Europe and in the colonies. The response to the subjugation also will forever remain embalmed in the history of the continent.

Reasons for the Scramble

Unification of Germany- The formal unification of Prussian states at Versailles on 18 January 1871 into a single administrative unit following their victory over the French empire signified an entry of another strong player into the European politics. Having failed to take part in the Old Imperialism in the Americas, Germany was eager to assert her image as a European power and the only place she could get colonies was in Africa. This was also encouraged by the fact that there was no room for any expansion in Europe for the new country without falling afoul with other European powers. The unification of Germany also left France smarting from humiliation and as such, she considered getting new colonies a way of restoring her glory and also to compensate for the two mineral rich provinces she had lost to Germany after the Franco-Prussian war.

Gateway to India

Egypt remained the most viable gateway to India through the Suez Canal. Britain was therefore keen to control all lands through which the Nile passed. This led to having interests in Egypt, which the French also claimed, the Sudan, and Uganda.

The Congo

Many European countries had interests and trading activities in the Congo basin. They felt that their interests would be threatened in the event that another power was to take control of the Congo. This led to the scramble for the area (Cowie, 1982).

Economic Reasons

European powers felt that territorial expansion would give them a chance to exploit the minerals in Africa, get raw materials for their industries back in Europe, establish a new market for their industrial goods, have alternative lands to settle their excess population and acquire land to grow food to feed their populace back in Europe. The scramble led to the organization of the Berlin conference of 1884–85 which formalized the partition and each power got their share of Africa based on how much influence they had there. Following the Berlin conference, the Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal all set colonies and put in place measures to stamp their authority in the region. Each of the imperialist first had to lay a claim of the area they wished to annex and prove that they had ongoing commercial activities and had effectively established a sphere of influence in the area. The British diplomat and administrator Cecil Rhodes who hoped to secure connected, adjacent colonies for the British Empire running from Egypt to Cairo that would ease connectivity and administration. The dream was never realized since Portugal laid claim to Angola and Mozambique, both of which were part of the continuous adjacent colonies also referred to as the red line as its spheres of influence (Diamond, 1999). As a result, Britain annexed and occupied Egypt and Sudan in North Africa, Uganda and Kenya in East Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa in Southern Africa and Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa. The French in turn annexed nearly all of West and Central Africa while the Italians got Libya and part of Somaliland. The Germans got Tanganyika and Cameroon. The Belgians claimed Congo while the Spaniards got parts of Morocco and smaller colonies in West Africa. By the year 1908, all of Africa had been colonized with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia which were to retain their sovereignty throughout the colonial period. Each of the colonial power then went ahead to impose its policy of governing its colony (Jared, 1999).

Responses to Colonization

Africans in reacted in a myriad of ways to European Imperialism. Many African communities violently resisted the annexation of their territory to their level best.  However, many had very inferior weapons and lacked organized military tactics. Resistances ranged from that put by Samori Toure in West Africa against the French for close to ten years. The resistance was by far the largest to encounter the imperialists immediately after their occupation. In Tanganyika the Maji Maji rebellion led by Kinjikitile Ngwale shook the German administration. The Maji Maji rebellion was unique in its own way in that it united most of African communities in Southern Tanganyika unlike in other areas where each community fought alone. In Kenya, the Nandi put on a spirited rebellion under their leader, Koitalel. Some African Community Leaders however, welcomed the imperialists as they were keen to have them as allies to help them subdue their traditional enemies. Interestingly, some of these communities were among the ones that the imperialists were most apprehensive of. Collaborating communities included the Maasai of Kenya under their leader, Lenana, the Ndebele of Zimbabwe under King Lobengula, and the Baganda of Uganda. These were only the initial responses. Later after World War 2, Africans in different colonies, mainly who wad participated in the war, took up arms and violently resisted the imperialists in many parts of Africa including Kenya, Mozambique, Congo, and Nigeria.

Violent and Non- Violent revolutions

Various Parallels have been drawn between violent and non- Violent methods as a means to achieving a course. While proponents for non- violence cite regard for human life and exhibition of human development in non- violence, many who have been involved in violent revolution justify them by claiming that they are a quicker way of achieving the cause and that those who due to the high price of the same, those involved make great efforts to safeguard the gains made from the protest. However, non-violent protests have been proven to be as effective as non- violent protests. Ghana which employed use of non- violent revolution methods, gained independence from colonialism before most of the African countries which protested violently (Varsina, 1966). The Orange Revolution in Ukraine is a good index of how effective non-violent protest methods can be. The revolution included national wide civil disobedience acts , general strikes  and sit-ins that were organized by Viktor Yushchenko, the main opposition candidate and his political movement following the controversial declaration of Viktor Yanukovych as the winner of the 2004 elections. The Committee of National Salvation which considered a government by Viktor Yanukovych as illegitimate organized the protests. The protests were highly successful since the Ukraine’s Supreme Court ruled that due to election fraud a run-off ought to take place. The run- off was considered free and fair by observers and Viktor Yushchenko won by a comfortable majority (Centre for Eastern Studies, 2005). It is important to note that civil wars, revolts and rebellions and coups d’états that are not aimed at transforming institutions of authority, cannot be categorized as revolutions. However, violent civil or military actions that aim to transform institutions are revolutions per se. One such revolution was the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua the between 1978 and1979 that led to the oust of the Somoza family dictatorship and the rise of the leftwing Sandinista National Liberation Front to power.

The death toll from the revolution is estimated at 10 000 (Chamorro, 1988). The revolution was initially instigated by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) guerilla army created in 1962 in opposition to the extremes of the Somoza government. However, thousands of students, peasants, and even landowners joined this revolution group in January 1978 in the wake of the assassination Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, a popular journalist in which the government was suspected to have a hand. The increase in the number of fighters as well as the popular support was a big boost to the FSNL.  In the course of the revolution, the fighters employed the use of guerrilla warfare tactics that included ambushes, raids, kidnaps and extermination of government officials loyalists and other military tactics that require the element of surprise due to their small number. However, with increase in numbers, they employed direct combat against the government forces thus increasing the number of casualties and prompting the Organization of American States to intervene and initiate mediation talks (Cockburn, 1988). The talks were unsuccessful and fighting resumed with each side indiscriminately attacking the other. By July 1979, it was apparent the revolutionaries had defeated the government forcing president Somoza Luis to hand over power to his deputy Francisco Urcuyo and flee the country. Urcuyo in turn handed power to the military junta 18 hours later and he too fled into exile (Chamorro, 1988). The revolution was therefore a success in that it had ended the 43 year Somoza family dictatorship and had brought into power the left- wing communists who enjoyed popular support in the country as well as in the region at the time.

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