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AFRICAN RESPONSE TO EUROPEAN COLONIAL RULE

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AFRICAN RESPONSE TO EUROPEAN COLONIAL RULE

African societies responded in different ways to European occupation. Those African societies or leaders that right from the start of colonialism decided to fight Europeans are known as primary resistors. They include Kabarega of Bunyoro, Samori Toure of the Mandinka, Nandi of Kenya, Hehe under Mkwawa, Menelik II of Ethiopia and Abdel Kader of Algeria. Those who welcomed Europeans and only decided to fight after realizing that Europeans had taken their independence and wealth are called secondary resistors. Examples include Buganda under Mwanga and the Ndebele under Lobengula. Some communities also did not mind whether they were colonized or not.Then there were communities who cooperated with Europeans. These are known as collaborators. They include Buganda, Ankole, Maasai among others. Another category included opportunists, mercenaries or career collaborators. These supported colonialists in exchange for material gains. Examples include Apollo Kagwa and Semei Kakungulu of Buganda.

 

Why some Africans collaborated

Africans collaborated with European colonialists firstly because they thought this would protect their independence. They never expected Europeans to betray them and take away their independence. They never understood that the signing of treaties of protection would take away their independence. They thought Europeans wanted to protect them from other imperialists or to promote trade between their countries and Europe. These leaders were illiterate and treaties were interpreted for them by missionaries, traders and other imperialist agents who would convince them to sign. Some Africans collaborated because they wanted to get weapons and other forms of military support against their enemies. Buganda felt threatened by Egypt and Kabarega of Bunyoro, Laibon Lenana of the Maasai wanted protection against his brother Sendeyo. In Senegal African societies collaborated with the French because of the threat of Samori Toure of the Mandinka Empire. The Shona collaborated with the British so as to use them against the Ndebele.

 

Some Africans collaborated because of military weakness. They realized that Europeans had better weapons and methods of fighting. They feared that fighting Europeans would put their independence at risk. Some had seen how their neighbours   who resisted were defeated by the superior military power of Europeans. They therefore feared that fighting would put their independence at risk. They chose friendship as a way of protecting their social, political and economic organization. Examples include Mutesa I of Buganda,Maasai under Laibon Lenana ,Rumanyika of  Karagwe,the Tukolor and the Lozi.

 

Natural calamities also forced some Africans to collaborate. For example, the Maasai had been weakened by smallpox, rinderpest and internal conflict. The Banyankore were affected by epidemics of jiggers and rinderpest. Besides the Banyankore had been invaded by Rwanda and expected more attacks from Rwanda and Bunyoro. Such societies were therefore too weak to fight the British. In such circumstances African societies chose to collaborate to solve their problems.

 

Some Africans collaborated because they wanted to acquire wealth. Africans liked European goods because they thought they were better. Such goods included clothes, beads, guns, mirrors and wines. Besides they had been told by missionaries that they were primitive and backward. They therefore collaborated to get European wealth. The Baganda were such an example. Other Africans collaborated because they hoped to loot property after the defeat of African resistors. An example is Luo support to the British against the Nandi in present day Kenya.

 

Some Africans collaborated because of missionary influence. Missionaries invited their countries to take over areas where they worked. They convinced Africans that accepting colonial rule would protect them from their enemies. They quoted from the Bible that if one slapped you on the cheek you do not fight. They also told Africans that all authority comes from God and they had to accept colonial rule. Missionaries also convinced Africans to sign treaties of protection. For example Coillard wrote a letter on behalf of King Lewanika of the Lozi in Zambia for British protection.

 

Some Africans collaborated because their enemies resisted Europeans. For example, the Baganda chose to collaborate because Bunyoro resisted British rule.

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