"To speak of collaborating with and others as resisting the colonial incursion is to blur reality." Discuss.
From the late nineteenth century colonial rule became present in most African societies with the main colonial powers being the British, the Germans and the French. These imperial powers took over the African states primarily for economic reasons. They sought to exploit Africa's extensive resources of gold and diamonds and they also wanted to take advantage of the trade opportunities. Different states reacted differently to this colonial incursion. Some states actively resisted the colonial powers using arms to try to defeat them.
It can be said that other states collaborated with the Europeans. Equally however it could argued that collaboration was never a reaction of Africans to colonial incursion and that the Africans only worked with the Europeans to gain for themselves by trying to manipulate European policies to suit themselves. In essence, I do believe that some states collaborated while others resisted in some parts of Africa. However I feel that real collaboration with the Europeans was rare because the Africans were generally thinking of gaining for themselves, and they would not allow the colonial powers to freely take-over their territories without some concessions. European presence was felt first by the Africans in the form of new trade opportunities and the increased availability of modern weapons.
Those which experienced these new opportunities did not resist as they were gaining from European presence in Africa. Also, the presence of Europeans did not alarm the Africans initially because other aliens such as the Arabs had been present around the coastal areas for centuries. The Africans also believed that their independence would be maintained, as the Arab traders had not threatened their ruling authority. This lack of suspicion ensured that the Africans were willing to collaborate with the new settlers, as they initially saw no reason not to co-operate with them. Many Africans also collaborated for specific reasons such as wanting to seek the favour of their new rulers. It was clear that the Europeans were stronger, in a military sense, than the Africans and thus, many thought it best to work with the colonialists in order to enjoy a peaceful life after an inevitable take over.
The people of Bugundia for example, became Christians in 1900, even before they were taken over by the British. They recognised the advantages that taking on some Western culture could bring and they also saw the advantages of literacy skills which the British would bring, as well as efficient European weapons. The Bugundia people also realised their military weakness if faced with a British army. Consequently, they did not resist the colonial incursion and some collaborated with the British in order to help them with the take-over because they genuinely thought that British rule would bring benefits.
This was not just a case of the Bugundian people giving in early to an inevitable defeat. Although they would almost certainly have been defeated by the British if they had resisted, they did have the power to make the take over slow and expensive, thus the decision not to resist and the help of some Bugundian people can be viewed as a form of collaboration. Another reaction which could be seen as a form of collaboration was that of Rindi of Mashi of Northern Tanzania. He wanted the Germans to take over his territory because he felt that they would provide protection, while allow him also to continue ruling because the main priority of the Germans was to reap the trade benefits which Tanzania offered, as oppose to ruling the African people of the Mashi territory. Rindi was about to be invaded by Sina of Kilimanjaro, and if defeated he would have lost all power, thus he wanted the protection of the Germans. Those who were willing to negotiate with the Germans were generally treated with respect, as were their institutions, so a German take-over was a more attractive option than an invasion by a fellow African.
Rindi therefore collaborated with the Germans and welcomed them to Mashi and the presence of Europeans with superior weapons ensured that Sina no longer believed invasion to be a viable option. Africans also collaborated as a result of rivalry between societies. The Kikuyu people of West Africa for example, welcomed the British like Rindi of Mashi, for protection. This was to protect the Kikuyu from repercussions however, as they wanted to steal cattle and raid the land of neighbouring societies under British rule.
Therefore, there were instances when the Africans appeared to collaborate with the Europeans. It is possible to argue however that the Africans never collaborated with the colonial rulers and that all reaction towards colonial incursion was a form of resistance. Although the European powers could defeat the Africans with relative ease, it was very difficult to hold on to newly acquired territories if the Africans resisted, without a permanent army and continuos fighting. The colonialists and the Europeans therefore, usually negotiated with each other as to the terms of the colonial incursion. This need for negotiation highlights the fact that the Africans frequently resisted the Europeans simply taking over and doing, as they liked with the territory and its inhabitants. Under the 1900 Uganda agreement for example, the British gave concessions in return for Ganda not resisting the colonial incursion.
This agreement in effect located power with the British as well as the local aristocracy. Thus the people of Ganda negotiated with the imperial power and resisted a total British take over of power. Other Africans sustained good relations with their imperial powers in order to use them to satisfy their own needs, as the Northern Tanzanians did with the Germans. The people of North Tanzania saw increased trading opportunities with the presence of the Germans as not only did they bring goods with them, they provided an increased market for the Africans.
Again the Africans were not collaborating with the Germans in order to ease the take over, they were instead working to take advantages of opportunities for themselves, and without opportunities such as trade, it is unlikely that the Northern Tanzanians would have allowed such a peaceful colonial incursion. In addition, many African states soon realised that those who worked with the imperial powers would be given privileges, where resisting would result in harsh treatment. As it was unlikely that Africans would defeat the Europeans many did choose to work with them and gain from their presence, rather than suffer from it. To fa Porto Navy of Western Africa for example chose to work with the French colonialists to aid commercial development, in return he gained support against dynastic claims to his position and territorial claims to his state. Thus, he was tactful in using the French presence to his own advantage which was different from actually collaborating with them to ease their take over and secure economic benefits for the imperial power. However, although it is debatable whether there actually was any collaboration between the Africans and the Europeans, there were many instances of violent resistance throughout Africa as a result of colonial incursion.
This violence was especially prominent in the more centralised African societies where the mobilisation of forces was easier to achieve. This led to the use of European mercenaries against such violent Africans. In many parts of Africa however, such as the West, arms were used initially to make European rule effective, but there was little need for them at first. As already mentioned, the Europeans were not initially seen as a threat because alien presence was not new. Nevertheless, after the Europeans already had taken control of the territories, weapons were used as the Africans resisted certain measures imposed on them. They were angered by the arrogance of the Europeans who believed that they had a right to the African land and a right to decide policies for them, as a result of their apparent superiority.
The people if Ghana for example, resisted the 1859 Poll Tax imposed on them by the British. They especially were incensed by the fact that some of the revenue acquired from the tax was to pay the wages of the public servants, rather than improve the local area and much violence resulted from the African anger towards the Poll Tax. There was a great deal more resistance in Tanzania however, than there was in Ghana. In Tanzania, resistance was largely continuos and much of it started at the beginning of the colonial incursion, unlike in other areas of Africa. The two main resistances were in the coastal region, one originated in the North and expanded around the coast as well as about forty miles inland and another was in Kiowa.
The Kil we resistance of 1888 began when the Germans arrived in Pong ani and huge numbers of Africans gathered to stop the Germans from establishing themselves in the area. Some of the coastal Tanzanian people resisted German intervention because their presence threatened the political power of the leaders and thus they were seeking to defend their position. Bwana Here for example fought for his leadership and consequently refused to give his role up to the Germans upon request. Others resisted in order to remain economically independent. They did not want the revenue of the Coastal areas of Tanzania being exported to Germany, nor did they want to pay taxes to a leadership that they would rather do without. The South of Tanzania however was the area where the most bloodshed occurred, in retaliation to German intervention.
The Wahehe people under Mkwawa created a huge source of opposition to the Germans. Mkwawa gained huge profits from a heavy tax, which he levied on trade going through his territory; the Germans however wanted free access across without the risk of violence. The Wahehe leader was successful in his first attempt to defeat the Germans in 1891 but in 1894 when the Germans retaliated, he was defeated and a heavy fine was imposed on the Wahehe people as a punishment for fighting. Resistance to colonial incursion was acted out not just Africans however, one of the most notorious wars of resistance was the 1889-1902 Boer War between the Afrikaans (the Dutch settlers in South Africa) and the British. The British wanted control of the resources of the Transvaal, but the Boers were determined to keep the South African Republic under their power.
A lengthy and violent war resulted and although the British eventually secured a victory, the Boers resisted the invasion with such determination that they very nearly defeated the British forces. Equally, much of the early violence resisting of colonial incursion was fought between Africans. In the early period of colonialism, the late nineteenth century, there were very few European settlers and African mercenaries were therefore recruited by the Europeans to tackle any resistance by fellow Africans. They were generally very effective, had extensive knowledge of the land they were fighting in, unlike the Europeans. In the Boer War for example, the Africans played a huge role in the British victory, although their role was unofficial as both the British and the Boers agreed from the outset that it would be a 'white' war without either side using Africans.
Resistance therefore, also took the form of Europeans fighting Europeans and Africans warring with Africans. Thus, it is evident that some African states did resist colonial incursion and this resistance was not just confined to the Africans fighting the European imperial powers. The reactions of Africans towards colonial incursion depended a great deal on the colonial power which they were under. British and French policies differed for example. The French tried to impose their customs and practices on their colonies while removing their traditional institutions thus, they faced a great deal of resistance, as the Africans generally objected to their traditions being eliminated.
The British in contrast, were less integrationist and largely left the existing African institutions untouched, thus providing scope for more collaboration as oppose to resistance. The British realised that this was a cheaper option and it would also help to appease the Africans, therefore helping to ensure their loyalty. Also, the British realised that they would need to use the African labour for the exploitation of the resources. Thus again it can be said that some resisted, such as those under French rule, where as those under British rule were more willing to work with their colonial power.
Nevertheless, for many African states and even communities it is difficult to say that some collaborated where as others resisted because many reacted in both ways to colonial incursion. In the majority of West Africa for example, there was not a great deal of violence as a result of European settlers. The Africans did not have the military strength of the Europeans and they recognised this fact, thus ensuring that much of the incursion was peaceful. In addition, the Europeans saw the Africans as future subjects and therefore tried not to alienate or anger them as they would need their co-operation at a later date, this created a willingness among Africans to collaborate with the colonial powers, as they were treated with respect.
The Sudan was an exception to this however. A huge amount of resistance was shown by the Africans, to the terror and force which was used in the take over by the French Infant erie de Marine. This difference in reaction to colonial rule highlights the fact that resistance and collaboration can be shown in one area. In this instance therefore, to say that some areas of Africa resisted and others collaborated would be to "blur reality." Both collaboration and resistance were shown in smaller societies also. Colonial incursion brought not just a change to a western government; it also brought Western culture to Africa and some African states accepted parts of the Western culture, but not others. Jaja of Opodo of West Africa for example, wanted to reap the trade benefits of European presence, but he was not willing to allow traditional institutions to be "corrupted" and nor would he allow the presence of Christianity in his territory.
Also in West Africa however, in contrast to Jaja, George Pebble of B anny wanted the Europeans to spread Christianity, as well as their way of life and he also wanted the Europeans to teach his subjects about trade. The people of Ghana also undertook a policy to both collaborate and resist the colonial incursion of the British. As already mentioned, the Poll Tax imposed in 1852 was very unpopular within Ghana and displeasure was expressed through violent resistance. However, they collaborated with the British when the imperial power tried to make peace between the Ghana and their long time enemy, the Asante. In 1831, the Tripartite Treaty was signed by the Asante, Ghana and the British in order to create peace between the two states and allow British control of the southern states of Ghana, which the Asante had always maintained a claim on.
In addition, western weapons were welcome in many states and there was a huge demand for them, even in those areas which rejected every other aspect of colonial incursion. Thus, some states partially resisted colonial incursion, especially when their traditional institutions and practices were under threat but these states also welcomed certain aspects of colonial rule. It is also difficult to talk of Africans resisting or collaborating in stateless societies, such as the Tiv people of Be une Valley. As there was an absence of one ruler in such a society, there was not one collective voice or authority. Thus, some of the Tiv people were strongly against colonial incursion and tried to resist a take over, but others saw the economic benefits of European presence were consequently willing to collaborate with them. Even if all those with a higher status within the community were advocates of one policy they could not make the community unite, as they did not constitute a high authority.
It is therefore certainly a 'blur to reality' to talk so some resisting and others collaborating in such stateless societies because in this instance the society was divided on the policy for colonialists. It is evident therefore, that in certain states some Africans collaborated with the Europeans, such as the Bugundia people, while others in Northern Tanzania for example resisted colonial incursion. Nevertheless, to speak of some as collaborating and others as resisting the colonial powers is to 'blur reality' in many cases. I believe that 'negotiation' is a more accurate term when speaking of the way the Africans worked with the Europeans. They primarily wanted to satisfy their own needs, thus much of the time they were resisting as they were co-operating only partly with the colonial powers, in order to gain concessions. Thus, I conclude that real collaboration was virtually non existent.
In addition, many societies and states both co-operated with the colonial powers and resisted them as they welcomed some western, influences such as the trade benefits, but not others such as Christianity. Consequently, there was not always a clear distinction between the societies that collaborated with and the others that resisted the colonial incursion, to a large extent therefore, I think that 'to speak of collaborating with and others as resisting the colonial incursion is to blur reality.'.