EAST AND CENTRAL AFRICA IN THE 20THCENTURY
AYOH’OMIDIRE IFEDAYO IMANUELA- HIS/2014/032
TOPIC: EXAMINE THE FACTORS THAT LED TO THE RISE OF REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS IN OUR AREA OF STUDY.
SUBMITED TO: DR. E. AKUBOR
SUBMISSION DATE: FEBRUARY 27, 2017.
Between the 1870s and 1900, Africa faced European imperialist aggression, diplomatic pressures, military invasions and eventually conquest and colonization. The20thcentury particularly involved the colonization, exploitation, exploration and domination of these areas. But it should be noted thatamid this conquest and control exercised by the colonialists, African societies put up various forms of resistance against these colonizers through revolutionary movements. By the early 20thcentury, much of Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia had been colonized by European powers.
The advent of Europeans in Africa is said to have been motivated by 3 main factors; the economic factor seen in the form for of search for resources to fuel the growth of Europe; the political factor in terms of prestige placed on the acquisition and domination of regions outside their spheres and finally the social factor whichinvolved the desire(though dormant)ofEuropeans to change the African way of lifethrough the introduction ofChristianityandCivilization.The major purpose achieved by the Europeans at the end of the day is the economic factor. It was the interplay of these factorsthat is economic, political and social factors and forces that led to the scramble for Africa. The Berlin West African Conferencegenerally known as the Berlin Conference which held from November 1884-february 1885 under the leadership of Otto Von Bismarck was primarily to prevent inter-imperialist conflicts and wars. The conference produced a treaty known as the Berlin Act which provided the guide of conduct for the European inter-imperialist competition in Africa. The treaty provided the basis for the subsequent partition, invasion and colonizationofAfrica by the European powers which included Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
To begin with, we should understand the meaning of imperialism, colonialism, revolution and revolutionary movements, nationalism and independence. Imperialism can be defined as the policy in which one country seeks to extend its authority by conquest to other countries or by establishing economic and political dominance over other countries. Colonialism on the other hand can be defined as a policy in which a country rules over another for the development of its own economy. Revolution can be defined as a fundamental change in political organization, especially through the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed. Nationalism on its own is the desire to achieve political independence, especially by a country under foreigncontrol or by a people with a separate identity and culture but no state of their own. Finally Independence is said to be freedom from outside control or dependency on another country or state.
Having defined these crucial terms in a bid to understand the factors that led to the rise of the revolutionary movements in the East and Central Africanregions of Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique,Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad, Congo, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and other islands in the region, one can now talk about the nature of the colonial rule in these regions and the factors that led to the rise of revolutionary movements.
On a general note, the colonial powers that ruled over the East and Central African regions were Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany. Each one of these colonial powers used different policies and different methods to control the various regions and to enact their powers. In the British colonized regions for example, the rule was indirect just as the one put in place in the West African countries. In the French colonized regions,the policy of assimilation took perfect care of the regions and ensured the control of France over these regions even till date, and the other colonist also ruled the colonies in their own ways. The major thing which can be said to have been common amongst all the colonial powers is the extortionand extractionof resources both natural andlabor based from these colonizedregions against the will of the people. TheEast and CentralAfrican people could no longer take the insults and constant abuses from the colonial Lords and at this point decided to revolt against the control and forceful takeover of their regions. This period of rethink of the Africanpeople, this period of rise against the colonial powers and this period of awareness against the colonial powers led to the birth of therevolutionary movements also known as theNationalistic movements in the African regions.
African Nationalism is a desire of African people to terminate all foreign rules. It is the political will of the people of Africa in opposition of foreign domination but in favor of African rule. African nationalism represents the African struggle against Western colonialism and imperialism. According to Michael Crowder, nationalism is the feeling of national consciousness or awareness by the people that they are members of a nation state and desire freedom from colonial rule.
Various factors caused or led to the rise of revolutionary movements in the East and Central African region, some were internal while some were external. One of them is the political grievances of the people. The people lost their freedom and liberty to these imperialist foreigners who imposed their rule and policies upon the African people and they wanted at all cost to free themselves from these shackles. The policies of assimilation, indirect rule and others which were put in place by these Europeans to rule and control these regions were not respecters of African political structures. This enraged the African peopleand they began to find means to change the situation.
Economic grievance was another major factor that led to the revolutionary movementsin the African regions. The useoftheForced laborof Africans to work on the colonial plantations to provide cheap labor. Forced labor which was seen as another form of slavery in which this time there is a reward either monetary or otherwise. The difference between forced labor and slavery was the fact that there was reward(though not equivalent to the amount of labor provided) for the workwhereas slavery had no rewards except that of living. Africans who resisted the labor were punished heavily through the imposition of heavy taxes like the hut tax, poll tax,matititax and others were all introduced in a bid to force the indigenous people to work in the plantations.Also, the confiscation of cattle as to deny the people from engaging in other economic activities and resort to cheap laboralong with land alienation to keep Africans away from practicing their subsistence agriculture and begin to supply cheap labor in the colonial plantations.
Again, another factor is said to be the settlement of large numbers of European settlers in different parts of Africa. Large numbers of Africans were displaced from fertile lands in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and many other regions. This caused destruction of African culture, poverty, hunger and other forms of suffering. It also exposed Africans to segregation.
The improved transport network and urbanization which led to concentration of population in mining centers, cash crops growing and processing areas and port cities. This in turn caused urbanization.When rapid urbanization is accompanied by rapid economic growth, such expansion is not necessarily destabilizing, but problems arise when urban concentration grows in conjunction with a lagging economy.Many people from different ethnic groups migrated to thetowns;peopleof different backgrounds shared their experiences. They suffered the same problems of racial discrimination, unemployment and poor livingconditions. From these issues, people came together to fight against the oppressing government.
Colonial education also contributed to the rise of African revolutionary movements As a result of westerneducation, a group of African elite with anti-colonial sentiments emerged.It has typically been the case that revolutionary youth movements have been preceded by a vast expansion in secondary or higher education that exceeds the expansion in opportunities for further upward careermobility.Theeducated Africans later became leaders ofnationalist movements and played decisive roles in the mobilization of their people for political independence. They include people likeJomoKenyatta,ModiboKeita,MamadouDiaamong others.
Another prominent factor is the Newspapers which played major role. After World War II there emerged big number of educated elites who founded a number of newspapers. The elite used these newspapers to expose colonial exploitation and to mobilize the people for he nationalistic struggle.
The rise of Pan-Africanism since the 1900 also contributed to the rise of revolutionary movements in our area of study.This was the movement which opposed the oppression over all blacks in the world. It was founded in America by the people of African origin. According to Stephen James (2003) says: “Pan-African Movement declared that Africa had to be independent. Most Africans were inspired by the declaration and started struggles for independence. It provided moral and material support to the nationalist moral. Support entailed of giving ideas and advice on the strategies which had to be used by the Africans to eradicate colonialism materially. Pan-Africanism fives funds to assist the leaders during the struggle for independence.”In 1945, the Pan-African Manchester Congress in England marked a turning pointbecause it attempted to address the needs of all blacks. Pan-Africanism sought the liberation of all blacks and through it African leaders became more influential in the movement as they used it to attack colonial rule. Pan-Africanism influenced African nationalist leaders such a KenyattaNyerere, Haile Selassie, Albert Luthuli and many others to rise up and fight for their people. Kwame Nkrumah is regarded as the father of “Africanized” Pan-Africanism.
African women were major contributors to resistance to colonial rule and the promotion of nationalism. Many argue that women fared the worst under the colonial rule. Governments such as Rhodesia, Kenya and South Africa sought to restrict women’s movement and even banned them from urban areas. In rural areas, they were often expected to maintain food production and raise children while their husbands rotted in jails, migrated to other regions in search of wage labor (forced labor). These women did not idly sit back and allow colonial governments to impinge on their rights, and in response to their harsh situation under these colonial rules,they organized protests, boycotts, workers’ strikes and demonstrations. In Kenya, Zimbabwe, Algeria, and other areas, that attempted armed struggle, women as well as men carried messages, spied and prepared meals. Overall, heir impact on the anti-colonial and nationalistic movements throughout Africa was profound.
The returning of ex-soldiers from the First and Second World War also played a key role in the rise of revolutionary movements. The participation of African soldiers in the war exposed experiences and techniques of war to the African soldiers; they also experienced the fact that Europeans also faced defeats, failures and weakness. On their returning home, the ex-soldiers formed military wings to liberate their independence from colonial rule.
Another very prominent factor is the rise of the United Nations as an international organization and power of the world opinion. This organization also led the African states to stand up against the colonial powers and encouraged nationalism.
Along this line too one sees the rise of USA and USSR asleading capitalistand communistnations (respectively)after the World wars as a prominent factor to the rise of theserevolutionarymovements. The superpower opposed colonialism and was hostile to the activities of colonialists in Africa. The country helped through various means to support the revolutionary groups that came up in the region through the provision of arms, monetary resources and other needed materials to fight for their liberation.
The influence of decolonization in Asia also played a big role in the growth of revolutionary movements in the East and Central African regions. Theindependence of Indian and Pakistan in 1947 encouraged Africans also tostrugglefor political independencelike their foreign counterparts.
Examples of the regions where these revolutionary movements took place include Britain-ruled Kenya where rebellions took place from 1952-1960, an insurgency by Kenyan rebels against the British colonialist rule. The core of the rebellion was formed by members of theKikuyu ethnic group, along with smaller numbers ofEmbuandMeru.For the Portuguese-Mozambique region which was the last region to start the war of liberation. The revolutionary movement in Mozambique was led by theMarxist-Leninist Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO). For the case of Eritrea theEritrean Liberation Front (ELF)took the lead in the region.African military resistance took two main forms: guerilla warfare and direct military engagements.
Withthesecauses andforms of resistance, African societies and states were able to fight off their colonial leaders and guarantee their independence there off.
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