African Resistances To Colonial Rule


African  societies  did  not  keep  silent  at   time  of  imposition  of  Colonial  rule. Africans reacted  differently  and vigorous  to  the  imposition  of  colonial  rule. There  were  three  forms  of  African  reactions ( responses)  towards  imposition  of  colonial  rule.


African Resistance

Resistance  refers  to  an  opposition  or  disagreement  of  a  certain  matter.

African  resistances  refers to  different  oppositions of reactions  that  were  taken  by  African  Society  towards  the  imposition  of  colonial  rule  in their  localities.

Many  African  resistances  historically  occurred during  the establishment  of colonial  rule  after  the  Berlin  Conference. But  these  resistances ( reactions) took place  in  three  forms:

  1. Active Resistance
  2. Passive Resistance
  3. Adaptation (Collaboration)



This was a response where the Africans resisted actively by showing of military opposition. In this form, Africans took their weapons  to  fight  against  colonial  encroachment  in  their  localities. However, active  resistances  were  divided  into  two  groups

  1. Small – Scale Resistance
  2. Large – Scale Resistance


This refer  to  the  resistance  whereby  the  local  community  armies  or  traditional  leaders  of a  certain  ethnic  group resisted  against  colonial  rule. In  other  words, it  was  an  active  resistance  that  covered  a  small  area  involving one  tribe  or  two. A  good  example of  Small  Scale  Resistance  included Nyamwezi  Resistance, Hehe Resistance, Samore Toure  Resistance, Yao  Resistance, Nandi  Resistance  etc.


It was  a resistance  which  involved  more  than  one  ethnic  group ( tribe). This  is  where  ethnic  groups  joined  together  to  fight  against  Colonial  rule. A  good  example was Majimaji resistance  in  Tangayika, Nama and  Herero  resistance  in  Namibia, Shona  and Ndebdele ( Chimurenga Uprising)  in  Zimbabwe etc.

Sometimes, this type  of  resistance  is named  as  Secondary  resistance. This  type  of  active  resistance  was   common  among  societies  which  accommodated  colonialism  at  the  beginning  but  later  decide  to resist  after  being  subjected  to  colonial  exploitation  and  oppression.


This  was  the  type  of  resistance  where  Africans  did not  involve  the  use  of  arms  to  fight  and  did  not  cooperate  with  the  colonizers. In  other  words, Africans  did  not  do  anything ( to  resist  or  cooperate) with  the  colonizers. What  these  Africans  did, was  to  resist  to  participate  in  the  colonial  activities  and payment  of  taxes  but  not  imposition of  Colonial  rule  in  their  areas.

This  was  done  by  most  of  the  smaller  societies  in  Africa  which  could  not  unite  and  oppose  the Encroachment  of  colonial  rule.


In this  type  or  response, since  African  chiefs  welcomed  the  Europeans, assisted  them  to  consolidate their  colonial  rule and  sometimes  they  allied  with  the  colonizers  to  conquer  the  neighboring  societies. A  good  example  of  African  Chiefs  who  collaborated  with  the  Colonizers  includes: Chief  Lewanika  of  Rwozi  Kingdom, Chief  Mareale  of Kilimanjaro, Mumia  of  Kenya, SemeiKakunguru  in  Uganda, ApoloKagwa  in  Uganda etc.



There  were  various  reasons  why  some  Africans  Chiefs  and  Individuals  collaborated  with  the  colonizers  during  the  imposition  of  colonialism. Some  of  those  reasons  were  as  follows:

Expectations of Africans

Some Africans were ignorant  of  the  colonizers  ambitions. They  hoped  to  be  protected  by  the  colonialists  against  their  rivals  to  revenge  against  their enemies. This  made  them  collaborate  with  colonizers. For  example, The  Sangu  collaborated  with  the  Germans  against  the  Hehe  who  were  attacking  them  everyday

Physical Factors

Factors  like  diseases, drought  and  shortage  of  food  made  some  societies  to  collaborate  with  the  colonizers For  example, the Maasai  by  the  time  of  Colonial  intrusion  were  seriously  affected  by  Cholera, rinderpest  which  killed  their  cattle  and  weak  economy. This  made  them  to  collaborate. Also  the  Haya , Ankole  and  Ha  were  seriously  affected  by  jiggers  something  which  made  them  not  to  react  militarily, instead  they  decided  to  collaborate.

Individual interests

Some  Africans  Chiefs  wanted  to defend  their  economic  and  political  positions. Therefore  they  decided  to  collaborate  with  colonizers  fearing  that  the  whites  would  remove  them  from powers.


The role played by Missionaries

The  penetration  of  missionaries  and  their  preaching  made  the  Africans  to  refrain  from  resisting  and  decided  to  collaborate. Fighting  was  regarded  as  a  sign  of  backwardness  according  to  the  missionaries. Also  fighting  was  considered  to  be  against  Christians  beliefs.

Presence of Traditional conflicts

Some  African  Societies  had  internal  conflicts  with  each  other’s  whish  were  traditionally. Therefore  Africans  tended  to  welcome  Europeans  as  allies  against  their  rivals  for  political  domination. A  good  example  Chief  Lenana  of  Maasai  against  his  brother  Sendeyo.

The Desire of wealth

Africans  also collaborated  with  colonialists  as  they  hoped  to  gain  more  wealth  from. This  was  due  to  the  fact  that  Europeans  had many  luxurious  goods  which  attracted  many  Africans. A  good  example  was  Apollo  Kagwa  in  Uganda.

The need to participate in colonial government

African  Chiefs also collaborated  with  the  colonizer  because  they hoped  that  colonialists  would  include  them  in  their colonial  governments. A good  example  was  Semei Kakunguru  In  Uganda



There  were  several  reasons  why  Africans  resisted  against  the  imposition  of  colonial  rule  In  their areas. Africans  reacted  against  the  imposition  of  colonial  rule  due  to  the  following  reasons.

The desire to protect their culture

Some  societies  in  Africa  resisted  because they  wanted  to  preserve  their  religion  and culture.In  some parts  of  Africa, Islamic  culture  was  deeply  rooted  and  was  accepted  as  a  society  religion.For  instance the  Coastal people  in  Tanganyika  resisted  against  the   Germans  in  East  Africa  due   to  religious  motives.Germans  who  were  Christians  seemed  to  jeopardize  the  interests  of the  Muslims.Therefore  Abushiri  and  Bwana  Heri  led  the  Coastal  people  in  resisting  against  the  Germans  for  this  reason.

They wanted to protect their land

Some  African  societies resisted  because  they  wanted to  protect  their  economic  interests  such  as  land.For  instance: the Nandi, Shona  and  Ndebele  and  the  MajiMaji  uprisings  were  waged  so  as  to  protect  the  economic  interests  of  the  people  in  those  areas.

They wanted to defend Social and Political Sovereignty

Some  African chiefs  resisted  against  colonial  rule  because  they  realized  that, their  power  and  position  would  be  destroyed  after  the  arrival  of colonizers.For  exampleSamoreToure  of  the Mandika  empire, Mkwawa  of Hehe, Kabarega  of  Bunyoro  etc.


They wanted to prove their strongest in political and military

Other  societies  fought  because  they  believed  to  be  politically and  militarily  strong. Worse enough, they  were  ignorant  of the  European  military  capability. They  had  an  experience  of  war  in  their  localities, which made  them  to  be  confident  for any  fight.A  good  example  were: Samore Toure  of  Mandika  Empire, believed that  his  forces  could  defeat  the French, The  Nandi in  Kenya  believed  to  be  strong  enough  to  defeat I.B.E.A.CO  forces etc.

They wanted to preserve their trade monopolies

In other areas  the  chiefs  mobilized  their  people  to resist  so as  to  preserve  their  trade  monopolies. Some  societies  had  a  big  monopoly  on  trade  that  was  conducted  in  their  areas for  example, The  Yao  and  the  Nyamwezi  had  a  strong  hold  to  the  East  African  Long  distance  trade, therefore  they  resisted  the Germans  due  to  this  reason, King  Jaja  of  Opobo and  Asante  people  of  West  Africa  fought  against  the  British  for  the  purpose  of  safeguarding  their  economic  interests( trade) etc.

They resisted because of their ideology (belief)

Other societies fought because  of  their  belief  that  cultivate ( instilled) the  sense  of unity  and  confidence  to  them. For  example, the  MajiMaji  was  fueled  by  the use  of  the  magic  water  in  which  the  people  built  confidence  that  it  could  enable  them  to  win  the  war. This  was  due  to  the  people  beliefs  that  once  the  whites  attempted  to  shoot  them, the  bullets  would  turn  into water. This  made  them  to  have confidence  and  resist the  Germans.


They resisted because of Colonial exploitation and oppression

Africans united to  resist  against  the  foreigners due  to  Colonial  exploitation and  oppression. Africans  were  not  happy  with  taxation, forced labor, land  alienation  and  cattle  confiscation. For  example, the  Maji Maji  resistance in  Tanganyika  and  the  Nama  and  Herero  resistance  in  Namibia  were  both  fueled  by  colonial  exploitation  and  oppression.


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