The Kemetyu Calender

At the outset the Kemetyu, like most of the peoples of antiquity, seem to have used a lunar calendar, notably to set the dates of religious festivals. But alongside that astronomical calendar they used another. A peasant people, their daily round was strongly marked by the rhythm of agricultural life: sowing, reaping, harvest home, preparation of the new seed. Now in Kemet the agricultural rhythm of the valley is set by the Nile, its changes determining the dates of the various operations. Hence there is nothing surprising in the fact that, parallel to a religious lunar calendar, the ancient inhabitants of the valley should also have used a natural calendar based on the periodic repetition of an event that was all-important for their existence – the flood of the Nile.

In that calendar the first season of the year, called ‘Akhet’ in Kemetyu, saw the beginning of the flood. The river’s waters rose little by little and covered the land dried up by the torrid summer. For about four months the fields would become saturated with water. In the next season the land gradually emerging from the flood waters became ready for sowing. This was the season of Peret, literally ‘coming out’, a term that no doubt alludes both to the ‘coming out’ of the land from the water and the ‘coming out’ of the vegetation. Once sowing was over the peasant awaited germination, then the ripening of the grain. In the third and final season the Kemetyu harvested and then stored the harvest. After that they had only to await the new flood and to prepare the fields for its arrival. This was the season of Shemou.

It is possible, and even highly probable, that for a very long time the Kemetyu were satisfied with this calendar. The year then began with the actual rise of the waters. The season of Akhet so initiated lasted to the actual retirement of the waters, which marked the commencement of the season of Peret. This in turn ended when the ripened grain was ready for the sickle, marking the beginning of the season of Shemou, which ended only with the new rise. It mattered little to the peasant that one season might be longer than another; what mattered to him was the organization of his work, which varied according to the three seasons.

At what moment and for what reasons did the Kemetyu link the flood of the Nile with the simultaneous appearance on the horizon of the sun and the star Sothis? This will surely be difficult to determine. No doubt that linking was the result both of repeated observations and of profound religious beliefs. The star Sothis (Sirius), in Kemetyu Sepedet, the Pointed One, was later to be identified with Isis, whose tears were thought to determine the flood of the Nile. Perhaps w e have here the reflection of a very ancient belief associating the appearance of the deified star with the rise of the waters. Whatever their reasons, by linking the beginning of the flood, and consequently the first day of the new year, with an astronomical phenomenon, the Kemetyu have provided us with a means of setting positive reference points for their long history.

At the latitude of Memphis the very gentle beginning of the flood took place about the middle of July. Observation over a few years appears to have sufficed to show the Kemetyu that the beginning of the flood recurred on average every 365 days. They thereupon divided their year of three empirical seasons into a year of twelve months of thirty days each. They then assigned four months to each of the seasons. By adding five additional days (in Kemetyu the ‘5 heryou renepet’, the five over – in addition to — the year), which the Greeks called the ‘epagomenes’, the scribes obtained a year of 365 days, which was by far the best of all those adopted in antiquity. However, although very good, that year was not perfect. In fact, the earth completes its revolution around the sun, not in 365 days, but in 365 and 1/4 days. Every four years the Kemetyu’ official year lagged one day behind the astronomical year, and it was only after 1460 years – what is called a Sothic period — that the three phenomena, sunrise, rise of Sothis and beginning of the flood occurred simultaneously on the first day of the official year.

This gradual lag between the two years had two important consequences: first, it enabled modern astronomers to determine when the Kemetyu adopted their calendar, that date necessarily having to coincide with the beginning of a Sothic period. The coincidence of the phenomena – beginning of the flood rise and heliacal rising of Sothis – occurred three times in the five millennia before our era: in —1325-1322, in —2785-2782 and in —4245-4242. It was long believed that it was between —4245 and —4242 that the Kemetyu adopted their calendar. It is n ow accepted that it was only at the beginning of the following Sothic period, that is, between —2785 and —2782.

The second consequence of the adoption by the Kemetyu of the fixed solar calendar was gradually to bring about a lag between the natural seasons determined by the very rhythm of the river itself and the official seasons used by the government which were based on a year of 365 days. This lag, at first barely perceptible, being one day every four years, increased little by little from one week to one month, and then to two months until the official calendar fell during the height of the natural season of Peret. This shift could not fail to strike the Kemetyu scribes, and we possess texts noting, very officially, the difference between the real heliacal rising of Sothis and the beginning of the official year.


The terms: Black Egypt, Pharaonic Egypt and Ancient Egypt or Egypt have all been replaced with the more appropriate term ‘Kemet’.

Whereas the terms: Black Egyptians, Pharaonic Egyptians and Ancient Egyptians or Egyptians  have all been replaced with the more appropriate term ‘Kemetyu’.

For a scholarly explanation on the above changes; see ‘The Egyptians as they saw themselves’.


Authors: R. El Nadoury with collaboration of Vercoutter. General History of Africa Vol.II. [Editor: G.Mokhtar] Ancient Civilisations of Africa. Chapter 5. Legacy of Pharaonic Kemet.

R. El Nadoury (Egypt); specialist in ancient history; author of numerous works and articles on the history of the Maghrib and of Egypt; Professor of Ancient History and Vice Chairman of the Faculty of Arts, University of Alexandria.

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Kemet and Architecture

The Kemetyu applied their mathematical knowledge to the extraction, transportation and positioning of the huge blocks of stone used in their architectural projects. They had a long tradition in using mud-bricks and various kinds of stone from very early times. Their first use of heavy granite was during the beginning of the third millennium before our era. It was used for the flooring of some tombs belonging to the first dynasty at Abydos. In the second dynasty they used limestone in constructing the walls of tombs.

A new phase was started in the third dynasty. This was a vital development in the history of Kemetyu architecture, for it was the construction of the first complete building in stone. This is the step pyramid at Sakkara, which forms a part of the huge funerary complex of King Zoser. Imhotep, who was probably the vizier of King Zoser (c. – 2580), was the architect who built the ensemble containing the step pyramid were hewn stone was used for the first time. The blocks were small and looked very much like a limestone imitation of the sun-dried brick used earlier in funerary architecture. Similarly, the imbedded columns and the ceiling joists were stone copies of the bundles of plants and beams used in earlier construction. Thus, there is every indication that Kemetyu architecture was amongst the first to use hewn stone in coursed work.

Kemet developed a wide variety of architectural forms, of which the pyramid is, undoubtedly, the most characteristic. The first pyramids were step pyramids and it was not until the fourth dynasty (c. – 2300) that they gradually became triangular in form. From that period, the architects gave up the use of the small stones of the third dynasty in favour of large blocks of limestone and granite.

Until the Roman conquest, civil architecture continued to use sundried bricks even in the building of royal palaces. The outbuildings of Ramses in Thebes and the great Nubian fortresses provide a very good idea of the versatility of this material. It could be used with the utmost refinement, as can be seen from the Palace of Amenhotep IV at Tell-el-Amarna with its pavements and ceilings decorated with paintings. Another contribution in the field of architecture was the creation of the column. This was at first attached to the wall, but later became free-standing columns.

In developing this architectural skill the Kemetyu was much influenced by the local environment. For example, in arriving at the idea of a column, he was inspired by his observation of wild plants such as reeds and papyrus. He cut the capitals of the columns into the shape of lotus flowers, papyrus and other plants, and this was another architectural innovation.

The lotus papyrus palm and fluted columns of ancient Kemet were adopted in the architecture of other cultures. It is likely that the Kemetyu invented the vault during the second dynasty (c. -2900). To begin with it was a vault of bricks but by the sixth dynasty the Kemetyu were building stone vaults.
The Great Giza Pyramid was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. A building of such great proportions stands proof of the architectural and administrative ability of the Kemetyu. The construction of the ascending corridors, leading to the granite chamber of the king, and the existence of two openings or vents, on both the northern and southern sides of the royal chamber, extending to the outside to provide ventilation, are good examples of their ingenuity. The exact proportions, measurements and orientation of the chambers and corridors of the pyramids, to say nothing of the cutting and erection of giant obelisks in solid stone, indicate the possession of great technical skills from very early times.

To transport and position the stone blocks, the Kemetyu used levers, rollers and wooden cross-bars. Their architectural achievements despite their considerable dimensions were accomplished solely through the strength of human arms, without the use of any mechanical means other than the principle of the lever in its diverse forms. The technical knowledge acquired by the Kemetyu in construction and irrigation as the result of digging canals and building dikes or dams manifested itself in other fields allied to architecture.

By -2550, they had sufficient skill to build a d am of hewn stone in a wadi near Cairo. Somewhat later, their engineers cut navigable channels in the rocks of the First Cataract at Aswan. By all evidence, towards —1740, they seem to have succeeded in erecting a barrage on the Nile itself at Semna, in Nubia, to facilitate navigation to the south. And finally, during the same period, they built a ramp, parallel to the Second Cataract, over which they slid their boats on the fluid mud of the Nile. The ramp extended over several kilometres, a predecessor of the Greek diolkos of the Isthmus of Corinth, and ensured that the rapids of the Second Cataract were never a hindrance to navigation.

Garden design and town planning are other aspects of Kemetyu architecture. The Kemetyu had a great fondness for gardens. Even the poor managed to plant a tree or two in the narrow courtyard of their houses. W h e n they were rich, their gardens rivalled their residences in size and luxury. Under the third dynasty (c. —2800), a high official would expect to possess a garden of more than two-and-a-half acres which always contained a pool, which was a distinctive feature of Kemetyu gardens. The garden was arranged around the pool or pools, for there could be several of them. They served as fish ponds, as reservoirs for watering and as a source of cooling fresh air for the house nearby. Frequently, the master of the house had a light wooden pavilion built near the pool where he could come for a breath of fresh air in the evening and receive friends for cold drinks. These artificial pools were occasionally quite large. Snefru’s palace lake was large enough for him to sail upon it accompanied by young, lightly clad girls plying the oars, and Amenhotep III had a vast pool built in his Theban palace. This very Kemetyu taste for garden parks later passed to Rome.

There are earlier examples of town planning than those attributed to Greek genius. As early as – 1895, under the reign of Sesostris II, the city of Kahun was built inside a rectangular wall. The city had both administrative and residential buildings. The workers’ houses, nearly 250 of which have been excavated, were built in blocks along streets 4 metres wide which ran into a central thoroughfare 8 metres wide. Each house occupied a ground area of 100 to 125 square metres and contained a dozen rooms on a single level. Located in another quarter of the city were the houses of the leading citizens – town houses which sometimes had as many as seventy rooms, or more modest homes which were, nevertheless, considerably larger than those of the workers. These houses were also built along rectilinear avenues running parallel to the city walls. These avenues had a drain running down the centre.

The large fortresses in Nubia were patterned on the same lines, and the same urban plan was adopted, under the New Kingdom, at Tell-el-Amarna, among other places, where the streets crossed at right angles though the city itself did not have the geometrical severity of Kahun. It would, of course, be hazardous to suggest that all Kemetyu cities were laid out like Kahun or Tell-el-Amarna. Those cities were built at one go under the orders of a sovereign. Cities which grew up over a long period of time must have had a more haphazard appearance. The fact of the matter remains, however, that the geometric plans of the city and the standardized type of houses that were built shed light on the trends of Kemetyu town planning. Were they the forerunners of the town planning of the Hellenes? The question is worth asking.

While Kemet unquestionably made a major contribution in the field of architecture, it is nevertheless more difficult to judge the impact it had on the world as a whole in this sphere. Architects in many cultures, to be sure, have used, and are still using, colonnades, pyramids and obelisks which are undeniably of Kemetyu origin. But was there not, in addition, an influence that goes back even farther and comes down to us through the intermediary of the Greeks? It is difficult not to discern in the clustered columns of Sakkara and the proto-Doric columns at Beni Hasan the remote ancestors of the columns of Greek and, later, Roman classical art. One fact, at least, seems established: the architectural traditions of the Pharaohs made their way into Africa first via Meroe and then Napata, which transmitted forms such as pyramids and pylons, among others, as well as techniques such as building with small, hewn, well-shaped masonry.


The terms: Black Egypt, Pharaonic Egypt and Ancient Egypt or Egypt have all been replaced with the more appropriate term ‘Kemet’.

Whereas the terms: Black Egyptians, Pharaonic Egyptians and Ancient Egyptians or Egyptians  have all been replaced with the more appropriate term ‘Kemetyu’.

For a scholarly explanation on the above changes; see ‘The Egyptians as they saw themselves’.


Authors: R. El Nadoury with collaboration of Vercoutter. General History of Africa Vol.II. [Editor: G.Mokhtar] Ancient Civilisations of Africa. Chapter 5. Legacy of Pharaonic Egypt.

El Nadoury (Egypt); specialist in ancient history; author of numerous works and articles on the history of the Maghrib and of Egypt; Professor of Ancient History and Vice Chairman of the Faculty of Arts, University of Alexandria.

Temple of Hatsheput

Statues of female Pharaoh Hatsheput

A Kemetyu garden

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Kemet and Astronomy

The documentation we possess on Kemetyu astronomy is not at all comparable to the material available on mathematics (the Rhind and the Moscow papyri) or surgery and medicine (the Edwin Smith and the Ebers papyri). There is reason to believe, however, that treatises on astronomy did exist. Although the Carlsberg 9 Papyrus, which describes a method for determining the phases of the moon, was undoubtedly written during the Roman period, it derives from much earlier sources and is devoid of any hellenistic influence; the same is true of the Carlsberg 1 Papyrus. Unfortunately the earlier sources are not extant and the Kemetyu contribution to astronomy must therefore be deduced from practical applications made on the basis of observations. This contribution is, however, far from insignificant.

As we have seen (see detailed Kemetyu Calender), the Kemetyu calendar year was divided into three seasons of four months, each having thirty days; to these 360 days, five were added at the end of the year. The 365-day calendar year, the most accurate known in antiquity, is at the origin of our own calendar year in as much as it served as the basis of the Julian reform [in the year] – 47 and of the Gregorian reform of 1582. Side by side with this civil calendar, the Kemetyu also used a religious, lunar calendar and were able to predict the moon’s phases with adequate accuracy.

Ever since the Napoleonic expedition to Kemet, Europeans have been struck by the accuracy of the alignment of structures built at the time of the Pharaohs, particularly the pyramids, the four façades of which face the four cardinal points. The Great Pyramids deviate from true North by less than one degree. Such accuracy could have been achieved only by astronomical observation either of the direction of the Pole Star at the time; or the culmination of a fixed star; or the bisectrix of the angle formed by the direction of a star at twelve-hour intervals, the bisectrix of the angle of the rising and setting of a fixed star; or the observation of the maximum deviations of a fixed star (which would have been 7 from Ursa Major, according to Z . Zorba). In all these cases, precise astronomical observation is required to calculate the alignment. The Kemetyu were perfectly capable of such observations because they possessed a corps of astronomers working under the authority of the vizier whose job it was to observe the night sky, to note the rising of the stars, especially of Sirius (Sóthis), and, above all, to determine the passage of the hours of darkness. These, for the Kemetyu, varied in length according to the seasons: night, which was supposed to contain twelve hours, always commenced at sunset and ended at sunrise. Tables have come down to us which indicate that each night hour was marked, month by month, at ten-day intervals, by the appearance of a constellation or a star of the first which constituted decans, each one of which inaugurated a ten-day period.

This system dates back at least to the third dynasty (c. – 2600). Apart from the tables, the priest-astronomer possessed simple observation instruments: a sighting-rod and a square to which a plumb-line was attached and which required a team of two observers. Despite the rudimentary nature of this technique, the observations were precise, as evidenced by the accuracy of the orientations of the pyramids. Certain tombs have paintings representing the sky. The stars are represented in picture form which has made it possible to identify some of the constellations recognized by the Kemetyu. Ursa Major is called the Ox Leg; the stars surrounding Arcturus are represented by a crocodile and hippopotamus coupled together; Cygnus is represented by a man with his arms extended; Orion by a person running with his head turned back; Cassiopeia by a figure with outstretched arms; and Draco, Pleiades, Scorpius and Aries by other figures.

To determine the daytime hours, which also varied according to the seasons, the Kemetyu used a gnomon, a simple rod planted vertically on a graduated board with a plumb-line attached. This instrument served to measure the time spent on the irrigation of the fields, since the water had to be distributed impartially. As well as the gnomon, the Kemetyu had water clocks which were placed in their temples. These water clocks were borrowed and perfected by the Greeks and are the clepsydras of antiquity. They were made in Kemet as early as circa, – 1580.


The terms: Black Egypt, Pharaonic Egypt and Ancient Egypt or Egypt have all been replaced with the more appropriate term ‘Kemet’.

Whereas the terms: Black Egyptians, Pharaonic Egyptians and Ancient Egyptians or Egyptians  have all been replaced with the more appropriate term ‘Kemetyu’.

For a scholarly explanation on the above changes; see ‘The Egyptians as they saw themselves’.


Authors: R. El Nadoury with collaboration of Vercoutter. General History of Africa Vol.II. [Editor: G.Mokhtar] Ancient Civilisations of Africa. Chapter 5. Legacy of Pharaonic Egypt.

El Nadoury (Egypt); specialist in ancient history; author of numerous works and articles on the history of the Maghrib and of Egypt; Professor of Ancient History and Vice Chairman of the Faculty of Arts, University of Alexandria.

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Alternative Media

Technology Giant Google has been placed at the center of a controversy curtailing free speech and censoring access to information which aims at crippling popular opposition to social inequality, war and authoritarianism.

The central and sinister role of Google in this process demonstrates that freedom of speech and thought is incompatible with corporate control of the Internet.

The World Socialist Web Site published a list of the most affected socialist, left and progressive websites that have been alerting the public and the widest sections of the working class on issues such as war, geopolitics, social inequality and working class struggles.

This list is elaborated below; and provides some of the most useful alternative media content you can find on the internet. Visit their websites with the links provided. Find and follow their social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, etc., directly from their web pages where available.

The World Socialist Web Site obtained statistical data from SEMrush estimating the decline of traffic generated by Google searches for 13 sites with substantial readerships. The results were as follows:

* fell by 67 percent
* fell by 63 percent
* fell by 62 percent
* fell by 47 percent
* fell by 47 percent
* fell by 42 percent
* fell by 37 percent
* fell by 36 percent
* fell by 36 percent
* fell by 30 percent
* fell by 25 percent
* fell by 21 percent
* fell by 19 percent


The following websites although not included in the top 13 targeted by Google are nonetheless very informative and educative:

Web of Debt by Ellen Brown: You may not have heard of Ellen Brown but she is without a doubt the world’s most persistent advocate for public banking.

The difference between public banking and private banking is simple. When the banks are privately owned, a few senior bankers and the shareholders reap the benefits. With public banking everyone shares the benefits.

The Internet Party: The Internet Party was founded on the spirit of the internet, to help build an open, free, fair, connected and innovative society. Check out their 2017 policies.

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The Colonisation of Spirituality

It is no accident that Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) practiced by over fifty percent of the world’s population suggest God to be a white male being. It is always referred to as a ‘He’, never a ‘She’ or at least ‘They’. There is no inference whatsoever to suggest that He is black or brown. Traditional graphic depictions in Western art have shown God to be male, white, and [usually] old. This no doubt impresses upon the psyche that all power, supreme power should be and is rightfully held by whites and by males. So one should not seek to challenge the fact, and in fact, should subordinate oneself to the ‘will of God’ i.e., the wills of the [white, male] oppressors. It then becomes less costly for oppressors to keep exploitative structures in place, as everyone by default, ought to know their place, and not seek to challenge the status quo.

By contrast, the greatest human civilization in early history; the African Kushite-Kemetic nation denoted all their dieties as black. These were myriad, denoting various qualities of the divine and were always depicted as both male and female. These included; Amen (the Supreme Creator), Ra (the diety of the Sun), Ma’at (the goddess of Truth and Balance), Anhuru, meaning ‘Slayer of Enemies’  (the diety of War), Ausaru (god as humanity) and many others. The term Black was used honorifically to emphasize the origins of Kemet’s civilization with Kush, from the melanin-rich Nilotics (Dinka, Nuer, Luo) of the South. Blackness was associated with positivity such as the black universe at night, the pupil of your eye, the color of the richest soil, the color of charcoal which creates fire.

Therefore, identifying the divine with one’s own image works to empower and prevent subconscious subjugation arising out of worshipping the image of one’s oppressors.

The name of the Supreme diety, Amen survives as ‘Amen’ in Judaeo-Christian tradition. You were praying to the black Afrikan god Amen/Amin/Amiina (male and female) all along; but just didn’t know it. Now that you know, invoke the names of your Afrikan dieties and ask them to come fight for you, your families, and your communities.

Worship God in your image and you will bow before no other.





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African Rulers in defence of Sovereignty

A great majority of African rulers, then, did opt for the defence of their sovereignty and independence. It is in the strategies and the tactics that they adopted to achieve this universal objective that they differed. Most African rulers chose the strategy of confrontation, using either diplomatic or military weapons or both. As will be seen below, Samori Ture, and Kabarega of Bunyoro resorted to both weapons while Prempeh I and Mwanga of Buganda relied on diplomacy. Others such as Tofa of Porto Novo (in what is now Benin) chose the strategy of alliance or co-operation, not of collaboration. This question of strategy should be highlighted here because it has been grossly misunderstood hitherto and this has led to the classification of some of the African rulers as collaborators and their action as that of collaboration.

We are opposed to the use of this term collaboration not only because it is inaccurate but also because it is derogatory and Eurocentric. As we have seen above, the fundamental issue at stake between the 1880s and the 1900s as far as the African rulers were concerned, was that of sovereignty, and on this, it was quite clear that nobody was prepared to compromise. Those African rulers who have been mistakenly termed
collaborators were those who thought that the best way of safeguarding their sovereignty or even regaining the sovereignty that they might have lost to some African power previous to the arrival of the Europeans was not to collaborate but rather to ally with the European invaders. A collaborator is surely one who betrays the national cause by colluding with the enemy to pursue the goals and objectives of the enemy rather than the interests of his own nation. But as we have seen, the Africans were all faced with the question of surrendering, retaining or regaining their sovereignty. Those who threw in their lot with the Europeans therefore had their own objective, and it is therefore totally wrong to call them collaborators.

In any case, since the Second World War , the term collaborator has assumed very pejorative connotations and the interesting thing is that some of the historians who use it are aware of this. R . Robinson, for example, stated: ‘It should be stressed that the term [collaborator] is used in no pejorative sense’.13 The question then is if it can be so used, why use it at all, especially in the African case where it is so inaccurate?

Why not use the word ally which is indeed the more appropriate term? Tofa, the king of the Gun kingdom of Porto Novo has always been cited as a typical example of a collaborator. But was he? As Hargreaves has clearly shown, Tofa was facing three different enemies at the time of the arrival of the French – the Yoruba to the north-east, the Fon kings of Dahomey to the north and the British on the coast — and he must have seen the arrival of the French as a god-sent opportunity for him not only to protect his sovereignty but even to make some gains at the expense of his enemies. He naturally chose, therefore, not to collaborate but to ally with the French.

Surely only those historians who are not aware of the problems with which Tofa was confronted at that time, or who deny the African any initiative or an awareness of his own interests, or who see the whole issue from a Eurocentric viewpoint, would describe Tofa as a collaborator. Moreover, the fallacy of this term is further demonstrated by the fact that the socalled collaborators who at some points were prepared to ally with Europeans often later became the opposers or resisters of the Europeans: Wobogo, the king of Mossi, Lat Dior, the Darnel of Gayor, and even the great Samori Ture himself are examples of such rulers. This makes the classification quite absurd.

A. Adu Boahen (Ghana); specialist in West African colonial history; author of numerous publications and articles on African history; Professor and Head of the Department of History, University of Ghana.

Source: General History of Africa VII. [Editor: A. Adu Boahen] Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935. Chapter 1. Africa and the colonial challenge.

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African Sovereigns against Colonialism

African authorities and leaders were vehemently opposed to [colonialism] and expressed their determination to maintain the status quo and, above all, to retain their sovereignty and independence, an issue on which virtually all of them were not in any way prepared to compromise. This answer can be documented from the very words of the contemporary African leaders themselves.

In 1891, when the British offered protection to Prempeh I of Asante in the Gold Coast, he replied: 

”The suggestion that Asante in its present state should come and enjoy the protection of Her Majesty the Queen and Empress of India I may say is a matter of very serious consideration, and which I am happy to say we have arrived at this conclusion, that my kingdom of Asante will never commit itself to any such policy. Asante must remain as of old at the same time to remain friendly with all white men. I do not write this in a boastful spirit but in the clear sense of its meaning . . . the cause of Asante is progressing and there is no reason for any Asante man to feel alarm at the prospects or to believe for a single instant that our cause has been driven back by the events of the past hostilities.”

In 1895, Wobogo, the Moro Naba, or King of the Mossi (in modern Upper Volta), told the French officer, Captain Destenave:

”I know that the whites wish to kill me in order to take my country, and yet you claim that they will help me to organize my country. But I find m y country good just as it is. I have no need of them. I know what is necessary for me and what I want: I have my own
merchants: also, consider yourself fortunate that I do not order your head to be cut off. Go away now, and above all, never come back.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Lat Dior, the Darnel of Cayor (in modern Senegal) in 1883 (quoted in Chapter 6…), by King Machemba of the Yao in what is now mainland Tanzania in 1890 (quoted in Chapter 3…) and by Hendrik Wittboi, a king in what is now
Namibia (quoted in Chapter 3…).

A. Adu Boahen (Ghana); specialist in West African colonial history; author of numerous publications and articles on African history; Professor and Head of the Department of History, University of Ghana.

Source: General History of Africa VII. [Editor: A. Adu Boahen] Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935. Chapter 1. Africa and the colonial challenge.


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The Zulu

Mthethwa expansion under Dingiswayo had been checked by Zwide and his Ndwandwe regiments. Several wars had been fought by the rival armies. In 1818 Dingiswayo was captured by Zwide and killed. Because of the personal character of Dingiswayo’s rule, his death created a vacuum in the leadership of the Mthethwa. Shaka, who had been rising fast in Dingiswayo’s esteem (and had with his help become head of the small Zulu chiefdom) now quickly stepped into the breach. He replaced Dingiswayo as head of the Mthethwa confederacy of chiefdoms. He had, in effect, inherited the Mthethwa ’empire’. […] Shaka ‘incorporated’ the Mthethwa empire into the Zulu state, thus making the Mthethwa part of the Zulu nation. He did, however, allow the Mthethwa traditional system of government to continue under a minor son of Dingiswayo with a regent subservient to himself as the Zulu monarch. In dealing with other groups, however, Shaka appears to have insisted on total incorporation rather than mere suzerainty.

Even while he was only head of the Zulu state and subservient to Dingiswayo, Shaka had already started reorganizing his army. This process of rationalizing social institutions for military purposes was now carried to a logical conclusion. Shaka also revolutionized the military techniques themselves. The long throwing spear was replaced by a short broad-bladed stabbing spear that was much more effective in close-up fighting after the enemy had lost the long throwing spear or javelin. Zulu fighting m e n now carried long shields, discarded sandals and went barefoot for greater speed and mobility. Like Dingiswayo before him, Shaka kept a permanent army of regiments drawn from men under 40 years of age. Unlike Dingiswayo, he kept these regiments in military barracks where they were maintained by the state and led a life of celibacy until they were discharged from military service. Because they were maintained in barracks, Shaka’s regiments were well drilled and efficient and always ready for emergencies.

Shaka’s army was instructed in several military tactics of which the ‘cowhorns’ formation was only the most spectacular. The army was trained to be hardy and ruthless in dealing with the enemy. Unlike Sobhuza or Dingiswayo, Shaka often wiped out the ruling elites of the conquered peoples and sought total incorporation of captured groups into the Zulu system with members of the Zulu royal family replacing the original rulers.
Sometimes the chiefs of the larger groups were recognized by being allowed a free hand in the local control of their own peoples.

It was while Shaka was involved in the critical wars for the domination of what later became Zululand that he developed and perfected some of the techniques and tactics referred to above. This drive to bring all groups in the region of northern Nguni under his own control brought Shaka into direct conflict with Zwide’s Ndwandwe, whom he defeated in two successive battles in 1819 and 1820.

Shaka’s defeat of the Ndwandwe army at Mhlatuze meant not only a disastrous military defeat for Zwide himself but also a collapse of the Ndwandwe state, a loose confederacy that had been built up through systematic subordination of small states in the Mkuze and Phongolo valleys. Fragments of the Ndwandwe state under the leadership of Zwide’s erstwhile generals fled panic-stricken northwards into what is now Mozambique.
The leaders of these splinter groups were Soshangane, Zwangendaba and Nqaba. The bulk of the Ndwandwe, now effectively subjugated, remained under Sikunyane as a tributary state of the Zulu sovereign.

D . Ngcongco (Botswana): specialist in Southern African history; has published various studies on Botswana in pre-colonial times; formerly Director, National Institute of Development, Research and Documentation; Professor and Head, Department of History, University of Botswana.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.VI. [Editor: J.F.Ade Ajai] Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s. Chapter 5. The Mfecane and the rise of new African states.


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The Mthethwa

The expulsion of the Ngwane-Dlamini from the Phongolo valley left Zwide of the Ndwandwe and Dingiswayo of the Mthethwa to confront each other in the northern Nguni country. Zwide himself had become king of the Ndwandwe around 1790. He appears to have been responsible for building a powerful Ndwandwe state based on the collection of tribute from subject polities, the use of an army based on age-regiments, the myth of a sacred kingship organized around the annual incwala first-fruits ceremonies and the control of trade routes with Delagoa Bay.

The Mthethwa kingdom had become famous under Dingiswayo, son of Jobe and grandson of Kayi (who may generally be regarded as founder of the Mthethwa kingdom). Like the Ndwandwe, Ngwane, and later the Zulu states, the power of the Mthethwa was also built on tribute collecting, cattle-raiding and an army based on age-regiments. The Mthethwa also traded extensively with Delagoa Bay.

As has already been pointed out, the age-regiments were being deployed generally throughout the major Nguni states of the region and most of the Nguni states appear to have been influenced by Pedi and other Sotho groups in the vicinity. But Dingiswayo seems to have brought his usual thoroughness and imagination to the reorganization of what was a fairly general practice in the area. H e terminated the circumcision rite that used to accompany the formation of age-grades in order to do away with the period of seclusion necessitated by such rites. He adopted the chest-and horns formation for his army. Dingiswayo also formed an alliance with the Maputo kingdom at Delagoa Bay. In subsequently conquering and incorporating the Qwabe state, Dingiswayo is said to have been assisted by soldiers armed with guns from his allied kingdom of Maputo, and not, as Fynn stated, a company of soldiers sent by the Portuguese. Dingiswayo’s Mthethwa kingdom collected tribute from more than thirty chiefdoms in the region, including a small chiefdom under Senzangakhona, namely the Zulu state. Subsequently Shaka, a son of Senzangakhona, became a general in Dingiswayo’s army.

D . Ngcongco (Botswana): specialist in Southern African history; has published various studies on Botswana in pre-colonial times; formerly Director, National Institute of Development, Research and Documentation; Professor and Head, Department of History, University of Botswana.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.VI. [Editor: J.F.Ade Ajai] Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s. Chapter 5. The Mfecane and the rise of new African states.

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The Haitian Revolution



It was in the Americas, however, that the freedom struggle first reached dramatic international proportions. Throughout the Americas small groups of blacks had gained their freedom, a few had never been slaves, but they all developed their own way of life and although powerless to influence general public policy, followed with interest world developments affecting black people. As a group, both they and the black slaves were profoundly influenced by the events on the island of San Domingo (Haiti).

Just two years after the United States of America had adopted the constitution that gave moral and legal sanction to slavery, a revolution erupted in France with the slogan: Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! It shook the structure of the French settlement on San Domingo, a prosperous sugar colony where 500 000 slaves and 24 000 free persons of colour lived under the domination of some 32 000 French settlers known for their opulence and cruel treatment of their slaves. The free African population, which included several slave-owners, took the revolutionary French slogan seriously and demanded full equality with the whites. Then, in 1791, the great black masses moved under the leadership of an illiterate fieldhand, Boukman, who bound his followers with voodoo ritual and African-style secret oaths to rise against their masters. The revolutionary government in Paris dispatched an army to restore order. It was at this stage, that one of the most remarkable figures in history appeared on the scene – a literate, Christian, slave-coachman, diaspora-born with an African father – Toussaint who took the name L’Ouverture (The Opener).

Toussaint called for guerrilla action to support his small army and, within five years, had defeated Napoleon’s invading army – with assistance from yellow fever. He restored order and prosperity to Haiti and was proclaimed throughout the world for his military ability, administrative skills, humanity and statesmanship. His reputation spread rapidly, reaching blacks in the United States through black sailors who played an important role in disseminating information throughout the black world.

The success of the African liberation movement in Haiti created terror among whites in the United States who feared that American Africans might also seek their freedom through violence. More stringent legislation was passed, police security was tightened and steps were taken to restrict the movement of blacks in the country and prevent black immigration, especially from Haiti. On the other hand, Africans in the United States were inspired by the achievement of their brothers in Haiti. Haiti and Toussaint L’Ouverture thus became symbols inspiring blacks in other parts of the Americas and the Carribean to seek their freedom with the possibility that independence could be theirs.

J. E . Harris (USA): specialist in African diaspora; author of various publications and articles on the subject; currently Professor at Howard University, Washington D C .

Source: General History of Africa Vol.V. [Editor: B.A.Ogot] Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Chapter 5. The African diaspora in the Old and the New Worlds.

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