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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