African Responses To Colonialism: A Study Of The Peaceful And Violent Dichotomy

1918 words - 8 pages

A. Adu Boahen's African Perspectives on Colonialism neatly classifies African responses to European colonialism during both phases of invasion and occupation during the 19th century with precise labels according to their nature or time period. However, the reactions can also be loosely grouped into two diametric characterizations: peaceful and violent. Although creating this dichotomy seems a gross generalization and oversimplification of the colonial African experience, it more importantly allows for a different perspective- one that exposes the overwhelming success of the typically peaceful or pacifist reaction in contrast to the little gain and large losses of the violent response.
In order to analyze Boahen’s work as well as produce a coherent interpretation of his evidence, definitions for and connections between the terms in question are critical. Therefore, peaceful responses are defined as devoid of bloodshed and aggressive confrontation whereas violent reactions are defined as uprisings of a coalition or faction that involve open hostility. In the context of African resistance to colonialism, success is defined as the achievement of the party in question's objective as well as sustaining the attained goal in order for it to have a lasting positive impact on the country. These objectives typically fall into the two categories of state sovereignty and amity. While they are generally found to be the products of peaceful reactions, fatalities and destruction are by large the most notable outcomes of violent opposition. Moreover, this pattern observed from the results of the two types of responses is best understood when presented in terms of time periods: invasion and occupation.
There are several examples of peaceful strategies which aided the countries in their endeavor to preserve peace and, in some cases, even helped certain states to maintain part of their sovereignty during the colonial invasion. These include what Boahen categorizes as submission, alliance and peaceful confrontation during the preceding period of European assault during the late 19th century. The reason these different strategies can be grouped together under 'peace' lies in the label's aforementioned definition, which states that it includes any response clear of bloodshed or combative confrontation. Kgama's, the King of Ngwato, plea to the England is an example of a peaceful response which blatantly asks for the British Queen's protection. Boahen, A. Adu. African Perspectives on Colonialism. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987) 39. This would be what Boahen considers complete submission to the colonial power; it comes with the protection of the European colonialist in exchange for concession of the state’s properties and political authority to the invading authority. He also mentions that the areas of Swaziland, Bechuanaland and Nyasaland which acquiesced “became only protectorates” while “those states whose rulers opted for confrontation...

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