Scramblin' thru... the Scramble for Africa
Because One Vuvuzela isn't Enough...
Remember the vuvuzelas? They were the long plastic horns that fans blew during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. A stadium full of 30,000 vuvuzelas sounded like a swarm of angry wasps. The noise was so intense that TV stations tweaked their audio broadcasts so the horns couldn't be heard so clearly. Of course, health officials later discovered that the noise emitted from a single vuvuzela hit 113 decibels... the "threshold of pain" in humans... and that more than 15 minutes of exposure can cause hearing damage or loss.
These horns were also deemed more infectious (literally) than coughing or sneezing in an elevator. With 30,000 fans blowing God-knows-what into these plastic horns, throngs of people were exposed to the flu and other airborne pathogens for 90 minutes (plus that ridiculous Stoppage Time). Vuvuzelas have since been banned at sporting events.
So what does this have to do with Africa and "New Imperialism"?
Easy. Europeans are like vuvuzelas. Loud. Obnoxious. Cheap. Come in large groups. And exposure to them is often fatal.
In 1877, European control in Africa was largely limited to coastal settlements. High death rates from malaria and yellow fever kept Europeans from brining armies on land and conquering large areas of the continent. Coupled with the high cost of maintaining colonies, most European countries preferred to keep trade with Africa "open to everyone". (And by "everyone" they meant all European countries. Not Africa. That would be silly.)
On the eve of the "Scramble for Africa", Europe was a century into the First Industrial Revolution that had been revolutionizing production and factories. Europe had become the most powerful and technologically advanced continent on Earth. Firearm, transportation, and communications technologies were booming. Even better, improvements in medicine enabled Europeans to spend longer periods of time in tropical locations without dying off in droves.
Industrial production was so insane and hitting new levels that Europeans worried about over-production and not having enough "consumers" for all the goods their factories were churning out.
Soon, Europeans turned their eyes toward the non-industrialized world. Countries in these perceived "uncivilized" areas could serve as bountiful markets for products (because who doesn't want European crap). But the real reason centered on using these areas for cheap labor and harvesting their natural resources to fuel their growing industries back home.
And then the Euro-peeing contest began.
Worried that the balance of world power might shift if their rivals gobbled up these resource-rich countries first, the strongest European countries began acquiring colonies in Africa. National pride was at stake! Oh, and Christianity. After all, here was an entire continent full of non-Christians that needed to be "converted". Enter "Social Darwinism" and the "White Man's Burden"...
Of course there was a catch to all of this. No one bothered to ask Africa. Classic white European dick move, right? In 1881, France seized Tunis in North Africa, and a year later Britain took Egypt. Three years later, Germany took territory in West Africa. A dispute between Belgium, France, and Portugal over land around the Congo River inspired the European powers to hold a meeting in Berlin to discuss their land grab. Fourteen countries were represented when the Berlin West Africa Conference opened in Berlin and lasted from November 15, 1884-February 26, 1885. The countries represented included: Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey, and the U.S. Of these 14 countries, France, Germany, Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, having the biggest "claims" in Africa at the time. (Not one African nation was represented at this African conference designed to carve up Africa. Seems fair...)
What resulted was a hodgepodge of geometric boundaries that divided Africa into 50 irregular countries. This new map of the continent was superimposed over the 1,000 indigenous cultures and regions of Africa. Because they were looking at maps (and not actually there), these new countries lacked rhyme or reason and divided some tribes and merged together groups that historically hated each other. In Berlin, the European nations negotiated territorial disputes, established rules to govern, and put policies in place for claiming future territory. This so-called "Scramble for Africa" (1881-1914) marked a turning point in the history of the continent.
Understandably, most Africans didn't care for being ruled by foreigners. As a result, the later years of the "Scramble" saw several powerful African counties put up strong resistance. Huge African armies with outdated weapons managed to defeat European forces every now and then, but this usually resulted in counterattacks by the Europeans that produced some of the most one-sided battles in the history of warfare. In 1870, only 10% of Africa was in the hands of Europeans. By 1914, 90% was under European control, and only Ethiopia and Liberia remained independent.
In the early 1900s, exposure of the atrocities in the Congo Free State served as a "buzz kill" for the enthusiasm generated by this colonial takeover of Africa. Here, the king of Belgium, Leopold II, had made the Congo his own private country. Not Belgium's. His. (Seriously?!) Colonial agents and private companies from Belgium forced Africans to gather raw rubber without payment and killing or maiming those who failed to meet quotas. From 1885-1908, 10 million of the 20 million native inhabitants of the Congo died. (That's 50%, folks! You know, HALF!!!) In the end, international pressure forced Leopold to cede his private colony to Belgium, and in 1908 the Congo Free State became the Belgian Congo. (After an independence movement from 1960-1965, it became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.)
World War I (1914-1918) saved Africa from further colonization as Europe found itself a bit "busy" back home. Europeans (who, thanks to the "Scramble for Africa", saw war as a way to justifiably take whatever they wanted) received a "wake up" call after duking it out for four years in the trenches. The great loss of life stunted industrial growth, and overseas colonial endeavors took a backseat to damage control at home. Germany was stripped of its African colonies following World War I. Italy lost its colonies after World War II. Britain and France gave up most of their African colonies in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1960, uprisings in the Congo forced Belgium to withdraw from Africa. Spain remained longer but was a less-significant participant in the colonial picture. Portugal entrenched itself in Angola and became, in the mid-1970s, the last European power to begin to relinquish its claims. Some African countries did not achieve independence until the 1980s and 1990s.
The "Scramble for Africa" held great irony. While the conquest was occurring, events in Africa dominated headlines in Europe, brought down governments, and drove nations to war. But once the conquest was complete, Africa was pushed to the back burner and not considered again until the movement for African independence was rekindled during the 1950s and 1960s. Effects of the European takeover of Africa were considerable. In the short term, the "Scramble" resulted in the Africans' loss of control over their own affairs. Enormous hardship was brought to most Africans, especially with rampant death and destruction associated with the takeover and maintenance of the colonies. In the long term, the "Scramble" brought non-Western people into the world economy. The colonial governments built roads, bridges, and ports that connected Africa to the rest of the world. Hospitals, schools, and places of worship impacted the lives of the locals. Elements of Western culture (from the French and English language to Western-styled governments to Coca-Cola and cars) were introduced. During their wars with Europe, Africans developed a sense of nationalism that helped them gain their freedom and pushed their nations into the 21st Century.
The Angolan War of Independence (1961-1974) began as an uprising against forced cotton cultivation before transforming into an all-out push for freedom against Portugal. Many atrocities were committed by all forces involved in the conflict. In the end, over 55,000 combatants and another 50,000 civilians died. [Click picture for a larger version.]
Liberia and Ethiopia were the only two African countries that managed to remain independent during the "Scramble for Africa". Liberia because it was a U.S. "creation"… and Ethiopia because they were some bad mama-jammas!
Liberia is a country in West Africa about the size of the state of Tennessee bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. There are currently 4 million people that live in Liberia. While English is the official language, over 30 other languages are also spoken. Liberia is the only country in Africa that was founded by the United States ("Liberty" = "Liberia"). Beginning in 1820, the region was colonized by African-Americans, most of which were newly freed slaves. These colonizers (who later became known as Americo-Liberians) established a new county with the help of the American Colonization Society, a private organization whose leaders thought former slaves would have better opportunities in Africa. In 1847, this new country became the Republic of Liberia and established a government modeled after that of the U.S. They named their capital Monrovia after President James Monroe because he had been a big supporter of their colonization. The Americo-Liberians and their descendants led the political, social, cultural, and economic sectors of the country and ruled the nation for over 130 years as a dominant minority. The country began to modernize in the 1940s following investment by the U.S. during World War II. In fact, Liberia was a founding member of the United Nations. In 1980, a military coup d'état overthrew the Americo-Liberian leadership, marking the beginning of political and economic instability and two successive civil wars. These resulted in the deaths of between 250,000 and 520,000 people and devastated the country's economy. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005. Today, Liberia is recovering from the lingering effects of the civil wars and their consequent economic upheaval, but about 85% of the population continues to live below the international poverty line (which is $1.25/day).
Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. With 92 million people, it is the 14th largest country in the world by population and the 27th largest by area (and the second biggest in Africa behind Nigeria). It is 1.5 times larger than the state of Texas. There are over 90 different languages present, although 34% speak Oromo and 29% speak Amharic. Some of the oldest evidence for modern humans can be found in Ethiopia, which is widely considered the region from which Homo sapiens first set out for the Middle East and beyond. Tracing its roots back to the 2nd Millennium BC (that's the Bronze Age, folks!), Ethiopia was a monarchy for most of its history. Ethiopia gained prestige for its successful military resistance during the "Scramble for Africa". (As a result, many African nations adopted the colors of Ethiopia's flag.) Ethiopia was the only African country to defeat a European colonial power and retain its sovereignty as an independent country, doing so when they defeated Italy at the Battle of Adwa (or Adowa) on March 1, 1896. The Italians suffered 7,000 killed, 1,500 wounded, and 3,000 captured. Ethiopian losses have been estimated around 4,000-5,000 killed and 8,000 wounded. Italy would invade again in 1936 and, after a year, secured possession of Ethiopia, which they held until 1941. Despite being a founding member of the United Nations, a military junta overthrew Ethiopia's emperor in 1974 and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces known as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (say that five times fast!). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia's first elections were held in 1995. The country has begun to recover recently, and it now has the largest economy in East and Central Africa.
Still, Liberia and Ethiopia remain the sole examples of African defiance in the face of European tyranny!
David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary and physician who was one of the greatest explorers of the African continent. When the First Opium War (1839-1942) between Britain and China ruined his hopes of becoming a medical missionary to China, he was sent to Africa. In 1841, at the age of 27, he arrived at Cape Town on Africa's southern tip. He soon grew dissatisfied with the small number of converts he had won over and decided to press northward and inland. As a devout missionary, he decided he should remain on the move, reaching new groups and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He felt that his new role was to "open up" Africa's interior to Western civilization. Once that occurred, he believed, commerce and Christianity would work hand-in-hand to end the slave trade. Livingstone's motto was a catchy one: "Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization".
During his exploration, Livingstone became the first European to see the Zambezi River's waterfall on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, which he named Victoria Falls after the ruling British monarch Queen Victoria. When he reached the mouth of the Zambezi River on the Indian Ocean in 1856, he became the first European to ever cross the full width of Southern Africa. He returned to England that same year where he became a national hero. He went back to Africa several more times before leaving in 1865 for what would become his final trip. When no one heard from him for several years, his long absence became a matter of international concern, prompting the New York Herald to send the explorer Henry Morton Stanley to find him in 1869. Stanley finally found Livingstone on November 10, 1870 in Ujiji in Western Tanzania. He greeted Livingstone with the famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" (This famous phrase may be a fabrication, as Stanley tore out of his diary the pages relating to the encounter. Even Livingstone's account of the encounter fails to mention these words.) Whatever the greeting, Livingstone convinced Stanley that he was not in need of rescue, and the two explored Lake Tanganyika together. Then, with fresh supplies given to him by Stanley, the two parted. Livingstone later died of dysentery on May 1, 1873. After his success in finding Livingstone, Stanley was contracted out by others to explore portions of Africa, which he happily did for a price. (Belgium's King Leopold II even got Stanley to claim the Congo region for him. Whoops.) In the end, Livingstone's findings greatly added to Europe's knowledge of Africa's geography, heightened Western awareness of Africa, and stimulated Christian missionary activity there. His activities helped bring about the "Scramble for Africa".
Livingstone had a giant tattoo across his chest that read "Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization". OK, he didn't. But that would have been awesome. Can you imagine him strolling into an African village... the people ask him why he's there... and he rips open his shirt and says, "This is why!" [Click picture for a larger version.]
The Bloemfontein Concentration Camp was constructed in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State. It was designed to house women and children. In the end, 26,370 white women and children, 1,421 white elderly men, and 14,154 black people died in such camps in various parts of the country. [Click picture for a larger version.]
Not everybody loved the idea of being usurped by British forces and brought into the loving embrace of Queen Mum.
In particular, three wars best demonstrate the resistance the British faced during its "Scramble for Africa". They were the Anglo-Zulu War, the Boer Wars, and the Mahdist War.
And here's how it all went down...
The Cape Colony on the tip of South Africa was founded by the Dutch in 1652. The British took it from the Dutch after defeating them at the Battle of Muizenberg in the coastal city of Cape Town in 1795. In the early 1800s, an African named Chaka Zulu forcibly and brutally united the African tribes living in South Africa into the Zulu Kingdom (under his rule from 1816-1828). This kingdom, sometimes called "Zululand", was located right next door to the Cape Colony. During the 1830s and 1840s, large numbers of Dutch settlers began moving out of the Cape Colony (since it was now British) in search of carving out their own territory. During this "Great Trek", these Dutch Boers ("farmers") and Voortrekkers ("pioneers") - both descendants of the original 17th Century Dutch colonists - moved into two regions that would later become the Transvaal Colony and the Orange Free State (right next to Zululand). The Boers and Voortrekkers tried to negotiate the purchase of land from the new Zulu leader, King Dingane (who had helped assassinate Chaka). After an exchange of gifts and demonstrations of friendship, Dingane ordered a massacre of the Boers and a nearby group of Voortrekkers. He then launched an attack on the remaining Voortrekkers, who, by this time, were prepared to defend themselves. At the Battle of Blood River on December 16, 1838, 470 Voortrekkers held out against 21,000 attacking Zulus and surprisingly suffered only three wounded (despite killing over 3,000 Zulus). The Boers and Voortrekkers then allied themselves with a Zulu named Mpane, who was one of Dingane's enemies. Together they helped drive Dignane out so Mpane could take the throne. For many years afterward, the relationship between the Dutch settlers and the Zulu was moderately peaceful. When the British laid claim to the coast area of Natal, King Mpane made a treaty with them... and allied himself with the British against the Boers. The British sought to limit Boer influence and took the side of the Zulus in border disputes to stop the expansion of Boer territory. As a convenient way of resolving the border dispute between the Boers and the Zulus, the British annexed the Transvaal Colony in 1877. Of course, in so doing, it now meant the British inherited the border disputes with the Zulus. Instead of supporting the Zulus against the Boers, they sought to dictate terms to the Zulus. These terms included the standard mix of British imperial demands, such as agreeing not to take up arms without British consent, allowing a British "resident" to live permanently at court, and a few humanitarian demands (like ending forced marriages). When the Zulus failed to respond to these demands, the British followed their standard course of diplomacy in such situations... and sent in troops. They were (at first) unopposed in their march through Zululand en route to the capital city of Ulundi. But that all changed on January 22, 1879, when the lead British column of 1,800 soldiers was surrounded and attacked by 20,000 Zulus in what became the first major battle of the Anglo-Zulu War (January 8-July 4, 1879). Despite facing a technologically-superior enemy, Zulu King Cetshwayo led his troops, who were armed mostly with spears and cow-hide shields, although a few did have muskets and rifles. In one of history’s biggets upsets, 1,300 British were killed. A few survivors managed to travel back to the British base camp at Rorke's Drift and warn them of the approaching Zulus. A force of 5,000 Zulus attacked Rorke's Drift in the afternoon, but the 139 British soldiers were able to drive them back, and at dawn the Zulus withdrew. The British took months to recover from this disaster but by late March returned to the field and attacked the Zulu at Hlobane. The offensive maneuver failed, but this time when the Zulus counterattacked the British at Kambula, the Zulus were routed with great loss. The British followed up this success a few months later when they finally broke the military power of the Zulu Kingdom by defeating the main Zulu army at the Battle of Ulundi on July 4, 1879. Immediately afterwards, they captured and leveled the capital of Zululand. Cetshwayo, the last independent Zulu King, was driven into exile. The British placed a Zulu ally of theirs on the throne, carved up the Zulu Kingdom into regions, and annexed Zululand under direct British control in 1887 as part of their Natal Colony.
In 1886, huge gold deposits were found in the Transvaal Colony of South Africa. (The Transvaal Colony was originally created by the Boers who left the Cape Colony; it was later annexed by the British in 1877.) Faced with the prospect of epic economic gain, Cecil Rhodes, a British businessman and the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, tried to get British settlers in the Transvaal to overthrow the Boer Government. The attempt was a total failure, and Rhode's was forced to resign his position. The British, still motivated by gold, began a massive buildup of British forces in the Transvaal. The Boer President Paul Kruger demanded a withdrawal of these troops. When the British refused, the Transvaal and Orange Free State declared war, beginning the First Boer War (1880-1881). Despite having the better-equipped, better-trained, and larger army, the British were harassed by Boer guerilla tactics (seriously, did the British NEVER learn?) and struggled. It was during this conflict that the British introduced and used concentration camps to control the captured population. Of the 60,000 civilians that died during this conflict, over 27,000 white Boers and 14,000 black African allies died in concentration camps. When the British Government realized further action would require a massive troop surge and the war could turn into a costly and drawn-out mess, they ordered a truce... for now. The lure of gold eventually proved too tempting and made it worth committing the vast resources and incurring the huge costs required to win a second war, which broke out in 1899. However, the lessons the British learned during the First Boer War were forgotten 18 years later. As a result, heavy casualties, as well as many setbacks, were incurred before the British were ultimately victorious in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Treaty of Vereeniging turned the Transvaal and Orange Free State into full-blown British colonies. In 1910, the four British colonies (Cape Colony, Natal Colony, the Transvaal Colony, and the Orange Free State) were unified to form the Union of South Africa. In 1961, this became the Republic of South Africa.
The country of Sudan in the Nile Valley of North Africa was invaded in 1819 and taken by Egypt. In the 1850s, when Egypt struggled to foot the bill for building the Suez Canal (to connect the Mediterranean and Red Seas), Britain stepped in to help fund the project... in exchange for partial ownership of the canal. (There's the rub...) As the most direct route to India (which was the jewel in the British Empire), the Suez Canal was of strategic importance. As a result, the British began playing an increasing role in Egyptian affairs and in the governing of the Sudan. (Oh, here we go again...) The Sudan region had long housed the institution of slavery, which was controlled principally by slave-trading Arab tribes who had enslaved much of the local population. When Egypt took over Sudan in 1819, it merely taxed the slave trade and didn't do anything to oppose it. As Britain began to have more of a say over what Egypt did, it pressured the Egyptians to prohibit slavery in Sudan. (Slavery had been abolished in the British Empire in 1833.) In the 1870s, a Sudanese Muslim named Muhammad Ahmad preached a renewal of the Islamic faith and pushed for the independence of Sudan. Soon, disgruntled Arab traders angry over the attempt by the British to abolish the slave trade launched a revolt against the Egyptian Government in Sundan. Muhammad then proclaimed himself "The Mahdi", which is the promised redeemer of the Islamic world who rules for seven years before Judgment Day. (According to Islamic tradition, The Mahdi's tenure will coincide with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ... who will assist The Mahdi in battling false prophets.) His followers became known as the Mahdi (with no emphasis on "The"). Concerned by the scale of the uprising, Egypt sent 4,000 troops to the region. The force found the Mahdi poorly clothed, starving, and armed only with sticks and stones. Egyptian overconfidence turned into disaster when the Mahdi launched an assault at dawn and slaughtered every Egyptian. The rebels gained vast amounts of arms and ammunition, military clothing, and other supplies. The Mahdi not only opposed the infidel British but also the Egyptian Government. Their warriors were fanatical, brutal, and fearless, and soon Sudan fell under their influence out of sheer terror. The Egyptian Government now faced a difficult decision of whether to fully intervene... or to leave the country to its fate. Of course, things grew complex when Egypt found itself at war with its "ally" Britain. In 1882, Britain took control of Egypt following the brief Anglo-Egyptian War. With Egypt now largely under British administration, British advisers to the Egyptian Government further examined the seriousness of the Mahdist threat. After the Battle of El Obeid in November 1883 in which only 500 of the 10,000 Egyptians survived, the British Government ordered the remaining Egyptian and British soldiers to retreat. After seeing how brutally the Mahdi treated captured enemies, the British sent a relief force to Sudan's capital city of Khartoum to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Unfortunately, the relief army arrived at Khartoum several days after it had been taken in January 1885. With Khartoum lost, the British left Sudan in the hands of the Mahdi. (But don't count the Queen out just yet!) Eleven years later, the British resumed their war upon the Mahdi in 1896. Several important things had happened prior to the resumption of hostilities. The Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad had been murdered by one of the women in his harem. Internal disputes caused problems for the Mahdi, and their expansion had been hindered by the Italians in the east and the French in the west. Most importantly for the British, the Egyptian Government itself, which had been worthless during the first war against the Mahdi, was now ready to fully commit to crushing the rebels. On September 2, 1898, combined British and Egyptian forces (numbering 25,000) defeated over 52,000 Mahdists at the Battle of Omdurman. Losing only 47 men KIA, the Anglo-Egyptian Army killed or wounded half of the Mahdi. The Mahdist War (1881-1899) finally came to an end. After the victory, the British set up a new colonial system (called the Anglo-Egyptian Administration), which effectively established British domination over Sudan. This ended with the independence of Sudan in 1956.
And people think the United States likes to stick its nose in places where it doesn't belong! Well, we learned it by watching you, Mom!
Apartheid was a policy of racial segregation implemented and enforced in the Republic of South Africa. The word literally means "apart-hood" or "separateness" and refers to the rigid racial division between the governing white minority population and the non-white majority population. (Yes, whites are the minority in Africa.) While racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times under Dutch rule and continued while the British stripped the area for its diamonds, apartheid as an official structured policy wasn't introduced until 1948. But, once in place, it became the governing policy for South Africa until 1994.
In short, the path to apartheid can be blamed on a guy we name the world's most prestigious academic scholarship after... and a Dutch jerk. During the "Scramble for Africa", a British businessman named Cecil Rhodes was drawn to South Africa because of its diamond mines. He soon created the De Beers Company, which, today, is a cartel of companies that dominate the diamond trade in Africa. From 1890-1896, he served as the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (which later became South Africa). Rhodes implemented laws that benefited diamond mine and industry owners. He introduced the Glen Grey Act in 1894 to push black people from their lands in order to make way for industrial development. The growing number of blacks that could vote in the Cape Colony led him to tweak voting requirements so that number dropped. Rhodes' policies were instrumental in the development of British imperial policies in South Africa, such as the Hut Tax. (Even the name sounds racist.) The Hut Tax was a type of taxation on a per hut or household basis. It was payable in money, grain, livestock, or labor... as in you could contract yourself out to work off the tax. His policies helped further the divide between the white minority running the diamond mines... and the blacks working inside them. In his will, he provided for the establishment of the famous Rhodes Scholarship, the world's first international study program. The scholarship enabled students from territories under British rule (or formerly under British rule) and from Germany to study at Rhodes's alma mater, the University of Oxford in England. (Ah yes, nothing like getting free schooling paid for with blood money squirreled away by a full-blown British racist. I wonder how many black South African guys have gotten this "scholarship"...)
If you thought that British bugger was bad, in came Hendrik Verwoerd, the Dutch-by birth, British-raised, and German-educated white man who was the Prime Minister of South Africa from 1958 until his assassination in 1966. He is remembered as being the person behind the idea (and implementation) of apartheid. (Verwoerd spent time doing his doctoral studies in... Nazi Germany. Claims that Verwoerd studied eugenics during this time and later based his apartheid policy on Nazi ideology are debated.) Nevertheless, Verwoerd's legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups, "black", "white", "colored", and "Indian", with Indian and colored divided into several sub-classifications. From 1960-1983, 3.5 million non-white South Africans were removed from their homes and pushed into segregated neighborhoods in one of the largest mass removals in modern history. Non-white political representation in the government was abolished in 1970, and starting in that same year, blacks lost their citizenship in South Africa. (Yes, you read that correctly: White people took away the citizenship of black people... in Africa. What?!!!) Blacks were then broken into 10 "tribes" (based on ethnicity) and placed on self-governing "homelands" called bantustans.
The government segregated education, medical care, beaches, and other public services, and it provided black people with services inferior to those of white people. Non-whites were stripped of their right to vote until 1993.
Apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and saw the country slapped with multiple trade embargoes by other countries around the world. Popular uprisings and protests were met with the banning of opposition and imprisoning of anti-apartheid leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, a South African democratic socialist, who was arrested in 1962 and served 27 years in jail. As unrest spread and became more effective and militarized, state organizations responded with repression and violence. Apartheid reforms in the 1980s failed to quell the mounting opposition, and in 1990, South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid. When black South Africans regained the right to vote in 1993, the multi-racial democratic election in 1994 was won by the African National Congress... under Nelson Mandela.
Apartheid was declared "over", although Mandela, South Africa's first black President, knew he had a tough road ahead. Serving as the nation's leader from 1994-1999, Mandela presided over the transition from apartheid minority rule to a multicultural democracy. Being a democratic socialist, he advocated a democratic political system and a socialist economic system. (Understandably, living in a country created and shaped by imperialism makes you a wee bit jumpy when it comes to private land-ownership, Big Business, and capitalism!) Mandela could have pursued and tracked down those that wronged him (he now had the power and resources to do so), but he instead made national reconciliation the primary goal of his presidency. While that's all well and good, Mandela's Administration inherited a country with a huge disparity in wealth between the white and black communities. Of a population of 40 million, around 23 million lacked electricity or adequate sanitation, 12 million lacked clean water, two million children were not in school... and a third of the population was illiterate. There was 33% unemployment, half lived below the poverty line, 10% was HIV positive, and South Africa had one of the world's highest crime rates. (OK, but other than that...) The Land Restitution Act of 1994 enabled people who had lost their property as a result of the Natives Land Act of 1913 to get it back. Tens of thousands of land claims were granted. (Wow! Can you imagine if the U.S. did such a deal with Native Americans?!)
A prime example of how sports can cross racial barriers came when South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995. The year before, while attending a game between the Springboks (the country's rugby team) and England, Mandela noticed that the black fans in the stadium were cheering for England instead of their "home team". To these fans, the mostly-white Springboks represented prejudice and apartheid. (Of course, there is irony in cheering for England, too...) Knowing that South Africa was set to host the Rugby World Cup the next year, Mandela persuaded the black-dominated South African Sports Committee to support the Springboks. He then met with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar, and told him that a Springboks' victory in the World Cup would unite and inspire the nation. (No pressure, right?) During the opening games of the Rugby World Cup, support for the Springboks began to grow among the black population. By the second game, the whole country came together to support the Springboks. Following South Africa's 15-12 victory over rival New Zealand in the championship game, Mandela (wearing a Springboks jersey and ball cap) presented the Webb Ellis Cup to Pienaar. It was a moment everyone in the world wanted to see happen. (Well, except for New Zealand...)
On the foreign affairs front, Mandela encouraged other nations to resolve conflicts through diplomacy and reconciliation. While the new South African Constitution permitted two consecutive five-year terms (and he would have easily won re-election), Mandela opted to step down. He traveled and met with foreign diplomats around the world. While he had been criticized for not doing enough to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic during his presidency, he devoted much of his time to the issue following his retirement. Suffering from reoccurring illnesses, Mandela withdrew from public life in 2004, commenting, "Don't call me, I will call you." He died December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. In describing his life, Mandela stated that, "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."
Although there is no longer a legal basis for apartheid, and despite the efforts put forth by Nelson Mandela, the social, economic, and political inequalities between white and black South Africans continue to exist to this day.
Cecil Rhodes, the British businessman that laid the groundwork for apartheid, also founded the country of Rhodesia... and named it after himself... in 1895. The land was split by a natural border, the Zambezi River. As a result, the area to the north was "Northern Rhodesia" (which became Zambia in 1964), and the area to the south was dubbed "Southern Rhodesia" (which became Zimbabwe in 1980). [Click picture for a larger version.]
This is an iconic cartoon from 1892 depicting the "Scramble for Africa". The giant straddling Africa is British colonialist Cecil Rhodes. The cartoon was published next to an article about Rhodes' plan to extend an electrical telegraph line from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. [Click picture for a larger version.]
In August 5, 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested, jailed, and convicted of leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. He was sentenced to five years in prison, where he remained through June 1964... when he was sentenced to life for advocating the overthrow of the apartheid government. [Click picture for a larger version.]
"Invictus" is a short poem written in 1875 by the English poet William Ernest Henley. While incarcerated, Nelson Mandela recited the poem to other prisoners and was empowered by its message of self-mastery. In the movie "Invictus", Mandela is shown giving the poem to François Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby, in order to inspire him. In reality, Mandela gave Pienaar a copy of "The Man in the Arena", a passage from U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt's speech "Citizenship in a Republic". Whatever the case, t's still a great poem! [Click picture for a larger version.]
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. Determining what events constitute a genocide and which are merely inhuman behavior is not clear-cut. (After all, what makes a group "terrorists" to some makes them "patriots" to others...)
As long as there have been people on this planet, there have been dictatorships and genocide. The Old Testament describes genocide of Amalekites and Midianites; even Moses had 3,000 Israelites killed for worshipping a golden calf.
And while most people have heard of (and know something about) the historic genocides of the Native Americans and the Jewish people, the more recent genocide in Rwanda and the current genocide in Darfur don't make many people's radars.
The Republic of Rwanda is a country in Central and East Africa about the size of the state of Massachusetts. Rwandans form three groups: the Hutu, the Tutsi, and the Twa. The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people descended from Rwanda's earliest inhabitants. Scholars disagree on the origins of (and differences between) the Hutu and Tutsi; some believe they are derived from former social castes, while others view them as being races or tribes. Whatever the case, the two don't get along, as demonstrated by the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The Berlin West Africa Conference of 1884 assigned the territory of Rwanda to Germany. Belgian forces took control of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi during World War I. Both the Germans and the Belgians promoted Tutsi supremacy, considering the Hutu and Tutsi to be different races. European colonists, convinced the Tutsi had migrated to Rwanda from Ethiopia, believed the Tutsi were more "white" than the Hutu and were, therefore, racially superior and better suited to carry out colonial administrative tasks. In 1935, Belgium introduced identity cards labelling each individual as either Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. The Rwandan Revolution (1959-1961) saw the Hutu began killing the Tutsi, slaying between 20,000 and 100,000 and forcing another 130,000 to seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 1961, the now pro-Hutu government voted to abolish the Belgian monarchy. Rwanda was separated from Burundi and granted its independence by Belgium in 1962. Cycles of violence followed, with exiled Tutsi attacking and the Hutu retaliating with large-scale slaughter and repression of the Tutsi. In 1973, Juvénal Habyarimana took power in a military coup. Pro-Hutu discrimination continued, but there was greater economic prosperity and a reduced amount of violence against Tutsi. In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, invaded Northern Rwanda, initiating the Rwandan Civil War (1990-1993). Neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage in the war, and a cease-fire was declared in 1993. The cease-fire ended on April 6, 1994, when President Habyarimana's plane was shot dow. His death served as the catalyst for the Rwandan Genocide, which began within a few hours. Over the course of approximately 100 days, between 500,000 and 1 million Tutsi (or 70% of the entire Tutsi population) were killed in well-planned attacks on the orders of the interim Hutu government. Many Twa were also killed, despite not being directly targeted. The Tutsi RPF restarted their offensive and took control of the whole country by mid-July. This sent two million Hutu fleeing to other countries in fear of reprisals. Within Rwanda, a period of reconciliation and justice began, but the scars of the genocide remain to this very day.
Darfur is a region in Western Sudan a little smaller than the state of Texas. (Sudan, of course, was the site of the Mahdist War between Britain, Egypt, and the Mahdi people.) Darfur operated independently for several hundred years until it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. In February 2003, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel groups took up arms against the Sudan Government, which they accused of oppressing Darfur's non-Arab population. Sudan responded by carrying out a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Darfur's non-Arabs. This resulted in the deaths of between 178,000 and 462,000 civilians and the indictment of Sudan's current President Omar al-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mass displacements and forced migrations sent millions into refugee camps, creating a humanitarian crisis. In 2006, the Minority Rights Group (MRG) published a critical report, arguing that the United Nations and the great powers of the world could have prevented the crisis and that few lessons appeared to have been drawn from the Rwandan Genocide. MRG's executive director stated that: "This level of crisis, the killings, rape, and displacement could have been foreseen and avoided ... Darfur would not be in this situation had the UN got its act together after Rwanda. Their action was too little too late." The Sudanese Government and the JEM signed a ceasefire agreement in February 2010, with a tentative agreement to pursue peace. However, talks were disrupted by accusations that the Sudanese Army launched raids and air strikes against several villages in Darfur, violating the agreement. The SML/A and JEM have since boycotted negotiations and now demand independence, much in the same fashion that South Sudan gained its freedom from Sudan in 2011. As it stands, the death toll from the genocide continues to climb.
Even though the U.S. Government had aligned itself with Tutsi interests, the U.S. did not intervene in Rwanda. This failure to act was partially blamed on how badly things went when U.S. troops were sent to Somalia in 1992 to prevent warlords from stealing the relief food intended for the starving civilians. Militia groups attacked and killed several U.S. Marines, and Americans watched in horror as the body of a dead Marine was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu on CNN [shown above]. The troops were withdrawn immediately, and the U.S. has not sent a peacekeeping force to Africa since, not even to prevent genocide in Rwanda or in Darfur. President Bill Clinton has since apologized for not sending U.S. troops to Rwanda.