Black History Month 2017 Part 2 – The Scramble for Africa

In General

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Part 2 of our series on Colonialism in Africa, we will be focusing on Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganada, Madagascar and Burundi

Several events will be coming up during this month, so keep an eye out for:

  • BHM Karaoke (Stags’) – 19 October
  • Caribbean Curry and Quiz at WSA (WSA Cafe)– 24 October
  • Debate: Building The Black Lives Matter Movement And Its Importance (Nuffield 06/1081)– 25 October


Ethiopia was one of 2 African countries to have never been colonized, but was occupied by Italy for a short period in 1936. Under the Reign of Emperor Menelik II, the Italians signed the Treaty of Wuchale, granting them a section of north Ethiopia (which later became Eritrea). However the Amharic and Italian versions of the treaty contained some discrepancies which led Italy to declare Ethiopia an Italian colony. Menelik dismissed this and in 1893, renounced the entire treaty; Italy attempted to invade but were defeated Menelik and his men. As a result, Italy was forced to recognise Ethiopia as an Independent nation at the Treaty of Addis Ababa.

However under Dictator Benito Mussolini’s orders, Italy invaded again in October 1935, in a brutal war killing thousands of Ethiopians. The Emperor Haile Selassie fled to England and King Victor Emmanuel III was crowned emperor of Ethiopia in 1936.



Born in Uganda, Musaazi studied theology in the UK but returned to his home country in 1948 after meeting great men such as Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), George Padmore (Jamaica); they had convened the famous Manchester Conference of 1945, which planned the liberation of Africa from colonialism and imperialism. The conference urged all African freedom fighters to go back to their countries and “liberate them from colonialism and break all the chains of European imperialism”.

Following political disturbances in 1949, when Africa farmers demanded full participation in the ginning of their cotton and marketing it without a middleman, Musaazi emerged as one of the strong leaders. He formed a farmer’s association called the Federation of Partnership of Uganda African Farmers. After being refused ordination, Musaazi and five others formed the Uganda National Congress in 1952, Uganda’s first national party, with a nationwide rallying call of “Independence Now”.

Uganda finally achieved independence on the 9th October 1962. Musaazi is recognized as one of Uganda’s liberators.



Rwanda and Burundi were the last regions of Africa to be colonised by Europeans in the late 19th century. Initially  a German colony; Ruanda-Urundi, it was racially divided between Hutus, “lower class” farmers (85% of the population) and  Tutsi, the “Upper Class” who herded cattle (14% of the population). After WWI, Belgium assumed control of the colony and favoured the Tutsis, considering them to be a “superior” race, lighter skin, and tall, slim figures, suggesting that they were more Caucasian than the short and darker skinned Hutus. This stocked hostility, especially after the Belgians gave Tutsis the socio-economic power in administration of the region and required everyone to hold racial identity cards.

In 1957, Hutu leaders, including Grégoire Kayibanda, published the Hutu Manifesto, demanding democracy and freedom from the oppressive rule of Tutsi aristocracy. In 1959, Tutsi political activists attacked a Hutu rival, resulting in a nationwide campaign of Hutu violence against Tutsis known as ‘the wind of destruction’; causing 20,000 Tutsi deaths and mass exile of the clan to neighbouring countries.

Hutu politicians, led by Kayibanda, won a UN referendum and gained full independence in 1962. Ruanda-Urundi separated into two nations, Rwanda and Burundi. Violence, however, continued throughout Rwanda and by 1964, more than 300,000 Tutsis had been forced into exile.

Tutsi exiles formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and attempted to invade Rwanda in 1990 commencing a 3-year civil war. In August 1993, the Hutu President Habyarimana signed a peace treaty with the RPF, which officially brought an end to the war and accepted the right of return for all Rwanda’s refugees. Hutu extremists rejected this treaty and in 1994, the plane carrying Habyarimana and Burundi’s head of state, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down, triggering genocide against the Tutsi people, where 800,000 people were killed in 3 months. In July 1994, Paul Kagame formed a coalition government with Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu and was later elected president, bringing relative peace to the country.



Madagascar was discovered in 1500 by the Portuguese but was first colonized in 1894 by France following the Franco-Hova war. The French established plantations and many Madagascans were taken into slavery and were only emancipated in 1896.

France’s increasing involvement in WWll, made them unable to manage their colonies, which eventually aided the Malagasy Uprising of 1947 led to the reformations in 1956. The French peacefully left Madagascar as free state in the same year; however the official Malagasy language has remained French to this day. The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed in 1958 and reached full independence in 1960.



Burundi was first colonised by Germany then subsequently Belgium between the 1890’s and 1962, who rejected a demand for independence in 1959; this caused increased momentum by parties in Burundi, including UPRONA., which won the first elections in 1961.

Led by Prince Louis Rwagasore, the party gained independence from the Belgiu Ruanda-Urundi colony but he was assassinated a month later by political rivals causing the breakup of the UPRONA and a power vacuum; The ensuing years were marked with civil war, instability and mass exile, with the country transition from royal rule to a Tutsi government, who used the genocide of the Hutu people in 1972 to cement their influence and power. In 1990, Burundi attempted to introduce a non-ethnic government, which brought only partial stability before another coup led by the Hutu parties in 1996.

Finally in 2003, the Hutu rebels finally agreed to a peace agreement and peace was “officially” brought to the country that has slowly removed the ethnic violence that plagued the country for decades.


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