Category: african history

It is known that animal herding, which had been in northeastern Africa since about 8,000 years ago, made it to southern Africa by about 2,000 years ago. But it has been an open question whether the pastoral life was brought south by immigrants, or whether it was adopted by hunter-gatherers already in the area.

A multinational team of scientists recently examined 41 genomes from individuals who lived in Africa between 4,000 and 300 years ago. The genomes suggested that pastoralists migrated from southwestern Asia into eastern Africa around 5,000 years ago. They interbred with local foragers, mixing genomes.

However, about 3,300 years ago, the inbreeding ceased. Pastoralism had already been established by this point. The immigrants were now locals. So this study creates a new question: why did the genomes separate? What happened that pastoralists and hunter-gatherers suddenly stop intermarrying?

Great Zimbabwe:

Great Zimbabwe was a massive stone city in southeastern Africa
that was a thriving trade center from the 1000s and 1400s. But
when Europeans first learned of it in the 1500s, they were
certain it wasn’t African at all.

Naka and Nebele are the creator-deities of the Sonjo people of Tanzania. Nebele came first and created his sister, Nebele.  Nebele then created all things – except human beings. Naka was jealous of her accomplishments, and said she was but a woman, and therefore was his property. He attempted to brand Nebele like an animal, but she understandably became angry and frightened, and fled to another world. According to the Sonjo she has yet to return.

Now alone in the world, Naka then created a man and a woman. Eventually, their children filled the earth with the people we know today.

“We come upon a curious fact. The pre-colonial history of African societies – and I refer to both Euro-Christian and Arab-Islamic colonization – indicates very clearly that African societies never at any time of their existence went to war with another over the issue of their religion. That is, at no time did the black race attempt to subjugate or forcibly convert others with any holier-than-thou evangelizing zeal. Economic and political motives, yes. But not religion.”

Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwrite and poet, at his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (December 1986).

March 29th 1879: Battle of Kambula

On this
day in 1879, the Battle of Kambula occurred, marking a decisive moment
in the Anglo-Zulu War. The war in South Africa began in 1878 after the
murder of several British citizens by Zulus and the Zulu king’s refusal
to hand over the perpetrators for trial. However, authorities in Britain
had long been seeking pretense to launch an assault on the Zulu Kingdom
to consolidate British rule in the area. The indigenous Zulu warriors
had some initial success against the European invaders, including at the
battle of Isandlwana in January 1879, though this victory was offset by
defeat at Rourke’s Drift. Wary of the enemy, British forces in the Zulu
Kingdom led by Evelyn Wood fortified an area near Kambula. On March
29th the Zulu army launched an attack on the British position, but their
advance was halted by a British mounted force. The Zulu forces
continued their attack, and 11,000 fighters charged head-on into a hail
of British fire. They sustained heavy losses, but the Zulu army
successfully exerted pressure on the British stronghold and forced the
defenders to retreat. Despite putting up a considerable attack, the Zulu
forces were eventually forced to retreat under British fire. The battle
was a decisive British victory, with the defenders losing 29 soldiers
and the Zulu up to 3,000. Kambula also severely weakened the Zulu
forces, allowing the British to ultimately defeat the Zulu and imprison
their king in July. British victory spelled the end of the independence
of the Zulu nation in South Africa.

March 29th 1879: Battle of Kambula

On this
day in 1879, the Battle of Kambula occurred, marking a decisive moment
in the Anglo-Zulu War. The war in South Africa began in 1878 after the
murder of several British citizens by Zulus and the Zulu king’s refusal
to hand over the perpetrators for trial. However, authorities in Britain
had long been seeking pretense to launch an assault on the Zulu Kingdom
to consolidate British rule in the area. The indigenous Zulu warriors
had some initial success against the European invaders, including at the
battle of Isandlwana in January 1879, though this victory was offset by
defeat at Rourke’s Drift. Wary of the enemy, British forces in the Zulu
Kingdom led by Evelyn Wood fortified an area near Kambula. On March
29th the Zulu army launched an attack on the British position, but their
advance was halted by a British mounted force. The Zulu forces
continued their attack, and 11,000 fighters charged head-on into a hail
of British fire. They sustained heavy losses, but the Zulu army
successfully exerted pressure on the British stronghold and forced the
defenders to retreat. Despite putting up a considerable attack, the Zulu
forces were eventually forced to retreat under British fire. The battle
was a decisive British victory, with the defenders losing 29 soldiers
and the Zulu up to 3,000. Kambula also severely weakened the Zulu
forces, allowing the British to ultimately defeat the Zulu and imprison
their king in July. British victory spelled the end of the independence
of the Zulu nation in South Africa.

March 21st 1960: Sharpeville massacre

On this day in 1960, police opened fire on peaceful anti-apartheid protestors in the South African township of Sharpeville, killing 69. The over 5,000 strong crowd gathered at Sharpeville police station to protest the discriminatory pass laws, which they claimed were designed to limit their movement in designated white only areas. The laws required all black men and women to carry reference books with their name, tax code and employer details; those found without their book could be arrested and detained. The protest encouraged black South Africans to deliberately leave their pass books at home and present themselves at police stations for arrest, which would crowd prisons and lead to a labour shortage. Despite the protestors’ peaceful and non-violent intentions, police opened fire on the crowd. By the day’s end, 69 people were dead and 180 were wounded. A further 77 were arrested and questioned, though no police officer involved in the massacre was ever convicted as the government relieved all officials of any responsibility. The apartheid government responded to the massacre by banning public meetings, outlawing the African National Congress (ANC) and declaring a state of emergency. The incident convinced anti-apartheid leader and ANC member Nelson Mandela to abandon non-violence and organise paramilitary groups to fight the racist system of apartheid. In 1996, 36 years later, then President Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site at which he signed into law the country’s new post-apartheid constitution.

“People were running in all directions, some couldn’t believe that people
had been shot, they thought they had heard firecrackers. Only when they
saw the blood and dead people, did they see that the police meant
business”

– Tom Petrus, eyewitness to the Sharpeville massacre

March 21st 1960: Sharpeville massacre

On this day in 1960, police opened fire on peaceful anti-apartheid protestors in the South African township of Sharpeville, killing 69. The over 5,000 strong crowd gathered at Sharpeville police station to protest the discriminatory pass laws, which they claimed were designed to limit their movement in designated white only areas. The laws required all black men and women to carry reference books with their name, tax code and employer details; those found without their book could be arrested and detained. The protest encouraged black South Africans to deliberately leave their pass books at home and present themselves at police stations for arrest, which would crowd prisons and lead to a labour shortage. Despite the protestors’ peaceful and non-violent intentions, police opened fire on the crowd. By the day’s end, 69 people were dead and 180 were wounded. A further 77 were arrested and questioned, though no police officer involved in the massacre was ever convicted as the government relieved all officials of any responsibility. The apartheid government responded to the massacre by banning public meetings, outlawing the African National Congress (ANC) and declaring a state of emergency. The incident convinced anti-apartheid leader and ANC member Nelson Mandela to abandon non-violence and organise paramilitary groups to fight the racist system of apartheid. In 1996, 36 years later, then President Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site at which he signed into law the country’s new post-apartheid constitution.

“People were running in all directions, some couldn’t believe that people
had been shot, they thought they had heard firecrackers. Only when they
saw the blood and dead people, did they see that the police meant
business”

– Tom Petrus, eyewitness to the Sharpeville massacre

October 21st 1956: Dedan Kimathi caputured

On this day in 1956 a primary leader of the Mau Mau rebellion, Dedan Kimathi, was captured, essentially signalling the end of the uprising. The conflict occurred in Kenya as a rebellion against British colonial rule by groups of Kikuyu Kenyans collectively refered to as ‘Mau Mau’. With its origins in 1947, the Mau Mau originally targetted Kenyans who collaborated with the British, then began attacking Europeans. Fullscale war broke out in 1952, with the colonial governor declaring a state of emergency and calling in British reinforcemensts. The British response to the rebellion was brutal, with thousands of suspects (many of whom were innocent) being held in camps, tortured, and killed. War crimes were committed on both sides, with the Mau Mau, as well as the British, regularly torturing captives and brutally killing civilians. The Mau Mau were not the only protestors against British colonialism, with political figures like Jomo Kenyatta consistently pushing for political rights and land reform. However Kenyatta was imprisoned (he is now widely believed to be innocent) as a Mau Mau conspirator in 1953 and was not released until 1961. By the time of Kimathi’s arrest, and subsequent execution, the Mau Mau forces had dwindled. However opposition to British rule continued after the end of the rebellion, and the state of emergency declared due to the Mau Mau was not suspended until 1960. After this, the process of independence for Kenya began, with Kenyatta taking a prominent role. Independence was finally achieved in 1963, and Kenyatta became the leader of the new nation. The legacy of the Mau Mau Rebellion has been a divisive one, with supporters of the British regime portraying  it as a story of heroic Europeans defeating bloodthirsty Kenyans. However in Kenya the Mau Mau are remembered as freedom fighters, and more recent accounts have revised the traditional narrative and emphasized the exploitation and oppression of Kenyans under colonial rule.