Emergence of Nationalist Struggles Analysis of Emergence Essay

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  • Subject: Literature - African
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Emergence of Nationalist Struggles

Analysis of Emergence Nationalist Struggles

Decolonization is considered to be the process, which concentrates on the removal of colonialism; the process in which one country exerts unequal amount of power and politics over another country. It is either a political or cultural movement, which attempts to gain independence and the complete removal of insidious and destructive impacts of colonialism. This paper aims at discussing the emergence of nationalist struggles that occurred in the process of decolonization of South Africa and Rwanda in the lights of broad and diverse academic resources. Furthermore, this paper would discuss the impact of colonial powers and nationalist movements on nature development countries.


In Africa, the nationalist movement started "from the birth of Ghana in 1957 to the first democratically elected government of South Africa in 1994. The character and pace of decolonization varied from relatively peaceful constitutional transfers of power to protracted liberation struggles, but everywhere it eventually reflected the irresistible nationalist demands of self-determination and democracy" (Birmingham, 2005, p 108). The African attempts together with international environment successfully created the conditions for victorious struggles to gain independence. The initial resistance and hostility were shown by the African leaders against the European powers during the nineteenth Century. Furthermore, the colonial rule had been successful in producing educated, knowledgeable and enlightened Africans, who questioned and defied the colonial authorities. Furthermore, African leaders gained significant support from individuals, who suffered the most because of the colonial regime. These individuals included famers and urban workers (Birmingham, 2005).

Emergence of Nationalist Struggles in South Africa

Differing Races, Culture and Social Values

The eighteenth century witnessed the downfall of Dutch in region of South Africa and the rise of British power. Cape Town was captured by Britain in 1795. During the nineteenth Century, the discovery of gold and diamonds in the region of South Africa led to a conflict known as Anglo-Boer War, which was fought between the Boers and Britain for the control of mineral wealth found in the region. In the year 1806, Cape Town became a British colony (Birmingham, 2005). The white elite of Cape Town enjoyed power and authority and racism prevailed in the region. The initial task revolved around the resolving of border dispute between the Xhosa and the Boers. For this purpose, working class of British immigrants was convinced to leave Britain and to settle in the disputed area in order to serve as a buffer zone. However, this plan did not work out. Since the border dispute was not resolved, the presence of British immigrants further strengthened their presence in the region. However, it created problems between the Britain and Boers, thus, splitting the white community of South Africa at that time. By that time, South Africa has two distinct languages and cultures. English speakers were active in politics, economy, and manufacturing and mining, whereas, the Boers were mainly active in agricultural activities (Young, 2004). The gap between the two white communities further widened because of the removal of slavery. During this time, the Boers were not happy with the British rule. The equality of races further added to conflict.

Annexation of Natal

At the start of 1835, the Boers together with Khoikhoi explored the internal regions of South Africa in hopes of new start and independence. The area surrounding the north and east of Orange River was believed to be the new frontier for the Boers, however, deserted lands together with unsystematic and disorganized groups of refugees, were to be found in their new explored area. The idea of becoming independent divided the Boers into two groups. One of the groups headed towards Natal in order to create their independent republic (Le Seuer, 2003). The Boers were successful in gaining control of Natal. However, in 1843, the British also annexed Natal and made it a British colony. After the formation of the British Natal colony, the Zulus showed severe resistance and waged war against the British army. In 1879, British army was experienced a humiliating defeat in the Battle of Isandlwana. However, continuing Anglo-Zulu Wars, witnessed the control of British in the Zulu area, which was known as Zululand. The discovery of mineral wealth further separated the Boers, British and natives of South Africa. The arrival of Black labor threatened the existence of Boers in terms of economics. The tension between the Boers and British further increased in 1899 as the voting rights of the foreign whites were asked on Witwatersrand (Nkrumah, 2006). This demand was rejected by Kruger and waged war. Majority of the Boer towns had surrenders. In 1902, Treaty of Vereeniging was signed, which acknowledged the power and authority of British.

Emergence of Afrikaners

The early twentieth century saw the production of gold from Witwatersrand. The treaty signed between the British and Boers, was still challenged by Afrikaners. They were primarily engaged in agricultural activities. Mining ventures and foreign investments did not benefit them and Britain had been unsuccessful in anglicizing them. English as the official language in educational institutions and workplaces only exasperated and angered them. Thus several nationalist movements emerged in an attempt to revive the identity and individuality of the Afrikaners (Springhall, 2001). The South Africa Act 1909 was introduced in order to unify the colonies including Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Natal and Transvaal, under the name of Union of South Africa. The Union was under British rule but gave the Afrikaners the home rule opportunity. Afrikaans language gained the status of official recognition in the year 1925.

Emergence of Nationalist Struggles in Rwanda

Colonial Era Background

The status of territory of Rwanda and Great Lakes was determined in 1884 in the Berlin Conferences. In 1890, Rwanda and Burundi came under the German colony as an exchange from renouncing the German claim over Uganda. Germans had been successful in entering Rwanda particularly because the area had already been weakened by war and division. During the colonial era, racism prevailed in the area and Tutsi ruling class were classified as superior race of Africans as compared to Hutu, because of their Hamitic origins (Springhall, 2001).

Rise of Hutus

Tutsis were primarily favored by Germans because of willingness to integrate in the German culture. They were given power and control over the farming class of Hutus. Thus, Tutsi were primarily oppressing the Hutus. The Germans aimed at strengthening the power of Tutsi but certain forces emerged in the German colonial authority, which had a negative impact. The power of Tutsi became weak as soon as Rwanda was exposed to the capitalist European forces (Middleton, 1997). The Hutus viewed money as a promise of economic prosperity and for improving social conditions. Furthermore, the Tutsi power weakened because of the introduction of head-tax. This tax made the Hutus close to Europeans as compared to Tutsis. Thus, the Hutus were slowly and steadily rising.

Belgian Power

After the end of World War I, Belgium took control of Rwanda and the continuously favored the Tutsi power. Belgian rule primarily created a greater divided between the Hutu and Tutsi. The Tutsi were believed to be superior as compared to the Hutu because of their lighter skins and bigger and taller skulls. Consequently, the Belgians gave complete political power and control to Tutsi and thus, exploited the control and power they enjoyed (Coquery-Vidrovitch, 1998). Rwanda became the territory of UN trust during the World War II. During the fifties, reforms were introduced by the Belgian government in order to promote democracy, which was opposed by the Tutsi as it threatened the power and control they enhoyed.

The late forties saw the liberalization of the Hutu from the rule of Tutsi as several reforms were introduced in ordered to promote equality. Furthermore, Roman Catholic Church promoted equality and no longer supported the mistreatment of Hutu.

Nationalist Movement and Decolonization

During the fifties and the sixties, Hutus together with the Christian Belgians started the emancipation movement. This movement was started against the Tutsi in order to fight against their rule and authority and the oppression, which they subjugated against the Hutus. The violence against Dominique Mbonyumutwa by Tutsi was the final straw and thus, gave rise to the Hutus, who used violence in order to express themselves (Springhall, 2001,Worger, Clark & Alpers, 2001). More than 100 thousand Tutsi were killed. Some of them left Rwanda. The revolution of 1959 is considered to be a significant moment in changing the face of Rwanda. In 1960, Rwanda became a democratic sate and Rwanda became Hutu dominated country.


In comparing South Africa and Rwanda, in terms of nationalist movements and attempts of decolonization, a vast difference can be found. In South Africa, the region had been divided among Boers, Africans and British. In Rwanda, the land had been divided among two native races and Germany was in power. Boers in South Africa resented the British rule particularly because of their failure to resolve the border dispute between the Xhosa and the Boers English speakers were active in politics, economy, and…

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