Military history of Africa

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Tapestry of the Battle of Adwa between Ethiopia and Italy. Battle of Adwa tapestry at Smithsonian.png
Tapestry of the Battle of Adwa between Ethiopia and Italy.

The military history of Africa is one of the oldest military histories in the world. Africa is a continent of many regions with diverse populations speaking hundreds of different languages and practicing an array of cultures and religions. These differences have also been the source of much conflict since a millennia.

Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, cultures and economies thereof, as well as the resulting changes to local and international relationships.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Continent Very large landmass identified by convention

A continent is one of several very large landmasses of the world. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, they are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.

Contents

Like the history of Africa, military history on the continent is often divided by region. North Africa was part of the Mediterranean cultures and was integral to the military history of classical antiquity, and East Africa has historically had various states which have often warred with some the world's most powerful. The military history of modern Africa may be divided into three broad time periods: pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial.

History of Africa aspect of history

The history of Africa begins with the emergence of hominids, archaic humans and—at least 200,000 years ago—anatomically modern humans, in East Africa, and continues unbroken into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. In the Kingdom of Kush and in Ancient Egypt, the Sahel, the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa.

North Africa Northernmost region of Africa

North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to the North West African countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as "Afrique du Nord" and is known by all Arabs as the Maghreb. The most commonly accepted definition includes Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, "North Africa", particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time.

Mediterranean Sea Sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean between Europe, Africa and Asia

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

Antiquity

Ancient Egyptian and Nubian military history

In 3100 BC, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt were united by Menes. The end of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt ushered in a period of instability that was not stabilized until Mentuhotep II solidified his rule in about 2055 BC to begin the Middle Kingdom. This period came to end with the invasion of the Hyksos, who introduced the war chariot. This new technology was quickly adopted by the Egyptians, who succeeded in expelling the invaders at the start of the New Kingdom in the 16th century BC.

Upper Egypt strip of land on the Nile valley between Nubia and Lower Egypt

Upper Egypt is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.

Lower Egypt northernmost region of Egypt

Lower Egypt is the northernmost region of Egypt: the fertile Nile Delta, between Upper Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea — from El Aiyat, south of modern-day Cairo, and Dahshur. Historically, the Nile River split into seven branches of the delta in Lower Egypt. Lower Egypt was divided into nomes and began to advance as a civilization after 3600 BC. Today, it contains two channels major that flow through the delta of the Nile River.

Menes Founder of Manethos 1st dynasty and unifier of Egypt

Menes was a pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt credited by classical tradition with having united Upper and Lower Egypt and as the founder of the First Dynasty.

The revitalized Egyptians expanded north and east into Eurasia to the Aegean and into much of the Levant, as far as the Euphrates River. Egypt also moved west into Libya and south into Sudan.

Eurasia The combined continental landmass of Europe and Asia

Eurasia is the combined continental landmass of Europe and Asia. The term is a portmanteau of its constituent continents. Located primarily in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and by Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean to the south. The division between Europe and Asia as two different continents is a historical social construct, with no clear physical separation between them; thus, in some parts of the world, Eurasia is recognized as the largest of the six, five, or even four continents on Earth. In geology, Eurasia is often considered as a single rigid megablock. However, the rigidity of Eurasia is debated based on paleomagnetic data.

Levant Geographic and cultural region consisting of the eastern Mediterranean between Anatolia and Egypt

The Levant is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily in Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the historical region of Syria. In its widest historical sense, the Levant included all of the eastern Mediterranean with its islands; that is, it included all of the countries along the Eastern Mediterranean shores, extending from Greece to Cyrenaica.

Libya Country in north Africa

Libya, officially the State of Libya, is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. The sovereign state is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The second-largest city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.

The gradual disintegration in the Twentieth Dynasty allowed the founding of the Kushite kingdoms of Nubia, centered on Napata. Kush reached a height under Piye, who conquered Egypt and founded the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. However, the Kushites were gradually driven back to Napata by an Assyrian invasion and then the resistance of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty kings.

Kingdom of Kush ancient African kingdom

The Kingdom of Kush or Kush was an ancient kingdom in Nubia, located at the Sudanese and southern Egyptian Nile Valley.

Napata city

Napata was a city-state of ancient Nubia on the west bank of the Nile at the site of modern Karima, Sudan.

Piye ancient Kushite king and Egyptian pharaoh

Piye was an ancient Kushite king and founder of the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt who ruled Egypt from 744–714 BC. He ruled from the city of Napata, located deep in Nubia, modern-day Sudan.

Ancient Aksumite military history

The Kingdom of Axum had one of the most powerful militaries in the world during its era. It was compared with Rome and other world powers of the time. The Empire ruled vast territories from today's western Yemen, Djibouti, southwestern Saudi Arabia, eastern Sudan, most of Eritrea and the north and central part of present-day Ethiopia.

Yemen Republic in Western Asia

Yemen , officially the Republic of Yemen, is a country at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. Yemen is the second-largest Arab sovereign state in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 square kilometres. The coastline stretches for about 2,000 kilometres. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Guardafui Channel to the south, and the Arabian Sea and Oman to the east. Yemen's territory includes more than 200 islands.

Saudi Arabia Country in Western Asia

Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest sovereign state in the Middle East, the second-largest in the Arab world, the fifth-largest in Asia, and the 12th-largest in the world. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland and mountains. As of October 2018, the Saudi economy was the largest in the Middle East and the 18th largest in the world. Saudi Arabia also enjoys one of the world's youngest populations; 50% of its 33.4 million people are under 25 years old.

Sudan Country in Northeast Africa

Sudan or the Sudan, officially the Republic of the Sudan, is a country in Northeast Africa. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea to the east, Ethiopia to the southeast, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, and Libya to the northwest. It has a population of 39 million people and occupies a total area of 1,886,068 square kilometres, making it the third-largest country in Africa. Sudan's predominant religion is Islam, and its official languages are Arabic and English. The capital is Khartoum, located at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile. Since 2011, Sudan is the scene of ongoing military conflict in its regions South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Military history of modern Africa

Adal-Ethiopian wars

Military company of Ebolowa, Colonial German Cameroon, c. 1894/1915. Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2006-0024, Kamerun, Ebolowa, 5. Kompagnie.jpg
Military company of Ebolowa, Colonial German Cameroon, c. 1894/1915.

While European exploration began with mapping of the western coasts by the Portuguese, large-scale intervention did not occur until much later. During the 1529–1543 campaign of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, which brought three-quarters of Christian Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) under the power of the Muslim Sultanate of Adal (modern day Somalia. [1] [2] With an army mainly composed of Somalis, [3] which was equipped by the Ottoman empire with musketeers and troops. However, in the Battle of Wayna Daga, a combined Ethiopian-Portuguese force (including Portuguese musketeers) was able to kill Imam Ahmad in retaliation of the death of the former Portuguese commander, Cristovão da Gama and take back Adal territories.

In 1579, the Ottoman Empire attempted to attack Ethiopia again, this time from the north at the coastal base of Massawa. However, it was defeated by the Ethiopian military. In 1652, with Portuguese power in decline, the Dutch East India Company sent a fleet of three small ships under Jan van Riebeeck to set up the first permanent colony in Southern Africa at Table Bay, and began expanding northwards. In 1868, Ethiopia and Egypt went to war at Gura. Ethiopia, led by Emperor Yohannes IV, defeated the Egyptians decisively.

Ajuran-Portuguese wars

The Ottomans regularly aided the Ajurans in their struggles with the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean. Ottoman fleet Indian Ocean 16th century.jpg
The Ottomans regularly aided the Ajurans in their struggles with the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean.
During the Battle of Barawa, Tristao da Cunha was wounded and requested to be knighted by Albuquerque. Hanno.cunha.jpg
During the Battle of Barawa, Tristão da Cunha was wounded and requested to be knighted by Albuquerque.

The European Age of discovery brought Europe's then superpower the Portuguese empire to the coast of East Africa, which at the time enjoyed a flourishing trade with foreign nations. The wealthy southeastern city-states of Kilwa, Mombasa, Malindi, Pate and Lamu were all systematically sacked and plundered by the Portuguese. Tristão da Cunha then set his eyes on Ajuran territory, where the battle of Barawa was fought. After a long period of engagement, the Portuguese soldiers burned the city and looted it. However, fierce resistance by the local population and soldiers resulted in the failure of the Portuguese to permanently occupy the city, and the inhabitants who had fled to the interior would eventually return and rebuild the city. After Barawa, Tristão would set sail for Mogadishu, which was the richest city on the East African coast. But word had spread of what had happened in Barawa, and a large troop mobilization had taken place. Many horsemen, soldiers and battleships in defense positions were now guarding the city. Nevertheless, Tristão still opted to storm and attempt to conquer the city, although every officer and soldier in his army opposed this, fearing certain defeat if they were to engage their opponents in battle. Tristão heeded their advice and sailed for Socotra instead. [5] After the battle the city of Barawa quickly recovered from the attack. [6]

In 1660, the Portuguese in Mombasa surrendered to a joint Somali-Omani force. Medieval Mombasa.jpg
In 1660, the Portuguese in Mombasa surrendered to a joint Somali-Omani force.

Over the next several decades Somali-Portuguese tensions would remain high and the increased contact between Somali sailors and Ottoman corsairs worried the Portuguese who sent a punitive expedition against Mogadishu under João de Sepúlveda, which was unsuccessful. [8] Ottoman-Somali cooperation against the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean reached a high point in the 1580s when Ajuran clients of the Somali coastal cities began to sympathize with the Arabs and Swahilis under Portuguese rule and sent an envoy to the Turkish corsair Mir Ali Bey for a joint expedition against the Portuguese. He agreed and was joined by a Somali fleet, which began attacking Portuguese colonies in Southeast Africa. [9]

The Somali-Ottoman offensive managed to drive out the Portuguese from several important cities such as Pate, Mombasa and Kilwa. However, the Portuguese governor sent envoys to Portuguese India requesting a large Portuguese fleet. This request was answered and it reversed the previous offensive of the Muslims into one of defense. The Portuguese armada managed to re-take most of the lost cities and began punishing their leaders, but they refrained from attacking Mogadishu, securing the city's autonomy in the Indian Ocean. [10] [11] Ajuran's Somali forces would eventually militarily defeat the Portuguese. The Ottoman Empire would also remain an economic partner of the Somalis. [12] Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries successive Somali Sultans defied the Portuguese economic monopoly in the Indian Ocean by employing a new coinage which followed the Ottoman pattern, thus proclaiming an attitude of economic independence in regard to the Portuguese. [13]

Independence struggles

Starting in the 1950s, anti-colonial movements agitated for independence from the colonial powers. This agitation, coupled with an international system that was increasingly hostile to colonialism, led killed to a process of decolonization that was often violent.

The first successful anti-colonial armed struggle in Africa was the Tunisian War of Independence (1952–1956), but the most famous may be the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962), both against France.

Other example of successful armed resistance is the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974), which led to the independence of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. [14] The Rhodesian Bush War (1966–1979) was not against a colonial metropole, but the minority white government of Ian Smith.

These national liberation movements were informed by the successful guerrilla warfare doctrine used in the Indonesian National Revolution (1945–1949) and the First Indochina War (1946–1954). The insurgents' goal was thus not to win the war — and no colonial army was ever defeated — but simply not to lose, thus making the conduct of the war unbearable for the colonial power over the long term.

World War II parties Map of participants in World War II.png
World War II parties

The writings of Frantz Fanon on the Algerian conflict became hugely influential on later African conflicts. These conflicts benefited from internal ideological and organizational cohesion, sympathetic diplomatic backing in global forums, some financial backing (in particular from the Nordic states) and military training and supplies from the Soviet bloc. [14]

Two national liberation movements that became violent and were unsuccessful in that they did not lead to de facto capitulation and independence were the Mau Mau Uprising (1952–1960). Colonial security forces were reinforced by regular troops from the metropolitan power and the insurgent groups were hampered by a lack of military equipment and training, as well as the absence of a friendly adjoining country offering sanctuary. [14]

There have been two liberation movements against an African power over the borders drawn during the colonial period. The Polisario Front began a struggle in 1973 for the independence of Western Sahara against Spain and then Morocco, when the North African country invaded.

In Eritrea, the Eritrean Liberation Front and later Eritrean People's Liberation Front carried out an independence struggle against Ethiopia that culminated successfully in 1991.

In two special cases, and in contrast to these bloody wars, both Namibia's South-West Africa People's Organisation (1960s–1990) and the activities of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of South Africa's African National Congress, utilized armed conflict comparatively less in their struggles.

Post-colonial

Africa's wars and conflicts, 1980-96 Africa's wars and conflicts, 1980-96.jpg
Africa’s wars and conflicts, 1980–96

African states have made great efforts to respect interstate borders as inviolate for a long time. For example, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was established in 1963 and replaced by the African Union in 2002, set the respect for the territorial integrity of each state as one of its principles in OAU Charter. [15] Indeed, compared with the formation of European states, there have been fewer interstate conflicts in Africa for changing the borders, which has influenced the state formation there and has enabled some states to survive that might have been defeated and absorbed by others. [16] Yet interstate conflicts have played out by support for proxy armies or rebel movements. Many states have experienced civil wars: including Rwanda, Sudan, Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo, Liberia, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The boundary marking a civil war is blurred in Africa as many civil wars involved foreign backers if not active belligerents. Libya's actively intervened into Chad with air forces, and France retaliated with support for the other side. Sudan experienced a prolonged civil war, resulting in the separation of South Sudan as an independent state. Similar to South Sudan, Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia. Congo's civil war involved seven states, among them Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Uganda. Eritrea is under United Sanctions for its alleged support role in the civil conflict in southern Somalia. Sierra Leone's civil war was ended with the restoration of ousted civilian government by British and Nigerian forces. Angola's civil war involved Cuban, American and Chinese backing for differing groups.

Military history of Africa by regions

Military history of Northern Africa

See List of conflicts in the Maghreb, History of North Africa, History of the Mediterranean region .
Hittite chariot (drawing of an Egyptian relief) Hittite Chariot.jpg
Hittite chariot (drawing of an Egyptian relief)
The Algerine, an Algerian battle ship manufactured in the port of Jijel during the Barbary corsairs era An Algerian ship off a barbary port (C17).jpg
The Algerine, an Algerian battle ship manufactured in the port of Jijel during the Barbary corsairs era

North Africa and Southern Europe face each other across the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the southern areas of North Africa are cut off by the vast inhospitable Sahara desert. Therefore, the coastal areas have many resources to support the needs of large armies and the moderate-to-hot climate makes the movement of forces across vast stretches of land very feasible. North Africa has been the source of both cultural and economic interactions as well as military rivalries that became famous wars in history.

Egypt is located in Africa, and the Ancient Egyptian Empire was noted for its use of massed horse-drawn chariots in warfare, as well as fighting against invading empires from Babylonia, Assyria, and the Persian Empire.

Ancient Greece and the armies of Alexander the Great (336 BC–323 BC) invaded and conquered some parts of North Africa and his generals set up the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. The armies of the Roman Republic (509 BC–31 BC) and the Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 476) subsequently conquered the entire coastal areas of North Africa. The people of Carthage fought the bloody and lengthy Punic Wars (264 BC–146 BC) against Rome.

Each century has seen the invasion of North Africa by various peoples, empires, nations and religions, and each in turn yielded its wars and conflicts.

British tanks and crews line up on Tripoli's waterfront after capturing the city during World War II, 1942 British tanks and crews line up on Tripoli's waterfront after capturing the city. - NARA - 196346.jpg
British tanks and crews line up on Tripoli's waterfront after capturing the city during World War II, 1942

Beginning in the 7th century, the military victories of the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Mamluks and the Ottomans ensured and consolidated the strength and continuity of Islam in North Africa over many centuries.

Attacks by the Barbary pirates, based in the North African areas of Algeria, prompted the building of the United States Navy, including one of America's most famous ships, the USS Philadelphia, leading to a series of wars along the North African coast, starting in 1801. It was not until 1815 that naval victories ended tribute payments by the U.S., although some European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s. The United States Marine Corps' actions in these wars led to the line, "to the shores of Tripoli" in the opening of the Marine Hymn.

The arrival of modern colonialism, World War I and World War II brought armies from afar to fight in North Africa, often against each other and not always against the native inhabitants. Battles such as the Tunisia Campaign eventually yielded the first battlefield victories of the Allies of World War II against the Axis powers of World War II. These battles were fought and won by the Allies in North Africa such as at the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, one of the most significant and pivotal battles of that war, during the North African campaign. At the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, the Germans first faced the military of the United States.

When modern Islamic countries gained their independence in North Africa, often following serious warfare (such as during the Algerian War of Independence against the French), the Arab–Israeli conflict became the main focus of significant battles. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Egyptian army broke through the Bar Lev Line, invading the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula, resulting in UN cease-fire after United Nations Security Council Resolution 338, 339 and 340, which finally led to strategic and political gains for Egypt and Israel.

Military history of the Horn Africa

The Ethiopian military leader Ras Mengesha Yohannes on horseback. Ras Mangasha 1.jpg
The Ethiopian military leader Ras Mengesha Yohannes on horseback.

The Horn of Africa faces the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. As such, it has long had interactions with areas in Western Asia, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula, the Near East, and even as far east as the Indian subcontinent. Its coastal plain is hemmed in by mountain ranges which make the movement of large armies difficult and cumbersome and favor local forces that resist.

Countries and areas with ancient histories, such as Ethiopia and Somalia, all have had eras of great empires. Various ancient empires extended and consolidated their power over large parts of the Horn region, such as the Axumite Empire (4th century BC–AD 10th century), the Zagwe dynasty (10th century - 1270), the Solomonic dynasty (1270–1974), the Adal Sultanate and the Ajuran Sultanate.

Somalia's many Sultanates each maintained regular troops. Around the start of the 20th century, the Majeerteen Sultanate, Sultanate of Hobyo, Warsangali Sultanate and Dervish State employed cavalry in their battles against the European powers during the Campaign of the Sultanates.

Ethiopian soldiers decisively defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adwa, during the First Italo–Ethiopian War from 1889 to 1896. Italy was victorious against Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War fought from 1935 to 1936. However, Italy was not able to colonize Ethiopia; the five years of Italian presence in Ethiopia is considered as an occupation, since full Italian control was only achieved in Addis Ababa and even this was filled with continuous attack from Ethiopian patriots.

In the 20th century, the Italians waged the East African Campaign of World War II. However, the Italian commander, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, was forced to surrender in 1941. Both Germany and Italy were defeated by the forces of Great Britain and its allies.

In the later part of the 20th century, several wars were waged in the region, including the Ethiopian Civil War (1974–1991), the Ogaden War (1977–1978), the Eritrean War of Independence (1961–1991), and the Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998–2000). During its socialist period, Somalia had the largest military on the continent on account of its friendship with the Soviet Union and later partnership with the United States. [17] The subsequent outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 led to the disbandment of the Somali National Army (SNA). However, the armed forces were later gradually reconstituted with the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004.

Military history of East Africa

In 1885, Germany established its German East Africa colony in Tanganyika. The Germans fought doggedly to maintain their colony during the East African Campaign of World War I. The German commander, Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck managed to elude capture for over five years.

In the 20th century, a number of groups engaged in guerrilla warfare in their fight to gain independence from the colonial powers, such as the Maji Maji Rebellion (1905–1907) against the Germans in Tanganyika (later Tanzania), and the Mau Mau Uprising (1952–1960) against the British in Kenya.

Recent East African conflicts have included the Burundi Civil War (1993–2005), the 1998 embassy bombings, and the Rwandan Civil War (1994). The Ugandan Civil War and the Darfur conflict, among other local conflicts, continue.

Military history of Central Africa

See: Central Africa . Central Africa, at times also called Middle Africa, is almost entirely landlocked; it lies astride the equator with heavy rainforest jungles and is rich in minerals and natural products. In ancient times there had been a Kingdom of Kongo which confronted invasions from explorers and settlers from Portugal starting in the 15th century.

The harsh colonial era of the Belgian Congo (1908–1960) gave way to the Congo Crisis (1960–1965) that brought in UN peacekeepers, particularly after the mineral-rich Katanga Province failed to secede in 1960, even though it had the support of Belgian business interests and over 6000 Belgian troops.

Subsequent conflicts in the Congo were the First Congo War (1996–1997) to oust President Mobutu, Second Congo War (1998–2003) between various factions with the intervention of many other African countries, making this an African regional civil war, and the ongoing Ituri Conflict.

Bodyguard of Bornu, c. 1820. Bodyguard of the Sheikh of Bornu, early 1820's.jpg
Bodyguard of Bornu, c. 1820.

The Kanem-Bornu Empire (9th century–19th century) of ancient Chad stretched to parts of modern southern Libya, eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, and northern Cameroon until it was overwhelmed by attacks and wars from the Fula people, Baggara, Kanembu people, and the Ouaddai Kingdom.

The Arabs and Islamic powers have had an historical impact, as in the history of the Central African Republic, the Arab slave trade was forcibly imposed upon the people of Central Africa.

The colonial powers, particularly Belgium and France, were dominant during the 18th and 19th centuries.

There have been a number of civil wars and genocides in Central Africa that are also close to East Africa, such as the Burundi genocide and the Rwandan genocide (1994). Some of the most notorious military dictators were Bokassa I of Central Africa (1921–1996) and Mobutu Sese Seko (1930–1997) of Zaire.

Military history of Western Africa

See West Africa, History of West Africa .

West Africa has known many ancient empires that flourished in ancient times and were involved in wars of both conquest and defeat. The Ghana Empire (750–1036), Songhai Empire (16th century–17th century), Mali Empire (1235–1546), the Bambara Empire (1652–1861), Toucouleur (19th century), Fulani Empire (such as the Fulani War (1804–1810)), Kénédougou Kingdom (c. 1650–1898), Massina Empire (19th century) rose and fell as they fought wars and won or were defeated.

During the colonial era, the powers of Europe sought to carve new colonies for themselves. This was made possible geographically because West Africa's coast is on the Atlantic Ocean, making it both open to cultural and trade influences, as well as to conquest by sea. West Africa is rich in many precious metals, minerals and products, which invites the interest and competition of outside powers and influences. There were some bloody conflicts in the 20th century when some of these nations fought against the colonial powers, such as during the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence (1963–1974).

During the centuries, several African countries experienced bitter civil wars, the bloodiest of which was the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970) when Biafra sought to break away from Nigeria. Other countries have had either civil wars, internal military strife, and military coup d'états such as the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002), First Liberian Civil War (1989–1996), Guinea-Bissau Civil War (1998–1999). Recent wars have been the Civil war in Côte d'Ivoire (2002–2004), and the Casamance Conflict (1990–present).

Military history of Southern Africa

Southern Africa, like the other main regions of Africa, is a complex region. It has numerous land-locked countries, but it is most notable in that it is surrounded by both the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east.

It is in this context that the position of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, and Southern Africa as a whole should be appreciated, because in the Southern Hemisphere, only South Africa, the southern end of South America, and Australia have this key strategic position.

In addition, from Europe — and also from the east coasts of the United States and South America (Brazil, Argentina), the route around South Africa's Cape is the shortest to Asia.

The Suez Canal did not exist for most of history. It was only completed in 1869, so that all shipping back and forth from Europe to Asia, Arabia, and to most of Africa had and has to be done by the long routes across the seas around South Africa's Cape.

Even after the Suez Canal's completion and modernization, it cannot accommodate larger vessels including many warships, tankers, and cargo vessels. Thus the Cape of Good Hope route remains one of the most important and highly desirable routes for free shipping when some of the world's other global choke points are closed off or in a state of war.

A sketch of the Zulu leader King Shaka (1781 - 1828) from 1824 KingShaka.jpg
A sketch of the Zulu leader King Shaka (1781 - 1828) from 1824

Wealthy nations are usually great maritime naval powers, and the use of navies is tied in with protecting those great nations' trade and their military strength, both of which result in geostrategic strength. Essentially, the power that has the mightiest navy and prevails on the high seas becomes the world's greatest power, which is something nations have known for a long time, hence their commercial and naval rivalry on the high seas.

In the UN scheme of geographic regions, five countries constitute Southern Africa. The most powerful is South Africa, while the others are the small countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. The region is often reckoned to include Angola (often also included in Central Africa); Mozambique and Madagascar (also included in East Africa); Malawi; Zambia; and Zimbabwe — as well as Comoros, Mauritius, Seychelles, Mayotte, and Réunion, which are small islands in the Indian Ocean.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania, though more commonly reckoned in Central and Eastern Africa respectively, are occasionally included in Southern Africa. This commonality between these countries has had a great influence on their military history.

The most notable wars and conflicts in Southern Africa were those between the colonial powers of Europe who fought to dominate and control the African people of Southern Africa as well as the wars between the British and the white Boers, also known as Afrikaners, who were mostly the descendants of earlier colonists introduced by the Dutch East India Company.

The Dutch fought the Khoikhoi-Dutch Wars (1659–1677) in the area of present-day Cape Town, South Africa. Anglo-Dutch wars followed, with battles at Battle of Muizenberg (1795) and the Battle of Blaauwberg (1806) that established British power in South Africa permanently.

During the Great Trek Dutch farmers, or trekboer s, migrated inland from the southern coast and confronted the Xhosa in a series of Xhosa Wars (1779–1879) that resulted in the final defeat of the Xhosa.

There was also an inter-African conflict during the Ndwandwe-Zulu War (1817–1819) and the Mfecane (185–1835) with the triumph of the Zulu. The Boers and Zulus confronted each other at the Battle of Italeni (1838) and the Battle of Blood River (1838), resulting in the defeat of the Zulu, although the Zulu state continued to survive until the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War (1879).

The British fought and were defeated by the Boers during the Boer republics during the First Boer War (1880–1881) but won the Second Boer War (1899–1902). Largely under British influence, an autonomous Union of South Africa developed into a strong white-ruled nation. During World War I, the Union formed a South African Overseas Expeditionary Force to fight for the Allies. Thousands of South African servicemen died at Delville Wood, (Battle of the Somme (1916)) and at Passchendaele (1917). Former Boer leader Jan Smuts distinguished himself by leading successful campaigns in German East Africa (Tanzania) and German South-West Africa (today Namibia).

South Africa also contributed heavily to the Allied war effort during World War II, funneling arms and troops into the North African and Italian campaigns. A number of South African volunteers also became aces in the Royal Air Force.

South African paratroops in Angola. SADF-Operations 4.jpg
South African paratroops in Angola.

Altogether, 334,000 men volunteered for full-time service in the South African Army during WWII, including some 211,000 whites, 77,000 blacks and 46,000 "coloureds" and Asians), with nearly 9,000 killed in action.

Modern conflicts involving South Africa's predominantly Afrikaner government raged as a result of its controversial apartheid policy, led by Umkhonto we Sizwe , military wing of the African National Congress, and the Azanian People's Liberation Army, which received training and armament from communist states such as the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The related South African Border War broke out when the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) began its struggle to free Namibia from South African rule. South Africa fought a long and bitter campaign against SWAPO and its Angolan allies from 1966 to 1989. The conflict escalated into major conventional warfare in 1984; between 1987 and 1988 South African, Cuban, and Angolan armies fought the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale: Africa's largest single engagement since World War II.

An Angolan War of Independence (1961–1974), part of a broader Portuguese Colonial War in Africa, was followed by the Angolan Civil War (1974–2002). Similarly, the Mozambican War of Independence (1964–1974) was followed by the Mozambican Civil War (1975–1992). The Rhodesian Bush War (1966-1979) saw the conservative white minority government in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) toppled by nationalist guerrillas.

The South African Defence Force built nuclear weapons and is alleged to have tested one off its coast (facing the South Pole near Antarctica) as part of what has become known as the Vela Incident. As of 2014, no other African country has obtained nuclear weapons of any description.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia, (Greenwood Press: 2006), p.178
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc, Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1, (Encyclopædia Britannica: 2005), p.163
  3. John L. Esposito, editor, The Oxford History of Islam, (Oxford University Press: 2000), p. 501
  4. Maritime Discovery: A History of Nautical Exploration from the Earliest Times pg 198
  5. The History of the Portuguese, During the Reign of Emmanuel pg.287
  6. The book of Duarte Barbosa - Page 30
  7. Tanzania notes and records: the journal of the Tanzania Society pg 76
  8. The Portuguese period in East Africa – Page 112
  9. Welch, Sidney R. (1950). Portuguese rule and Spanish crown in South Africa, 1581-1640. Juta. p. 25.
  10. Stanley, Bruce (2007). "Mogadishu". In Dumper, Michael; Stanley, Bruce E. Cities of the Middle East and North Africa: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 253. ISBN   978-1-57607-919-5.
  11. Four centuries of Swahili verse: a literary history and anthology – Page 11
  12. Shelley, Fred M. (2013). Nation Shapes: The Story behind the World's Borders. ABC-CLIO. p. 358. ISBN   978-1-61069-106-2.
  13. COINS FROM MOGADISHU, c. 1300 to c. 1700 by G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville pg 36
  14. 1 2 3 Crawford Young, "Contextualizing Congo Conflicts: Order and Disorder in Postcolonial Africa" in John F. Clark, ed., The African Stakes of the Congo War, Palgrave MacMillan: New York, 2002, p. 15
  15. Kodjo, Tchioffo. "OAU Charter, Addis Ababa, 25 May 1963-African Union - Peace and Security Department". African Union, Peace and Security Department.
  16. Herbst, Jeffrey (1990). "War and the State in Africa". International Security. 14 (4): 117–139. doi:10.2307/2538753.
  17. Oliver Ramsbotham, Tom Woodhouse, Encyclopedia of international peacekeeping operations, (ABC-CLIO: 1999), p.222.
  18. "South Africa and the War against Japan 1941-1945". South African Military History Society (Military History Journal - Vol 10 No 3). November 21, 2006.

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