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East Africa:
What was it like before Slavery and Colonisation?
 

The following is a small section of the long article titled "European Crusades, and Christianisation, and Colonisation", and whose contents are follows:

1.Introduction
2.North Africa - what was it like before Slavery and Colonisation
3.West Africa - what was it like before Slavery and Colonisation
4.East Africa - what was it like before Slavery and Colonisation
5.What happened to AFRICA when the Europeans arrived ?
6.What happened to India when the Portuguese arrived
7.What happened to India when the British arrived
8.Countries named after Portuguese Conquest [23]
9.Islamic Trading System in the Indian Ocean ? - An article from the Financial Times

The full article is available at: "http://www.ummah.org.uk/aws/colonisation.html" <the article is no loger available at the mentioned site - webmaster>
 

East Africa - What was it like before Slavery and Colonisation?

Islam had given a sense of unity, at least against their non-muslim rivals if seldom among themselves, to all those Muslim trading interests and enterprises which had spread along the coastal countries of the Indian ocean. Many of these countries meanwhile began to flourish in a new way, forming among themselves a wide community of commerce and production. At the same time, the Arab sailors whose exploits were vividly embodied in 'The Thousand and One Nights', Sinbad, etc took their new faith far down the East African coast trading with Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. They converted some of the coastal people, or at any rate some of the coastal rulers. They established themselves in settlements that were wealthier, stronger, more ambitious than before, intermarrying with local women as predecessors had done. Islamic in their faith, strongly conscious of their membership in the Muslim world, the peoples of these ports and city states were nonetheless African, being of various origins in the north and mainly Swahili in the centre and south. They drew these ports and settlements into the community of the Indian ocean trade, and thereby laid the foundations of an Islamic civilisation. By the tenth century there were markets of importance as far south as Mozambique, building their wealth and power on trade with ivory and gold producers of the interior [7].

They traded with all the peripheral countries of the Indian ocean, exporting metals, ivory, tortoiseshell, a few slaves, and buying cottons and luxury goods from as far afield as China. The discovery of 240 Chinese coins in east Africa ranging from the T'ang emperors (618-906) to much later times of the Sung period (960-1279) reveal the existence of this trade. In addition pottery and porcelain has been discovered on east African shores, indicating imports from China and Iranian Gulf States. Mosques and pillar tombs are decorated with such porcelain too [24].

Metalwork was widespread with smelted iron of East Africa acquiring international reputation in India. Collecting reports of Africa in 12th century, al-Idrisi was informed that the best steel came from India, but that India had its best iron form south-east Africa. This East African iron, he wrote, was supplied to all the lands of India ...[and] at a good price [because it is] most superior in quality and most malleable [pg. 72, 24].

Many Swahili cities on the east coast of Africa, such as Kilwa, Mogadishu, Mafia, Mombassa and Zanzibar had grown rich from trading with both India and China. By the 13th century, Kilwa and Zanzibar and probably Mogadishu on the Somali coast, had acquired mints of their own, their kings struck copper coins in fair quantity, usefully inscribing their names. Archaeologists working in the locality of Zanzibar recovered a horde of some three thousand silver coins of local minting.

These finds indicate that the burgeoning economy of the East African seaboard moved into a local coin-minting stage soon after 1050. Long after he had travelled through east African Kilwa in 1331, the Moroccan scholar Ibn Batuta could still remember it as 'one of the most beautiful and best constructed towns in the world, and he had by that time, had seen the cities of India, China and his own Moorish countries. Ibn Batuta was not exaggerating the comparative comfort of the fourteenth century Kilwa. [pg.72-73, 24].
 

What happened to AFRICA when the Europeans arrived

In West Africa, the Portuguese missionaries began their work on kings and notables. There was nothing new in this approach. The Africans were so anxious for the new education and its vehicle, Christianity, that the priests found their tasks easy. First of all, to become a Christian one had to be baptised and given a 'Christian' name. Christian names were western names, and they all took the form used in the conquering country. The first Kongolese king to become a Christian was Nzinga Kuwu in 1492, taking the Portuguese name of Joao I. Hundreds of other Africans followed his example - princes, chiefs, ministers and some of the masses. Overbearing Jesuit fathers were installed as councillors to the king, one functioning as a prime minister. This move at once destroyed the traditional council that controlled chiefs and kings, and with such councils no European power could operate. With this Portuguese wedge between the king and the people, the African king started to make important decisions without reference to his own local African councillors. The African kings then became absolute monarchs insofar as their own people were concerned, in the hands of Europeans. [Pg.264, 40].

The arrival of Vasco Da Gama in 1498 marked the beginning of European encroachment in this lucrative system of oceanic trade between East Africa and India. Sailing up from the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, Da Gama and his crews were astonished and relieved at Quilimane in southern Mozambique to find that they had swum once more into a zone of trade and frequent ocean voyaging. They had news of ships still bigger than theirs, and pressed on up the coast.

When the Portuguese saw the wealth of these Swahili cities and the extent of their trade, they were determined to seize control of it, if necessary by force. The tactic they adopted was to sail with heavily-armed ships into the harbours of the more important towns. They then demanded that the ruler of the town become a Portuguese subject and pay a heavy annual tribute to the king of Portugal. If these demands were not met, the town was attacked, all its possessions were seized and any Muslims who resisted were killed. The whole process was justified in the name of a holy Christian war against the Moors. (Moor was the name used by European Christians at this time to refer specifically to the Muslims of North Africa. They also used it more generally to refer to all Muslims, whether African or Arab) [7].

Zanzibar was the first Swahili city to come under serious Portuguese attack. In 1503 a Portuguese sea captain, Ruy Luourenco Ravasco, blasted at the townspeople with his ship's cannon until the sultan of Zanzibar agreed to pay an annual tribute of 100 miticals. It set the pattern for things to come. During 1503 Ravasco and his companions sailed up and down the Swahili coast, seizing ships and ransoming them for payment in gold. This was followed in 1505 by a more determined and official Portuguese assault. Francisco d'Almedia, who went on to become a governor of the Indian island of Goa, was sent with a fleet of eleven heavily armed ships to seize control of the more important towns. The following is a Portuguese eye witness account of what happened:

"From our ships the fine houses, terraces, and minarets with the palms and trees in the orchards, made the city [Kilwa] look so beautiful that our men were eager to land and overcome the pride of this barbarian, who spent all that night in bringing into the island archers from the mainland...

After some hand to hand fighting the following day the sultan fled and the Portuguese took the town. Then the Vicar-General and some of the Franciscan fathers came ashore carrying two crosses in procession and singing the Te Deum. They went to the palace, and there the cross was put down and the Grand-Captain [d'Almeida] prayed. Then everyone started to plunder the town of all its merchandise and provisions.

After two weeks spent securing the town, building a fortress and appointing a new puppet sultan, the Portuguese fleet sailed up the coast to Mombassa. The Grand Captain met with other captains and decided to burn the town that evening and to enter it the following morning...Once the fire started it raged all night long, and many houses collapsed and a large quantity of goods were destroyed....

The Grand Captain ordered that the town should be sacked and that each man should carry off to his ship whatever he found, so that at the end there would be a division of the spoil, each man to receive a twentieth of what he found. The same rule was made for gold, silver and pearls. Then everyone started to plunder the town and to search the houses, forcing open the doors with axes and iron bars. A large quantity of rich silk and gold embroidered clothes was seized, and carpets also; one of these, which was without equal for beauty, was sent to the King of Portugal together with many other valuables." [Adapted from eyewitness accounts of Joao de Barros and Hans Mayr printed in GSP Freeman-Grenvill, "The East African Coast", Oxford, 1962, pages 86, 102, 108-110].

The sultan of Mombassa refused to pay tribute to the Portuguese and continued to maintain direct trading contacts with Arabia and the Persian Gulf. As a result of this defiance, Mombassa suffered two further Portuguese sackings in 1528 and 1589. After the third and final sacking of Mombassa the Portuguese realised that to dominate the trade of western Indian ocean they needed to control the northern cities as well. In order to do this they built a huge fortress at Mombassa which they called Fort Jesus. Completed in 1599, Fort Jesus became the main centre of Portuguese authority in eastern Africa for the next 100 years. Its massive threatening walls amply symbolised the violence with which Portuguese domination of the trade of the east African coast was maintained for much of the 16th and 17th century.

In 1526, a Muslim general called Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim also know as 'Gran the left handed' became leader and saw Christian Ethiopia as a constant threat to Muslim security in the region. On declaring Jihad, Ethiopia responded by appealing to Christian Emperor for assistance against the common enemy of Islam. The Ethiopian kings had been in touch with the Portuguese for a number of years and Portuguese ambassadors had been present since at least 1520. The Portuguese responded by landing a small but well-equipped force in the north of the country. The combination of Portuguese and Ethiopians managed to save the Christian kingdom by inflicting a sharp defeat upon the Muslim army in 1543. Ahmad himself was killed in the battle and his state collapsed [7].

Roman Catholic missionaries from Portugal followed the early Portuguese coastal penetration of tropical Africa to convert a number of African rulers so that they would become allies. But once African rulers realised the strong political motivation behind their presence, the missionaries initiative was doomed to failure. In one African state after another Portuguese missionaries were expelled or even killed. African rulers were interested in contact with Europeans, but they wanted new trading openings, technical assistance and firearms. They did not want new ideas that threatened to undermine the 'traditional' religious basis of their authority. With the growth of the slave trade the Portuguese soon gave up the pretence of treating converted Christians as fellow believers. Even Christian Ethiopia did not respond to converting to the Roman Catholic version of the faith and in mid-17th century, missionaries were expelled for political interference.

Leo Africanus mentions in his 'Geographical Historie of Africa' the existence of magnificent stately temples in various African countries, prior to European intervention. He laments the destruction of ancient African texts by invading Europeans, and in most cases Leo emphasises that those destroying Africa and its people are 'Christians', particularly the 'Portugals.' He also refers to the abundance of fertile soil and crops in the Niger delta '...no places can be devised to be more fruitful'. He boasts of temples, hospital inns to be found throughout the teeming cities of Africa. He mentions the abundance of precious metals - gold, silver and also iron. He talks also of the 'excellent leather' produced in his country, along with the most cunning goldsmiths, carpenters and such like artificers. [Pg. 277, 28]

Leo describes Morocco as a thriving noble city...accounted to be one of the greatest ...in the world. He talks of the colleges, bookstores and temples that match and even surpass many palaces of Italy. Leo describes the magnificent city of Rebat, built at the top of a hill as a fortress against 'Christian' invasion. He boasts of that city's colleges, palaces, temples, and a water-system conducted by pipes and canals, quite similar to those of the modern-day western world.

Leo boasts of the elaborate city of Fez: its colleges, its fifty stately and sumptuously built temples, made of marble and other excellent stones unknown to the Italians.

Leo boasts of roofs adorned with gold, rich carpets in residences, an intricate water and sewer system, also similar to that of the previously-mentioned city of Rebat and the modern Western world.

Still referring to Fez, he talks of a public assistance system for the destitute, of free colleges and hospitals and an elaborate legal system.

He talks of heated water baths, the corn mills, notaries, books shops, stationers, scriveners, children's shoe stores, fruit markets, dairy shops, restaurants and cafes, linen stores, meat stores, fish stores, liquid soap stores, fourteen leather shops, a hundred and fifty tailor shops, laundromats, silk merchants, haberdashers, lingerie shops, bedding stores, wool stores, carpet and embroidery stores, every trading place that one could expect to find in modern-day New York city - grocers, apothecaries, physicians.

He even talks of water-proof shoes that were manufactured for 'foul weather'. Leo goes on to state how the architecture of Fez surpassed those of Persia in beauty and adornment.

Leo describes Fez also as a thriving tourist centre, 'a Paradise' from April to September. He also talks of its strongly built house of detention and its sophisticated legal system, whereby criminal, civil and religious disputes were all handled separately.

Leo describes the pomp with which marriage and circumcision ceremonies were held and the solemnity of funeral services. [pg. 281, 28]

Fez fell to greedy clutches of the Christian European plunderers, the Portuguese in particular. Ancient cities over a hundred years old (of which Ansa was a classic example), were known to be laid to complete waste within one single day.

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