World HistoryAfrican Question #211 September 2000Africa’s Resistance to the PortugueseThe African history has been affected tremendously due to the influence of some European countries. Portugal, who probably had the greatest impact on the continent, was not shy in invading what they thought to be profitable circumstances. One of these areas that they profited from was the kingdom of Kongo. Kongo was a major Bantu-speaking kingdom astride the Congo River in west-central Africa, probably founded in the 14th century. It was governed by a king, the manikongo, whose economic power was based upon trade in ivory, hides, slaves, and a shell currency of western Africa.
Within a few years after the Portuguese first encountered the kingdom in 1484, the sixth manikongo, Nzinga Mbemba, later Alfonso 1, converted to Christianity and extended diplomatic and economic relations with Portugal. The agreement soon collapsed, however, as the Portuguese extended their slave-raiding activities. By 1570 the power of the Kongo kingdom had begun to decline, and severe internal tensions had developed. Alfonso I knowing what was going on wrote a series of papers to King Joao III of Portugal.
In these papers, Alfonso I pleaded with the king to take away all the corrupt Portuguese from his kingdom. With false assurance from the king of Portugal, he asked to have sent those people of religious and medical backgrounds to help modernize his kingdom. With the corruptness still noticeable in the Kongo, Alfonso I was forced to pass a law stating that “any white man living in our Kingdoms and wanting to purchase goods in any way should first inform three of our noblemen and officials of our court whom we rely upon in this matter” (57).
These futile attempts of writing letters to the king were not making any significance. The king of Portugal was money hungry along with the majority of all his servants who worked for him down in Africa. Some of the areas of Africa knew that letters to the king would not work alone.
They were forced to use action against the Portuguese. People known as Zimba did the military launches. Most of the attacks were economically motivated. They were being used for the trade circuit. Zimba attacks were successful against the Portuguese but they did not succeed in reestablishing the traditional market for their ivory. Even though the people of Africa fought back against the Portuguese, they never truly won back their freedom.
The power and the changes that the Portuguese brought with them could never be undone. Things such as the slave trade, ivory, and wild animals were too valuable to the Europeans not to control Africa. Africa had its own culture and the Europeans, like they always have done, took it over without hesitation. It’s sad to see what happened to the African culture, but if it did not happen then who knows where today’s society would be.