A number of factors are responsible for this predicament but military weakness, political, Economic weaknesses, social problems and Natural calamities are important to consider in analysing the factors that made African societies lose the wars except for Ethiopia and Liberia.
1. Military weakness:
This handicapped the African resistance wars in various ways e.g.
i. Most African resisting communities had small unprofessional armies compared to the enemy force'S, for instance, the time Mkwawa died, he had only two soldiers.
ii. African ~ eapons were so rudimentary compared to those of their enemies. The Africans were using bows and arrows, stones, spears, insults, witchcraft and yet the colonialists had sophisticated weapons such as maxim guns. Africans had poor and old rifles. Perhaps if they had a local arms industry like that of Samoure Toure, they would have put up a better show.
iii. African tactics were inferior because of poor training and traditionalism. But even if they had good tactics without proper arms and ammunitions, they were bound to lose the war.
iv. The Africans lacked proper coordination and a concentrated spirit of togetherness. This was shown by fighting on different fronts and yet they had a common cause, for example, in the Chimurenga rebellion, the Shona joined late and fought on different frontlines. In the 1893-
94 British-Ndebele war, some soldiers refused to fight while others went on with war.
v. Other African resisting societies lacked strong leadership. Perhaps if they were all strong hearted like that of Sa moure Toure and Kabalega of Bunyoro their defeat would not have been quick and total as it happened to some societies.
2. Political weakness:
This manifested in military weakness. A poorly organised community could not definitely wage formidable resistance. Political weakness was two-fold i.e. internal and external weakness. The Africans were disunited which was so because of continous interstate wars that the colonialists exploited, for example, Bunyoro against Buganda, Nandi against Masai, Mandika against Turkolor empire, Asante against Fante, perhaps if these African were united, they would have put up a better show.
i. In some cases, especially those secondary resistance, some African leaders were incapable of leading their states to successful resistance against the imposition of colonial rule. For example, it was argued that in his last days Lobengula was disorganised because of old age.
ii. There were succession disputes that was a source of disunity, for example, in case of Masai, it was Laibon Lenana who collaborated with the British colonialists against his rival brother Sendeyo. In Ankole, it was prince Rwakatogoro against Igumira, thus such
divisions created lack of African solidarity.
iii. Individualism in pre-colonial African societies was another factor to consider, for instance, there was no recognition of fellow African societies in face of colonial torture. It's against this background that A frican societies helped the colonialists to crash their fellow Africans. For example, in 1894 ShoI).8.advised the British how to conquer the Ndebele the same to Buganda advising and assisting British how to colonise Bunyoro.
iv. In some societies, African struggle was betrayed by their own men, for example, in
Chimurenga rebellion of 1896, the Ndebele were betrayed by their own members who refused to continue with war. They were divided up in opinion over the strategy to use, some wished to use military force while others wanted a peaceful solution.
To overcome African resistance, the colonialists applied different methods in the process of imposition of colonial rule. Some of the methods were so tricky that the Africans did not know that they would lose their independence in the process. The other methods were so peaceful that the Africans could not resist.
3. Economically Africans lacked a sound economy to sustain prolonged wars of resistance.
Worse still, most Afncans lacked mixed economies. For this matter in case of destruction of this sector of the economy, for example, crops or livestock, the war would end. It's a testimony therefore why Samoure Toure was able to challenge French colonialism for all that long period because of a mixed economy coupled With the trade. The Nandi challenged imposition of British colonial rule for eleven years partly because of their mixed economy.
4. There were religious differences: At the time of imposition of colonial rule, European Christian Missionaries had divided the Africans along religious lines. E.g. in Buganda the British colonialists supported the Protestants against the Catholics. Such differences only served to cultivate colonialism.
5. There was also the weakness of natural calamities that included plant, human and animal catastrophes, for example, the Ndebele had been hit by small pox and rinderpest even the Masai. The Banyankole had been hit by jigger epidemic under such circumstances. It was impossible to risk a resistance war.
By way of conclusion it's important to recall the words of Professor Mohamood Mamdan in his book imperialism and fascism in Uganda. He convincingly argued that the most vital factor to explain the failure of African resistance was the military superiority of the coloniser. This hand-over does not undermine the other factors considered.