The Berlin West African Conference of 1884 —1885
The Berlin West African Conference was summoned by the German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck and the French Prime Minister Jules Ferry. It was attended by all the powers involved in the scramble for Africa such as Berlin, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and King Leopold II who represented his international Africa Association. The U.S.A. attended as an observer. There was no African representative.
Events or circumstances leading to the Berlin West African conference.
- The abolition of the slaves trade led to the introduction of legitimate trade in Africa. And during the period of the legitimate trade, the European powers scramble for colonies. The scramble led to intense rivalry and even clashes among the European power.
- There was the rivalry in the Congo. It started in 1879 when king Leopold II of Belgium sent the Explorer Henry Stanley to colonise Congo. The French realised that this would be to their own disadvantage and so, sent the French explorer Savorgnan de Brazza to go and secure the Northern Bank of the Congo for France. The rivalry future intensified when Portugal land claims to the month of the river Congo and was backed by Britain.
- In 1881 France and Italy clashed over Tunisia.
- In 1884-Britain occupied Egypt and this strained relations with France that also had economic and strategic interest in Egypt.
- In 1884, Germany entered the scramble and clashed with Britain ofAngra-Pequena and Cameroon.
- Britain and France also crashed in West Africa in their struggle to control the trade along the river Niger.
- Germany at first supported the French claims in the Congo. But fearing the rivalry may lead to a European war, Bismarck and Jules Ferry of France summoned the Berlin West Africa Conference in order to see how international control could be established in the Congo.
What Necessitated the Summoning of the Conference? Aims / Objectives of the Conference
- To ensure a peaceful partition of Africa: During the scramble, there were rivalries and
clashes among the European powers such as the Frarico-Italian rivalries over Tunis, France and British over Egypt and rivalries in West Africa and the Congo Basin. The Conference was held to ensure that such rivalries should not lead into war.
- To lay down rules and Modalities for the Acquisition of Colonies because the European scramblers were behaving like players in a rough game.
- To safeguard earlier Colonial Possession: Before the conference the European scramblers had already colonized some parts of Africa but such colonies were disputed or had no legal recognition. They wee held so that the European powers could give legal recognition to earlier colonial possessions of one another.
- To look for ways of promoting free trade and free navigation in the Congo and Niger Basin
- To seek urgent solutions to European rivalries in the Congo Basin where H.M. Stanley and Savorgnan de Brazza had gone into a dangerous treaty signing competition.
- To look for ways to abolish the slave trade and slavery because Africa was the main source of slaves.
- To stop arbitrary expansion into Africa because this was a threat to European peace.
- To formulate rules for free access into the interior by the humanitarian argents
- To see how the Europeans could spread the moral and material benefits of European Civilization to the African Continent.