Otto von Bismarck. Image credit

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes:Scramble and Partition of Africa:The Berlin Conference

  • The Berlin colonial conference took place from 1884-1885
  • This is not to be confused with the Congress of Berlin(1878) or the Postdam conference of 1945
  • It was called for by the German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck
  • The scramble for Africa was done in a disorderly manner hence there was need for an agreement on how Africa was to be shared among European countries to prevent further conflict.
  • The aims of the conference was to put rules to prevent conflicts amongst imperial powers.

Terms agreed

  • All powers were to have freedom of navigation on the major rivers such as Zambezi,
    Congo and Niger.
  • European powers had to sign treaties with local chiefs in order for them to claim a territory 
  • No European power was supposed to assist an African country in resisting colonization
  • After acquiring a colony, European powers had to notify to the signatory power of the Berlin Act. This was also know as the principle of sphere of influence
  • Other colonial powers had to be notified on any claims for them to do counter claims
  • Strong and sophisticated weapons were not to be brought to Africa
  • Any disputes among colonial powers were to be solved peacefully
  • Effective and total occupation were necessary for claim to be valid e.g raising a flag. This was also known as the principle of effective occupation
  • Colonizers were to stop slave trade in colonized areas 
  • The Congo River Basin area (Congo Free State) was to be  recognized as King Leopold’s (Belgium) territory.
  • The Congo Free state was to be ruled by an International Association formed by King Leopold
  • Portugal was to receive a piece of land North of the Congo
  • The area along the northern banks of the Congo was a territory of France
  • Territory claims by Germany were recognized

Shortfalls of Berlin Conference

  • The resolutions made at the conference did not take into consideration any African view points
  • There were no African representatives at the conference

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