5 Great African War Lords Who Resisted European And Arab Domination

While African resistance to European colonialism is often thought of in terms of a white and black/European and African power struggle, this presumption underestimates the complex and strategic thinking that Africans commonly employed to address the challenges of European colonial rule. It also neglects the colonial-era power dynamic of which African societies and institutions were essential components.

They came, conquered and finally left, but still not without a fight. Before their coming we had our forms of civilization, we existed and lived our lives in our own way, the way we’ve always known; the ways that has always worked for us. Then they came to disintegrate our mode of administration through dubious and forceful means. While some yielded easily to their schemes,some others did not, they fought vehemently to preserve and stamp the authority of the African people in their respective areas. These are African patrons, those who didn’t give up no matter what; people of valor who felt slighted and insulted to be ruled over by foreigners who should logically be living according to our own dictates since they were in our land; those who even in death did set the pace for eventual freedom of their people, those who were undeterred in the face of challenge or even defeat.

They stood their grounds against all odds and was sternly against African invasion. Their strength and impact in the times past continually served as a source of motivation for the African fighter in the generations to come, to never give up on motherland; to defend her no matter what. They are the people who gave it their all, blood, sweat and life to ensure the freedom of their people. One good thing about the history of these past heroes is that the recent generation gets to see hope and the need to be as brave as expected in matters of patriotism and integrity.

1. Hannibal Barca

North Africa

Hannibal Barca

Hannibal Barca is an African Warrior known for his strength, exploits in the battles against the invasion of the continent. He was also known for his battalion of tamed elephants and is generally acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors to have lived in African history. Hannibal has a history of warriors in his lineage. He was the son of the Carthage commander during the First Punic War, Hamilcar Barca; one of his brothers Maharbal was captain of Hannibal’s Calvary. At 17 he took to the arts of the battlefield, after his father’s death. His leadership qualities also captivated and typically moved elephants to his direction and instructions. I guess they were also part of the army. He has been described as wise, fearless, relentless, in fact, he is remembered as the war lord with a difference; one of a kind. He was a seasoned leader who had the right words to motivate his troop during the second Punic war in the Alps. For 15 years he had victory in several battles; failures did not put him down as seen when he lost thousands of soldiers in the Roman battle. He kept on keeping on, and that yielded unprecedented victory for him and his people.

2. Toussaint L’Ouverture (Black Napoleon)


Black Napoleon 1

Black Napoleon as fondly called is the famous military commander whose talent and skills threatened the European invaders. He particularly spearheaded the Haitian revolution in the late 18th century. He was born in 1743 to an educated slave. He resisted the Saxons- a confederation of Germanic tribes on the North German Plain. He gallantly fought for their freedom, employing every positive tactic to achieve freedom. By 1795, he had made significant successes in the Haitian fight for freedom. He started his career as a military commander in the French colony of Santo Domingo (capital of the Dominican Republic) as the leader of a revolution. He trained his contingent on the skills of Guerrilla warfare, which seemed to be an option that worked in their favor. Toussaint L’Ouverture is a man of valor; he did a lot in his reign to fix the economy and security of the people. He was a staunch Roman Catholic who detested slavery and gave the fight for the Haitian freedom all of him. He is remembered for being a strategist, visionary, formidable intellectual and warrior with keen political acumen; he was a disciplinarian to the core. In his relations with his rivals, he was smartly discrete about his directions and intentions. Just like Mandela did in South Africa, Touissant preached reconciliation and believed that African-born blacks had to tolerate and learn from Europeans and mulattoes in the colony. Napoleon’s faith in the eradication of racial tensions and slavery, as well as his firm foundation in the training of his Guerrilla troop helped the colony to resist attempts of French invasions even after his death in 1803.


3. King Shaka Zulu

South Africa

shaka Zulu

Think of Shaka and you have a mental picture of flying spears and arrows in a war arena. Shaka was spectacularly good at wars, in fact he was ALWAYS ready for it, his fighting proficiency and bravery cannot be underestimated. At the age of 23, the future king and hero, Shaka, was drafted into war, under the tutelage of Dingiswayo- an Mthethwa chieftain. He was born in 1787; and later became the greatest of kings in the Zulu kingdom.  He is renowned for his Waring strategies – devised all sorts of revolutionary means to rid the invaders in his territory – sometimes he was diplomatic, some other times he was just plain crude. His reign witnessed changes and advancements in the economy of the people. Shaka was a one of a kind monarch in the Zulu kingdom, he was no coward.

4. Said Mohamed Abdulla Hassan



Right in the middle of Jijiga town, is the statue of Said Mohamed Abdulla Hassan. He was a Somalian military commander who fought against the European and Moorish invaders in the Horn of Africa. He hailed from Ogaden , Somalia; born in 1856 and died in 1920 after long years of battling for freedom and resisting the British, Italian and Ethiopian invaders. He learnt from the best – his maternal grandmother, who was a warrior chief, Sade Mogan. Mohamed was a devout Muslim; it is believed that at the age of 11, he had mastered the entire Quran by heart. He sure was an authoritarian and for certain, a religious radical who strongly believed that all infidels must perish. Unlike the Black Napoleon, “Mad mullah” seriously discriminated against other religious sects, thanks to the numerous fanatics he mingled with at a tender age. Some describe his hatred towards other religion as venomous. Let’s say he was an extreme chauvinist as those who opposed his ideology – religious or national were seriously punished.  His intense spirituality led to the establishment of the Dervish State which was later defeated by the British imperialists. Mohamed will non-apologetically resort to violation to achieve his purpose. He was controversial for his fighting and leading techniques, to the point that his resilience earned him the nickname of “mad Mullah” by the British. In the midst of all his shortcomings his character definitely did good in the context of resisting the foreign invaders; he found a course and fought for it tirelessly to the end.

5. Ras Mengesha Yohannes



Ras Mengesha Yohannes, is a significant character in Ethiopian history. He grew up as the nephew of the king but later discovered he was an heir to the throne. Domestic disagreements robbed him of the privilege to be the next emperor, thus he lost the throne to Emperor Menelik. Irrespective of his unresolved issues with Emperor Menelik, he fought significant battles against the Italians during his(Menelik) reign, commanding about 12000 infantry during the Adowa Battle. His chivalry contributed to the defeat of the Italian invasion in 1896; he also ensured the restoration and improvement in the economy of his people, particularly the resuscitation of the right to importation in Ethiopia. Regardless of his efforts to the reign of the king and the good of the people, Menelik refused to crown him King of Tigray, and further imprisoned him for his consequent revolt against him. Yohannes died but was never forgotten in the history of Ethiopian independence.


Written by How Africa

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