In 1875, Khama III became king of the Bamangwato when he expelled his father and brother, Sekgoma and Kgamane. Known as Khama the Good, he was a Christian convert and proved to be more pious than the missionaries. He abandoned all aspects of his traditional religion and imposed Christianity on his people. He was fixated with the evils of alcohol, enforcing its prohibition to the point where he attempted to abolish the brewing of African beer. His strict adherence to Christian virtues somewhat alienated his people. The threat of civil unrest, in part, prompted his alliance with the missionaries. In addition, the Ngwato were the constant targets of Ndebele raids; the Boers were trekking into the interior and claiming African lands; and Cecil Rhodes' British South African Company (BSAC) had designs on the mineral wealth of the area.
Although opposed to colonialism, Khama saw missionary alliances and British protection as essential to his survival. John Mackenzie, a missionary and close friend of Khama, launched a relentless campaign for British protection to stem the influx of the expansionist Boers. In 1885, the British Government relented and offered protection, which came at a price. Khama's interests were deemed secondary to the need to forestall the Boer expansion and the intrusion of other European powers, especially the Germans.
The British scheme resulted in Khama's Ngwato territory being reduced by half. The area south of the Molopo River became a Crown Colony called "British Bechuanaland" and the area north of the Molopo River became the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
The British Government, however, remained indifferent to Bechuanaland. The British imperialists were split into two camps: the capitalist faction, led by Cecil Rhodes, who favored settler colonialism, and the humanitarian group of missionaries who dreaded the effect of settler colonialism on their Christian converts. By 1894, the British Government promised Rhodes that his BSAC would take control of the Protectorate. Aware of the implications of this decision, Khama and two high-level chiefs, accompanied by a charitable missionary, W. C. Willoughby, traveled to England to lodge an appeal to Colonial Minister Joseph Chamberlain. They were instructed to discuss the matter with Rhodes, who was clearly adamant. Khama and the others enlisted the aid of the London Missionary Society to take the matter to the British public, who subsequently pressured Chamberlain to continue British protection of Bechuanaland.
Khama sought to maintain the sovereignty of his state by allying with the intruders. Influenced by the missionaries, Khama sought British protection to prevent being subjugated by the Boers or the Ndebele. Instead of confrontation, Khama actively pursued protectorate status, which restricted his sovereignty, but allowed him to maintain a nominal independence while being protected by the British.
In 1923, Khama died after contracting pneumonia.
In 1966, Bechuanaland, named the Republic of Botswana, became independent with Khama III's grandson, Sir Seretse Khama, as its first president.
African Perspectives on Colonialism, Adu Boahen. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
The Bechuanaland Protectorate, Anthony Sillery. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1983.
General History of Africa, Vol. VII: Africa under Colonial Domination, 1880-1935, UNESCO. University of California Press, 1990.
Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. 2, J.D. Fage (ed.). Cambridge University Press, 1979.
King Khama, Emperor Joe and the Great White Queen: Victorian Britain Through African Eyes, Neil Parsons. University of Chicago Press, 1998.
World's Great Men of Color, J.A. Rogers. Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Search for 'Khama' on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.
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