The Five Greatest Rebellions in Africa


The spirit of rebellion in Africa is something that began in ancient times. During the precolonial error, the whites subjected Africans to slavery, exploited their resources, and took their lands. African kingdoms protested against this form of governance. One of the rebellions was the Mali resistance. The Kingdom of Mali was the richest during ancient times. As such, their well-being depended on protecting their resources and freedom. Needless, some top-five rebellions include the Ashanti, Bakongo, Fon people, Mandinka and Mbundu.

The Mbundu Rebellion

The Mbundu, also Ambundu, lived in the northwestern part of Angola. Their local language is Kimbundu, and the official is Portuguese. Since they are the second-largest ethnic group in the country, they form about 25% of Angola’s total population. The coming of the Portuguese to the Mbundu’s territory in the 16th and 17th Centuries provoked warfare as they were enslaving the people.

Mbundu rebellion is one of the famous resistance in the history of Africa. This group fought colonial dominance under the reign of Queen Nzinga. The latter was a fierce monarch who led her tribe during the time of the rapid African slave trade. She fought for the freedom of her people and Kingdoms.

During colonial times, the Portuguese were enslaving the Mbundu people. While under siege, this group had advanced their fighting style to martial arts. They taught other Africans this style of fighting. They would later defend themselves from the Portuguese traders and escape capture.

The Mandinka Resistance

When talking about Mandinka, also Malinke, we trace it to the Mandinka Empire. Samori Toure formed the latter from 1852 to 1882. The Malinke ethnic group occupies southern Mali and is also one of the largest African ethnic groups. Under the leadership of Samori, the Mandinka Kingdom expanded its territory to eastern Guinea and northern Ivory Coast. The Kingdom had a strong and powerful skilled army. Samori, who led the army, was a military prowess who used diplomacy and warfare to defend his kingdom.

He had refused to submit to the French colonialists. He resisted the idea of French colonialists settling in his territory. As a result, the French imprisoned him occasionally. However, he had won many battles against his enemies.

Another Mandinka leader who resisted Spanish colonization was King Bayano. The latter was among the Africans who were victims of slavery. He led other enslaved Africans for five years to freedom. King Bayano is a nickname the Mandinka warrior received from the Spanish. The Colonialists had assumed that because of his good looks and robust body, he must have been a king.

Slavery began in Africa as early as the 16th century. Therefore, around 1552, the slave trade had thrived as colonialists were now capturing Africans and transporting them to the Americas. It was during this time that the Spanish colonizers captured King Bayano in a village in West Africa together with some of his community members.


Amid their journey to the Americas, the ship which was carrying Bayano and the other slaves capsized close to Panama, allowing them to escape. Those who had managed to free themselves together with Bayano decided to form a Kingdom and chose Bayano to lead them. King Bayano had trained his warriors and prepared them for war against the Spanish who threatened to enslave them again.


In 1552, King Bayano led one of the greatest rebellions in Panama against the Spanish (Bayano Wars). Due to the great strength of Bayano’s army, they defeated the Spanish colonialists. As a result, the Africans lived freely and happily under the leadership of Bayano. Also, amid his reign, King Bayano managed to take control of the slave trade routes and markets that the Spanish initially controlled.

King Bayano even managed to free numerous slaves and initiated trade with Peru. They exchanged goods like food, gold, and silver. However, it was not later that the Spanish colonialists sought help from their government to fight King Bayano. Despite receiving support from their government, Bayano still defeated the Spanish.

They then decided to sign a peace treaty with King Bayano. Nonetheless, this was a trap. It was during this time when King Bayano and his men were unarmed that the Spanish colonials poisoned them and arrested him and his men.

The Resistance Of The Fon

The Fon people, who are also the Fon nu are a large ethnic group in southern Benin. They also occupy parts of southwest Nigeria and Togo. The Fon consisted of Dahomey Amazons who were well trained female military. They fiercely led many combats against the French who colonized them. However, they lost most of the battles but never despair.

They had an unending spirit of courage and resistance against their colonizers.  To date, many honored the spirit of the Dahomey troops. Their resilience is admirable.

Bakongo Resistance

They are the Bantu ethnic group who live along the central coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is among the first African group to lead the greatest rebellion against the slave trade. It was around the 18th Century when the trans-Atlantic slave trade was rapid in Africa. Many Africans would be captured and traded as slaves to Brazil. The first protest against slavery involved about 20 slaves escaping from prisons. They broke into a store and stole numerous weapons then started marching towards Florida. According to Spanish law, when slaves marched towards Florida, they were considered free. History accounts for this resistance as one of the greatest slave rebellions in Africa.

Gangazumba also led another strong Bakongo resistance. He was the first leader of a large slave escapee. Gangazumba is a member of the royalty since his mother was a princess of the Kongo Empire. Through leading rebellions, the Portuguese arrested him and sold him as a slave. While in Brazil as a slave, he escaped on a sugar plantation. He then built his kingdom. Because of this achievement, he earned the name Gangazumba which meant great lord.

Gangazumba also led another strong Bakongo resistance. He was the first leader of a large slave escapee (Quilombo dos Palmares) Gangazumba is a member of the royalty since his mother was a princess of the Kongo Empire. Through leading rebellions, the Portuguese arrested him and sold him as a slave. While in Brazil as a slave, he escaped on a sugar plantation. He then built the Palmares kingdom. Because of this achievement, he earned the name Gangazumba which meant great lord.




The Capture of Ganga

Ganga’s mother was a fearless warrior who led a battalion at the battle of Mbwila. During the battle, the Portuguese defeated them, killing 5000 men, and arrested the King and his two sons, nephews, and government officials. Historians reveal that Ganga must have been among those captives. It then follows that the Portuguese transported Ganga, his mother, sister, and brother to a plantation of Santa Rita, in Pernambuco, where they worked as slaves.

In these plantations, they worked as slaves under the leadership of the Dutch who exposed them to difficult and tiresome tasks. They would work in the fields for long hours and go without food or water most of the time. The slaves from this plantation would then escape and form a settlement is known as Quilombo dos Palmares.

Quilombo or Mocambo was a plan where slaves who had escaped from the plantation came to seek refuge. It is through the small Quilombo settlements that a strong uprising came to exist. And Gangazumba is the first-ever greatest warrior to create and lead the slaves to rebellions.

Around 1670 Gangazumba had established a complete Kingdom with wives and children. The Portuguese decided to offer Gangazumba a peace treaty to amend their relationship. However, Zumbi, Gangazumba’s brother challenged his decision to reconcile with the colonials. The great leader died from poisoning which many suspected that his relative had plotted. After his death, the Portuguese re-enslaved most of his descendants who had relocated to the Cacau valley.

Ashanti Resistance

Amongst all these rebellions, this is the greatest. The Ashanti strongly resisted colonization. Their protest against the white man is indisputable. This group led rebellions not only in Africa but also in the Americas. Their three major rebellions include Jamaica, Ghana, and an uprising against the Denish overlords.

In Jamaica, the Coromanti, a predominant Ashanti ethnic group famous for rebellions organized various slave trade rebellions. Coromanti is an English name for the African slaves, from Akan, Ghana. Coromanti rebellion is one of the most popular slave rebellions in the Caribbean. It occurred between 1733 and 1791. The uprising by Ankan descendants is one of the most dangerous rebellions Africans ever held against colonizers (British). The Ghana rebellion involved an uprising, which consisted of over 2500 people. Koffi, a prominent Ashanti, led this movement to free the African slaves. Every year on 23rd February, Ghanaians commemorate this day to celebrate Kofi’s legacy.

Another resistance involves Ashanti warriors plotting against their Denish lords. The Ashanti’s were the loudest in resisting colonial rule and the slave trade.

These wars were because the Ashanti wanted to become the only superiors within the coastal region which currently is Ghana.

Although we learn during pre-colonial times, some of the African leaders were weak and gave in to the Europeans demands, some stayed strong to their communities. Defending and fighting the intruders. Hence those were the leaders who contributed to freeing Africans. As such, they forever remain in African history as great founding fathers who fought for the freedom of the blacks.

African inhabitants of today should make it a habit to commemorate their forefathers as a symbol of appreciation for their bravery and perseverance.



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