Iconic warning letters from African royals to colonial authorities you need to read

Etsey Atisu July 18, 2019
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Prince Nicolau of Angola

Following the death of King Henry II of Angola in 1857, an internal conflict was sparked over who would succeed him. His son, Prince Don Nicolau I Misakai mia Nimi, was not heir to the throne due to laws of the Kongo Monarchy system which made his cousins heir.

On his return from being educated in Portugal, Prince Nicolau could not cope with the way of life and thus sought employment in Luanda where he relocated to in 1850. His distance from the affairs of the Kingdom and the people deeply angered and hurt the people who felt that he was looking down on them after having the privilege of education.

The Portuguese intervened and the coronation of a new king was done by a chief priest. After the new king was announced, he quickly swore alliance and loyalty to the King of Portugal.

After reading of it in a newspaper, Prince Nicolau was very displeased. For one, he felt that the people were giving in to the Portuguese because they did not know their true intentions. He also felt that language was causing a lot of miscommunication to the advantage of the Portuguese and finally, the Prince felt that the new king was working towards his personal benefit to the disadvantage of the Kingdom of Kongo and its people not being his priority.

In 1859, Prince Nicolau started his subtle protest against westernization and Portuguese influence by writing personal letters to the King of Portugal and the King of Brazil in 1859, but these letters gained no feedback.

Later that year, on September 26, 1859, Prince Nicolau sent a letter of protest and displeasure to a daily newspaper in Portugal. The letter was published on December 1, 1859, and became the first protest by any African leader against westernization and colonization. It also sparked a new era of protesting which was very different from the usual physical fights as a means of protest that the people of Uganda and Africa were used to.

Unfortunately for the Prince, the letter did not go down well with the people of the Kingdom of Kongo and Uganda when they got a hold of the newspaper on February 11, 1860. The prince was tagged as a traitor of his people and middleman working with the Portuguese to capture the kingdom of Kongo since he could not be king. Such rumours about the prince were not true but spread through what is now modern-day Angola.

Through several warnings from friends, Prince Nicolau decided to leave the country and settle in Brazil by shipping and selling slaves to the French to raise enough money for his trip. Information about the plans of the prince leaked and this angered the locals the more.

In the end, Prince Don Nicolau I Misaki mia Nimi of the Kingdom of Kongo was killed by his own people which sent a shock through Africa and the West.

Here is a translation of the letter published in the book Nineteenth-Century African Protest in Angola: Prince Nicolas of Kongo (1830?-1860) by Douglas L. Wheeler.

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