Political map of Sub-Saharan Africa on 27 Apr 1929 (Africa between the World Wars: Trans-African Routes), showing the following events: Anglo-Italian Notes on Ethiopia; Compagnie Générale Transsaharienne; Belgian–Portuguese Agreement; Trans-African Railway; Kongo-Wara Rebellion; Gugsa Wale’s rebellion.

Trans-African Routes

Africa between the World Wars

Sub-Saharan Africa 1929.0427

Trans-African Routes

League of Nations Africa, Second Italo-Ethiopian War (27 April 1929)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

The 1920s saw a consolidation of the European hold over Africa as the colonial powers built railroads and made use of advances in automotive and aeronautical technology to create routes across the continent, both to exploit its resources and promote tourism. To achieve these ends, native populations were often forced into work, leading to revolts such as the Kongo-Wara rebellion in French Equatorial Africa.

Main Events

Anglo-Italian Notes on Ethiopia

In December 1925 Britain and Italy exchanged notes implying that Italy was responsible for Ethiopia's external affairs and confirming that Ethiopia lay within Italy's economic sphere of influence and had the right to build a railway across Ethiopia to connect Eritrea and Somalia; in return, Italy agreed to persuade the Ethiopians to grant Britain concessions on Lake Tana and promised not to impede the flow of the Blue Nile. On 9 June 1926 both powers presented these demands to the Ethiopian government, which rejected them and brought its protest to the League of Nations on 19 June. The British and Italians quickly announced that their notes had been misconstrued and backed off. In August 1928 Italy signed a 20-year Treaty of Friendship with Ethiopia.

Compagnie Générale Transsaharienne

In the winter of 1927–28 the Compagnie Générale Transsaharienne (CGT) opened its first regular tourist service between Colomb-Béchar, in the northern Algerian Sahara, and Gao, in the French Sudan (now Mali), using Renault automobiles. The CGT thus opened up the Trans-Saharan route between Algeria and French West Africa, as well as Chad, despite the serious security issues still facing the French in the desert—CGT head Georges Estienne lost his brother to robbers while crossing the Sahara in May 1927.

Belgian–Portuguese Agreement

The governments of Belgium and Portugal signed the Belgian-Portuguese Central African Agreement, with the Belgians agreeing to cede 3,500 square km of territory in the southwest Belgian Congo to the Portuguese colony of Angola. In return, Portugal transferred 3 square km near Matadi, at the mouth of the Congo River, from Angola to the Belgian Congo. The exchange was needed for the Belgians to complete the construction of the Matadi–Stanleyville Railway and opened up Katanga in the Belgian Congo to the Angolan rail network.

Trans-African Railway

In February 1928 the East African Railway was completed, linking the mineral-rich Katanga province of the Belgian Congo to the Portuguese East African port of Beira, via British Rhodesia. Three years later the official opening of the Benguela–Katanga Railway linked the coast of Angola to Katanga, thereby completing a trans-African rail line from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

Kongo-Wara Rebellion

In 1924, largely in response to the French conscription of natives to work in the construction of the Congo-Ocean Railway and rubber tapping, the Gbaya prophet Karnou began preaching non-violent resistance against French colonial power in Ubangi-Shari, . By 1928 Karnou's Kongo-Wara movement - named after a small stick used in traditional medicine which resembled a tiny hoe handle and supposedly made its holder invulnerable to European weapons - had hundreds of thousands of followers, many of whom had begun to take up arms. Clashes broke out in mid-1928, with the Kongo-Wara fighting both the French and other tribes, and soon spread across French Equatorial Africa. Despite Karnou's death at the hands of a French military patrol in December 1928, the rebellion would not be fully suppressed until 1931, at the cost of tens of thousands of African lives.

Gugsa Wale’s rebellion

In September 1928 Crown Prince Ras Tafari Makonnen of Ethiopia took advantage of a failed coup by Empress Zewditu to consolidate his power in the country and push through reforms. This triggered a conservative rebellion by the Oromo and highlanders of northern Ethiopia in mid-October, which Tafari had difficulty suppressing. In September 1929 he ordered Zewditu’s husband, Ras Gugsa Wale, to lead an army to the north, only for Gugsa to side with the rebels as soon as he arrived. Tafari responded by forming an imperial army which, accompanied by air support, defeated Gugsa at the decisive Battle of Aynchem on 30 March 1930. A few days later, Zewditu died of apparently natural causes, leaving Tafari to be crowned as Emperor Haile Selassie.

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