Born into the Touré clan in the Beyla region of present-day Guinea, Samory Touré became a soldier in the local conflicts that ravaged the area around the middle of the nineteenth century, and soon began to exploit the situation to his own ends. By 1870 he had forged a large private army, with which he eventually conquered an area reaching from the Fouta Djallon in the west to the Asante country of present-day Ghana in the east. Establishing his capital at Bissandougou in what is now Côte d’Ivoire, he tried at first to hold off the encroaching French by diplomacy and negotiations but later waged a brilliant, although ultimately unsuccessful, guerrilla war against them. Captured by the French in 1898, Samory Touré died two years later in exile in Gabon. He was the great-grandfather of Sékou Touré, the first president of modern Guinea.
Born in what is now southern Namibia around 1825, Hendrik Witbooi was a member of the chiefly family of the Nama people. The Nama had originated from the Khoikhoi and other African groups, but also from some Malaya slaves and European fugitives who generations earlier had fled north away from colonial rule in the Cape. They developed as a decentralized trans-frontier society of horse-mounted raiders who had adopted aspects of Western culture and Christianity. Educated as a Christian by German Lutheran missionaries, Witbooi became literate and thus was one of the few nineteenth-century hereditary African leaders to leave behind a significant collection of personal documents. An eager writer of letters, his correspondence from the 1880s and 1890s reveals a leader determined to dominate his African neighbors and preserve his independence from German colonialism In his letters Witbooi insisted on his equality with the German Kaiser and emphasized ...