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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:West African Soldiers in the Dutch East Indies: From Donkos to Black Dutchmen
Author:Kessel, I. vanISNI
Periodical:Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana (ISSN 0855-3246)
Notes:biblio. refs.
Geographic terms:Netherlands
West Africa
Subjects:military recruitment
black soldiers
colonial forces
Military, Defense and Arms
History and Exploration
History, Archaeology
Police recruits
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/41406723
Abstract:Over 3,000 men from West Africa were shipped from Elmina to Java between 1832 and 1872 as recruits for the Dutch colonial army or Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger (KNIL). They became the founding fathers of the Indo-African communities that lived in garrison towns on Java for almost a century until Indonesia gained independence in 1945. The roots of the vast majority of these army recruits can be traced back to present-day Ghana and Burkina Faso. The author describes the beginning of African recruitment in St George d'Elmina in 1831; the expanded recruitment scheme launched in 1836 which focused on the kingdom of Ashanti, an old ally of Elmina and the Dutch and formerly a major supplier of slaves; the military merits of the African recruits; mutinies staged by the Africans in protest at infringements of the promise of equal treatment with European KNIL soldiers; and African participation in the Aceh war (1873-1913). A final section sketches the career of Kwasi Boakye, son of Kwaku Dua I of Ashanti, who studied to become a mining engineer in Delft (The Netherlands) and eventually died of old age on Java. By 1915, there were no more African soldiers serving in the Dutch East Indies Army. However, the Indo-African offspring of the African soldiers remained a permanent feature of the KNIL until the end of colonial rule. The Belanda hitam (black Dutchmen) were legally considered Europeans and after Indonesian independence, most joined the massive exodus of Dutch and Indo-Europeans to the Netherlands. They have maintained social contacts and since 1981, some 200 to 300 people meet every two years for an Indo-African reunion. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]