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In 1887 he organized the British South Africa Company and in 1889 he obtained a concession from the British government granting him extensive rights and governing power over the vast territory north of the Transvaal region, which would later be called Rhodesia. Not satisfied with the mere economic benefits, Rhodes took an active part in politics and became an ardent spokesman for imperialist expansion. In 1880 he became part of the legislative body of the Cape Colony and ten years later he became Prime Minister of the Colony. One of his greatest ambitions was to build a railway “from the Cape to Cairo”, all on British soil. President Kruger of the Republic of South Africa refused to join a South African Union and also denied permission for the railroad to cross the Transvaal. Rhodes then engineered a plot to overthrow Kruger and annex his country. The conspiracy failed; the British government in London denied having any knowledge of the conspiracy and forced Rhodes to resign. With this attitude he tried to avoid the war with the Boers, but the extremists of both sides radicalized the situation, and in October 1899 the Boer War or South African War began. At first, the British, who had only 25,000 soldiers in South Africa when the war began, suffered several defeats, but eventually they received reinforcements and invaded and annexed both the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Shortly after, the British government changed its policy of repression to that of reconciliation, restored the government
autonomous government and promoted the movement of union with the colony of the Cape and Natal, which the British had previously annexed. In 1910, the Union of South Africa became, like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, a fully autonomous domain within the British Empire.
Before 1880 the only European possession in Africa, apart from British South Africa and a few coastal trading posts dating from the 18th century or earlier, was French Algeria. Charles X undertook the conquest of Algeria in 1830 in an attempt to gain popular support for his regime. This attempt came too late to save his throne and left a legacy of unfinished conquests to his successors. It was not until 1879 that a civilian government replaced the military authorities. By then, the French had begun to extend their settlements from the West African coast.