"They have soldiers. We only have arguments." (French Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé)
Near the end of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor, brought the plenipotentiaries of all major powers of Europe together to deal with Africa's colonization in such a manner as to avoid provocation of war. This event, known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, galvanized a phenomenon that came to be known as the Scramble for Africa.
The conference established two fundamental rules for European seizure of Africa. The first of these was that no recognition of annexation would be granted without evidence of a practical occupation and the second, that a practical occupation would be deemed unlawful without a formal appeal for protection made on behalf of a territory by its leader - a plea that must be committed to paper in the form of a legal treaty.
This began a rush, spearheaded mainly by European commercial interests in the form of chartered companies, to penetrate the African interior and woo its leadership with guns, trinkets, and alcohol, and having thus obtained their marks or seals upon spurious treaties, begin establishing boundaries of future European African colonies.