– by Shenali D Waduge –
In the absence of Western influenced local press opting not to highlight the injustices to Africa by Western Christian colonial rule, this attempt is to place before readers a part of history kept in the dark so that people realize who the real criminals are. There is no meaning to justice if justice is not equal, without time bars and without omitting history’s real villains. Edem Kodjo, author of ‘Africa Tomorrow’ describes the condition of the African as “torn away from his past, propelled into a universe fashioned from outside that suppresses his values, and dumbfounded by a cultural invasion that marginalizes him. The African, is today the deformed image of others. “ Not far from the truth and we in Asia can certainly align to this statement if we were to finally decolonize our colonized mindset.
Africa is the Mother of Humanity. Africa is the cradle of the first human civilization. The First Renaissance on this planet was the African Renaissance. Africa was “the first world” economically and technologically NOT the “third world” of paupers robbed of their lands and riches. Our ancestors built the pyramids which even in this 21st century no one can reproduce. Egyptian civilization was a Black civilization. The pharaohs were Black people. That is why that great African Egyptologist, Prof. Cheikh Anta Diop had written.
Colonized Africans were treated as sub-humans
Africa was destroyed by imperialist Europe and is still being destroyed by Europe. Up to the 14th century A.D. Africa was ahead of Europe or on par with Europe militarily. The Romans used spears and we used spears in war. That famous Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar in adoration and admiration of the advanced Africa exclaimed, “ex Africa semper aliquid novi!“…. Africa has suffered the worst genocide and holocaust at the hands of the architects of slavery and colonialism. What is called “European Renaissance” was the worst darkness for Africa’s people. Armed with the technology of the gun and the compass it copied from China, Europe became a menace for Africa against her spears. So-called “civilized” Europe also claiming to be “Christian” came up with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. There was massive loss of African population and skills. Some historians have estimated that the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana) alone, lost 5OOO to 6OOO of its people to slavery every year for four hundred years.
Berlin Conference : Slicing Africa between Europeans and America
It was called the scramble for Africa. The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 was to discuss how Europe would divide Africa.
The 1st meeting was held at the Berlin residence of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1884. 14 Ministers of 14 European powers and the US met to discuss how they would exploit the ‘dark continent’ of Africa. The meeting left out a key guest – the Africans were not invited though it was their nation that was to be divided. Africa was to be divided because Europeans were interfering in each other’s ‘territory’ thus the 1884 conference was meant to officially lay the ground rules for the political mapping of Africa between the Europeans and Americans. It is this map that became the legacy of Africa post-independence.
The Europeans themselves were divided on how they would rule Africa. The British wanted a system of indirect rule with local rulers moulded to become representatives of the British Crown, the Portuguese wanted harsher direct rule, the French planned to create culturally assimilated elites to promote French ideals, the Belgians under King Leopold II wanted to simply exploit and exterminate all natives who stood in Belgium’s way. King Leopolds reign of terror has been responsible for demographic disaster in Africa – as many as 10 MILLION Congolese had been murdered. France dominated most of West Africa, British East and Southern Africa. The Belgians took the vast territory of The Congo. The Germans had 4 colonies, the Portuguese held a small colony in West Africa and 2 large ones in Southern Africa. World War 1 left Germany’s 4 colonies under the League of Nations giving other colonizers to administer the territories. The Congo Free State was declared ‘neutral’ zone and the nucleus of which became the promotion of Christianity to the indigenous natives.
The Mission was to ‘civilize’ the sub-humans of Africa. That was how 6 European powers sliced up Africa like a cake. Britain, France, German, Italy,, Portugal and Belgium got a piece each – acquiring 30 new colonies, 110million subjects and killing any African that resisted. The West will not hear of calling their murders as genocide but when hundreds of thousands and millions of natives are killed what else can you call it? With what morals have these nations divided territory, people whose families have ended up belonging to 2 new?
The Belgian King Leopold stated the purpose of the Berlin Conference as “How we should divide among ourselves this magnificent African cake.” Through the Berlin Treaty of 26 February 1885, the European imperialists sliced Africa into “Portuguese Africa”, “British Africa”, “German Africa”, “Italian Africa,” “Spanish Africa”, “French Africa” and “Belgian Africa.” There was no Africa left for Africans except Ethiopia, encircled by paupers of land dispossessed people who were now the reservoir of cheap native labour for their dispossessors.
Somalia, a tiny African country, had the misfortune of becoming “British Somaliland”, “Italian Somaliland”, and “French Somaliland.” Colonial brutality on the colonised Africans knew no bounds.
Betrand Russell wrote “Each village was ordered by the authorities to collect and bring in a certain amount of rubber – as much as the men could bring in by neglecting all work for their own maintenance.If they failed to bring the required amount, their women were taken away and kept as hostages…in the harems of colonial government employees. If this method failed…troops were sent to the village to spread terror, if necessary by killing some of the men…they were ordered to bring one right hand amputated from an African victim for every cartridge used.” This resulted in Congo population coming down to 9million from 20million. Imagine the number of amputated arms of Congolese!
The worst genocide also occurred in Namibia in 19O4. Namibia was then a German colony. General Lothar von Trotha drove these Africans from their land to the desert where there was no water. Seventy percent of the Herero population died of dehydration in that desert. In South Africa the Khoisan people were exterminated by colonialists after being hunted like animals and dispossessed of their land.
Sir Andries Stockkenstrom said “The question of robbing natives of their land is not whether it is right or wrong to plunder their land, massacre and exterminate the Hottentots, the Kaffirs…the simple question is will it PAY? But if the Bible and the missionary stands in the way of this one thousand per cent profit…If in short, they cannot promote the great work of converting a nation of shop-keepers into a nation of millionaires,…gun powder will produce a more efficient gospel for the purpose of our system of civilisation.” (R.U. Kenny, Piet Retief, Cape Town and Pretoria: Human & Reason, 1976 page 77). SIR ANDRIES was knighted by the British honoring the colonialists!
Europe became rich because of the Colonies
Slavery and colonialism enriched Europe and reduced Africa to abject poverty. The riches of Africa, Asia, Latin America and her raw materials fuelled the economies of imperialist countries. The British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill bore testimony to this fact when he said:
“Our possession of the West Indies gave us the strength, the support, but especially the capital, the wealth, at the time when no other European nations possessed such reserve, which enabled us to come through the great struggles of the Napoleonic Wars. The keen competition of commerce in the 18th and 19th centuries enabled us not only to acquire this appendage of possessions which we have, but also to lay the foundations of that commercial and financial leadership which when the world was young,…enabled us to make our great position in the world.” (‘The Long Road To Humanity’, by Stanton A. Coblentz page 325 and Introduction To African Civilisations John G. Jackson page 3O6)
Prof. Walter Rodney asks a pertinent question: “What would have been Britain’s level of development had millions of her people been put to work as slaves out of their country over a period of four centuries?”
Martyr Steve Biko was being prophetic of the African condition, when he said, “At the end of it all, the Blacks have nothing to lean on, nothing to cheer them up at the present moment, and very much to be afraid of the future.”
Africa is 11.3 million square miles. Africa is almost four times the size of the United States of America in land size and in all kinds of riches, especially in raw materials such as platinum, cobalt, uranium, tantalum, gold, diamonds and oil. There is hardly an agricultural product that cannot be grown in Africa. Africa’s arable land for food security is reported to be the largest in the world. But Africa’s riches including her human resources have been brutally looted by imperialist countries for centuries and still are, even under supposedly liberated Africa.
To this minute, Africa’s riches are fuelling the economies of imperialist countries. Africans remain the poorest people in the world amidst their own riches in their own African Continent. As the late President Kwame Nkrumah put it, “If Africa’s resources were used in her own development they would place Africa among the most modernised continents of the world. But Africa’s wealth is used for the development of overseas interests.”
Can ‘Negotiations’ with Colonialists deliver Liberation?
Whenever an African country is about to be liberated, imperialists have always divided liberation movements into radicals, extremists and militants and so-called moderates. Colonialists have often called these so-called moderates to the “negotiating table” and offered them the flag and parliament – things we never made the fundamental objective of our liberation struggle.
Even modern day conflicts which former colonialists have pretended to negotiate have ended up masquerades with the realization that they have been helping the enemy clandestinely. Their treachery thus has seen no retribution, remorse or seachange.
Former Presidential candidate of Kenya Koigi Mamwere in 2000 declared ‘Today, Europeans own almost all the land in the Americas, almost all the good land in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania and most of the best land in African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya. To acquire this land outside Europe, Europeans did not use law, justice or money. They took the land and its riches with the gun….Europeans continue to own millions and millions of hectares of the best land in Africa….Whatever Robert Mugabe’s past mistakes, we must agree that on this one question of finally redistributing land to African people, he is 1OO% right…” Why do Western news never report these and why have Sri Lanka’s local newspapers kept such statements in the dark of a fellow Third World nation?
‘Regime Change’ a new name to protect Imperialists
“Regime change” has become the rebranded version of imperialists to continue their colonial exploits. Thus any post-independent leader be they from Africa, Latin America or Asia becomes a target if they pose a threat to their economic interests. Thus, Patrice Lumumba had to die, Kwame Nkrumah, Chief Moshodi Abiola, Aung San of Myanmar and Gaddafi too were done away with and President Mugabe remains the only nightmare and the world needs more leaders like Mugabe. Any readers mesmerized by what ONLY the west writes, says and thinks would find that an outrageous thought. That is because Mugabe has been projected as the demon totally painting white the sins that America, UK, France and other NATO nations have done to smaller nations of the world. What are the crimes of Mugabe compared to those of US and NATO?
Nigeria’s late Chief Moshodi Abiola in his speech during the First Pan African Conference on Reparations in 1993 said ‘Our demand for reparations is based on the tripod of moral, historical and legal argument….Who knows what path Africa’s social development would have taken if great centres of African civilisation had not been destroyed in search of human cargo by Europeans? Who knows how our economics would have developed?”………..”It is international law which compels Nigeria to pay its debts to Western banks. It is international law that must now demand Western nations to pay us what they have owed us for nearly six centuries.”
It is because of a new wave of regime change tactics that the African nations are building their defences by calling for a boycott of the Commonwealth while also documenting the crimes by Western Christian nations to seek reparations and apology. Asia, Latin America must follow Africa’s example.
Moving forward what Africa and other Third World nations must do
1. Natives and the Diaspora must have an agenda to economically liberate their nations and technologically advance each country.
2. Give EDUCATION number 1 priority.
3. RESOURCES of their nations must be used to the benefit of the nation and natives NOT foreign nations.
4. Create a united front – Pan-Africa, Pan-Asia to effectively address incursions
5. United belief in Justice – Justice for African people. Justice for Asian people. Justice for Latin American people. These people do not live to be further exploited for economic gains of foreign nations. Development needs to be a complimentary basis – give and take. Not Take Only as is currently happening according to the Western biased international Euro-centric laws.
6. Countries need to review strategies – look back how the nation thrived pre-colonial rule. Devise tactics to fight neo-colonialism. Leaders elected to office must work towards regaining respect, economic power not to hand over the nation, land and people to foreign powers by the actions, delayed actions and inactions of native leaders.
For any of the above to happen former colonized nations need to decolonize their minds. They must want to be liberated by mind and soul and not think that being Black, Brown or Yellow withholds them from greater heights of achievement.
The CHOGM should realistically be about getting Britain to sit down with the former colonies to decide how Britain can help make amends for the harm they and fellow foreign invaders did to native lands and people. Instead, what Commonwealth events ends up being about is a garlanding and celebration around the former oppressors.
The Scramble for Africa – Chamberlain, M E
The Horizon: History of Africa – American Heritage Publishing Co,
Geography: Realms, Regions and Concepts – H J de Blij, Peter O. Muller
King Leopolds Ghost – Adam Hochschild