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Colonialism and the African Experience
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100 C ha p t e r 4 Colonialism and the African Experience. European Control of Africa, Pre World War I Post World War I. Imperial Power percent percent, France 36 37, Britain 30 34. Belgium 8 8, Germany 8 0, Portugal 7 7, Uncolonized 4 7. Total 100 100, Berlin Conference of 1884 1885 when all the European powers met and. partitioned Africa recognizing each other s share of the continent The. conference was called to reach agreement on imperial boundaries so as. to avoid any future conflict among European powers Following World. War I Germany as a defeated power was deprived of all her colonial. possessions which were parceled out to the victorious allies as trust. territories under the League of Nations mandate system Tanganyika. which is the mainland portion of Tanzania went to Britain Rwanda and. Burundi which together with Tanganyika formed what was then called. German East Africa went to Belgium Cameroon was split into two. a small s outhwestern portion going to Britain and the remainder to France. Namibia then known as South West Africa was assigned to South Africa. as a sort of trophy for South Africa having fought in the war on the side. of the Allied powers Togo then called Togoland became a French trust. territory but a small sliver along its western border went to Britain which. governed it together with Ghana, Reasons for Europe s Interest in Africa.
Before looking into the nature of colonialism in Africa let s turn our. attention to the key question Why was Europe interested in Africa in the. first place One scholar of Portuguese imperial history has suggested that. the Portuguese were moved by a crusading zeal the desire for Guinea. gold the quest for the mythical Christian kingdom of Prester John and. the search of spices 1 Another scholar suggested Prince Henry s penchant. for hazardous travel abroad real thirst for adventure in the name of acquir. M04 KHAF1713 04 SE C04 indd 100 1 18 12 10 30 AM, Reasons for Europe s Interest in Africa 101. ing knowledge For our purpose here however Ali Mazrui s three broad. reasons for European exploration of the African continent which later led. to colonization provide a good starting point 2 The first reason has to do. with the need to gather scientific knowledge about the unknown Africa. then referred to as the Dark Continent provided just the right kind of. challenge It held a lot of mystery for European explorers who traveled and. observed and recorded what they saw Many of the early explorers of Africa. were geographers and scientists who were beckoned by the mysteries and. exotic qualities of this new land Expeditions of people like Samuel Baker. Joseph Thompson Richard Burton John Speke and others in the nineteenth. century conducted in the name of science and knowledge served to. attract Europeans to Africa They discovered rivers lakes and m ountains. They studied the African people and wrote about them Of Prince Henry s. exploratory expeditions including those to Africa a h istorian has written. While Henry directed exploratory activities he placed high value on the. collection of geographical knowledge and rewarded his captains in. proportion to the efforts they had made to carry the boundaries of. knowledge farther thus keeping them intent on the work of exploration 3. Without revisiting the debate as to what the Europeans meant by claiming. to have discovered Africa s rivers and lakes which the Africans had. known and sailed and fished from all along and without belaboring the. often extremely racist and distorted descriptions of African societies that. they purveyed it will suffice to say that the writings of some of these for. eign travelers increased knowledge of Africa in their own countries and. ultimately helped Africans to know their continent better. The second reason stemmed from European ethnocentrism or racism. itself rooted partly in Western Christianity Implicit in the Christian doctrine. as well as in Islam I might add is the requirement that followers of. the faith spread the gospel or the Koran to others and win converts Since. much of Africa followed their own traditional religious beliefs Europeans. felt that there was a definite need to proselytize and convert Africans to. Christianity In the early years of both Christianity and Islam evangelical. work was often carried out with military campaigns Later other methods. of persuasion were applied Missionaries were dispatched to Africa They. set up health clinics schools and social service centers They treated the sick. and taught people how to stay healthy They taught European languages. to Africans who in turn assisted missionaries in translating the Bible into. African languages to help disseminate Christian doctrines Individuals like. Dr David Livingstone were able to combine missionary activities with. extensive scientific research and geographic investigations To this day. Africa remains a favorite destination for missionaries. The third reason was based on imperialism the desire by European. patriots to contribute to their country s grandeur by laying claim to other. countries in distant lands Imperial Germany s Karl Peters adventures. M04 KHAF1713 04 SE C04 indd 101 1 18 12 10 30 AM, 102 C ha p t e r 4 Colonialism and the African Experience. secured Tanganyika for his kaiser Britain s Cecil John Rhodes exploits. yielded a huge chunk of central Africa for his king Henry Morton Stanley s. expeditions to Africa paved the way for the Belgians King Leopold to. acquire the Congo which he ironically named The Congo Free State. And Portugal s Prince Henry and others who followed founded an early. Portuguese empire in the Indian Ocean Estado da India the first. Portuguese global empire upon which the sun never set 4. The three reasons mentioned earlier are not mutually exclusive indeed. they are very much interrelated For example scientific information col. lected by geographers was often evaluated by European governments to. determine if a certain area was worth laying claim to If the information. collected suggested that a given area had a pleasant climate friendly people. evidence of natural resources or good prospects for lucrative trade then. plans were laid down for a government financed expeditionary force. Frequently the explorers themselves could not resist the temptation of. greed and amassed large amounts of wealth or precious cargo Often. exploratory trips were sponsored and subsidized directly by European gov. ernments or government chartered learned organizations such as the Royal. Geographical Society In other cases when missionaries or other explorers. encountered hostility or when their lives were in danger as h appened for. instance to Bishop Hannington who encountered religious resistance in. Uganda and was eventually murdered on orders of a local king foreign. troops were dispatched promptly either to punish the groups involved or to. protect other foreign nationals When foreign troops came in they invari. ably stayed and on short order colonization expeditions arrived. After colonial rule was established the missionaries and the colonial. authorities forged a very close working relationship In most of colonial. Africa schools were staffed and run by missionaries but subsidized in. varying degrees by colonial governments whose interest in missionary. education was simply to ensure that enough Africans were educated to. meet the limited need for semiskilled workers in colonial bureaucracies The. missionaries had total control over the religious curriculum Mission schools. taught that the European presence in Africa was to benefit the African peo. ple and to uplift them from a state of barbarism African customs were. discouraged African languages were banned in mission schools African. heritage was ridiculed and suppressed The goal was to give Africans a new. identity by requiring them to use new Christian names As I recall from my. colonial school days an African student who was proud of his African name. and insisted on using it risked being severely punished or even expelled. In many ways Western religion instilled submissiveness by stressing that. life on earth was temporary and best used for preparing for eternal life. To qualify for eternal life one was taught to exercise Christian virtues of. forgiveness submissiveness and patience Humiliation and suffering such. as were being endured by Africans during colonialism were thought to be. M04 KHAF1713 04 SE C04 indd 102 1 18 12 10 30 AM, Imperialism in Africa The Rationale 103. ennobling and spiritually cleansing The relationship between the missions. and the colonial governments was truly a symbiotic one. There is no question that Africans took to Western education with. zeal The little education that they got opened their minds and provided. them with practical and intellectual skills they never had before With. some Western education an African had a chance at a lifestyle that up to. that time he or she could only read about in Western school textbooks. There was a tremendous demand for education that was far beyond the. ability of the missions to provide Despite this colonial education very. often alienated young people from their own culture and u ndermined. traditional authority Gradually African people began to acquiesce to. colonial rule and to surrender the elements of their culture and traditions. Moreover missionary intentions were not entirely limited to spiritual. matters There is a s aying attributed to Jomo Kenyatta the first president. of Kenya that has been repeated quite often and carries some truth It. goes something like this When Europeans came to Africa they had the. Bible and the African had the land They gave the Bible to the African. and told him to hold it in his hand close his eyes and pray When the. African opened his eyes he had the Bible and the European had his. land In the Congo it was the missions that undertook the campaign to. transform they used the term civilize the African into an imitation. black European It is easy to see why the role of Christian missionaries in. Africa has been assailed by many writers and social scientists as having. abetted and aided colonial oppression and exploitation. Imperialism in Africa The Rationale, Why were the Europeans so keen to acquire colonies and empires in Africa. Three reasons stand out and these can be categorized as political strategic. cultural and economic The political motivation has to do with the political. rivalry among European states for dominance in the international system of. the eighteenth century These states believed that colonial possessions con. ferred prestige and status Even today one can argue that possessions and. wealth still bestow a great deal of status on those who have them Large. countries still compete for influence among small states The competition. between the United States and the former Soviet Union in the so called Third. World in the Cold War era rested in part on the drive for leadership and dom. inance in world affairs Interventions during the past forty years in Vietnam. by the United States and in Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union had. as much to do with assisting an ally as projecting the interventionists power. and hoping to acquire clients in the process The nearly unilateral invasion. of Iraq by the United States in 2003 against the advice of the United Nations. Security Council and European allies such as Germany and France is remi. niscent of imperial behavior of the past Acquiring an empire was a short. M04 KHAF1713 04 SE C04 indd 103 1 18 12 10 30 AM, 104 C ha p t e r 4 Colonialism and the African Experience.
cut to a world power status Just imagine the pride and the psychological. self importance felt by tiny Belgium in acquiring the Democratic Republic of. Congo a country nearly ninety times the size of Belgium Or take the case of. Britain which at the zenith of its imperial power controlled in Africa alone. an area that was more than forty times its own size. Beyond the psychological satisfaction of being a great power acquisi. tion of a colony also provided a large reservoir of manpower to be drawn. upon in time of war It is reported for example that during World War. I the war according to President Woodrow Wilson to make the. world safe for democracy nearly 1 million soldiers of African descent. fought on the side of the Allied powers In World War II about 2 million. Africans and 1 million African Americans served again on the side of. those who were fighting against tyranny and oppression All told the pos. session of huge colonies provided manpower that held out the promise of. imperial powers getting richer and growing stronger by being able to wage. successful military campaigns anywhere in the world. There was one more geopolitical advantage to holding certain areas. in Africa during armed conflict For instance at the beginning of the nine. teenth century Britain decided to seize the southern tip of South Africa in. order to have a tactical advantage in its war against France By controlling. the Cape of Good Hope Britain was able to effectively conduct naval oper. ations against France in both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans The Strait. of Gibraltar the small entrance into the western Mediterranean Sea was. the scene of intense military campaigns in World War II as the combat. ants sought to control it Whoever controlled the straits gained access to. Colonialism and the African Experience Chapter 4 IntroduCtIon Colonization of Africa by European countries was a monumental milestone in the development of Africa The Africans consider the impact of colonization on them to be perhaps the most important factor in understanding the present condition of the African continent and of the African people Therefore a close scrutiny of the

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