Essays

Colonialism: the Greek gift given to mama Africa

THE IMPERIALIST DRIVE BEHIND THE EUROPEAN MOVES TO DEVELOP AFRICA

The imperialist drive behind the European moves to develop AfricaHistorically, states have been motivated to pursue imperialism for a variety of reasons, which may be classified broadly as economic, political… Economic explanations of imperialism are the most common. Proponents of this view hold that states are motivated to dominate others by the need to expand their economies, to acquire raw materials and additional sources of labor, or to find outlets for surplus capital and markets for surplus goods. The most prominent economic theories, linking imperialism with capitalism, are derived from those of Karl Marx. Lenin, for example, explained the European expansion of the late 19th century as the inevitable outcome of the need for the European capitalist economies to export their surplus capital. Similarly, contemporary Marxists explain the postwar expansion of the U.S. into the Third World in terms of economic imperatives. Alternatively,

some stress the political determinants of imperialism, contending that states are motivated to expand primarily by the desire for power, prestige, security, and diplomatic advantages vis-à-vis other states. In this view, late 19th-century French imperialism was intended to restore France's international prestige after its humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. Similarly, Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe after 1945 can be understood in terms of security needs, specifically the need to protect the nation from another invasion across its western border.” [3]

Colonialism I describe it like a gift of poisoned pizza since the motivation was largely of selfish economic interest, stemming from the desire of the colonial masters on Africa as a place to usurp them of their precious metals that, then mercantile system made the basis of economic strength, the desire to acquire trading stations, and the desire for plantations that could produce certain kinds of agricultural products without the loss of foreign exchange amidst others. And what more “They viewed these countries as both markets for their products and as suppliers of natural resources to fuel the industries”.[4] This is evidenced as the ‘East Africa was dominated by the slave and ivory trade, with the Swahili-Arab sultanate of Zanzibar competing with African warlords well into the interior’ Aware of the cost of maintaining colonies, the most powerful European nations preferred either to keep trade open to all, relying on their commercial advantage, or to reserve small, productive areas for the trade of their own citizens. Britain possessed its Cape Colony, strategically located at the southern tip of Africa. It also protected a few West African commercial enclaves and held a colony of Sierra Leone, which was populated by descendants of slaves rescued from the Atlantic slave trade. France had annexed Algeria in 1834 and protected trade along the Senegal River and at two ports east of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). It also held an outpost at Gabon in west central Africa. Portugal claimed territory in Angola and Mozambique. The highest point of this evil done on mama Africa was that the ‘Industrial production was reaching such high levels that Europeans worried about over-production and finding consumers for all the goods that European industries were turning out

O! Poor mama what can you say to your slaughterers than to re echo the words of the evangelist in your mind ‘they divided my clothes among themselves and for my clothing the cast lots. And that is exactly what the soldiers did’ (jn19:24)

Since this economic prowess cannot  be easily achieved without some sort of authority and coercion from the invading quarters there came a high need for political cum authoritarian autocracy which overrides all obstacles from the ruling power and this saw the dawn of the mad rush for political power which loomed largely as motive for acquiring colonies. this gave birth to the phrase ‘scramble for Africa’ phrase used to describe the sometimes frenzied claiming of African territory by half a dozen European countries that resulted in nearly all of Africa becoming part of Europe’s colonial empires. The Scramble began slowly in the 1870s, got to its zenith in the late 1880s and 1890s, and rolled over the first decade of the 20th century. Between 1885 and 1900, European powers were, at times, racing each other to stake claims in Africa. Most Africans resisted such malicious invasion and rule by foreigners. Thus, much of the latter part of the Scramble involved European armies using modern weapons to crush opposition and install authority over the continent’s inhabitants, as the emir of Gwandu was expelled by colonial masters in 1898, as part of their RULE AND DIVIDE system. These prospectors overcame African opposition and the new British colonies of Southern and Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia) was established. Some of the most powerful African states put up strong resistance, requiring Europeans to send in well-armed forces. Massed African armies with outdated weapons defeated European forces on some occasion, but more frequently modern weaponry took the lead, producing some of the most one-sided battles in the history of warfare. France and Britain spread their tentacles of conquests in West Africa. France united footholds on the coast with vast holdings of interior grasslands and desert by the century’s end. The major delay for the French was caused by the Mandinka hero Samory Touré. Touré united peoples around the headwaters of the Niger and Volta rivers and fought a guerrilla war until he was captured and exiled in 1898. The British overcame the Ashanti Kingdom in the Gold Coast by 1896 and established protectorates in western and eastern Nigeria. They also allowed the chartered Royal Niger Company to administer northern Nigeria until the company’s forces encountered the advancing French on the middle Niger and came into conflict with the powerful northern Sokoto caliphate. However, In 1900 the British government took over the control of the territory of Nigeria from the company. By 1903, Britain had conquered the Sokoto caliphate.

 Permit me to use the words of Ikechukwu Anthony O.S.A. “Colonies were areas where surplus populations loyal to the mother nation could allegedly flourish, forming a man power reserve; colonies were a source of national prestige; they were important elements in international strategic planning, and colonial expansion played a part in maintaining the delicate European balance of power.”[5]

Egbufoama Chike

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