Historical Background to The Situation - European Colonialism
As discussed by Sharma (1973), in the beginning European interest was confined to the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean - the rest was "Dark Continent" fraught with savage cannibals, wild animals and dreadful diseases stalking an inhospitable terrain. By the end of the fifteenth century Portuguese started trading in ivory, pepper, dyestuff and gold dust. This was also the time when Europeans commenced colonisation of the American continent and a very profitable slave trade flourished from Africa to meet the enormous demand of manual labour of the colonisers. By 1870s explorers and missionaries started adventuring into the deep jungles of Africa. With the advent of industrial revolution the demand for raw materials and markets to sell finished products grew in leaps and bounds. This led to rivalry amongst European colonialists to spread their territory, which reached its zenith in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The sharing of the 'African Pie' was amicably settled through the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 whereby Africa was apportioned by the European powers without any regard to the lie of the land or the psyche of the natives. It is to be noted that in posterity such lacerations presented serious problems of integration at the time of independence of most states.
A primitive culture prevailed amongst the tribes in Africa and wars between clans and tribes to settle disputes were very common. Whenever there were disputes amongst the tribes the weaker ones sought outside help. The European traders who had modern weapons and better fighting skills to offer were their first choice. In due course areas that were rich...
Africa is primarily a land of ethnic tribes and clans. A tribe does not represent any homogeneity or criterion by which sects of people differentiate themselves from other sects. They are a natural formation of people who get together and affirm their obligations to unite in warfare against outsiders and acknowledge the rights of their members to compensations for injuries. The colonisation of Africa has brutalised the people and vandalised the resources by warlords and despotic rulers. It has left Africans psychologically scarred and scared. Letting loose one tribe against another and creating insecurity and dependency was the most convenient way of subjugating a race. With their better intellect and strength, subjugating large states was not a difficult task for the Europeans. Here one must remember that Africa was not the only country that Europeans colonised. Large parts of Asia, Australia and America were also once under their occupation for centuries. Today many of them are enviable economic powers, technological marvels and military superpowers. Therefore, one cannot escape an accepted wisdom that Africa has wrought self-destruction on themselves unable to overcome the unique racial and social inadequacies. To gloss over Africa as a puzzle that cannot be solved or explained is simplistic. The happenings in Africa lead us to assume the Africans have some inherent ethnic shortcomings that keep them as underdogs on this planet earth. The historical fact file encourages one to accept such a presumption.