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Africa in the Shadow of Colonialism


Africans once ruled the world in almost every human endeavour!

Imhotep, father of medicine & architecture

This is the land where the titans once trod, bestrode and bequeathed to humanity the greatness that life could ever offer to humanity. Once upon a time there was Maheru Imhotep, a historic figure, who was the chief and father of architecture and medicine. Before Christ, there was Queen of Sheba, a powerful African monarch, from Ethiopia, who swept King Solomon off his feet, with her beauty, gait and wealth. What of Cleopatra, who dazzled two of the greatest emperors of Rome with her outstanding beauties and skills? There was also Shaka Zulu, a Zulu king, a military genius and a great empire builder. Yaa Asantewaa, Queen of Ejisu, Ghana, who led the Asantes in war against the British in 1900. Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. Queen Nzinga, Queen of the Mbundu people of Angola, a fierce anti-colonial female leader, who fought the Portuguese in the 17th century to abolish slave trade.

While at a time in world history, the center of the world’s scientific knowledge was situated in Timbuktu- the famous world class University of Sankore, in the fabled city of Timbuktu headed by an African, Ahmed Baba Es Sudane (or Ahmed Baba ,the Black)who was a great scholar and intellect in the 16th century.

And at other times the world’s largest and most famous library was in Africa, the Ancient Library of Alexandria, Egypt, which functioned as a major center of research and scholarship in the world by 300 B.C. It was in this Library, that the scientific method of enquiry was first conceived and put into practice by man, and, hence meriting honourably, the term –‘Birthplace of the Modern World’.

It is of no more contests or dispute that most of the first sets of outstanding scientists and philosophers in antiquity and recorded history had their teeth weaned in Africa or were from Africa or passed through Africa in their quest for knowledge. The world greatest mathematician and father of Geometry-Euclid was born and raised in Africa. Similarly, Theon and his son Hypatia, acclaimed as ancient mathematicians and scholars, were from Africa. Philo of Alexandria (20B.C -50A.D), one of the ancient philosoper and a contemporary of Christ was raised in Africa. Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, origen, John Philoponus(A.D490-AD 570,he was noted to have proposed –The theory of Impetus, which was the first step towards the concept of Inertia in modern Physics. And a major influence on Galileo Galilei, the European acclaimed father of modern science) and several others were from Africa. Plato at a time was said to have sojourned to Africa, before establishing the ‘Academy’ in Greece. Africa gave to the world -Astronomy, Chemistry, Architecture, Agriculture, writing system, iconography and several branches of human knowledge. All these clearly defeated the argument for ‘civilizing mission’ used as justification for colonization.

Africans occupy strategic place in shaping the present world

In modern time Africa had given birth to giants, whose acts and arts continue to bedazzle and enrich humanity. This is the continent of Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegalese writer and one of the world’s greatest historians. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a living legend and one of the rare personalities to be honored and celebrated on the Broadway. Wole Soyinka, a compendium of greatness and sagacity in Literature and the first African to be awarded a Nobel Laureate. Phillip Emeagwali, a supercomputer genius, who made the internet a reality. Benjamin Olukayode Osuntokun, an outstanding authority in Medicine and the pioneer of tropical Neurology, most especially-Neuroepidemiology, and ataxic neuropathy. Felix Konotey-Ahulu, a Ghanaian doctor practicing in the United Kingdom, the world’s greatest authority on sickle cell anemia. Victor Anomah Ngu, Cameroonian doctor and discoverer of an Aids vaccine, VANHIVAX. Nelson Rolihlahia Mandela, one of the worlds’ most revered statesmen. All these are evidence that Africans are not inferior to any race.

The Berlin Conference and Scramble for Africa; Colonialism

In 1884 during the Berlin Conference in which Africa was carved up among European powers, Bismarck’s (the convener) plan was not to help Africa but to help Europe from being locked up horn to horn, in another war over Africa because of the aggressive scramble for Africa by the Europeans .The Berlin conference had as its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, which was the formalization of the scramble for Africa, ushering in a period of heightened colonial activities on the part of the European powers and simultaneously the destruction of African nations’ ability to develop sequentially a thriving ,autonomous societies. Joseph Conrad sarcastic and satirical reference to the Berlin Conference as ‘The International Society For the Suppression of Savage Customs’ in his novel –Heart of Darkness is therefore justified.

The Hamitic Hypothesis; are Africans accursed?

The question that is pertinent to be asked today is where and how is it that Africa as a continent and Africans as a people, fell from great Olympian height into the abyss of chasm and depravation? And thereby conforming or accepting unwittingly, the erroneous –Hamitic hypothesis-‘slaves of slaves’, or ‘servants of servants’; which was merely a scientific racist’s allusion and logical absurdity that was invented by Europeans as a tool to justify slavery and eventually colonization. Of the Biblical account of Ham nothing is related except his irreverence to his father, Noah and the curse which that patriarch pronounced not on him but his fourth son- Canaan (whose third son Jebus (Gen.10:15-16, Judges 1:21) established present day -Jerusalem).The other sons of Ham “Cush, Mizraim and Phut”, who together with Ham, established the cities that later formed the continents of Africa were never at any time cursed.

Is it a Case of ‘The Lost Glory’?

When Germany’s Leo Frobenius, an ethnologist and archaeologist, travelled to African city of Ife, Western Nigeria in 1910, he exclaimed to have found the mystical ‘Lost City of Atlantis’. Today that lost city is finally lost. Africa’s glory is now departed from its confines-like the story of ‘ICHABOD’, (1Sam 4:21).

Then, like the societies of Europe during the ‘Dark Ages’, once came a time when darkness came and the continent of Africa lost all its glory into oblivion and obscurity. A continent that once ruled the world in almost every facet of human endeavours then suddenly became a by word, victim to every bird of prey and prized spoil of war for any contending powers and army of conquest; The Europeans, the Arabs and now the Asians.

Africa today, is like a keg of gun powder, as result of the effect of slavery and colonialism?

Today, most of the negative tendency and backwardness that are synonymous with African nations had been blamed on the Trans Atlantic slavery and eventually, colonialism. Walter Rodney in his epic book-‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, pointed out that the evils that pervaded African societies today, were as a result of colonialism vis-à-vis the terrible and repressive nature of administration and legacy left behind by European powers in Africa, most especially those under the bootjack of the Anglo-Saxons. ‘Divide and Rule’ might have worked for the Europeans as a form of political administration of the ‘native Africans’, while their reign lasted in Africa, but its bitter after taste continued to destroy the social and political fabric of African countries till date. Let call to mind, the Hutus/Tutsi crisis, the Nigeria/Biafran conflict, the Congo Brazzaville’s conflicts, Angola ,British Somaliland, Ethiopian/Eritrea, Sudan (once an outpost of Egypt, during the British mandate over Egypt) among several others.

Whereas slavery and colonialism had done much less harm to Africa compared to the greater harm done to African nations by the effect of the methods and style of decolonization after the Second World War .No strongman would freely let go its captives. While slavery and colonization had created skewed evolution, revolution and development of societies in Africa, decolonization had created a far more catastrophe, which had resulted in jaundiced political and social structures and heavily dependent economy.

Why is topical issue like bad leadership, corruption, social strife, brain drain among others a catastrophic pandemy in Africa more than elsewhere in the world? After independence from the colonial powers, most African nations had experienced and degenerated to high scale socio-political and economic decadence. The receding or seceding colonial powers (After the nationalism fever of self determination or self-government, prompted by the Second World War, where a good number of Africans fought side by side, their White counterparts and came to realize that the ‘Whiteman’ , is not invincible after all, agitated for independence. And more so, encouraged by the U.N Special Committee on Decolonization, often called the Committee of 24) had in most cases in a highly vindictive nature handed over, nations of Africa to a group of excessively corrupt, grossly repressive, critically incompetent and pathologically ‘yes-yes’ Africans who would serve as ‘rookies’, ‘sidekicks’ and ‘proxies’ for the benefit of Europeans’ economic interest through indirect mechanism of control (colonialism by other means) after their disengagement from the political scene of Africa. And in turn, over time, such ‘rookies’ had turned the continent of Africa into a bloody conflagration with many tales of woes. Ludwig von Mises once opined that ‘the worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments’.

And that was precisely the devastating legacy that receding colonial powers intended and bequeathed to emerging African nations. Africa today is an ugly theatre of outright and tragic failure of leadership, no thanks to the dismal legacy of African former Colonial masters. There is hardly any nation in Africa that has not experienced one man made calamity or the other after independence. Some have experienced terrible civil wars, for some it was military incursions that destabilized democratically elected governments and built up hegemony of what is now termed- ‘sit tight’ war lords. While to so many others, poverty, famine and several others man-made tribulations are the order of the day. Africa is hell on earth.


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