Colonialism and a Dark Past


Colonialism and a Dark Past
By Paul Sixpence

Ghana’s Dr Kwame Nkrumah addressed delegates at the All African People’s Conference in Accra, on 5-13, December 1958. He called for the representatives of the attending countries to actively pursue independence from colonialism. In the decade that followed more than 30 African countries regained independence.

Africa under the yoke of colonialism
The transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU) saw the commemorative history of Africa under colonialism being largely delegated to individual African nation – states.

Continental commemorative initiatives today act subsidiary to national independence celebrations. However, as outlined in this article, it still remains essential for Africa to collectively remember the shared painful history of the continent under the yoke of colonialism.

The communitarian nature of African societies point to a situation were the collective remembrance of human rights abuses can offer Africa an opportunity to redefine contemporary challenges and posit sustainable solutions to some of the most stubborn challenges afflicting the continent today. It is without doubt that colonialism negatively impacted the development of African social, political and economic systems. Africa’s colonial legacy is punctuated by exploitation, racism and the mass plunder of natural resources.

1876 – 1912 colonialism takes root in Africa
The late 19th century saw the intensification of imperial conquest by European nations. Between 1876 – 1912 five major European powers, namely, Germany, Italy, Portugal, France and Britain intensified their imperial agenda from the Cape to Morocco.1 It was during this period that the Berlin Conference of 1885 was convened, with the major aim of ‘slicing up Africa’ among the major European powers.2
Colonialism as an episode in Africa’s history brought with it a multitude of challenges to the people Africa.

It was colonialism that introduced the mass exploitation of African labour and resources. Settler governments disrupted Africa’s political and economic systems. The disruption of Africa’s social, political and economic systems has manifested itself in post – colonial African nation-states that are unable to redefine socio-economic and political development in relation to the needs of the majority of their populations.3 Political and economic systems inherited by the post-colonial African governments were tailored to benefit the settler regimes. Without alternative political and economic systems on the table, Africa has no option but to rely on external partners for its development.

The political stability and economic development of Africa is threatened by its history as much as the current leadership crisis on the continent. It is difficult to comprehend how the inherited systems which were centred on ‘exploitation without responsibility and without redress’4 can all of a sudden transform the development prospects of independent Africa.


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