Colonization of Africa – An Unjustifiable Act
In today’s world, most African countries are struggling to keep up economically, politically, and socially compared to many other developing countries in the world. Countries such as North Sudan and South Sudan have just claimed freedom from each other, after fighting a long civil war along with genocide. Africa’s rich history is one of culture, tradition, and simplicity, but because of colonization of many regions in Africa, Africa’s history is now tainted with the themes of massacre, stripping of natural resources, slavery, and wars.
The European colonization of Africa is not justified by the fact that there was “a great need for the ‘modern’ reconstruction of African life and thought” (Davidson 309), or a “need for a creative revolutionary break with the long unfolding of African Iron Age society” (Davidson 310) because of European colonizer’s interferences with social and cultural groups due to the European division of regions during colonization. Before colonization began, European countries such as Italy, France, and Great Britain began to plan their exploration of the undeveloped continent of Africa. While deciding the areas worth exploring, most countries found that it would be most valuable to explore areas along the coast. To the Europeans, colonizing along the coast would maximize efficiency in trading, and also make it easier to establish cities that could grow and expand in the future. But during the race and struggle for desirable land, the European countries did not take into account the large number of ethnic, religious, and cultural groups living in the regions they planned to colonize.
The borders that the Europeans drew divided many groups of people that had grown together to form communities, and also clustered together groups of people who had disagreeing views or ideas with one another. Because of this, animosity between the groups of people developed, and from this grew larger conflicts. A quote from Basil Davidson’s “Conquest and Colonial Rule” demonstrates the ideology of the European colonizers. “It was a ‘colonization’, a mise en valeur, which had no more regard for the interests of African human beings that it had for those of African animals, and sometimes even less,” (Davidson, 291) As the Europeans began colonization, many countries began to exploit and take advantages of the natives living there. Natives were forced to work to produce usable natural resources, and they found themselves “increasingly deprived of their best land, and often enough of all their land,” (Davidson, 294). Forms of slavery began to appear in colonized regions, and people began to die due to hard labor and cruel punishments from the generals and officers, and from malnutrition and fatigue from the workload.
Some European countries “justified” themselves by providing “education” to the natives. Although westernized schooling was introduced, much of it was based on the themes of slavery and hard labor. Not only was the education biased, but also not very many people had the opportunity to even attend these schools. These schools proved to be ineffective, and also provided the natives with skewed ideas of what was the best for them. Slavery continued, and the natives began to rely more and more upon the colonizers. Eventually the native peoples began to realize that they were being taken advantage of.
Small factions of people attempted to rebel against the colonizers, but in most situations, the natives were killed and massacred due to the European’s Maxim gun (Reader, 585). The uprisings were ineffective because although there were many of them, they were not unified, which gave the colonizers time to recover and recuperate. Usually there were a large number of casualties on both sides, and they proved to be detrimental to both the Europeans and the natives. For example, when the Ethiopia fought against the Italians on March 1st, 1896, the Ethiopians killed 3,179 Italian officers, as well as 2,000 locally recruited troops (Reader 584). But during the battle, the Ethiopians lost many as well. 7,000 people had died, and 10,000 people were injured (Reader 584).
Another reason the natives were unsuccessful in battles was due to the lack of technological advances in warfare. The African troops were equipped with “early-nineteenth-century” muskets, which took around one minute to load (Reader 585). The outdated muskets fired only 80 meters, and fired incorrectly at least three out of ten times (Reader 585). The Europeans had more modern guns such as the repeating rifles from 1885, and the Maxim machine-gun, patented in 1884 (Reader 585). With the machine-gun, the Europeans were able to kill more natives at a faster rate, which made attacks easy to quell, and it was easier for them to control the Africans to listen to them, and force them to work. In the end, colonization of Africa was not justifiable because of the hardships and struggles that the African people had to endure.
And now, the continent of Africa is working to finish the puzzle that Europe had started and then deserted, and still to this day does colonization leave its footprint in Africa. European colonization did not help Africa at all, but instead, they left Africa as a dependent, needy continent, with no one to depend on for help. Europe’s actions were harmful for Africa, but most importantly, it was harmful to the African people. The colonization of Africa was not justified, and in the future, after Africa has developed and grown, it still will never be.