The issue of the legacy that colonialism left in Africa, in my opinion is an often discussed and debated yet under analyzed issue. For more often than not the prevailing narrative focuses on how colonialism was beneficial to the “dark continent,” for it brought education, Christianity, and civilization to the lost benighted heathens of Africa. We of course know that this was not the case for colonialism was rife with human rights abuses, murder, countless daily indignities by the colonial regimes, and in some cases the total degradation of one’s personhood.
In regards to the text I saw several themes from both authors such as the need for a seemingly revisionist history of anti-colonial/independence movements in post WWII Africa. Showing that the goals of African people during the movement were not monolithic. For the role of class (coca farmers), ideology (Pan-Africanism, Africanism, Conservative Nationalism vs Militant Nationalism and religion (Christian Messianic Movement) all played a role in deciding in the kind of Africa that Africans wanted for themselves. I also found it refreshing that the author highlighted the hypocrisy of the western world most notably that of Winston Churchill in his contention that the principle of self-determination applied to only the recent conquest of Europe by the Nazi’s but not to the older conquest of Africa by Europe. Thus, showing that the western world’s rhetoric of freedom, democracy, and self-determination was and in my opinion still a belief and practice that is reserved for the white nations of this world.
Which during the mid-20th century lead to the particular position in which Africans found themselves fighting for the freedom and liberation of their oppressors. Sadly, this situation was not exclusive to Africans on the continent of Africa. For during WWII African Americans serving in the US military, created the “Double V” campaign. Which symbolize the fight for victory over fascism in Europe and racism in America.
However, with that said it was refreshing to read texts that discussed the role of African agency in not just resisting colonialism but fighting for the basic human right to self-determination. Which in my opinion helps counter the ever pervasive narrative that African people never resisted their oppression and were seemingly helpless children that needed to be guided toward respectability and civilization (think Rudyard Kipling’s poem White Man’s Burden). What I found truly fascinating was the way in which Africans used or “reversed engineered” the colonial powers post WWII plans for their colonies to benefit their own liberation movements. For example the French idea of creating a “Greater France” was used as a way for Africans in the French colonies to use the language of imperial legitimacy to claim social and economic reforms. Which took place with the implementation of the Houphouet-Boigny law with ended forced labor and, abolished the distinction between subject and citizen in the spring of 1946. The same can be said about Africans in the Gold Coast who seized the initiative of the belief that they were more politically sophisticated than Africans in other colonies. As well as in South Africa, which many argue was the most repressive to the colonial states. (to most observers including myself, South Africa was not a colony in the literal sense, for the colonization was not from without, but from within reminiscent of African Americans social and political situation in the United States of America.) For even under the most dangerous, life threating conditions African refused to acquiesce by not only seeking to find niches in the urbanize areas of South Africa, but also clearly defying the power of the repressive state they lived under via the squatter invasions of Johannesburg.
I also found the compelling the role that economics played in the colonial legacy. Which our good friend Mamdani calls petty privilege and preferential treatment. What I like the most about how Mamdani expressed this issue is by using a Pan-African perspective to show how this issue once again is not exclusive to the African colonial situation. Thus, he calls on the brilliance of the slain Pan-Africanist leader from the United States Malcolm X to make his case. In which Malcolm X discusses the distinction between the “Field Negro” and the “House Negro”. Mamdni quotes Malcolm X to give a tangible example of the issue of how petty privilege and preferential treatment played a role in the subjugation of African people under colonial rule.
In closing my thoughts on the colonial legacy can best be encapsulated in the reaction that the Rwandian Tutsi had in reaction to their genocide. There can be no survival without power, thus for African to liberate itself of the legacy of colonial is must gain true political and economic power.
- Blog Response
- Colonial Legacy