The ‘positive role’ of colonization : deconstructing a lie

‘The colonizers usually say that it was they who brought us into history. Today we will show that this is not so. They made us leave history, our history, to follow them in their train, right at the back, in the train of their history’ Amilcar Cabral (1924-1973), father of the independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.

February 10, 2005. Under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, a law is passed by the French Parliament and aims to include the acknowledgment of the “positive role” of colonization in school syllabuses. Faced by the turmoil it created, the law is repealed a year later. Opinion polls showed that 2/3 of French people thought that colonization had a positive role. In the United Kingdom, 44% of the British are proud of their colonial past against 21% who regret it according to YouGov in 2016.

In August 2016, former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon arrogantly said that colonization allowed France to “share its culture” with the colonized peoples. British Prime Minister Cameron will show his refusal to apologize for the imperialist past of his country.

The infamous speech of French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Dakar, in which he said that the African man had never entered history and where he praised the building role of the colonizers.

In Africa, even without any study, one can say that colonization is seen as a good thing. The discourse on the emancipatory role of the European occupation is accepted, even if, nowadays, we reject the economic control. Africans tell themselves that given the backwardness in which they were before the arrival of white people, if there were some crimes during colonization, it was a necessary evil to exorcise the black man from his inferiority.

The European is presumed to have brought the black man down his creepers on which he has been swinging from time immemorial. Both Africans and Europeans think that Europe has taken Africa out of its natural savagery, saved her from barbarism, allowed her to enter history, modernity. Roughly, the “civilizing mission” of the West has been an entrenched historical view. Africans even argue over assessing the better colonization between the British’s and the French’s.

Africans deeply think that without colonization, they would not have had all these big cities, these islets of modernity in the middle of a poor Africa.
Image: Nairobi, Kenya on the left; Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on the right

What is the relevance and the truth of the civilizing discourse that the West boasts of and in front of which Africans bow down? Can we talk about positive roles of colonization? How do we Africans have to perceive the colonial past? On this historical subject and its interpretation, we will try to tell you, with a complete historical perspective, what the reality was. This article is dedicated to our ancestors who experienced colonization.

The civilizing role of Africans in the world

Once we go back to history, real history, we realize that the Western assertion about colonization stumbles over a major obstacle: the fact that Europe – except Oceania – is the last continent to have experienced a major civilization. If there is one people who should be considered as the civilizers of humanity, it is the Blacks of Africa. Science sprouted and originated in southern Africa and the Great Lakes at the very dawn of humanity. That is why the black civilization of Egypt was the first monumental civilization in mankind history. Its great constructions began 7,000 to 17,000 years ago.

Blacks from Africa equally founded the first major Asian civilization, in India-Pakistan: the Indus Valley civilization whose apogee began 4200 years ago. Native Americans experienced their first monumental civilization about 4600 years ago. The very important role of Africans in the Olmec and Mayan civilizations in America leaves no room for doubt, in the light of archaeological discoveries.

Black Africans who settled in the Middle East, known as Canaanites or Phoenicians, are the ones who brought Europe into history by introducing the writing in Greece 3500 years ago. ALL famous Greek scholars (Pythagoras, Thales, Archimedes, Plato etc …) were educated in Africa where they learned the Egyptian philosophical theorems and concepts that are attributed to them today. Roman civilization was born thanks to the contribution of the Etruscans, a people who acquired their architectural knowledge in Egypt.

The true civilizers of humanity: Africans
From left to right: Pharaoh Khufu, alleged builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza (Egyptian Museum of Cairo); A Phoenician in Spain (Museum of Cadiz); A Sudanese-Egyptian from the Olmec civilization, one of 11 colossal “Africoid” statues 2700 years old and found in Mexico.
Africans, especially ancient Egyptians, have civilized the world and dominated it for 3000 years. Images: the Egyptian civilization, the Mayan civilization (which was at least partially black), the Carthaginian civilization of the Phoenicians, the black civilization of the Indus Valley
Whereas the rest of the world went down in history, while Africans were dominating the world, Europeans were barbarians living in caves and wandering in animal skin.
Image from the movie “Rrrr”

Therefore, Europe and the white man could not perform any civilizing mission for anything, since they were the last to experience civilization, and meanwhile, as Africans were building pyramids and going to America, they were banging on each other in caves with clubs. We ask the Europeans: Can one civilize the civilizers of humanity?

Africa before white people

From the reading of the above mentioned, it could be argued that Africa has probably declined after Egypt, has fallen into barbarism and that Europe has nevertheless pulled it out of this situation. Historical facts tell the opposite. In the 14th century, before the contact with Europe through slavery, Africa was probably the richest continent in the world.

It is a materially opulent and civilized Africa that Europeans came to find in the 15th century. Without having been absolutely perfect, Africa – before white people and out of Arab influence – was a society without a slave based economy, with complementarity and equality between the woman and the man, hardly experiencing famine, where everybody had a home, where peace reigned, where wars were less bloody, and where kings were governing for the good of their people.

But more importantly, the most important civilization in Europe at that time was the Moorish civilization in Spain and Portugal. Black Berbers of North Africa called Moors or Saracens – and Arabs – are the ones who built this civilization. Europe having fallen back into a semi-barbaric state and aggravated poverty after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the Africans who civilized it again. The Moorish civilization is at the origin of the famous European renaissance. Not only on the eve of the slave trade, Africa was immensely rich and Europe very poor, but this same Africa – with the Arabs – still civilized Europe.

Kama (Africa) of the glorious Imperial Era: immensely rich and rooted in its culture. Mansa Kanku Musa, Emperor of Mali in the 14th century, is certified today by Celebrity Networth and Time Magazine as the richest man of all time. Even the Arabs, who dominated the world politically, made Africa the reference in terms of wealth. (Image: book cover from Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove, illustration by Leo and Diane Dillon)
On the eve of the European slave trade, Africans still civilized poor and backward Europe of the Middle Ages, through the Blacks Berbers of the Maghreb called Moors or Saracens. Top: Moorish royal court of the 13th century in Spain (Jean Philippe Omotunde for Africamaat); Moorish dignitaries playing chess (The Golden Age of the Moor, Ivan Van Sertima, page 29)
Bottom: Moorish architecture in Spain

At this stage, one still wonders: what civilizing mission do Europeans speak of?

The European slave trade and the destruction of Africa

It can never be said enough, that it is the terrorism of the European slave trade that has put an end to the glorious history of Africa. Like the Islamic State, the European slavers, sent by the Vatican, destroyed every African civilization that they came across and massacred entire peoples in order to capture those who would be enslaved to produce the sugar and coffee that emerging Europe loved, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Europeans destroyed the rich Kongo Empire, the brilliant Swahili civilization in Tanzania-Kenya, the gigantic Monomotapa Empire in southern Africa.
Africans resisted to death
Images: vestiges of the Swahili civilization on the left, Monomotapa civilization (Zimbabwe) on the right

Africa has declined because of the arrival of Europeans with their firearms, it is an irrefutable historical fact. These 350 years of terrorism associated with that of the Arab slavers are the cause of the decline of Africa. 400 to 600 million African lives were lost during that period, ie from 66 to 75% of the population. This is the biggest crime in the history of humanity.

If Europe destroyed Africa during the slave trade, how can it be said that Europe brought Africa something by colonizing it? This is why we must answer the following question:

What exactly was colonization?

The Berlin Conference of 1884, in which European nations emerged from poverty thanks to the enormous profits generated by the enslavement of Africans, defined how they would share the African continent among themselves.

The motivation of the colonialists was the same as that of the slavers, namely enrichment, combined here with the need for racial and cultural supremacy. After the apocalypse of the slave trade, it is an agonizing Africa that the Europeans came to conquer.

African civilizations that survived the slave trade were completely destroyed by colonization. The resistance to colonial invasion was absolutely heroic. Africans, knowing that they were going to die, were litterally throwing themselves on the gunnery to prevent the advance of Europeans, and were exploded into pieces. Entire villages were razed and only a few people survived in some cases.
Images : Ruins of the Ashanti civilization (Ghana) on the left, Danhome civilization (current Benin) on the right

Colonization was slavery

Slavery continued in Africa until the 1940s in most cases, through forced labor. Angolans probably experienced the worst form of slavery at that time, as the Portuguese master did not feed the slave, who would die of exhaustion and hunger after a few weeks. The master then ordered other blacks to replace him. Quite simple!

Millions of Africans, men, women and children, were subjected to forced labor during the colonial occupation, whipped, hungered, women and children taken hostage and starved, to force men to go to forced labor, where the death rate exceeded everything. When enslaved Africans rebelled, the villages were burnt down and the men beheaded.

Slavery was used for the extraction of mineral resources, agricultural production and the construction of infrastructure to transport all this wealth to the ports for Europe. The people were subject to extortion and forced to pay the colonial tax. In this way they gave the colonists their own agricultural products, their cattle, and saw their lands taken away and they were dying of hunger. Villages that refused to pay were burned down and their warriors massacred. The immune system of the Africans was weakened by the famine, epidemics of all kinds were therefore rampant, making hecatombs.

Top left: Black people dressed in rags working by force under the supervision of French masters in Côte d’Ivoire.
Bottom left: women chained by the Germans to construct roads in Tanzania;
Bottom right: forced labor by sadism.
What is the difference from slavery?

The French historian and geographer Louise Marie Diop-Maes, who has done a titanic work on the effects of both slave trades and colonization in her book Afrique noire, sol, démographie et histoire, tells us about slavery in DR Congo: “After the harvest was ordered, the inhabitants had started refusing, fleeing or hiding in the surrounding bushes and in the caves where “they were removed with grenade”. To intensify the harvest, night work was imposed. Completely discouraged, exhausted, and stupefied, the villagers planted nothing: famine, diseases (including the edema of concentration camps), death settled down; Corpses were unearthed to be eaten. The less sick ended up finishing “those more affected to eat them”. [1]

Colonization was the theft of African wealth

The abundant natural wealth of Africa became Westerners’ property. Our oil, our diamonds, our bauxite, our uranium, our iron, our wood, our cocoa etc … then belonged to the western multinational companies and enriched Europe which had already got out of poverty thanks to the gigantic financial profits of the slave trade. Have Africans benefited from the exploitation of their resources at home? Of course not.

Colonization was racial segregation

From the indigenous peoples code in the French colonies, to places prohibited to Blacks in the British colonies or to the apartheid policy of the Dutch colonizers in South Africa, Africans were relegated in their own lands as sub-men, without the right to vote, with confiscation of land and property, excluded from the management of their countries unless they were zealous collaborators, evolved as it was said in the French colonies. The white man was a god in Africa during colonization.

Colonization was cultural and religious alienation

The demonization of African cultures and Religion, the belittling of our African languages to the status of dialect, the imposition of christianity with the white Jesus as divine figure, consequently the whitewashing of God’s image in the African’s subconscious and the legitimation of white supremacy, the forgery of the glorious African history. Even our ancestors, colonization stole them away from us. What is left to you when your parents are stolen?

Colonization has cleverly brainwashed Africans, making them believe that their cultural heritage is inferior and diabolical, and that therefore if they want to save themselves they must kill their identity to enter modernity.

The colonizers brought us English, French and Portuguese, they say. Languages ​​presented as infinitely superior, the only ones allowing access to knowledge. They forget to say that it was in a language close to Wolof and Tshiluba that the Greeks received science and even religion in Egypt. The settlers taught us how to have good manners, having elegance etc … They forget to say that it was a black man from Iraq, Ziryab, who introduced the art of the table in Europe during the Moorish civilization.

They brought us writing, sciences … that we taught them with the Egyptian-Phoenician contact, and forget to say that there are systems of writing that have survived until today in Africa. They made us know God … whereas every time they finish praying, they pronounce the name of our black God by saying Amen …

Christianity in Africa had only one goal: to whitewash God’s image in the minds of Africans, to make us believe that Whites are a divine people, and thus to make us believe that the economic, political and cultural domination of the white man is an order defined by God and an indisputable one. Same thing for Islam and the Arabs.

Colonization was crimes

If many Africans think that colonization was a good thing, it is because they seriously underestimate, ignorant of the facts, the extent of the crimes that have been committed. Here are some non-exhaustive figures:

  • The repression of the Kenyan independatists by the British, 1952-1960: 90,000 dead
  • The Namibian genocide by the Germans, 1904-1907: 100,000 dead
  • Famine in the very fertile Uganda under English occupation, 1918-1919: 100,000 dead [2]
  • The repression of Cameroonian nationalists by France, 1955-1971: 60,000 to 120,000 dead
  • The repression of the Malagasy nationalists by France, 1947-1949: 89,000 to 200,000 dead [3]
  • The epidemic of sleeping sickness in Uganda under English occupation, 1906: 200,000 deaths [4]
  • Repression of the Maji Maji uprising by the Germans in Tanzania, 1905-1907: 325,000 dead
  • The colonial invasion of Madagascar by France, 1894-1904: 500,000 dead
  • The policy of enslavement of the King of Belgium Leopold II in DR Congo, 1890-1911: 12 to 32 million dead [2]
Top left: the severed heads of Cameroonian nationalists by France
Top right: Hacked hands of Congolese under Belgian occupation
Bottom left: a concentration camp in Kenya where the British inflicted unspeakable torture to the nationalists: Rape, castration, drowning simulation, hanging, some were even roasted alive.
Bottom right: the severed heads of the Mozambican nationalists by the Portuguese

From the beginning of colonization around 1880 until 1930, sub-Saharan Africa experienced 73 million more human losses than those of slavery. By 1930, the African population was almost extinct. The two slave trades and colonization therefore reduced, directly and indirectly, the African population by 78 to 84%. This is extermination.

What about all the infrastructures built by the colonizers?

Here we touch the heart of the pride of colonial nations and their peoples. Look at all these roads, these railroads, these buildings that we left you, they tell us. Let’s recall that Africa was covered with incredibly organized cities before the European slave trade, and that the vestiges of our past architectural feats are there to answer the insulting allusions of those who are nostalgic of colonization.

We quote again Louise Marie Diop-Maes who said “The infrastructure left in Africa by the colonizer, which one boasts of, were designed in the interests of the occupier and carried out by the forced labor of the population requisitioned or deported. So we cannot say that it is a gift.” Translation: these infrastructures were made with the blood of our ancestors, for the only exploitation of Africa by Europeans and not for the Africans’ sake.

It should be added that black people, especially African-Americans, participated in the advent of all the new technologies that are believed to be peculiar to the European. Lewis Latiwer co-invented the telephone and invented the long-span bulb, Frederick Patterson and George Washington Carver participated in the advent and improvement of the automobile, Granville Woods and William Burr the train, Frederick Jones was a pioneer in the field of refrigeration and air conditioning, Alexander Miles the elevator, Mark Dean the computer, Charles Drew invented the blood bank, Gerald Lawson invented the modern video game console, the Ghanaian George Mensah has revolutionized the optic  fiber producing high-speed internet, the Guadeloupian Raoul Nicolo revolutionized television etc … We do not even talk about all black people who made the greatness of the NASA.

All these technologies had the support of Africans and could have appeared in Africa, with or without colonization. They are not “white things” as we like to say.

Africans have participated in inventions in all fields since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the West. Just like the real African history, the history of these Africans is knowingly hidden by the West in order to reinforce its fictitious historical supremacy. (From left to right: Granville Woods, Lewis Latimer, and Raoul Nicolo).

One can only wonder what Africa would be today if it had not met the Europeans of slavery and colonization. Africa would probably be very advanced.

In short, if it is the Africans who civilized the world and civilized Europe twice, if Europe has no civilizing role, if Europe destroyed Africa during the slave trade and put an end to its glorious history, if it made it lose 73 million people during the colonization for its enrichment only, if colonization was the continuity of slavery with plunder, segregation and cultural mindlessness, if all these new technologies which one believes exclusively European might have emerged in Africa, what are the positive roles that colonial nations and their peoples are talking about?

It’s simple, colonization was death, slavery, misery, mindlessness on a continental scale. Colonization is nothing but crime, crime against humanity, one of the major crimes committed against all Africans with the European slave trade and the Arab slave trade. There was nothing good in colonization. And anyone who speaks in a positive way about colonization is making an apologia for crimes against humanity, insulting us and insulting our ancestors. If colonization were about sharing culture, as Mr Fillon said, then Hitler also went to share his culture.

Hitler sharing his culture with the French in 1940

Today the problem of Africans, basically, is that they do not enjoy “the benefits of colonization”. Our problem is that we want to live rich and westernized and not poor and westernized. We do not fight to be African, we fight especially to live like white people in Africa, with their languages, their cultures, their religions, their materialistic and individualist philosophy, the slave names and colonized names they gave us. Even in the fight against economic and political neocolonialism, the positive character of colonization is admitted due to ignorance of the past.

It is not only the neocolonial economic and political systems that must be questioned. Colonial languages, colonial culture, colonial religions, colonial historiography, colonial philosophy, and colonial names must go away together with the neocolonial economy and political system. Africa must fight to become Africa again. This return to Africa in all areas of thought is called Afrocentricity. It is an Afrocentric approach that will truly liberate Africa.

We thank our ancestors who fought against the colonial invasion and struggled so that we do not experience slavery, so that we get the partial freedom we have today.

We end here with the African-Carribean poet and anticolonialist Aimé Césaire, who always knew how to find the words for history :

“Between colonizer and colonized there is room only for forced labor, intimida­tion, pressure, the police, taxation, theft, rape, compulsory crops, contempt, mis­trust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses. No human contact, but relations of domination and submission which turn the colonizing man into a classroom monitor, an army sergeant, a prison guard, a slave driver, and the indigenous man into an instrument of production.

Aimé Césaire

My turn to state an equation: colonization = “thingification.”

I hear the storm. They talk to me about progress, about “achievements;” diseases cured, standards of living improved above themselves. I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out.

They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks. I am talking about thousands of men sacrificed to the Congo-Ocean. I am talking about those who, as I write this, are digging the harbor of Abidjan by hand. I am talking about millions of men torn from their gods, their land, their habits, their life—from life, from the dance, from wisdom. I am talking about millions of men in whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to have an inferiority complex, to tremble, kneel, despair, and behave like flunkeys.” Discours sur le colonialisme, pages 23 and 24. 

Hotep !

By : Lisapo ya Kama © (All rights reserved. Any copying or translation of the text of this article is strictly forbbiden without the written approval of Lisapo ya Kama)

Notes :

  • [1] Afrique noire, sol, démographie et histoire, Louise Marie Diop-Maes, page 241
  • [2] Idem, page 251
  • [3] 40 ans d’histoire de Madagascar, Louis Molet, page 92
  • [4] Afrique noire, sol, démographie et histoire, Louise Marie Diop-Maes, page 253.
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