Imperialism can simply be defined as the domination of a particular country’s economic, social and political life by another more powerful country. It is the act of extending control and authority through direct or indirect territorial conquest to a foreign country with the aim of dominating their economy and political structures. Imperialism was rampant in Africa especially in the late 19th and early 20th century. In an attempt to grow its economy and for reasons of battling for superiority, Europe’s superpowers stretched their efforts into Africa since it was an easy target to control. Africa by then was not politically secure nor was it modernized. Upon realizing that Africa was a land of very fertile soil and readily available labor force, many Europe country’s dramatically started scrambling for colonies in Africa in what is commonly referred to as the ‘scramble for Africa’. These instigators of Imperialism were mostly Germany, Great Britain and the French. They managed to take control of almost the Whole of Africa with the French dominating in west and North of Africa, the Germans ruled over Togoland, Cameroon and Tanganyika until World War 1 when they became defeated (Iweriebor, colonization of africa). Great Britain was the largest beneficiary of imperialism since it had managed to conquer colonies all over Africa.
Through imperialism, the Europeans claimed full ownership of the African land. This act led to numerous tribal clashes across Africa. European invasion and the consequent imperialism in Africa had a lot of impact in Africa. Apart from the notion that imperialism led to modernization in Africa, it is largely blamed for the numerous negative effects that completely changed the face of Africa. It led to the destruction of the much-valued traditional culture of the Africans, partitioning of the African land and ultimately leading to total dependence of Africans to their European colonizers for survival. They took Africa’s raw materials and misused the available labor which was being provided by the Africans. It is there evident that imperialism had ugly effects on the people of Africa and was not worth the sacrifice for modernity as many individuals would prefer to argue.
Colonization in central Africa
Arguably, the Central Africa was the most hard hit part of the African continent with colonization and imperialism than any other part of Africa. It started with the Portuguese expedition voyage of 1480’s who found central Africa and in particular the republic of Congo, a haven for slave trading. They traded hundreds of thousands of the Congo and the neighboring central African countries inhabitants as slaves thereby gravely affecting the population of this region of Africa. However, in the mid 19th century slave trade was abolished. But even before the dust caused by the Portuguese who had by then left Congo would settle, a more harsh rule of King Leopold of Belgium took over. King Leopold was determined to extract as much wealth from central Africa as he would be, he forced the native inhabitants to work for him in his rubber farms and in all his mines across central Africa (Paul 2009).
In the late 19th century, the scramble for Africa was still imminent in the West and Central Africa to the point of almost leading to inter-imperialist conflicts. It is for this reason that the 1884 Berlin Conference was convened by the German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck in order to set some ground rules on how they will they will share the territorial boundaries of Africa as well as making other treaties between the imperialist. Among the agreed upon clauses were:
- The principle of Notification, Whereby it required the imperialist to notify other powers of a possible territorial annexation.
- The freedom of trading in the Congo Basin was granted
- Total suppression of slave trading either by land or sea was also agreed upon (Iweriebor, colonization of africa)
All this was done without the participation of the Upcoming African leaders who were now acquiring education so that they would be able to fight for their independence both from forceful and diplomatic ways.
Emergence of Nationalism in Central Africa
The continued European imperialist‘s pressures and designs of the late 19th century highly provoked the African political and diplomatic figures leading to military resistance. The Europeans imperialists tried to lure these leaders such as the Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Patrice Lumumba of Congo to sign various treaties that would see the Central African Countries lose their sovereignty to the European imperialist (Rit 2007). However, these treaties were perceived by the Africans as mere commercial friendly and diplomatic treaties which should not be touching on their sovereignty. Upon the realization that the European imperialists had defrauded them into signing these treaties, the African rulers organized for military resistance to enable them seizure back their land and send the imperialist away. This is struggles of nationalism continued up to the mid 20th century which was the period when most countries not only in central Africa but in the whole of the African country gained their independence to become self governing sovereign states.
Iweriebor, E, African Age,The colonization of Africa.
http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africanaage/essay-colonization-of-africa.html web. Retrieved May 13th 2013
Paul.k, Exploring Africa, History of Central Africa.
http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/teachers/curriculum/m18/activity2.php, Web.Jan 7, 2009 Retrieved May 13th 2013
Rit, N. Hyperhistory, Imperialism
http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/cot/t1w16mperialsimp1mw.htm Web, July 27th 2007. Retrieved May 13th 2013
Syed. H, Journey through Africa Imperialism in Central Africa
http://africasuntoldstories.weebly.com/imperialism-in-central-africa.html Web. Retrieved May 13th 2013
Welcome to Congo, imperialism in Congo, http://congo.edublogs.org/imperialism-congo-region/
Retrieved May 13th 2013