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Africa: Colonialism alive and well after 50 years of independence

2010 will mark the fiftieth year of francophone African countries’ independence from Belgium and France.  While official celebrations are under way, debate is simmering on blogs in North, Central and Western Africa.

A Moroccan blog, Planète Non Violencelinks the colonial past to the current state of affairs [fr ]:

Le constat de ces 50 ans est accablant. D’abord, pour les anciennes puissances coloniales, elles n’ont fait que reculer pour mieux perpétuer leur domination. Comme l’avait exprimé, autrefois, Ahmed Ben Bella : « le colonialisme est sorti par la porte, pour revenir par la fenêtre ». Pour continuer à garantir des bénéfices juteux à leurs entreprises, les anciennes puissances coloniales nous maintiennent sous tutelle, et soutiennent des régimes anti-démocratiques, pourvu qu’ils soient serviles. Passé sous silence les centaines de milliers de morts et de familles détruites, le pillage en règle des ressources, le renforcement du pouvoir arbitraire de la féodalité au détriment des pouvoirs de la jama’a (communauté) ; oubliée la longue nuit coloniale, dont nous continuons, à ce jour, à en subir les affres.

The findings of these 50 years are appaling. First, for the former colonial powers, they have pulled out only better perpetuate their rule. As Ahmed Ben Bella once said: “Colonialism went out by the door only to come back through the window.” To continue to ensure juicy profits for their companies, the former colonial powers maintain and support autocratic regimes, provided they are servile. Ignoring hundreds of thousands of deaths and destroyed families, the systematic looting of resources, strengthening the arbitrary power of the feudal powers at the expense of the jama'a (community); forget the long colonial night, we continue to this day to suffer its agony.
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Freddy Mulongo, in a post titled Anticolonial 50th Anniversary: Belgian Congo, gives an overview of the history of Belgian colonial rule in his country [fr] :

Avec le Congo, la Belgique obtient des matières premières peu chères.

L’Europe est dévastée […], c’est donc les États-unis qui dirigent. Opposés au colonialisme les américains auraient pu donner l’indépendance aux populations congolaises, néanmoins Washington est farouchement opposé à tout régime communiste et sait que la propriété privée n’existe pas dans la culture africaine. Ainsi Washington préfère garder un pouvoir colonial belge, le temps qu’un mouvement africain libéral apparaisse …Suivront l’abolition du fouet, pour le clergé, les gradés de la force publique et les auxiliaires de l’administration…Face à ces mouvements nationalistes l’administration belge commence à comprendre qu’elle va perdre leur colonie.
La Belgique avait ratifié l’article 73 de la Charte des Nations unies, qui prônait l’autodétermination des peuples.

With Congo, Belgium gets natural resources at the cheapest price.
Europe is devastated [… ] therefore the United States administrates Europe and their colonies as well. Opposed to colonialism, Americans could have given independence to the Congolese people, but Washington is adamantly opposed to any Communist regime, knowing that private property does not exist in African traditions. Thus Washington opts for maintaining a Belgium colonial power, waiting for a liberal African movement to appear. … Then comes the abolition of whipping for the clergy, police officers and administration’ auxiliaries. …
Faced with these nationalist movements the Belgian government begins to understand that it is going to lose its colony.
Belgium had ratified article 73 of the UN Charter, which advocated self-determination of peoples…..

Belgium's plan was actually to decolonize over a time frame of… 30 years :

… Le professeur belge Antoine Van Bilsen publia, en 1955, un document intitulé Plan de trente ans pour l’émancipation politique pour l’Afrique belge.

L’indépendance du Congo n’est pas un cadeau des Belges !

Les souverainistes congolais sont clairs, pour le cinquantenaire de l’indépendance du Congo au 30 juin 2010: le discours de Patrice Emery Lumumba ou rien !

… In 1955, Belgian professor Antoine Van Bilsen published a document entitled “Thirty years Plan for the political emancipation of Belgian Africa”.
The independence of Congo is not a gift from the Belgians!
Congolese supporting sovereignty are clear, on the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Congo, on June 30, 2010, we do not want any thing but Patrice Emery Lumumba speech!

Going further, award-wining writer Alain Mabanckou, a French citizen born in the Republic of Congo, links France colonial past to the current and raging debate on “national identity”  in France:

De toute évidence le débat, sans le nommer, ne cesse de tourner aussi … autour du thème de l’immigration (en particulier postcoloniale) et de ses conséquences sur l’« identité nationale », ….

Clearly the debate, without naming it, also revolves … around the theme of immigration (especially postcolonial immigration) and its impact on [French] “national identity”….

Leopold Chendjou from Cameroon nails it in his public letter to French Président Sarkozy (to be continued): 50 years of independence, a Cameroonian writes to Nicolas Sarkozy [Fr]:

… Le racisme au cœur de la République …Tout comme vous, Monsieur le Président, les Noirs de nationalité française sont issus de l’immigration.

… Racism at the heart of the Republic … Just like you, Mr. President, blacks are French citizens born to migrants.

From Chad, Juliette is calling for a boycott of France’s project to have all its former colonies parading the Champs Elysées in Paris during Bastille Day military parade on July 14, 2010 [fr] :

Boycottons le projet francafricain du cinquantenaire des indépendances !…Nous avons donc besoin d'un groupe de personnes opposantes (ou d'organisations), originaires des pays souffrant des méfaits de la Françafrique…

Let’s boycott the francafrican project for the fiftieth anniversary of independence!… We seek a group of opponents (or organizations) from countries suffering from the evils of Françafrique

In Africa, people are also showing their opposition. On Saturday, February 13, President Wade of Senegal spoke at the opening ceremony launching several weeks of celebrations ending on April 4th (Independance Day) in an almost empty stadium:

On Saturday, February 13, President Wade of Senegal addressed a nearly empty stadium at an independence celebration.

On Saturday, February 13, President Wade of Senegal addressed a nearly empty stadium at an independence celebration / Picture posted by @rignese on Twitter (http://twitpic.com/12zxbe)

10 comments

  • Ted Daniels

    I wonder; does the former British Africa fare any better? Yes, we see the horrors Leopold left in Congo and that rapacious neighbors now exploit, but the borders of all the African colonies, as I understand, were drawn to suit European “needs” with complete disregard for the pre-existing tribal boundaries. So is it time to start over? What do you hope for from us in the west? i could quite understand if your brightest hope is that we will go away.

  • Abdoulaye BAH

    Daniels, do you really think that British colonialism was better than others? Ask to a Sierra Leonean or a Kenyan, a Zimbabwean, a Nigerian, a Sout African, a Zambian..! Do you want me to continue?

    They were all the same: Bad!

    In Africa, we do not expect anything from the West and at the same time we do not hate anybody (positively minded). Just leave us to continue building nations, where the colonialists left disjoncted territories.

  • Ted Daniels

    No, that’s not at all what I thought when I wrote my note, nor is it what I think now. Perhaps another glance at my comment will reveal that I *asked* whether it was better, since your article focused on the French and Belgian colonies. I hoped maybe to open up the discussion to take in other crimes than those you mentioned.

  • John

    Abdoulaye and Ted, its pointless to argue which rapist had more skill.The real question is what will our children say of us if we don’t unite to build a better continent for them.

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