Africa was destroyed by the Europeans and Americans. They continue to subjugate and castigate the people of Africa and refuse to consider recompense for their barbaric actions. Africa’s wealth was stolen and an entire generation of the most productive and vibrant youth were transported and enslaved. The economies, laws, cultures and political systems were systematically and deliberately torn apart, not just at the national level but also at the community, tribal, village and even family level. The Europeans and Americans blame African tribalism for its current woes when in reality it killed the countries and continues to make sure that it cannot rise from the ashes.
Mankind, homo sapiens sapiens originated in Africa. One theory is that plate tectonics made the climate unstable putting pressure on homonids to adapt. This theory is valid for the rift valley but the oldest known humans come out of South Africa and Namibia.
Be that as it may, the Africans formed small bands separated by dense jungles, rivers deserts, and plains. They thrived on primitive technology through the stone age and into the iron age. The bands untied often forming kingdoms and empires. These empires were impressive and long lasting. The best were in Sudan, Nigeria and Mali.
These kingdoms lasted for centuries and with them the mores, cultures, laws and traditions became deeply ingrained. The Africans were expert farmers, hunters and miners and skilled craftspeople.
One tradition that was emphasized by Europeans and Americans was slavery. Villages on the fringes of a kingdom or Empire would break away to form new kingdoms and in so doing, invade other villages and enslave the inhabitants. Slavery has been misrepresented by European. The slaves were skilled and valuable and usually kept their old jobs just with new masters. They were also much more like Medieval serfs or crofters than slaves, being able to marry as they wished, buy their freedom and sell their wares. However the bulk of their labour benefitted their new masters rather than their old masters or villages. As the boundaries of the Empires and kingdoms ebbed and flowed the populous would go in and out of slavery and see a succession of masters. This did little to change their daily lives and the laws and cultures remained steadfast.
When the white man penetrated the jungle he often came across cities and kingdoms that surpassed those in Europe. The kings possessed a public bravado designed to impress and intimidate visitors with a show of power and strength. However, they never made guns which the European possessed from the early 18th century onwards.
The Africans traded with the Europeans through Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and so on via trade routes across the Sahara doen into cetral Africa. They began trading earlier with the Arabs out of Egypt, Ethiopia and West Africa. The Arabs were savvy merchants and expert sailors and African goods such as ivory and gold was popular throughout the Middle and Far East.
The French in particular found African gold very useful and invaded Morocco overthrowing the northern Empire and establishing colonies along the southern Mediterranean. In Angola and Mozambique the Portuguese founded a small colony which they extended deep into the interior destroying villages and cultures with reckless abandon.
The real demise of Africa was due to the European need for gold to fund their wars and the European and American need for slave labour. The Spanish raped South America to fund their attempts to invade England, Portugal and as much of Europe as they could.
The other European countries turned to West Africa for its gold. Meanwhile the Americans had virtually exterminated the indigenous native who, they complained, tended to die too much to be of much use as slaves. The Africans on the other hand were expert craftsmen, superior farmers to the Europeans and their death rate was only around 25%. Having seen the English use the African slaves to build up their colony in the West Indies they turned to Africa.
Enslaving West Africans relied initially on trade and later on deception and trickery. At first the Americans bought slaves, cloth, iron goods and so on from the costal West African kingdoms. These kingdoms obliged with the slaves found in the outlying villages. The Americans paid the Kings with guns but forbade their local manufacture.
The demand for slaves quickly outstripped the supply and the Kings sent raiding parties upriver and across the land deep into the jungles to capture more slaves. Several Kings saw the writing on the wall and refused to cooperate. However their neighbours quickly earned more guns and overthrew these Kings and thus the American push for slaves quickly decimated the West Africa of its young, strong and productive populous.
At the same time the raiding parties destroyed village cultures and laws and the downward spiral of millennia of culture penetrated deep into the centre of the continent.
Meanwhile, the Europeans, in particular the French and English decided that what they really needed was colonies so that they could have a steady income stream from Africa. The destruction that the Portuguese had started the other Europeans soon quickly turned into a rout. Under the guise of “civilizing the savages” the Europeans systematically took apart the entire African way of life utterly destroying the rules, laws and traditions created over thousands of years. This callous and calculated destruction left the Africans very vulnerable. The laws and traditions were vital to their very survival, without them they were open to bandits, thugs and robbers and without storing their harvests of grain and produce they were susceptible to starvation and disease. Further, with the bulk of their youth transported and enslaved the very old and very young were too feeble to fight back.
The rape of Africa is particularly severe in the case of the Belgian colonization of the Congo. Africa’s biggest and most productive river had supported thriving communities along its bank and tributaries. These were cruelly exploited by the Belgians, thus the rule of law and order was replaced by guns and warfare.
The Europeans never once made any attempt to “civilize” the Africans. There was no repayment for the theft and atrocities visited upon the natives. Right up to 1985 South Africa insisted that migrant workmen leave their families for years at a time and live in enclosed communities near their workplace. This effectively broke families apart. Ironically, the men had no work in their home countries because the Europeans had utterly destroyed their economies, infrastructures and political systems.
It is time for the perpetrators, Europe and America, to pay for their crimes. Africa deserves an extensive programme of recompense, something that would put the Marshall plan in the shade. Descendants of slaves can be compensated. Stolen gold and artifacts can be returned but how can the culture and traditions, the heritage of centuries be restored?