I do not believe for once that Africa is a dark continent as we were wrongly schooled by the Western authors of African history written from the perspective of racism and White supremacy. I believe that Africa is home to our forefathers who had functional ways of life even until their lifestyles were rudely interrupted by the coming of agents of colonialisms who came after our plantations, natural and human resources which were in high demands in their home jurisdictions for the economic purposes of building their economies and expanding their global spheres of influence politically. These foreign and intercontinental forces overpowered our ancestors and captured our geographical territories which they manipulated and controlled for over a century.
Having said so, one point that is undeniable is that there was a time in world history that empire builders from the Western hemisphere disseminated the toxic notion that Africa was a dark continent necessitating some form of discoveries by the Western agents of colonialism.
This was why those who wrote some biased history of Africa decided in their weird imagination to allocate certain landmark areas like tributaries and huge rivers to some of their agents as those who discovered these phenomenal places which were hitherto inhabited by our forefathers. For instance, the British said someone from amongst the earliest colonisers discovered the bank of River Niger. This is ridiculous because River Niger has been an important feature of African communities with Africans making use of these natural/water resources. So how can a stranger discover what was already in use by the owners?
This mistaken notion of Africa motivated the proponents of the Berlin conference of 1884 or was it 1885, also known as the Congo Conference (German Kongokonferenz) or West Africa Conference (Westafrika Konfenz) which is historically said to have regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the new imperialism period and coincided with Germany’s sudden emergence as an imperial power house. This conference was held to determine how to allocate African territories to the then European warlords. Here is a brief note of what scholars recorded from the events of the Berlin Conference.
Patrick Gathara writing a piece published by Aljazeera dated November 15th 2019, wrote that:“On the afternoon of Saturday, November 15, 1884, an international conference was opened by the Chancellor of the newly-created German Empire at his official residence on Wilhelmstrasse, in Berlin. Sat around a horseshoe-shaped table in a room overlooking the garden with representatives from every European country, apart from Switzerland, as well as those from the United States and the Ottoman Empire. The only clue as to the purpose of the November gathering of white men was hung on the wall – a large map of Africa “drooping down like a question mark” as Nigerian historian, Professor Godfrey Uzoigwe would comment.Including a short break for Christmas and the New Year, the West African Conference of Berlin would last 104 days, ending on February 26, 1885.”
This researcher continued thus: “In the 135 years since, the conference has come to represent the late 19th-century European scramble and partition of the continent. In the popular imagination, the delegates are hunched over a map, armed with rulers and pencils, sketching out national borders on the continent with no idea of what existed on the ground they were parcelling out. Yet this is mistaken. The Berlin Conference did not begin the scramble. That was well under way. Neither did it partition the continent. Only one state, the short-lived horror that was the Congo Free State, came out of it – though strictly speaking it was not actually a creation of the conference.”
Be that as it may, a dominant theme of this reflection is the reality of an ongoing scramble for Africa by not just Western powers but by even the Chinese who have suddenly emerged on the world stage as one of the fastest growing economic global powers.
What is however intriguing about this new scramble for African rich resources by both the dominant Western powers and their rivals from China, is that whereas they are in a hurry to recolonize Africa through open-ended methodologies of offering aids and credits to dictatorial African leaders who are not nation builders but mostly thieves of their nations’ cash, the crude reality of the sudden migration to the West of African youngster has never been this well pronounced. This irony of the owners of Africa leaving in their droves to the West about the time of parallel scrambling of African resources by the West and China is mystifying but understandable. So Africa undergoes both a scramble from Western and Chinese powers and desertion by African young person’s at the same time in such a way that Africa may fall prey to these scrambles.
A notorious sign of the state of uneasiness amongst the two rivals of the West and China regarding Africa is the claims and counter claims of the desire and determination by both the USA and China to set up military bases in Africa. The United States of America understandably is worried about the plot by the Chinese to dominate the military scenes in Africa to such an extent that it has officially protested and warned Africans of the risks. The Washington Post of December 14th 2018 written by Patrick Martin, reports that:“When unveiling the Trump administration’s new Africa policy on Thursday, national security adviser John Bolton made a point to speak about a single container port in the tiny East African nation of Djibouti. Officials say the Doraleh Container Terminal is critical for resupplying the only permanent U.S. base in Africa, and Bolton said China could take control of this port.
While Djibouti is slightly smaller than New Jersey and has a population of less than 1 million, its strategic location gives it an outsize influence. At the Southern end of the Red Sea, Djibouti is on the shipping route between Asia and the Suez Canal. Every day an estimated 4.8 million barrels of oil transit the Bab el-Mandab strait adjacent to Djibouti. Djibouti’s proximity to terrorist havens in Yemen and Somalia also made it an ideal location for the U.S. military. Camp Lemonnier, a former French foreign legion base, became an expeditionary base for counter-terrorism operations after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The base, which shares a runway with Djibouti’s only international airport, has grown significantly over the years.
The Washington Post further reports that: “In October, the military announced $240 million worth of contracts for expansion of facilities that will include infrastructure to support the Air Force’s largest cargo jets. This is just part of the $1.4 billion plan for the base that the Pentagon announced in 2012. The Obama administration entered a 30-year lease for Camp Lemonnier in 2014 at a cost of $63 million per year.”
The point comes down to the fact that despite the concerns raised by the West on the risks that Africans can face if they allow the Chinese to take hold of Africa, there is every indication that a lot of countries in Africa, unable to build their nations around the precepts and principles of constitutional democracy and respect for the rule of law, Countries like Nigeria under the current political dispensation has continued to embrace China which is awash with cheap Dollars to borrow but at unimaginably strangulating condition precedents.
Already there is a well grounded alarm raised by some vigilant members of the law making institution in Abuja that indeed Nigeria is picking up toxic loans that contain dangerous provisions that endangers the country’s national security and sovereigrity. So, effectively, if this allegation is true, it means that Nigeria has a government that has voluntarily surrendered our sovereignty to China.
–Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA)