Top-Rated Free Essay

colonial west africa

Powerful Essays
Britain’s Continued Influences in West Africa

The main goal of colonialism was to extract the economic benefits for the colonizing empire and England was just that, it wanted to exploit the natural resources and established a profitable setting for its settler colonies in Africa. England’s approach of direct rule, limited the rights to Africans, which affected English rule as well as their post colonial relationships with neighboring countries. With England’s influences in every aspect of African life, European culture was also introduced. Unlike in Europe, the British government would not give Africans political representation until the international and domestic pressures mounted in its finals years of colonial rule. During this time, other European powers were focused on African assimilation and the call for independence within their settler colonies. England on the other hand, did not put much emphasis into the assimilation of Africans and were more focused on the negotiations for a political independence. Due to England’s assimilation policies and growing domestic pressures, they found it easier to separate from their settler colonies. Yet, some colonies wanted to maintain trade and develop aid with Britain, but with England’s weak emphasis on assimilation they were not rooted in the policies of their settler colonies. Because England lacked this cultural aspect, England’s approach to colonialism affected the institutions that were set in place as well as affected the process of decolonization. Here one can see England’s system of rule and level of influences it had on its settler colonies. In this paper I will present England’s approach to colonialism with a brief analysis on the resulting effects of British colonization of Africa, and will be using Kenya as my main focus. Than I will give a brief definition of colonialism in the context of Kenya and show the effects of English conquest in the region, as well as the impact that English institutions had on the division of English and local authority. I will also show how English authoritarianism had significant political effects on the governing colonial institutions as well as having long lasting effects on the economic and political policies of the region. The main question I pose in this paper is the future of a developing Kenya has being determined by their colonial past through socioeconomic and political processes and continues to do so today. Before pre-colonial occupation for thousand of years Kenya’s communities were self sustaining agricultural communities, such as the Agikuyu and the Miji Kenda who developed economies around agriculture. While others practiced pastoral forms of agricultural production like the Maasai and Samburu. The majority of the communities practiced a mixture of crop cultivation and raising livestock such as the communities of the Luo and Abagusii but there were still those who preferred hunting and gathering like that of the Ogiek. During the pre colonial era production in the region was joint consumption not individual gathering. This was also a period when the system of kingship was the fundamental element in ownership which included land, labour and cattle. The idea of labour was largely based on mutual assistance within the community as a whole as well in the family, this meant that everyone within the community or kinship had a role. Due to this structure of labour within the community trade was limited due to the small surplus the regions materials. Because of these limitations trade had minimal influences within society. There was no levels of prestige or wealth, because the communities would redistribute its materials in orders of necessity, which meant that there was no social hierarchy and the community was most important. This in turn denounced the notion of class but if it did exits it would be nothing but the development stages of the notion. The practices of trade and the de-notion of class ensured Africans would never fall in the conditions of poverty. There were little motivations for Africans to form states but as a collective unit the largest political group was made up of a single blood line which collectivity was made up of few families. The regions communities had no centralized kingdom and were subdivided. The more centralized kingdoms were near Lake Victoria, toward the West. Kenya’s pre colonial communities were interethnic and characterized by local customs such as marriage and trade as well as the steady occurrences of warfare. Pre-colonial Kenyan society was unchanged and was filled with migrations and settlement that declined and increased ethnic groups. The arrival of English colonization helped shape and direct African communities ambitions. British colonialism had an impact on and still this day continues to attract scholars such as Mamdani, Meredith, White and Ogot, and Ochieng. For example, Mamdani states: “ overall colonial rule resulted in a casting of its shadow over the emergents of African states that is unique amongst the major world regions.”1 This goes to show how Africa itself could not explain nor be understood without first understanding the regions colonial rule. The Historian, Adu Boahen, preferred a middle course which he stated: “in some respects the impact of colonialism was deepened and destined to affect the future of the events, but in others, it did not.”2 This brought up the notion that if colonial rule simply brushed aside these pre colonial polices or rules. From the beginning, Colonialism was developed from Imperialism, and was seen as the pinocle form of Capitalism. So during imperial rule it was necessary that these policies be placed at the same time in the same region. These polices all shared similar meanings to the English during occupation of a foreign land. England called for the political and cultural domination as well as economic exploitation of the region. In Kenya as with all of Africa, that starting point for colonial occupation began with the 1884-85 Berlin Conference. This alongside other European territorial agreements proved instrumental for England to place boundaries in Kenya but most important, it allowed England to take control by taking away the people of Kenya’s political rights. By 1894 Britain had declared themselves as protectorates over the respective regions of Uganda and Kenya. With this Britain went as far as to mark new boundaries for Kenya without the approval or consultation of Kenya’s people. In doing so, Britain had established a single territorial entity that brought together over forty communities.3 This later post colonial state found itself trying to sway these forty communities to form into a one nation state, a daunting task non the less. It took communities such as the Turkana and the Samburu and other marginalized groups the full colonial period even into the post colonial era to realize that they themselves were part this larger Kenyan community. However, the mort serious matters pertaining to Britain’s newly formed boundaries was its division of individual communities such as the Maasai, Kuria between Kenya and Tenganyika(Tanzania), the Somali among Kenya, Somali and Ethiopia, the Luo, Uganda and Tanzina, and the Teso and Samiaa between Kenya and Uganda.4 These boundaries brought the notion of class as these ethnic communities began to compete for resources. This competition within regional communities would characterize post colonial policies as well as the nationalist struggle for independence. Some examples of these policies would be the attempts by Luyia, Kalenjin and some coastal communities who tried to form their own political entity as a way to neutralize the Kikuyu-Luo who were the majority in Kenya.5 The boundaries would also lead to Somali withdrawing from the Kenya Somali in their bid to join their kin and relationship between neighboring Somali. This shows how the colonial state employed authoritarian force to keep Kenya’s diverse communities together. 6 The colonial states who’ve employed a form of authoritarian were meet with force by the colonial military. The military would produce mass genocide and forced Africans to migrate in the regions of the Agikuyu, Abagusii, the Nandi, Ababukusu, Giriama. British conquest led to the decline of sovereignty as colonial authority began to replace local authority and or tribe leaders. This however, became one of the ironies of indirect rule that was imposed by the British. This method of rule was based on an empty preconceived notion of moral authority, what it in-fact did was a put British representatives into positions of authority. This new formed colonial administration received and followed orders from Britain rather than receive them from the regions communities leaders. British rule through the community leaders or Chiefs’, local tribunals and councils made up of local natives was a horrible attempt of imitating a democratic government.7 British control was implemented through district officers that were placed in institutions that acted as legal authority to keep Africans subordinate. The main purpose these institutions held were for imposition of control and the political extraction of Africans. Therefore, Law and order was maintained for nothing more than accumulation and interest of British capitalist. 8 The British dominated all branches of government but all their colonial developments must first be approved and that came from the motherlands ultimate power figure, London. English controlled both the executive and legislative councils and excluded Africans from joining and this would last well past WWll. These British dominated institutions however, did not go seen unnoticed as European settlers voiced their complaints of these unequal balance of power.9 English indirect rule ultimately centralized the colonial state and radicalized power. This administrative formation was later inherited by the following system of rule which became more oppressive after colonization. Post colonial Kenya had no accountability for its ruling system, unlike that of the colonial governor who was accountable to the House of Commons.10 Since the reform of the constitution in independent Kenya transformed it into a patrimonial and autocratic system.11 Thus, independent Kenya inherited English colonial institutions which it only worsened with harsh economic and human rights repercussions. Sir Frederick G. Lugard, who was Britain’s iconic figure of imperialism understood Britain’s motivations behind their colonization of Africa as he stated; “European brains, capital and energy have not been, and never will be, expended in developing the resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy.”12 He had no doubts that Britain’s goals behind colonialism was its own economic gains as well as the investors of the Settlements. In Kenya, this meant merchant houses and thousands of settlers. But, Lugard as well as other supporters of British colonialism had no interests if the people in Kenya obtained some benefits as long as they were obtained through their imperialist economy. The economic policies put in place in Kenya by the British were: Land division for European settlers, agricultural and commodities development in production, exportation, development of communication, road and railway, and finally the development of educational and health institutions.13 Britain implemented its colonial polices through a serious of phases: pre-colonial and postcolonial which began in the 1920s, and continued through both World Wars.14 These implemented policies were marked by a sequence of conflicts in which the colonial state hardly managed any success.15 These conflicts were often between British investors and the colonial state of Kenya and more often then not the investors would come out victorious. However, these conflicts also stemmed from internal conflicts between African and European settlers who’s interest usually contradicted. Moreover, Britain’s interest in its economical gains only attached these policies on the dismantling and rebuilding of Kenya’s pre-colonial structures. Investors found it cheaper to use pre colonial means and relations of production, though it was not as efficient. During what was known as the second colonial occupation, Britain placed the market under state rule for the sole interest of its economic growth which became a key focus point during this time. But, due to the stripping of Africa’s natural resources and raw materials because of negligent agricultural practices, the production of commodities led to widespread deforestation as well as the exploitation of local industries. Britain’s economic policies in Africa was key for the integration of pre-colonial communities into an already working economic structure, that continued into the postcolonial era. In a similar manner, this dismantling of precolonial structures shares the destruction of African culture through Christian missionaries and their preaching of salvation and conformity. This missionaries were firm that in order for Africans to reach salvation they must renounce their traditional customs and practices and obey in the name of their Christian god. This notion of obedience went hand in hand with colonial power, as they believed Africans would therefore obey colonial rule. These parallelism of religion and government only persuaded British authorities to take advantage of the newly converted African’s. Therefore, education furthered the development of compliant African elites and youth, all of which served the colonial economy by working as semiskilled workers. This form of nationalism was deeply rooted in traditional and colonial institutions and was established following the Kenya African Union.16 Following the establishment of the Union nationalist attempted wide mobilization of the Kenyan communities. The colonial state chose the leaders of the new independent government which in turn laid the foundation for neocolonialism. Education and the colonial economy put in place structures and supplied historical validity that had an impact on Kenya’s society, both colonial and post. Britain’s colonial economy had a lasting affect and strong influences in Kenya’s own economic development. The first being that the economy was distinguished by its separation of geographical and structural.17 Geographical separation refers to the development of territories whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct such in areas: Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Naivasha.18 Structural separation refers to the development of a limited range of activities which was centered on agriculture and limited industry.19 The second affect was based on Kenya’s limited economic production which was primary commodities like coffee, tea, pyrethrum and flowers and as a consequence Kenya’s economy lacked the diversity. This was mainly because of Kenya’s external relationships which ultimately was left in the hands of global economic influx. The third leftover colonial structure was the monopolized market, which did not benefit Kenya but only a few governing individuals. Even though Kenya was striving toward institutional alteration since the 1980s and counties to practice its authority over market regulations. Kenya’s market, as in the colonial era, acts as a tool of political control and oppression.20 Whats more, is that Kenya maintains to be economically reliant on Britain as well as other European nations.21 Since the arrival of an independent Kenya, it has managed to expand its reliance of European aid which consequently had declined in the country’s balance of payments. Furthermore, the economic inequality had become increasingly widespread as independence became prevalent. British colonization also had a long lasting affect in Kenya’s widespread inequality as well as developing urban ghettos but mainly regional and class division. These repercussions pointed out the clashing characteristics between the division in Kenya’s social relations as well as economic. Similar to the colonial state, Kenya’s independent state had to manage itself through a serious of clashes. Many of these clashes were rooted from wealthy elites trying to keep their standard of living by frustrating African political movements. In conclusion, there was and still is a colonial influence in Kenya and its socioeconomic and political structures. As I’ve argued in this paper, Britain’s imposed colonial policies only somewhat demolished and reconstructed Kenya’s precolonial communities. As a result, Kenya experienced a type of class or ethnic division that were enforced through Britain’s authoritarianism political structures. But, this enforcement proved to be, the head of the nail, in which Kenya’s postcolonial social structures continue to be established upon this inherited colonial institutions. Kenya has successfully separated itself from racial stigmas but in turn has unified the state as one political entity, who’s class still continues to mobilize the communities around this unified entity.

Sources:

Frederick D. Lugard, “The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa”, Edinburgh, London: Blackwood 1926 (3rd edition). Pages 1-646

Mamdani, Mahmood. “Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism”. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996. Pages 1-353

Meredith, Martin. “The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence”. New York: PublicAffairs, 2005. Pages 1-770

Ogot, B.A. and W.R. Ochieng’. “Decolonization and Independence in Kenya: 1940-1993”. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1995. Pages 1-386

White, Nicholas J. “The Business and the Politics of Decolonization: The British Experience in the Twentieth Century.” The Economic History Review 53, no. 3 (2000) 544-564

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    History of West Africa

    • 51580 Words
    • 207 Pages

    HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA Overview The history of West Africa is the long history of human movements, incursions, displacements, intermixtures of peoples, and of the impact of these on the beliefs, attitudes, social and political organization to the peoples West Africa. The history of West Africa can be divided into three major periods: first, its prehistory, second, colonial period, in which Great Britain and France controlled nearly the whole of the region and the post-independence era, in…

    • 51580 Words
    • 207 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    war in Rwanda. Next, I will investigate the economical causes. Firstly, westerners’ colonial influence in Africa has played a strong role in creating the conditions in Rwanda for armed conflicts to occur. In fact, colonial powers treated Africa, especially the Rwanda as a series of strategic economic assets and created artificial…

    • 507 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Culture of West Africa

    • 881 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Culture of West Africa Geography and climate West Africa includes the western part of the Maghreb (Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), occupies an area of more than 6.14 million km2, or about one-fifth of Africa. The vast majority of these lands consist of the plains lying less than 300 meters above sea level, although some elevation exists in many countries along the southern coast region. The northern part of the West African semi-arid terrain is made up of known as the Sahel…

    • 881 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Ebola In West Africa

    • 1548 Words
    • 7 Pages

    diseases. I have seen many claims of natural treatments for everything from the common flu to cancer and even HIV, but are any of them real? An article posted on NaturalNews states that shipments of nonosilver were used in the treatment of Ebola in West Africa, but what is nonosilver? A declassified document from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) (declassified in 2009) shown that antimicrobial silver solutions have proven effective at 10 PPM in fighting Ebola and other forms of hemorrhagic fever.…

    • 1548 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    independence during the 1960’s In this post-colonial period, the majority of African states operate under some form of Presidential rule. Only a few of the states were able to maintain democratic governments permanently. As a result, many states produced military dictatorships during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The military was seen as being the only group that could maintain order in an effective way. From the early 1960’s to the late 1980’s, Africa had 13 Presidential assassinations and more…

    • 1008 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Gender in West Africa

    • 265 Words
    • 2 Pages

    In the West African community, the concept of power among women lies within the vibrant differences between the roles of each gender. Women were and still are the foundation of the African community as they exercise the power to protect life and educate children. Despite this prominent position, they are not in any way seen as equal to men. This conventional perception changed temporarily, or perhaps was slightly regarded differently, when in 19th Century, Behanzin, one of the most renowned kings…

    • 265 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    By the start of the 20th century, Colonial rule by both the French and the British in Southern Africa had rising expenditure costs. The British method of indirect rule in their colonies, created by Frederick Lugard to leave existing government as it is, had far lower costs than the French method of direct rule. Nonetheless taxation stood as the universal method of keeping all colonies cheap and straightforwardly ran. African’s disgust with a white man telling them to pay for the white man’s endeavors…

    • 1042 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    BEIJING FOREIGN POLICY IN WEST AFRICA (Yang Jiechi Policy) Foreign Policy Article: Published by…

    • 5900 Words
    • 24 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    HIST 325: Colonial Africa

    • 3255 Words
    • 14 Pages

    HIST 325: PRECOLONIAL AFRICA Winter 2013 – TR 6:00-7:20pm, McKenzie 214 – CRN 23274 Version 1.00, 7 Jan 2013 Professor: Dr. L. F. Braun Office: 311 McKenzie Hall Telephone: x6-4838 on-campus. Email: lfbraun@uoregon.edu Office hours: T 2:00-4:00pm & by appt. Overview and Objectives Africa is central to human history. It is the continent where our species arose, where some of the greatest ancient civilizations throve, and where dynamic, complex, and innovative cultures confronted a variety of social…

    • 3255 Words
    • 14 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    During the colonial period in Africa women had major roles in nationalist movements. Unfortunately these roles were overlooked and are not documented well in history. This is mostly because only males, both African and European, provided information during decolonization leaving out the involvement of women. In reality, women had many accomplishments and helped to win the freedom of their countries. Women took part in protest, organized petitions, strikes, demonstrations, and even in combat. Over…

    • 623 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays