Role of African Elites in Dismantling Decolonization

Topics: Colonialism, Africa, Culture Pages: 14 (5139 words) Published: October 28, 2005
Colonial literature
F-K Omoregie, English Department, University of Botswana
Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Amilcar Cabral's National Liberation and Struggle, and Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's "Writing Against Neocolonialism" reveal the political, economic, and social circumstances that formed the sensibility of most African writers. Thus, they illuminate the various types of mentalities or ideologies that inform African literature. In addition, these works help the reader determine if a novelist's portrayal of African society fully reflects its social relations, political arrangements, and economic factors. These critical writings also help in the debate on the definition of African literature. For they bring out the historical connections that make it possible to analyze African literature dealing with pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial phases of African history. Rodney, Cabral and Ngugi claim that African literature exists in a historical continuum. For example, neocolonialism prevails today in Africa because of the continuation after "independence" of the economic, political and social practices established by colonialism. An analysis of the economic, political and social contradictions created by colonialism is, therefore, necessary in understanding and effectively countering neocolonialism. For the contradictions created by colonialism are still realities in contemporary Africa's development. Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa analyzes the colonial relations of production -- and the economic and political contradictions -- that produced Africa's underdevelopment and continue to plague Africa today. Rodney, who describes colonialism as a "one-armed bandit," claims that colonialism, more than anything else, underdeveloped Africa. According to him, colonialism laid the roots of neocolonialism in Africa by creating Africa's economic dependency on the international capitalist system. The introduction of capitalist relations of production and distribution, -- for instance, the International Trade Commodity (ITC) exchange systems and values -- created such dependency. Rodney (1981: 244) asserts that "previous African development was blunted, halved and turned back" by colonialism without offering anything of compensatory value. Many works of African literature record the kind of exploitation Rodney descrives. In Mayombe, for example, the Narrator notes that My land is rich in coffee, but my father was always a poor peasant . . . In Dembos, men lived wretchedly in the midst of wealth. Coffee was everywhere, hugging the trees. But they stole from us in the prices, sweat was paid for with a few worthless coins. (Pepetela: 1986: 18/156) Meka, the protagonist in Ferdinand Oyono's The Old Man and the Medal, and the other peasants grow cocoa for export to France; In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, the opening of a trading post and selling of yams, marks the beginning and entrenchment of the capitalist money economy. Similarly, in Mongo Beti's Mission to Kala, The Poor Christ Of Bomba and King Lazarus, the production of cocoa for export marks the beginning of an international capitalist economic order, so detrimental to Africa. "Mono-culture," introduced by colonialism, made the African producer helpless in the face of capitalist maneuvers. There was little development of local industry (a trend that persists in contemporary Africa). In I will Marry When I Want, Gicaamba says: I wouldn't mind, son of Gathoni,

If after selling away our labor,
Our village benefited.
But look now at this village!
There is no property, there is no wealth. (NGUGI: 1982: 36-7) Rodney writes that "roads were built to make business possible" and argues that "any catering to African interests was purely accidental." For instance, in Mongo Beti's Remember Reuben, the colonial road in Ekoudom is a symbolic means of the oppressive exploitation of the African. The narrator says that "the road was a world apart from ours,...
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