Should Africans Take Their Share Of Responsibility For Colonialism, Slavery?

Posts: 47
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:47 am

Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:41 pm

When we hear or read about slavery and colonialism, Africans are always painted as victims. During slavery, thousands, even millions, were forcibly taken from their homes and crammed in ships to be sold in faraway lands, where they would be forced to work the rest of their lives under extremely harsh conditions. The same with colonization, where white foreigners came to our continent, banded different tribes together to form nations, and stole our land and minerals, while treating us like second or third class citizens in our own countries.

While that part of the narrative is clear, I think it doesn't address the entire story. For slavery and colonization to succeed, there had to be huge numbers of Africans collaborating with the oppressors. This is not to excuse these oppressors' evil actions, but to try and comprehend the matter in its entirety. Sure, most Africans who cooperated with the slavers and colonizers did so under duress, but are there some who did it simply because they wanted to? Even before European contact, Africans practiced slavery, albeit not in a very severe form. After defeating their enemies, most tribes would conquer the vanquished people and keep them as slaves. Slavery was also allowed in some parts as a way of repaying debts. Arab slave traders established trading routes long before the Europeans arrived. Once contact was made with the hinterland, trade agreements were made. These agreements would see some African tribes embark on raiding parties to capture slaves for supply to the Arabs. Later on, when Portuguese traders established slave trading outposts in places like Angola, the same arrangements were in place. Portuguese colonies like Brazil needed hundreds of thousands of slaves to provide labor for their plantations. Over the course of the trade, millions of Africans were shipped from Africa to the Americas to work in sugar and cotton plantations. It would have been impossible for these slavers to conduct this trade without tacit support from some Africans.

The same situation played out during colonization. There were Africans who were only too willing to join forces with the oppressors. In some countries, they were left in charge when these states received independence. Some observers have pointed out that Africa has thousands of tribes, so if colonization had not taken place, the continent would today have thousands of countries, which would have complicated international relations. This argument is made to counter those who claim artificial borders drawn by Europeans, bringing together tens or even hundreds of tribes within these borders, are responsible for the current conflicts in Africa. Remember, when drawing these borders, European powers only cared about their commercial interests and not whether the peoples residing within them saw eye to eye.

So even as we condemn slavery and colonialism, we must always remember that African enablers, perhaps driven by greed or just sheer ignorance, played a role in their perpetuation.