By Emmanuel Mbaezue
Once known as the cradle of civilization, endowed with a rich cultural heritage, and a communal style of living that was almost equal to none, Africa’s position in the World was once enviable. The Continent’s conservative but still “uncorrupted” nature allowed her to remain secluded and hidden to the rest of the world for centuries. For some, she was “the unknown world,” and for some others, the Dark Continent, but still in her solitary state, Africa amazingly thrived.
That tranquil and serene environment, and the gradual and peaceful evolution of the Continent, came to an end by decree of the West. In the years 1884-1885, the Continent’s fate was decided by the European powers in Berlin, Germany. Without her consent, an unwilling and un-participating Africa was arbitrarily divided into 53 mostly incompatible units, with little or no cognizance taken of her geo-demographic peculiarities.
Led by Otto Von Bismarck but mostly guided by their economic interests, the Europeans scrambled for the resources in Africa, resources they so desperately needed to feed the industrial revolution in Europe. In the course of all this, Africa not only suffered environmental and physical abuse as vast numbers of slaves and mineral resources forcefully left her shores, she also experienced deep sociological harm.
The arbitrary demarcation of African lands without any respect for its different constituents and cultural landscapes not only led to the forceful fusion of incompatible national groups into single entities and the imposition of artificial boundaries upon them, it also resulted in the distortion of entities that naturally belonged together. By their “divide and rule” system, Europe not only magnified the differentials existent in Africa’s diverse ethnic groups, but also, in some cases, arrogated more powers and privileges to one ethnic group to the detriment of others (as in Rwanda when the Belgians favored the minority Tutsis over the Hutus); thus, Europe set the stage for most of Africa’s bloodiest conflicts.
Mr. Chukwuemeka Emmanuel Mbaezue is a doctoral student of Peace & Conflict Studies, specializing in Boundary & Border Studies, at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. He is a co-founder and member of the Border Areas Development Initiative (BADI), a non-governmental organization focusing on the development and security of Nigeria’s northern borders and border communities through education, research, advocacy programs and addressing issues related to forced and undocumented migration. His research area is on the trends and challenges of trans-border radicalization of young people.