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No Light at the End of the Tunnel: Exploiting the Dark Continent

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Meretricious victory in Libya is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of U.S. digging its talons into African countries in order to expand its empire.   Since World War II, American foreign policy has aspired to gain control of the "Grand Area" which now extends to Africa, expedited by the creation of AFRICOM which may now have found a home on the continent.

Although a misinterpretation, Rudyard Kipling's "White Man's Burden" seemed to reinforce legitimization of imperial powers' brutal exploitation of Africa.   The unconscionable villainy inflicted on the peoples of the "Dark Continent" underwent a number of phases which include the original scramble for territory and the concomitant atrocities, struggles for independence and then postcolonial exploitation in which the United States has played a major role.

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Since the sixteenth century when Portugal established permanent settlements along the coasts of Africa to the present day, Europe and the United States constructed a concept similar to that of Edward Said's "Orientalism" but applied to Africa, to justify plundering, massacres and looting of the continent's myriad resources desperately needed to fuel the industrial revolution and then the age of technology.   By perceiving the African people as the "other", colonizers treated them in a somewhat similar fashion as the natives in North America who were considered uncivilized, primitive and most importantly, inferior and superfluous.    The people of Africa were similarly an obstacle to the expansion, enrichment and prestige of the imperial powers of Europe and the United States.   During the industrial revolution, Imperial powers had developed weapons far superior to those in Africa thus providing the mechanism by which they could easily suppress any resistance to their grand designs.

European countries scrambled for territory to purloin resources, force the locals to engage in slave labour, and to establish outposts for their empires.   In the process, they deprived these nations of riches that rightly belonged to them and perpetrated the most heinous crimes against humanity in order to aggrandize their own wealth.

To regulate the fierce competition for colonies in Africa, Portugal called for a conference in Berlin in 1884 which was organized by Otto von Bismarck.   The Berlin Conference crafted a set of rules to guide colonization in Africa.   One of the rules determined which regions each European power had an exclusive right to and another prohibited the establishment of a colony in name only.   By the end of the nineteenth century, Europe controlled all of the territory in Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia.

Despite efforts to regulate the plundering of Africa, a series of crises eventually capitulated Europe into World War 1 when previous rivalries and alliances divided Europe into two opposing sides who slaughtered each other in the bloody trenches of Europe to settle their imperialistic disputes.

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One of the most monstrous examples of colonial crimes against humanity took place during the 1890s in the Congo Free State by the blood-soaked hands of King Leopold II of Belgium who seized the opportunity to sell rubber to the embryonic automobile industry in the North but at the expense of 8 million inhabitants.   He forced the inhabitants into slave labour and cut off hands if they failed to meet their daily quotas.

According to the 1985 United Nations Whitaker Report, Germany was guilty of genocide in South-West Africa when it murdered 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Namaqua between 1904 and 1907 in an attempt to supress an uprising against German rule.   The rebellion was quashed by 1908 and the inhabitants were subject to slave labour and a system of apartheid.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the British were preoccupied with consolidating their colonies in South Africa and securing access to their valuable resources, in particular diamonds.   Their primary obstacle was the Zulu Kingdom with its standing army of 40,000 disciplined warriors.   In January, 1879, the British were caught off guard and were defeated in the first Zulu war but with reinforcements, the British rebounded to defeat the Zulus in August of the same year.   Crushing the Zulus was a critical point in South African history since the Zulus were the only power in the region who were capable of resisting white expansion.                                                                                            

Another example of British Imperialism took place when fifty British and French ships arrived in Alexandria Egypt in 1882 fomenting riots in Alexandria in which 50 Europeans were killed.   Britain responded by ordering the British fleet to bombard Alexandria which destroyed most of the city following which British marines occupied the city.   British occupation didn't end until 1936.

There is disagreement about the British motivations for their actions in Egypt which ran the gamut from preserving British control of the Suez Canal to protecting British investors who had financed the Canal.

In addition to Egypt, the UK decided that to maintain stability in the region and safeguard Egypt from the Mahdi forces in Sudan who were in control of most of the country, Mahdi forces would have to be crushed. British and Egyptian forces had already experienced defeat at the hands of the Mahdis, when the British/Egyptian forces attempted to rescue General Gordon in Khartoum in 1885.

In 1898, Horatio Herbert Kitchener led a 9,000 strong force into Sudan and defeated the Mahdist forces in the Battle of Atbara with the use of British machine guns and rifle power, killing 30,000.   British control of the Sudan survived until its independence in 1956.

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In retaliation for losses suffered during its first invasion of Ethiopia in 1896, Italy perpetrated monstrous crimes against humanity in Ethiopia from 1935 to 1936 by invading the country with 100,000 troops and 250 planes equipped with mustard gas.   Villages, livestock and water sources were subject to the effects of the suffocating gas.

After Ethiopia surrendered, Marshall Rodolfo Graziani subjected the people to military occupation and a reign of terror in which a total of 760,000 people died, 300,000 during the occupation.

Following World War II, African colonies achieved independence predominately in the 1960s when 35 new African nations were recognized as sovereign states.   But independence did not protect the new nation-states from the plundering and atrocities prompted by European and American greed.   Due to its economic and military power following World War II, the United States emerged as the major post-colonial miscreant in Africa.

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http://consuming-ourselves.blogspot/
I have been a professor of political science at Seneca College in Toronto. I have published five books the last of which "Selling Out: Consuming Ourselves to Death" was released in May/08. As well, I have been featured in CounterPunch, Z (more...)
 

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