Colonial Terrorism, Global Capitalism and African Underdevelopment: 500 Years of Crimes against African Peoples

By Jalata, Asafa | Journal of Pan African Studies, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Colonial Terrorism, Global Capitalism and African Underdevelopment: 500 Years of Crimes against African Peoples


Jalata, Asafa, Journal of Pan African Studies


For almost five centuries, European empire builders, namely Portugal, Holland, France, England, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain employed different strategies and tactics in Africa to make money through the ownership of human beings, exploration, evangelization, colonization, commercialization, banditry, robbery, and theft. The processes of merchandizing some young Africans, dominating and controlling trade, destroying African cultures and religions, imposing Christianity, destroying independent African leadership and sovereignties through establishing colonial and neo-colonial governments, and dispossessing lands and other economic resources, and transforming Africans into coerced laborers involved various forms of violence including war, terrorism, and genocide. Using different forms of violence in merchandising young and able-bodied Africans and taking over the homelands and resources of the indigenous peoples were acts of terrorism. Terrorism and other forms of violence enabled these empire builders to enrich themselves and their collaborators at the cost of Africans; consequently, they established themselves as powerful countries, claimed racial superiority, and imposed their cultures and Christian religion and ruling ideas on Africans peoples. They also imposed their hegemonic scholarship or geo-culturally limited knowledge that has drastically failed to explain the conditions of Africans.

Although several scholars have explored the impacts of racial slavery, exploration, Christianity, colonization on the entire continent, and geo-cultural knowledge, they have ignored to study the essence and role of European terrorism in the destruction and dehumanization of African societies and in the establishment and maintenance of the European dominated racialized capitalist world system. (1) Despite the fact that these European powers and their agents used the discourses of commerce, Christianity, modernity, and civilization to cultivate their African collaborators for dividing and conquering Africa, systematic terrorism and other forms of violence enabled them to dominate African societies and exploit their economic and labor resources beginning in the late fifteenth century and reaching its climax during the last decades of the nineteenth century. "Everywhere the conquests of Africa brought similar paradoxes of public disaster and private profit in their train," John Lonsdale (1985: 722) notes. The slave system and colonial orders were established and maintained mainly through terrorism. European countries and others that involved in Africa try to forget the deaths and suffering caused by racial slavery, the blood spilled, mass murders and genocide, the severed hands and heads, the shattered families, and other crimes committed in Africa to extract wealth and capital. As Adam Hochschild (1998: 295) notes, "Forgetting one's participation in mass murder is not something passive; it is an active deed. In looking at the memories recorded by the early white conquistadors in Africa, we can sometimes catch the act of forgetting at the very moment it happens."

When various African peoples intensified their respective resistance to racial slavery, colonial expansion, domination, and exploitation and later engaged in national liberation struggles in the mid-twentieth century, some of these empire builders increased their levels of terrorism to prevent the reemergence of African independent African leadership and sovereignties and to continue their theft and robbery of African resources.

Jean Ganiage (1985: 157) asserts that European policy makers planned and acted "to crush African resistance by a ruthlessly systematic exploitation of the technological gap between European and African weaponry and military organization." The "war of any sort is not much more than 'a series of errors and accidents' ... Its annals have more to tell us of man's nature than anything else. Those colonial wars, in particular, leave us to wonder whether the conqueror's violence has been an authentic expression of human nature, or a derangement of it" (Kiernan (1982: 230). …

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